Taiji Sawada (known by his given name/stage name Taiji) was a Japanese rock musician who played bass guitar and guitar, as well as being a prolific songwriter. Having been in a number of famous Japanese rock and metal bands, he was best known for his work with X Japan and with Loudness. While in X Japan, he co-wrote several songs, developed Toshi's "french fries" mohawk hair style, and heavily contributed otherwise toward the band's musical skill and lyrical and stylistic focus.He left X Japan in 1992 due to musical differences and a fight with Yoshiki, and proceeded to play with Loudness, leave Loudness to form his own off-and-on band D.T.R., and experienced a major Creator Breakdown due to a variety of issues he'd struggled with throughout his life. He slowly returned from his Creator Breakdown to play with the soon-to-be-disbanded D.T.R., Otokaze, Kings, and with The Killing Red Addiction and TAIJI WITH HEAVEN'S.Taiji was (and is) considered in some circles to be among the world's top rock bass players. Especially skilled at slapping and tapping, he was credited with teaching the late X Japan and solo guitarist hide his own guitar tapping technique back when they played together.In 2009, he dissolved D.T.R., firing all but one of his bandmates claiming a copyright issue, and claiming that he was going to reform D.T.R. as Death To Rive. He played with The Killing Red Addiction (members Dynamite Tommy [v], Kenzi [d], Taiji [b], Tatsu [g]), played with his solo act "TAIJI WITH HEAVEN'S," which became Taiji Sawada Project, then Taiji and Shu Project (TSP) (members Taiji [b], Shu [g], Takanari [d] who was replaced with Hina from Crazy Danger Mile on drums) and as a session musician with other bands including a return to Loudness for the Munetaka Higuchi memorial shows in 2009 and 2010.In July 2010, Taiji rejoined X Japan as a bassist, playing on stage at the Yokohama Nissan Stadium reunion live, though he did not join X Japan for the North American tour. He had also been a model and jewelry designer for Arizona Freedom, a Japanese rock couture house, and also played with Loudness at the 2009 and 2010 memorial concerts for Munetaka Higuchi. He had planned for a return to the rock scene with Taiji and Shu Project...In 2011, he got into a fight with his manager on a flight and was arrested for causing a disturbance on a flight. He was alleged to have committed suicide by hanging, dying in custody July 17, 2011, but this cause of death is highly disputed due to witness testimony claiming that he had no neck wounds or bruises. There is currently pressure to reopen a homicide investigation into his death and the suspicious circumstances (including his manager having been embezzling money from him and allegedly trying to scam his friends for money as he was dying, and his "spiritual advisor" who was his manager's friend pressing for no autopsy and a hurried cremation of his body against his own family's wishes) surrounding it.He is the second member of the original X Japan and the third formation of Loudness each to die.Provides Examples Of
The Alcoholic: Admitted to having problems with alcoholism/excessive drinking in various interviews and even in his own autobiography. He had ongoing problems with alcoholism and stimulant drug addiction, and those problems would lead to his repeatedly falling Off The Wagon, to the point of becoming a stereotypical homeless addict, losing his career, his marriage, any relationship with his child, and much more. The loss of his best friend hide inspired him to try to fight his way back to Functional Addict from 1998, which he tried to do to some occasional success, but unfortunately, his last fall Off The Wagon (or a major epileptic seizure mistaken as such) happened on an aircraft.
Alcohol-Induced Idiocy: His behavior while drunk or high eventually ended his first marriage, led to him being absolutely unwanted by any bands other than his own projects after X Japan and Loudness until The Killing Red Addiction in 2009, and more likely than not led to the events that would lead to his death.
The Alleged Car: Zigzagged: He told a story in his autobiography about being one of the only two licensed drivers in the indies days of X Japan (along with Yoshiki), which included all five band members and their gear getting to gigs in a small economy car that very much matched this trope. Averted with when X Japan got signed, and he bought a custom Harley-Davidson bike imported from the US. And played straight again less than four years later, when he had to sell that bike as a result of the financial collapse of his life.
And I Must Scream: He had a form of epilepsy that primarily manifested in auras and temporal lobe events.
Angst: Of the Mangst variety. He never resorted to open whining about his problems and would only reluctantly seek help - which actually may have made his problems worse, as they were not so well known.
Artistic Stimulation: Taiji was a heavy user of alcohol, weed, and stimulants. This reflected a lot in his music...
Awesome Mc Cool Name: His stage name and chosen name itself - Taiji, which translates to "yin/yang" or "heaven and hell."
Badass Biker: He liked biker fashion and used to ride motorcycles unless he was too unhealthy to do so - and definitely met the "badass" criteria as well. A bad wreck left him with severe injuries at one point.
Bad Samaritan: Shinsho/Shinso, the religious guru he followed at the end of his life. He promised him recovery and, from Taiji's blog posts on him, gave him a lot of hope and strength. Then he encouraged him to stay in Saipan even as Kitami Terumi drained his bank account and ran up debts, and after Taiji's death, tried to pay off people to say he'd committed suicide and was unstable, and somehow managed to get his body cremated with no autopsy against the will of his family and fiancee.
Bishōnen: He was in his younger days. See the Weekend PV for proof. Was apparently trying for biseinen again at points.
Black Widow: KITAMI TERUMI. She bankrupted him again, indebted him to her, and then left him to die in Saipan... and that is the most charitable view of her actions note the less charitable view is that she somehow arranged for him to be killed, then paid off people to cover up the homicide as a suicide.... Then she sued the journalist who uncovered her and her friends' actions, only to drop the suit when presumably she was warned the journalist likely would have used truth as a defense, which would have left her in the position of either telling the complete truth herself or facing perjury charges.
Cluster F-Bomb: Not very common in lyrics, necessarily, but common elsewhere.
Cool Bike: Taiji loved motorcycles and biker fashion.
The Corruption: If you think being an alcoholic and drug addict in your 20s and 30s is something you can just go to rehab and brush off, take a look at this picture or this picture of him in his mid 20s, and compare it to the page image, or to this picture. Even in full makeup, the damage is obvious - and why abusing alcohol and methamphetamine is a very bad idea, solely on the basis of retaining physical appearance.
Crazy Homeless People: Per his own admission in autobiography and interviews, was one of these for several years as a result of alcoholism, likely stimulant drugs, depression and the effects of undiagnosed temporal lobe epilepsy that were diagnosed as a dissociative disorder. He would get into aggressive interactions and fights with other homeless men and, as a result, sustained major head and facial injuries in The Nineties.
The story of his final days is also Creator Breakdown - albeit one mostly allowed and imposed from the outside. First he joined Shinso's religion for help getting clean/coming to terms with himself and his problems. Unfortunately, Shinso provided very little meaningful mental health help and did introduce him to Kitami Terumi, and pressured Taiji to bring on Kitami as his manager and keep her as such. The trips to Saipan and the draining of what little remaining cash Taiji had from his 2010 gig with X Japan and his other ventures ensued - as did Taiji being told to keep everything away from the people who could have helped him. By the time he had realized what was going on, he was likely using methamphetamine and abusing alcohol again (in his final photos, his arms showed evidence of injection), was in a desperate financial and social situation, and in a horrible enough place mentally to think Violence is the Only Option - on an airplane, no less - and got into a fight with Kitami on the flight, and things only got much worse from there...
Cruel Twist Ending: Two of them. Becoming a hardcore addict ruined an ascendant career and a life that could have gone anywhere other than years of suffering as well as permanently damaged his physical health - and then, his death itself, which was preventable for so many reasons and which was likely a disguised murder.
Diner Brawl: At the afterparty/post-live dinner for the 2009 Killing Red Addiction show, a fight managed to get started over someone's bill at the front of Mel's Diner. No one in the band party including him was involved, however.
Driven to Suicide: Assumed to be the cause of his death - he was alleged to have committed suicide in custody after his arrest, and the case was originally closed with this as the official determination. It may still have been, a new investigation will be required to determine whether it was or not, but the testimony of his fiancee has brought this very much under question.
Everybody Must Get Stoned: His music was often written under the influence, and some of his stuff (especially some of the D.T.R. songs like "Cybernetic Crime" or "Duel Beast" or "Apocalypse") falls into this category.
Gratuitous Rape: Kill Trap for D.T.R., which was probably the lowest point of his musical career in general, with "I'm gonna rape you" as the song's open and a repeating line along with "you're going to rape me." It may be about a Real Life tragedy (some of the lines hint at possibly the Junko Furuta tragedy - the same thing The Gazette's song Taion is about) but the Lyrical Dissonance makes it at least dangerously close to this trope.
Hookers and Blow: Once had white powder on his clothes during a show with The Killing Red Addiction...
Hope Spot: 2009 and 2010. He'd recovered from life-threatening injuries, by all accounts was beginning to get toward Functional Addict territory if not on the wagon, he was performing with major bands including his first gig outside of Japan in LA in 2009 and returning to play with X Japan in 2010. He'd formed a new band, was active in creating fashion and jewelry, seemed to be working his way back up from nothing into stardom. Then a Black Widow came along...
Horrible History Metal: His solo magnum opus for D.T.R. Voices Of The Dead, opens with a sample of a news report on the First Gulf War, overlaid with a sample of a baby screaming. It turns into a fusion of Western and metal bemoaning the tragedy of war and from the perspective of those killed in it.
Hot-Blooded: Very much so. He tended to be aggressive and seek out fights, and the official story is that this led to his death.
Ignored Epiphany: One of the saddest cases ever. In his final communication to his apprentice and friend, he bemoaned the situation he was in financially, mentioned being in fear for his life, and was frustrated with Kitami for it all. Unfortunately, he apparently couldn't put it together enough to realize he needed to call one of his friends for immediate help, refuse to get on the plane, and get a lawyer - and still apparently thought he could handle it himself, which put him in the situation that led to his death. It's an even more sad situation because had he contacted, say, Tommy or Yoshiki or Toshi with "I'm in trouble, get me out of this place now," he likely would be alive today.
Lovable Rogue / Lower-Class Lout: Taiji was a combination of both: a high school dropout who was, as noted above, a delinquent of the yankii and bosozoku varieties, who became, at least before his downfall, the ascended version of this trope, the working-class hero who made it on sheer talent and luck as opposed to extensive formal education or rich family or the like.
Never Suicide: Started out as a Conspiracy Theory, but gained credibility with the testimony of Taiji's fiancee that he had no neck wounds, with the information about Kitami's and Shinso's conduct around him in his last days and after his death that has gotten out, and with quite a few people, including other artists he knew, providing information that he was not suicidal at the time - but was a victim of financial fraud, feeling angry and tired of his situation, and was worried about his future. While his death may still have been suicide (and a new legal investigation will be required to verify the truth once and for all) it is definitely possible he was a victim of Police Brutality or homicide in custody.
Nice Hat: He usually almost always had one, whether it's his cowboy hat, a fedora, a bucket hat, a hoodie....
Off The Wagon: Extreme example, enough to argue that in his case, Drugs Are Bad. He went from a successful career to abject poverty and homelessness, suffered a series of ongoing health problems, and had almost died on a variety of occasions leading up to his death.
Outlived Its Creator: TSP as a band, which Shu kept ongoing as a memorial and as an act in and of its own right until announcing disbandment in October 2013 but agreeing to play shows ongoing into February 2014.
Police Brutality: How he likely actually died, since witnesses stated there was no evidence of hanging, and he died in US federal custody in Saipan.
Smoking Is Cool: Somewhat averted with his health problems, though not much of an aversion, in that his health problems seemed to originate more from alcohol, less legal stimulants, and poverty.
Spiritual Successor: Delinquent dropout who somehow makes it big in one of the most influential rock bands of his scene playing bass, but falls to alcohol and hard drugs? Whose bad boy image made him an iconic hero of "not selling out?" Dying a suspicious death that was most likely homicide? Quite a few similarities can be drawn to Sid Vicious, except that Taiji was actually an incredibly technically talented bassist as well as the bad boy sex appeal of the bands he was in.
Survivor Guilt: Taiji was hit especially hard by the death of hide who was one of his closest friends. He also played in Loudness and was a friend of late drummer, Munetaka Higuchi, who died of cancer November 30, 2008 - which led to his playing at both the 2009 and 2010 Munetaka Higuchi memorial shows.
Tragedy: His life onstage and offstage would qualify as this. So much potential, so much promise, so much hope, and seemingly no way to ever make it last enough to live.
What if he had never been introduced to stimulants? Had he never gotten involved with the amphetamine-class drugs (or had but had been able to remain a Functional Addict) he likely would have had a much better life. He likely would never have spent all of his money and royalties from X Japan and Loudness, he wouldn't have had the stroke/the epilepsy it uncovered to be far worse, his career and home life probably would have been far more stable, and even the situation leading to his death probably would have been averted.
What if he'd never gotten kicked out of X Japan or Loudness? Again, he would have had a far more stable career and income, and both bands would have produced even better bodies of work than they already did. If you can imagine Taiji's bassline on, say, Dahlia instead of Heath's, you can just imagine how epic this would have been.
What if on their departure from Loudness he and Munetaka Higuchi had formed their own thrash band, picking up guitarists and a singer? Had he gone this direction rather than the far more experimental (and only much later appreciated) D.T.R., they would have likely been successful even with metal going out of style being heavy drum and bass Thrash Metal.
Much of D.T.R's music wouldn't have been out of place in a Space Western - and since the genre was being made in The Nineties, it's just another odd thing that he and Yoko Kanno, for example, never worked together. (If you want to imagine how Cowboy Bebop's soundtrack could have been even more badass...)
What if he had learned to adapt D.T.R.'s sound a bit more, and/or worked with another band until its style of metal rode the Popularity Polynomial back up in the late 2000s?
What if he *had* gotten valid, legitimate help for his addictions and illnesses and stuck with it at least enough to remain the Functional Addict and not well but alive and surviving?
What if X Japan had let him stay in 2010, either as sole bassist or in becoming a double bass band along with Heath?
What if he had told Toshi about Shinso/Shinsho in early 2011? Probably one of the saddest of these, as Toshi, from his own experience with a Scam Religion, probably would have given him the information that would have saved what was left of his money and his life - that he needed to get away from the guru, lawyer up to break the contracts etcetera, and get real help.
What if he had just gone blank instead of fighting/having an overt seizure on the plane?
What if the arresting officers had noticed his unwell state and had him sent to a place with valid neuropsychiatric care outside of Saipan and banned Kitami or Shinso from any contact with him until the situation had been sorted out?
What if he had at some point before he died gotten a competent lawyer who had immediately bailed him out of jail and gotten him out of Saipan?
What if someone had called BS on Shinso's requisitioning the body and had demanded an autopsy?