Yoshiki might be the most famous musician that most Americans have never heard of. That’s poised to change. The Japanese heavy-metal drummer, songwriter, classical pianist and composer made his debut at New York City’s Carnegie Hall in January with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.
A designer of rock-inspired kimonos (Yoshikimono) and the only person on earth to have a Hello Kitty doll fashioned after him (Yoshikitty), the creative chameleon is a fan and collector of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. He makes one of his own, Y by Yoshiki, in partnership with fourth-generation winemaker Rob Mondavi.
When did you first start enjoying wine?
Ten, 15 years ago. I had friends drinking wine, and I discovered how amazing it was. Opus One was the wine that opened my mind to this world.
“Wine can help you start thinking. Wine changes things.” —Yoshiki
When you’re blending a wine, what are you looking for?
It’s like music. It’s really hard to describe what’s good music, what’s bad music—you have to hear it, right? With wine, you have to taste it. I’m lucky enough to drink a lot of great wine.
Do you think of wine as artistic?
Completely. I appreciate everything about wine: flavor, color, there’s so much depth to it. Also, the taste changes. A glass can be different an hour later. I can feel it the way I feel a great composition. Oh, this could be a Beethoven Symphony No. 9, or something like that.
If Yoshiki wines represent your classical side, what would represent your rock side?
Rock ’n’ roll goes with Tequila, vodka or whiskey. Wine’s more sophisticated. Don’t get me wrong, there’s sophisticated rock.
Does wine influence your creative process?
Composing is not easy…it can go in a vicious circle, not creating anything. But drinking wine is about changing the atmosphere. Wine can help you start thinking. Wine changes things.
Tell us about your rock kimonos, featured in Tokyo Fashion Week.
My parents ran a kimono shop, and usually the oldest son in Japan takes over the family business. But I became a musician. I always wanted to create one, though. I grew up in that culture, and my mother wore a kimono always. I made a rock ’n’ roll version of a kimono, very sexy, stylish—they’re a very shocking style.