The musician died October 29 of colorectal cancer, according to a statement from the group.
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of X Japan’s esteemed bass player Heath after his battle with colorectal cancer, on October 29th, 2023, at the age of 55,” the group said in a statement. “His cancer was found during an examination in June of this year. Despite his efforts to battle the disease, his condition declined suddenly in October, and he took his last breath in the hospital.
“We would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to those who cherished Heath throughout his lifetime. We, the members of X Japan have personally bid farewell to Heath, but are still deeply saddened and dismayed by his sudden loss.”
Formed in 1982, the single-named members of X Japan became megastars in Asia with their 1989 sophomore album Blue Blood. Heath joined the group in 1992 and played on its albums Art of Life (1993) and Dahlia (1996), both of which topped the Japanese album charts. The group performed a sold-out farewell show on New Year’s Eve 1997 in Tokyo before splitting up.
They re-formed in 2007, and Heath played bass with the group until his death.
Born Hiroshi Morie on January 22, 1968, in Amagasaki near Osaka, Heath pursued a solo career after X Japan’s ’90s breakup. After releasing his eponymous debut album in 1995, he made several other discs through 2009. Traitor (1997) made the cracked the top 40 on the Japanese album chart and was followed by a pair or post-X Japan sets in 1998: Crack Yourself and Gang Age Cubist.
In 2000, he formed Dope Headz with X Japan guitarist Pata and others. That group released four albums in a span of 16 months in 2001-02, all of which charted in Japan.
Anchored by co-founding drummer-pianist-songwriter Yoshiki, the group sells out arenas overseas but — despite inking a recording deal Atlantic Records in 1992 — never broke out with as much success in the U.S.
X Japan’s evolution into glam-metal-pop superstars is laden with as much dramatic backstory as any international rock outfit. The group has navigated breakups and the deaths of now three members while selling over 30 million albums and singles around the world. Its glam fashion and musical aesthetics were influential on other bands and youngsters in the visual-kei rock movement.
Heath and X Japan were featured in a 2016 documentary, We Are X, directed by Stephen Kijak and produced by Searching for Sugarman EP John Battsek.
The band made a major U.S. push during the 2010s, inking a new label deal with EMI Music in 2011. That same year, Yoshiki hosted Yoshiki Radio, a weekly SiriusXM show that aired on the Ozzy’s Boneyard channel and featured his favorite music while spotlighting elements of Japanese pop culture. X Japan made its U.S. concert debut on the 2010 Lollapalooza tour.
“Heath’s obituary was originally scheduled for release later in November in accordance with his family’s wishes, but it is being announced earlier due to unwarranted media coverage,” the band’s statement added. “The funeral will be held among immediate family members only. The family asks that any visits, donations or flowers be withheld. The date of the funeral will remain undisclosed. We appreciate your understanding. A formal farewell ceremony for Heath will be arranged at a later date … in accordance with Heath’s wishes as conveyed by his family.”