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Taiji performing with X circa 1990
|Birth name||Taiji Sawada|
|Also known as||Ray|
|Born||July 12, 1966|
Ichikawa, Chiba, Japan
|Died||July 17, 2011 (aged 45)|
Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Taiji Sawada (Japanese: 沢田 泰司 Hepburn: Sawada Taiji, July 12, 1966 – July 17, 2011), also known mononymously as Taiji, was a Japanese musician and songwriter. He is best known as the former bassist of the heavy metal band X, with whom he also composed music and played acoustic guitar. X rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, cred as founders of the Japanese visual kei movement. After leaving X in January 1992, Taiji went on to work with many other bands, including Loudness and D.T.R.
Taiji Sawada was born in Ichikawa, Chiba, Japan on July 12, 1966. He was the second son of three children. His younger sister Masayo is a singer known as Sister MAYO. When Taiji was two years of age, he shoved his hand into a machine in a factory where his parents worked, resulting in a first joint cut on the middle finger, but luckily, it was not too serious. In 1974, at age eight, Taiji learned how to play acoustic guitar while in elementary school. In 1979, Taiji's parents were divorced.
After dropping out of high school in 1982, Taiji formed his first band called Trash, where he was the leader and guitarist. In late 1984, he switched to bass and going by the name Ray joined the metal group Dementia, staying until 1985. He then played briefly with Prowler, as well as a few shows with X. Until 1986 when he joined the very short-lived Dead Wire, whose line-up also included future Saver Tiger and D'erlanger members, Kyo and Tetsu. Soon after he officially rejoined X at the end of 1986.
Although he wrote many songs for the band, "Phantom of Guilt", "Desperate Angel" and "Voiceless Screaming" were some of the few that were officially released. In 2001, some of the unpublished songs were finally released in Rose & Blood -Indies of X-. Taiji left X in 1992, the official reason given by the band was due to musical differences. However, in his autobiography, Taiji claimed that he was asked to leave because he confronted Yoshiki due to the substantial income gap between Yoshiki and each of the other members. When asked about Taiji's departure in 2016, Yoshiki said that while he really respected Taiji's musical skills and still does, he "crossed the line of our band's rules" and "To this day I still don't know if the decision was right or wrong, but we didn't have a choice." Taiji's last concert with the band was the last day of three consecutive nights at the Tokyo Dome, it was released on DVD as On the Verge of Destruction 1992.1.7 Tokyo Dome Live.
In April 1992, he was invited to join Japanese metal band Loudness. He left them in November 1993, after recording only one studio album and one live album. In July 1994, he formed his own band and named it D.T.R, which stood for "Dirty Trashroad" and featured Mitsuo Takeuchi (ex:Joe-Erk) on vocals, Taiji Fujimoto (ex:The Dead Pop Stars, ex:Judy and Mary) on guitar and Toshihiko Okabe on drums.
In 1995, he also joined the short-lived supergroup Kings, with Shuichi Aoiki (Night Hawks) on vocals, Luke Takamura (Seikima-II) on guitar, and Satoshi "Joe" Miyawaki (44 Magnum, Spread Beaver) as support drummer.
Guitarist Tomoyuki Kuroda later joined D.T.R in 1995, but a year later, Yoshihiko left, and then the band was put on hold when Taiji was going through personal problems. During this time, Taiji was divorced from his wife, of whom he married in 1989, and became homeless.
In 1999, he created Cloud Nine, but left in 2001 and they decided to continue on without him. He then formed Otokaze (音風) with his sister Masayo on vocals, they released one self-titled album on November 9, 2004.
In 2005 Taiji was in a motorcycle accident, where he badly injured the ligaments in his foot. D.T.R resumed activity in 2006 with keyboardist Kenji Shimizu and their former support drummer Kazuhisa "Roger" Takahashi, now official members.
Also in April 2006, he formed another band, Taiji with Heaven's, with Taiji on bass and Dai on vocals; later guitarist Ryutaro joined. In 2009, they officially started activities; in May 2010, Takanari joined on drums and they released their first mini-album on January 13, 2010.
In 2007, Taiji returned to Cloud Nine. In 2009, he announced that he would once again be playing bass in a supergroup, The Killing Red Addiction with guitarist Tatsu (Gastunk), drummer Kenzi (Anti Feminism, The Dead Pop Stars, ex:Kamaitachi) and vocalist Dynamite Tommy (ex: Color). They had their debut performance on June 22 at the Whiskey A Go Go, in Los Angeles, United States. Their second performance was in Osaka, Japan at the Shinjuku Loft on December 29, and they released a cover of Gastunk's "Devil" on iTunes on January 13, 2010.
In December 2008, Taiji's staff announced on his blog that since September, his epilepsy and chronic strokes had worsened, that he was suffering from necrosis after a hip joint replacement of the femoral component on his left hip, and that on December 2, he was hospitalized again after falling and hurting his chest and throat.
In 2010, he formed TSP (Taiji & Shu Project), with Taiji on bass, guitarist Shu (Cloud Nine, Crazy Quarter Mile), vocalist Dai (Taiji with Heaven's) and drummer Hina (Crazy Quarter Mile). Taiji with Heaven's also performed a show in Korea that year and later announced plans for further activities in the country the following year. However, these were cancelled due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami.
On August 12, 2010, Taiji rejoined X (now known as X Japan), with founders Yoshiki and Toshi at a press conference, to announce that he would be performing as a guest with X Japan at their August 14 and 15 shows at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama.
On October 9, it was announced that Dai was leaving TSP, and would be replaced by Hiroshi "Tazz" Maruki, which resulted in their debut album being delayed.
On January 23, 2011, it was announced that Ryutaro was withdrawing from Taiji with Heaven's due to bad health and personal reasons. On February 17, Tokiya joined as guitarist, and it was announced that Taiji with Heavens would now be written without the apostrophe.
On July 11, 2011, Taiji argued with his female manager, named KT, on Delta Airlines Flight 298 during the final approach from Japan to Saipan. After the argument became physical, he was restrained by other passengers and a flight attendant, and he was moved to another seat, but his aggression persisted as he continued to punch windows and kick other seats. He was arrested upon landing in Saipan. He faced federal charges in the United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands. On July 14, Taiji was found unconscious in his detention cell, appearing to have attempted suicide by hanging himself with a bed sheet. He was rushed to an intensive care unit at Saipan's Commonwealth Health Center, where he was observed to be brain dead. His comatose body was placed on life support. Taiji died on July 17 after his mother and fiancée made the decision to turn off his life support system. His fiancée, Tomomi Akatsuka, claimed that there were no marks of strangulation on his neck. In her 2015 book, Taiji, she wrote that she asked that his body be returned to Japan, but it was instead cremated without an autopsy. She started a petition called: "Taiji voiceless truth" pleading for the investigation into his death be reopened.