Hideto Matsumoto (Japanese: 松本 秀人, Hepburn: Matsumoto Hideto, December 13, 1964 – May 2, 1998), known professionally as hide, was a Japanese musician, singer-songwriter and record producer. He achieved international fame as the lead guitarist of the rock band X Japan from 1987 to 1997 and a solo artist from 1993 onward. He also formed the United States-based rock supergroup Zilch in 1996.
Hide sold millions of records, both solo and as a member of X Japan. X Japan rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, credited as founders of the Japanese visual kei movement. When they disbanded in 1997, he focused on his solo career which started four years prior and went on to enjoy significant popularity. At the height of his fame, while recording his third studio album and about to launch an international career with the newly formed Zilch, he died in 1998 of what was ruled a suicide by hanging. He was seen as an icon for Japanese youth rebelling against their country's conformist society, and his death was labeled "the end of an era".
Life and career
1964–1987: Early years and Saber Tiger
Hide was born at St. Joseph's Hospital in Midorigaoka, Japan, on December 13, 1964, and went on to attend Yokosuka Tokiwa Junior High School. He was first exposed to rock music at the age of fifteen, through the album Alive II by Kiss. That same year his grandmother bought him his first electric guitar, a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe.
On March 11, 1980, Hide graduated from Tokiwa Junior High School. He then entered Zushi Kaisei Senior High School in Zushi, Kanagawa, where he entered the school's brass band as a club activity. He quit the band after a short time because he was assigned the clarinet while he wanted to play the trumpet. After this, he concentrated on guitar and in 1981 formed the band Saber Tiger. A year after their founding, they started playing shows at live houses in Yokosuka, such as Rock City. Their live performances featured shock elements such as mannequins and raw meat.
In April 1983 he started studying cosmetology and fashion at the Hollywood University of Beauty and Fashion in present-day Roppongi Hills, from which he graduated in 1985. Later that year he took a nationwide examination and successfully obtained a beautician license. In July 1985 Saber Tiger released their self-titled EP, which included two songs, "Double Cross" and "Gold Digger". In November, the band contributed the song "Vampire" to the Heavy Metal Force III sampler, which also included songs by X.
In 1986 the group changed its name to Saver Tiger to avoid confusion with a similarly named band from Sapporo. Their first appearance with the new name was on the sampler Devil Must Be Driven out with Devil, with their songs "Dead Angle" and "Emergency Express". They continued to perform in live houses and night clubs such as Meguro Rokumeikan, Omiya Freaks and Meguro Live Station until January 28, 1987, when Hide became tired of changing members and decided to end the band (vocalist Kyo and drummer Tetsu would both go on to D'erlanger), around the same time he was invited to join X. In 2001, Nippon Crown issued a three-volume release titled Origin of hide, with the band credited as "Yokosuka Saver Tiger". Volumes 1 and 2 were live CDs, with some rehearsal recordings, while volume 3 was a concert VHS.
1987–1997: X Japan
Hide joined X in February 1987, becoming the band's lead guitarist and occasional songwriter. X released their first album Vanishing Vision through drummer Yoshiki's own Extasy Records on April 14, 1988, and toured extensively in support of the record. They would become one of the first Japanese acts to achieve mainstream success while on an independent label, and were later widely credited as one of the pioneers of visual kei.
X's major label debut album, Blue Blood, was released on April 21, 1989, and debuted at number six on the Oricon chart. Its success earned the band the "Grand Prix New Artist of the Year" award at the 4th annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1990. Their third album Jealousy was released on July 1, 1991, and debuted at number one, selling over 600,000 copies. It was later certified million by the RIAJ.
Shortly after the release of Art of Life, which also topped the Oricon, the members of X Japan took a break, to start solo projects. Around that time, the group also dropped most of its original visual kei aesthetics, except Hide who would still perform in wildly colorful outfits and with his trademark red, later pink, hair. Dahlia, which would become the band's final album to date, was released on November 4, 1996, and once again, it reached the number one spot. In September 1997 it was announced that X Japan would disband, they performed their farewell show, aptly titled "The Last Live", at the Tokyo Dome on December 31, 1997.
1993–1998: Solo career
In early 1993, Hide recorded the "cyborg rock" song "Frozen Bug" with Inoran and J of Luna Sea under the band name M*A*S*S; it was included on the sampler Dance 2 Noise 004. He also starred in an art film titled Seth et Holth, along with Tusk of Zi:Kill. In 1994, he recorded and released his first solo album Hide Your Face, which reached number 9 on the Oricon chart. The album's musical style differed significantly from the speed metal anthems and power ballads of X Japan, leaning more towards alternative rock. He then went on the Hide Our Psychommunity Tour, for which a live band was hired that would later become his primary project, Hide with Spread Beaver.
In 1996, Hide oversaw the production of the first release on his own record label LEMONed, an album from the band Zeppet Store. Prior to starting his own label, Hide would introduce bands he liked to Yoshiki, who then signed them to Extasy Records, as he had done with Zi:Kill, Luna Sea and Glay. Oblivion Dust also credits early support from Hide for them getting a record deal. Hide's second solo album Psyence was released on September 2, it topped the Oricon and was followed by the Psyence a Go Go tour. He also formed a new band named Zilch in 1996, which apart from him and Spread Beaver programmer and percussionist I.N.A., was composed of American and British artists, such as Joey Castillo (Danzig), Paul Raven (Killing Joke) and Ray McVeigh (ex-The Professionals). After X Japan disbanded in 1997, he formally titled his solo project Hide with Spread Beaver, with his backing band considered full members. On August 26, 1997, he produced the Mix LEMONed Jelly event at four different Tokyo nightclubs on the same night.
Hide died at age 33 on the morning of May 2, 1998. After a night out drinking, he was found hanged by a towel tied to a doorhandle in his apartment in the Minami-Azabu district of Tokyo. He had returned to Japan just five days earlier, after a three-month stay in Los Angeles. On May 1, he and the members of Spread Beaver recorded for television shows and went out drinking, with his younger brother driving him home at roughly 6:30 am the following morning. When found unconscious at around 7:30 am, he was rushed to Japanese Red Cross Medical Center in Hiroo, where he was pronounced dead at 8:52 am by Japanese Red Cross Medical Center
Authorities officially deemed Hide's death a suicide, and it was reported in the media as such. Within one week, three teenage fans had died in copycat suicides. At the wake on May 6, which 10,000 people attended, a 19-year-old girl slit her wrists after laying flowers at the temple, and a car crash caused by sleep-deprived fans traveling from Osaka caused one death and seven serious injuries on a motorway. His remains were buried in Miura Reien in Miura, Kanagawa during a Buddhist memorial service. Approximately 50,000 people attended his funeral at Tsukiji Hongan-ji on May 7, where 56 people were hospitalized and 197 people received medical treatment in first aid tents due to a mixture of emotional exhaustion and heat, with the funeral taking place on the warmest day of the year so far, at 27 degrees Celsius (about 80.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
Several of Hide's friends and colleagues stated that they believed the auto-strangulation to have been an accident, among them X Japan co-founder Yoshiki and former X bassist Taiji. No suicide note was left and Taiji theorizes in his autobiography that on the night of his death, Hide may have been practicing a technique to relieve upper back and neck pains which guitarists can suffer from due to continuous use of a shoulder strap. The technique involved was practiced by the X Japan members during their touring days and required the use of a towel and a doorknob or handle. According to Taiji, Hide may have fallen asleep in his intoxicated state, becoming caught and strangling himself.
Zilch bassist Paul Raven said, "I saw him a few days before he passed away, and I had no indication from him that anything was wrong, other than that he was exhausted," but commented that Hide was "under a lot of stress," due to the recording schedule for the Ja, Zoo album. He went on to question the ultimate degree of Hide's involvement in the finished record, remarking that only three songs had been completed before he died. However, Hide's younger brother and manager stated in his 2010 book that six songs were completed by the time of his death. This is supported by the fact that I.N.A. is credited with additional arrangement on four of the album's ten tracks.