hide, born Hideto Matsumoto, can be arguably compared to the John Lennon of Japan. He is known most for his work with X JAPAN (X), but also his inventive solo albums. Now, sixteen years years after his passing in May of 1998, hide’s spirit and the celebration of his music continues as strongly as ever. With live performances celebrating his legacy, media publications including books and magazines, album releases, club events, and his ever-popular Fernandes signature guitar models, it is safe to say that hide will not be forgotten.
hide was and continues to be a huge inspiration to me. My goal and determination for helping to spread Japanese Rock music, especially Visual Rock, came from my love of his music. With that I created JSHOXX RADIO, which was a 24/7 Pure J-rock Station out of San Francisco, CA. Even the logo that continues over 8 years later carries an original art piece inspired by hide. His presence and his music shaped a whole generation of musicians from Asia. To me, hide was not just a musician, but also an innovator and musical debutant that put Japanese metal guitarists on the map permanently. Not only did he work in Japan, but recorded solo album material in the US with notable drummer, Dale Bozzio from Missing Persons. Later before jumping his space ship he started Zilch and was planning to tour with Marilyn Manson who was a big fan of hide’s music and flamboyant aura.
Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see hide perform live, so I did the next best thing I could to try and get a feel for what hide was like. A friend of mine and I decided to visit his hometown of Yokosuka, Japan, about an hour away via train from Tokyo station.
Once you arrive, you can see and feel hide’s presence all around you. Images of hide are plastered around many stores and shops that surround the station. One music shop in particular caught our eyes. If there was just one shop to go to in Yokosuka to feel the spirit of hide, I highly recommend you stop by and pick up a few things at the Yajima Record Shop. This is the record shop where hide purchased his first KISS records, opening his world up to rock’n’roll. It was well known that he was a big fan of Ace Frehley and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin. Later he became a big fan of the guitar work featured on Iron Maiden’s self-titled debut album.
The owner, Mr. Iwase is a friendly elderly man that hide himself considered his second father. He filled us with amazing stories of hide, showing us pictures from his youth and during his time in X Japan. Pictures and posters cover his walls like a shrine dedicated to the artist. I heard that my photo taken that day is now featured there, too. Honestly, this place was enough to get my hide fix. Here we learned more about hide and and the work he was doing, how he cared so much about his fans. Although I read many things about hide, to hear it come from the mouth of one so close to him in life took it to such a deep level.
On the day we met the shop owner, we were surprised to hear that the biggest fan and president of one of hide’s fan clubs had made the trip from Tokyo to meet us as well. Stories were told with pictures all across the walls of the Yajima Record Shop. After purchasing a few things, and getting an awesome insight into his life, we ventured out and went around the corner to a guitar shop, where there were a variety of his guitars for sale, as well as books, toy guitars, and picks for fans to purchase. We journeyed further down the street where hide would eat ramen many days and nights. We saw the live house Pumpkin and Rock City where he frequently performed on the cramped stage with his band Yokosuka Saver Tiger, learning his craft on Dobuita Street. At every one of these monumental locations, there is a hide story to be told by someone.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible Hide Museum, which was open from 2000 to 2005 and where over 450,000 fans traveled from near and far to commune with artifacts from hide’s childhood, guitars from his X Japan and solo days, his actual ’59 Chevrolet convertible car, KISS Mego dolls collection, and school day drawings of his heroes like Peter Criss in Catman makeup. Of all places, this museum that looked out at Monkey Island in the birthplace of the Empire of Japan is somewhere that I wished I could have made a pilgrimage to while it was around. Fans are still vying to have it reopened to this day in some form. Additionally, during the heyday of the museum and well after it was closed, there were two city buses decked out in anime style illustrations of hide, as if his spirit could drive you around through some of his old haunts.
Since hide’s passing, his inspiration that spawned many of today’s heavy metal, visual kei, rock artists from Japan is being felt louder across the globe. Although hide never got to fulfill his goal of touring the US, I feel he is very proud of what he helped create, with today’s legion of stateside Japanese rock fans as well as other nations. Many bands, including X JAPAN, frequently tour and recently performed to a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Today, X JAPAN tours and celebrates their amazing guitarist at every show by always introducing hide as a current member, including a video display during certain songs, while his signature Fernandes Burny model guitar stands diligently on stage alone in honor of the Psyborg Rock Star who continues to communicate and commune with his growing volume of fans from somewhere up above.
Since his departure from Earth, many cover tribute albums, seven to be exact have been released, as well as early Yokosuka Saver Tiger live performances from his formative years that I definitely recommend picking up. I don’t think a day goes by with out someone mentioning hide by name, even sixteen years following his premature death in Tokyo after a spaced-out night of drinking with friends just three days after his return from the City of Angels. hide took a rocket ride from Japan, and his popularity has never taken a dive. His spirit remains a constant force in the stellar rise of Japanese rock music worldwide. Long live hide, the flamboyant shooting star from Yokosuka Rock City who would have been 50 years of age this Dec 13, 2014. Of course, there will be a new album coming out using the latest technology to reconstruct a song with segments of hide’s voice not quite in the can utilizing the “Vocaloid” recording process for release on Dec 12, 2014 from Universal Music. The song is titled “Kogaru,” loosely translated as child girl. The expression relates to cute girl fashion craze that swept Japan through the late 90s and early 2000s in which girls would wear loose socks actually glued to their legs. Even in death hide is still making or digging up old fashion and continues to release records that now can be ordered from anywhere on the world via the internet wasteland.
Special thanks to Holly Interlandi of Famous Monsters for editing assistance on this article.