Yasuhiro Sugihara is a Japanese musician, singer-songwriter and record producer. Known exclusively by his stage name Sugizo, he is best known as lead guitarist and violinist of the rock band Luna Sea. He started his solo career in 1997 and has since collaborated with many artists. In 2007 he became a member of the trance/world music act Juno Reactor, and in 2009 officially joined the heavy metal band X Japan.
In addition to being known to experiment with many musical genres, mostly rock, psychedelic and electronica, he is known for his political ideas and views, as well being an anti-war, anti-nuclear and environmental activist.
Early life and musical education
Yūne Sugihara was born on July 8, 1969, to a musical family, in Hadano, Kanagawa, in Japan. His father, who is Japanese-Chinese, played trumpet in the Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra, and his mother, who is Japanese-German played cello in the same orchestra. From a young age, he was brought up on classical music and had to study classical music theory. At the age of three, he was forced by his father to learn to play the violin. At that time it was quite a difficult period for him, his father forced him to practice violin for 3 hours per day, and being unable to find the right type of music or composer, he would usually cry while continuing to play. During this period he began to hate music, and coercion from his parents aggravated such feeling of repulsion. The situation persisted until the age of ten, when he was again able to enjoy music; his early favorite composers included Ludwig van Beethoven, Béla Bartók, and J.S. Bach.
When Sugizo was eleven or twelve years old, around the beginning of junior high school, he began to play the trumpet. As he became a more rebellious and delinquent child, he preferred the trumpet's "dirty" image more, as it was during the 1950s and through to the 1970s, in comparison with the violin, which was seen as something for higher-profiled people or class. It was during his junior high school days that he became more exposed to non-classical music types, such as the synthpop group Yellow Magic Orchestra, the British new wave group Japan, David Bowie's glam rock, and the London punk scene, making his base for rock'n'roll.
1987–96: Early bands and Luna Sea
Despite his father's disapproval, Sugizo acquired a bass guitar and an electric guitar, and began to teach himself how to play. When he was around the age of 17, then in high school, Sugizo with his friend Shinya Yamada formed a band called Pinocchio, where he played as the bassist. Since the internal structure of Pinocchio was not cohesive, they left and briefly joined Kashmir in 1988. On January 16, 1989, they both joined another band which performed at the same live houses, called Lunacy, formed by J and Inoran. With the addition of Ryuichi Kawamura, vocalist from the band Slaughter, the five formed the visual kei rock unit Lunacy. Since J was already the bass player and Inoran preferred to play rhythm guitar, Sugizo became the lead guitarist and invented his stage name.
The five performed at Machida Playhouse and other clubs in Tokyo. Soon they were discovered by the late hide (then lead guitarist of X Japan), who got them signed by X Japan co-founder Yoshiki, to his independent label Extasy Records, on which they released their debut album in 1991. Upon their first album release, the band changed their name from Lunacy to Luna Sea. They became one of the most popular bands of the 1990s in Japan, selling more than nine million records, as well performing in China and Taiwan.
The first solo activity Sugizo had was in 1993, when he wrote his first solo song "Revive", for the album Dance 2 Noise 004 featuring many musicians, including the group M*A*S*S, which consisted of hide, J and Inoran. In the upcoming three years held a variety of less known musical collaborations and contributions.
1997–01: Solo career
After Luna Sea went on break in 1997, Sugizo started his own solo project and opened the independent label "Cross" to produce other artists, as well as releasing his own records. He points out that the opening of his record label was one of his very important projects at the time, but not anymore. On July 9, his debut single "Lucifer" was released and reached number 8 on the Oricon singles chart. It was followed by his first solo tour "Abstract Day" which lasted until the final performance in August at Akasaka Blitz, where he was joined by DJ Krush, Masami Tsuchiya and members of Japan. Then on September 10 he released his second single, "A Prayer", which reached number 7 on the charts. On November 19, his first solo album Truth? was released, and reached number 12 on the album charts. It was met with mixed reviews, largely because of the unexpected musical style which mixed different genres with electronica beats. A variety of artists participated in the album, from Ryuichi Sakamoto and Mick Karn, to Lou Rhodes and Valerie Etienne. Towards the end of the year, remix editions of his two maxi singles and album were released.
As Luna Sea resumed activities, until the bands disbandement, Sugizo collaborated in the studio with actress Miki Nakatani, and singers Miu Sakamoto and Vivian Hsu among others. On August 11, 1999 a compilation album titled "Grand Cross 1999", which was sponsored by Sugizo's record label "Cross", was released, featuring many musicians with whom he had worked with before and many for the first time.
In 2001, he participated in Ryuichi Sakamoto's N.M.L. ("No More Landmines"), a campaign to promote awareness of the problems of land mines and promote a ban on them, and helped in the making of the album Zero Landmine. He starred in Ken Nikai's movie Soundtrack and composed the music for the film. On November 14, a compilation album inspired by the film, titled Parallel Side of Soundtrack was released, and the following year he released the single "Rest in Peace & Fly Away" featuring bice on vocals. That same year he produced the music for and danced in Suichoku no Yumeof, a production by the popular contemporary dance company H. Art Chaos.
2002–07: Joining Juno Reactor
Around late 2001 he formed the solo project Sugizo & the Spank Your Juice, with whom he toured with until 2004 and released three singles; "Super Love", "Dear Life" and "No More Machineguns Play the Guitar", which entered top 50 on the charts. His acting career also continued in 2002, when he starred in Isao Yukisada's film Rock'n'roll Mishin, and the television series RedЯum, directed by Ken Nikai.
In 2003, following the release of "No More Machineguns Play the Guitar", Sugizo released his second album C:Lear. It peaked at the number 56 on the album charts.
In March 2004, Sugizo formed the rock band The Flare with vocalist Yuna Katsuki. He also created a new record label called "Embryo", which receives major distribution from Universal Music Group for music of The Flare. They performed at Earth Day in Tokyo, Japan's largest event devoted to environmental and peaceful causes. The band would last until 2006, releasing four singles and one album.
In May 2005, Sugizo organized the event "Neo Ascension Groove", with psychedelic jam session act Shag. In the band he plays guitar, violin and percussion, while the music is avant-garde with concentration on rhythm.
In April 2006, collaborated with trumpeter Toshinori Kondo and celebrated Earth Day by participating in three shows held on April 9, 22 and 23 at the Yoyogi Koen in Tokyo. He later had his first performance with Juno Reactor at the Tokyo Techno Festival.
In 2007, Sugizo participated in the project Stop Rokkasho run by the Japanese NGO Boomerang Net and headed up by Ryuichi Sakamoto. The project was created to bring attention to the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture. In April, he played at the Nagisa Music Festival with Shag. June 29 at the 2007 Anime Expo convention in Long Beach, California was the debut, and only, performance of S.K.I.N, a supergroup of Sugizo, Yoshiki, Gackt and Miyavi. In July, Juno Reactor performed as the White Stage's main act on the final day of the Fuji Rock Festival.
On December 5, he released the remix album Spirituarise, in which artists from both Japan and overseas remixed his original tracks. On December 24, 2007, Luna Sea reunited for a one-night only concert at the Tokyo Dome.
2008–09: Joining X Japan
On March 28 and 29, 2008, Sugizo played at X Japan's two reunion concerts as a stand-in along Wes Borland and Richard Fortus for the deceased hide. In April, he took part in Juno Reactor's European tour. On May 2, he reunited with Luna Sea again at the "hide memorial summit", a two-day concert in memory of hide, at the Ajinomoto Stadium.
On July 23, Sugizo released a greatest hits compilation album titled Cosmoscape. The album shows off his various types of music genres, such as rock, trance, jazz, classic, bossa nova, among others, and spans his ten years of solo work. During the year, Sugizo wrote a song titled "Enola Gay", named after the Boeing B-29 bomber that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He wrote the song to convey his feelings and thoughts toward the people who suffered from the aftermath of nuclear war, and to the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In September joined Juno Reactor on the USA leg of their tour.
On December 19, at the 1,500-seat Shibuya-AX concert hall, he held the solo concert "Rise to Cosmic Dance" playing songs from Cosmoscape, and including the new song. On December 31, Sugizo played with X Japan at their New Years countdown gig at Akasaka Blitz.
On May 1, 2009, Sugizo officially joined X Japan as lead guitarist, violinist and backing vocalist. In December, Sugizo with Juno Reactor performed in Holland, twice in Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland.
Upon returning to Japan, he released two new digital singles, "Messiah" and "Tell Me Why You Hide the Truth?", via iTunes on December 16. They topped iTunes electronic music charts with first and second place. On December 24 and 25, he held the concert "Next Phase of Cosmic Dance" in Taipei, Taiwan.
2010–11: Luna Sea reunion
Upon returning to Japan, on January 27 Sugizo released two digital singles, "Fatima" and "Do-Funk Dance", another on February 24 entitled "Prana", which also topped the iTunes electronic charts, and one more on March 31 named "Dear Spiritual Life". In February it was announced that Sugizo will be the music director for the soundtrack (with both traditional Japanese musical instruments and modern ones) of the jidaigeki Nemuri Kyoshiro Buraihikae, beginning with a live theater production in June.
In April he performed at the Nagisa Music Festival.
On July 8, Sugizo announced that he would help his friend Mick Karn, who was diagnosed with cancer, by remixing his song "Missing". The song was renamed "Missing Link" and was available for download in return for a donation on Mick's official website to help fund the expensive medical treatment. Mick Karn died on January 4, 2011.
On August 29, he held a fan club only event called "Soul's Mate Day IV". The show featured an acoustic set which has been given the name "Soul's Mate Quintet". On August 31, Sugizo and the rest of Luna Sea attended a press conference in Hong Kong, where they announced that they would be touring worldwide after 10 years of inactivity.
From November 5 to 8, Sugizo teamed up with drummers Budgie, Leonard Eto and Mabi, and multi-instrumentalist Knox Chandler in Hong Kong, to participate in a project called "The Butterfly Effect: East-West Percussive Parade", as part of the "New Vision Arts Festival".
On April 13, 2011, Sugizo released two singles, "No More Nukes Play the Guitar" and "The Edge". On June 29, he released the single "Miranda", followed by "Neo Cosmoscape" on July 27, which was remixed by System 7, "Enola Gay" on August 15, and "Pray for Mother Earth" on September 9, a song he wrote with Toshinori Kondo for Earth Day 2006.
On December 14, Sugizo released two albums, Flower of Life and Tree of Life. The first is completely instrumental with psychedelic and electronica songs., while the second includes remixed songs and those done in collaboration with other artists. In December he also held a four-date tour called "Stairway to the Flower of Life", with two concerts overseas; in Taipei and Hong Kong.
Sugizo has a daughter named Luna Artemis Sugihara, who was born on April 27 1996 in Tokyo, Japan. In a interview he said that her birth has transformed him the most and "when you love your daughter, you begin to love all children. Although this might sound grandiose, nothing will make me happier than seeing all children around the world lead joyous lives. I'll be more than satisfied if I can become a tool towards that goal".
Sugizo finds all religions very interesting, and loves to read lots of books about them. Since his father was a Buddhist, while his mother was a Protestant, from the young age he has often been in contact with things related to church and Protestantism. Currently he's more into Buddhism, or more specifically, Buddha himself. Ever since he was little he was curious about occult subjects. While in Elementary School, he became obsessed with the ancient civilizations of Egypt, the Maya's Easter Islands and the Inca. One of the very important moments were when he was around 18 or 19 years old, after reading Shirley MacLaine's book Out on a Limb, he became even more intrigued about the spiritual world. Noting "As I grew older, I was able to better understand the things that caught my attention when I was young".
Sugizo in the interview said that "there are secrets held by a small elite who control the world... We spend our lives without ever being aware of the truth that is hidden from us", and so through the song "Tell Me Why You Hide The Truth?" meant "We have to liberate freedom and rebuild it by ourselves. I think the world is in need of a revolution. To know what to believe, to know what's really going on in this world we have to take the initiative. That's the sort of signal I'm trying to send". Also added "The thing I seriously want to do the most is make society, the whole world, clean. That's the duty we must fulfill for the next generation".