It all started with a picture. Stephen Kijak, who has made a career of documenting rock stars, thought he had seen it all, but there was something about Yoshiki that he couldn’t shake. When I spoke with the filmmaker on October 26, 2016 about his documentary, WE ARE X, it was one of the first things I asked him about.
Our conversation also covered what it’s like to live in the rarified bubble that surrounds rock stars, what it says about us that X Japan, Yoshiki’s band, is one of the biggest bands in Japan, but barely known here, and getting past the persona when interviewing people who are so very media savvy.
We went on to get philosophical about the effect X Japan has on its fans, band co-founder Toshi’s time with a cult, the wear-and-tear drumming has on a musician, and the serendipity of filming on the streets of Los Angeles. We finished up with Kijak talking about his return to narrative film with SHOPLIFTERS OF THE WORLD, about what happened to a group of fans the day The Smiths broke up.
WE ARE X his doc about X JAPAN focuses on Yoshiki, a charismatic iconoclast haunted by death and frail health. Using intimate interviews and footage from their career, including the overwhelming effect they have on their fans, Kijak introduces us to a dynamic, artistically innovative band, as well as a pondering why they’ve never made that big breakthrough to American audiences. Kijak’s previous work includes SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN, JACO, STONES IN EXILE, and NEVER MET PICASSO.