TOKYO — A new Japanese rock supergroup called The Last Rockstars is taking aim at the international market with a deal with Universal Music Group and a mission statement “to preserve the spirit of rock music.”
The group – drummer-pianist Yoshiki (X Japan), singer-songwriter Sugizo (Luna Sea, X Japan), vocalist Hyde (L’Arc-en-Ciel, Vamps) and guitarist-actor Miyavi — has signed a global distribution deal with Ingrooves, which is part of UMG’s Virgin Music Group. It begins with the quartet’s debut single, “The Last Rockstars (Paris Mix),” which is scheduled to be released on Melodee Music/InGrooves on Dec. 23, a spokesperson for the group tells Billboard.
The Last Rockstars announced their formation in November in Tokyo. Speaking to Billboard, Yoshiki says the four artists discussed making a new band together before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We all wanted to aim at the international market, beyond Japan,” he says. “During the pandemic, we talked even more about it and decided to go for it because we all had the same dreams and goals.”
The Japanese artists bonded around the mission to “preserve the spirit of rock music,” Yoshiki says. “Hip-hop and pop have really taken over in recent decades,” he says. “[Rock is] there, but not standing out like it should be.”
While noting that contemporary groups such as Italy’s Maneskin are carrying the genre’s torch, Yoshiki says The Last Rockstars can also help stimulate the global rock scene — which is why they chose their provocative moniker to leave an impression. “I came up with it, and surprisingly the other members didn’t hesitate in choosing it,” Yoshiki says.
The Last Rockstars will make their live debut at a series of four shows in Tokyo from Jan. 26 to Jan. 30, before coming to the U.S. with two shows at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom (Feb. 3 and 4) and Los Angeles’ Hollywood Palladium (Feb. 10).
The individual members of The Last Rockstars have all cultivated strong followings outside of Japan, with each having played shows in North America. Yoshiki and Sugizo’s X Japan have performed at Coachella and Lollapalooza, while Hyde’s L’Arc-en-Ciel became the first Japanese band ever to headline Madison Square Garden in 2012. Miyavi, who as an actor appeared as a psychotic prison guard in Angelina Jolie’s drama “Unbroken,” has recorded in Nashville and toured internationally in at least 30 countries, including the U.S.
Hyde and Sugizo are signed to UMG for solo work. Miyavi is tied to Purple One Star and Yoshiki is currently unsigned for solo projects, a spokesperson for the group tells Billboard.
Yoshiki’s 2013 album Yoshiki Classical peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Classical Albums Chart. Hyde saw his 2019 full-length album Anti top the Billboard Japan Download Albums Chart, with the songs “Who’s Gonna Save Us,” “After Light” and “Fake Divine” landing on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 at No. 17, No. 24 and No. 20, respectively. Subsequent 2020 singles “Believing In Myself” and “Let It Out” charted on the Billboard Japan Hot 100 at No. 43 and No. 50, respectively.
Miyavi’s had a smattering of singles on the Billboard Japan Hot 100, highlighted by his 2011 collaboration with rapper Kreva, “Strong,” which peaked at No. 15.
“I have enormous respect for each member,” Yoshiki says. “I’m really honored to be working with these three amazing rockers, and I think we can make some kind of miracle happen.”