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Music / Taiji Sawada

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Taiji Sawada (July 12, 1966 – July 17, 2011), 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

  • A Lady on Each Arm: Did this in the X Japan PV for Celebration. Along with another on his lap...
  • 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.
  • Ambiguously Bi: He definitely loved women, perhaps a bit too much, as his becoming enthralled with Kitami Terumi despite already being engaged to his fiancee began the series of problems that led up to his death. He also had no problem with really getting into onstage fanservice with men at the very least, and seemed to knowingly play to both the Gay Cowboy and Leather Man tropes, to the point that as mentioned in the YMMV section, gay or bi male fans of X Japan tended to be either Taiji fanboys or Yoshiki fanboys.
  • 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, and his heavy and open use of drugs was part of the reason he was kicked out of X Japan.
  • Audience Participation Song: Pretty much any song, he tended to interact with the audience a fair amount.
  • "Awesome McCool" 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.
  • Bar Brawl: A common reason for Persona Non Grata.
  • 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 . 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 Coroner Doth Protest Too Much: See Driven to Suicide and Never Suicide + the edits and entries to this page. The official verdict is suicide by hanging - which is also absolutely impossible in light of witness statements of the state of his body before its cremation.
  • 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 '90s.

  • 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.
  • Double Entendre: "Desperate Angel" for X Japan.
  • 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.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Taiji was a heavy drinker, to the point of being an alcoholic.
  • 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.
  • Grief Song: "Dear Friend," written for hide.
  • He's Back: Sadly, it did not last.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: hide and Pata while he was with X.
  • 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.
  • Intercourse with You: "Desperate Angel" for X and "So What" and "Dirty Winner" for D.T.R.
  • Irony: One of the songs he wrote for Loudness was called "Black Widow."
  • Japanese Delinquents: Taiji was a high school dropout and one of these (of the yankii variety, seemingly, as well as bosuzoku) before he became a professional musician.
  • Lead Bassist: Types A and C.
  • 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.
  • My Horse Is a Motorbike: Referenced in the D.T.R. song Empty Room, and generally played to the hilt throughout Taiji's career, with his image being "biker cowboy."
  • 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....
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Not as obviously, extremely so as hide's work, but D.T.R. is what happens when you fuse Space Western, What Do You Mean, It Wasn't Made on Drugs?, blues rock, and metal (or take metal out of the equation for an acoustic western sounding album, which was what the acoustic album is) with the occasional Protest Song.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Precision F-Strike: The lyrics to "Desperate Angel" for X Japan and "So What" for D.T.R.
  • Rearrange the Song: Voiceless Screaming was rewritten countless times by Taiji.
  • Rock-Star Song: "Easy Fight Rambling" for X Japan, "So What" for D.T.R.
  • Sampling: Used in his D.T.R. work (most notably in Cybernetic Crime and Voices From The Dead
  • Sanity Slippage: 1993-1998, over which he lost his career and became The Mentally Disturbed and severely injured. He would recover somewhat before he died, but...
  • Self-Serving Memory: Compare his recollection of some events in "Sei To Shi" to Yoshiki's recollection of the same events in his self-titled biography. And as an example of an endless loop, now go to Yoshiki Hayashi and look up Self-Serving Memory.
  • Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll: Almost the perfect example of how Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll can destroy someone.
  • 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.
  • Unperson: He was this for years (from 1992 until 1998) to both Yoshiki and the official history of X Japan, though hide and Pata had both maintained their personal friendships with him quietly to some degree. Averted with his 2010 return as a guest bassist for X Japan and with his death, with his being considered the "seventh member," though he still doesn't get half of the tribute space and attention that hide does. Although this kinda began to change in recent years, with X Japan acknowledging him a lot more, the We Are X doc actually discussing him a few times and even the Wikipedia page listening that the band still mentions him at shows and as a member like hide.
  • Wretched Hive: He died in Saipan, CNMI, which is a Real Life Wretched Hive.
  • Yakuza: There were and are persistent rumors of his membership, which may just be due to Japan's anti-tattoo cultural bias.


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