LOUDNESS frontman Minoru Niihara spoke to WeROCK City director Ginger Suzuki earlier today (Monday, December 1) about the passing of the band's drummer Munetaka Higuchi."It is still hard to believe that Munetaka went to his eternal rest," the singer said backstage after the Tokyo concert of Minoru's new project, NISHIDERA MINORU. "It seems unreal to me so far. I will never forget all the things we shared, such as making albums, playing live, drinking together. I truly miss him." He continued, "I had a show to perform tonight in Tokyo with my new project called NISHIDERA MINORU. It's not heavy metal but Japanese Top 40 rock, mostly from the '80s. And the opening song was a ballad. I thought I was going to cry, but I know Munetaka always used to say how much he loved my singing. Even when I got kicked out of LOUDNESS one time, he encouraged me by saying that he still loved my singing, so I decided to dedicate that song to him. I know he'd have been happy to hear my singing." He added, "I'm going to get together with the rest of LOUDNESS members tomorrow for Munetaka's pre-funeral. "I got emails from all over the world with many kinds words. I just wanted to thank everybody for your grateful thoughts."
NISHIDERA MINORU (pictured below) is a three-piece vocal unit which also features EARTHSHAKER vocalist Masafumi Nishida and Keiko Terada from the female hard rock band SHOW-YA. The group just finished recording its debut album and is currently mixing the effort for a February 11, 2009 release via Universal Japan. Minoru is also continuing his involvement with LOUDNESS and XYZ -> A (English name: ASIAN TYPHOON) as well as his solo band.
Higuchi died Sunday morning (November 30) at a hospital in Osaka, Japan. He was 49 years old.
Higuchi was diagnosed with liver cancer (Hepatocellular Carcinoma) in April 2008. He had reportedly undergone two rounds of chemotherapy treatment and an operation to remove part of his liver. In an October 18, 2008 statement released via the band's official web site, Munetaka wrote about his condition (translated from Japanese), "It has been half a year since I was diagnosed with liver cancer. I am really sorry that the fans are worried. The cancer has become worse despite the fact that I have been taking care of my health, and I will need more time for my treatment. [Even after undergoing the] big operation to remove half of my liver, I still need more treatment. There are various risks and dangers involved with my condition, but I'll do my best to keep my spirits up and maintain my physical strength to fight this illness. I know it is still the middle of my treatment, but I just wanted inform you about my progress since the operation. Thank you very much for all the support."
LOUDNESS utilized a session drummer — Kozo Suganuma, a member of one of the most popular fusion bands in Japan, FRAGILE, and a former member of DED CHAPLIN (featuring LOUDNESS singer Minoru Niihara) — for its "special guest" appearance at MÖTLEY CRÜE's October 26, 2008 concert at Saitama Super Arena. LOUDNESS recently released a four-disc DVD set entitled "The Legend Of Loudness - Live Complete Best" in Japan through Tokuma Communications. It features footage spanning the band's entire career — from the early 1980s through 2008 — including the periods when it was fronted by Michael Vescera (YNGWIE MALMSTEEN, OBSESSION) and Masaki Yamada (EZO).
Japanese TV report on Munetaka Higuchi's passing: