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The Japanese music scene doesn’t have quite the lengthy list of young deaths that its Western counterpart does, but that doesn’t mean J-pop hasn’t lost some of its biggest stars while still in their prime. In 1998, 33-year-old hide, who rose to fame as guitarist for the band X Japan and had also established a successful solo career, was found dead in his apartment, hung by a towel attached to a doorknob.

Ruled a suicide, his death came as a shock to his legions of fans, and while he left behind a large body of work, it seemed they would never get to hear the song “Ko Gyaru,” which hide had been putting the finishing touches on before his passing. So it’s come as a surprise that a video for the song was recently released on YouTube, with vocals that sound as if they’re being provided by the deceased musician himself.

In contrast to the dark circumstances surrounding its delay, “Ko Gyaru” starts off with an upbeat guitar intro, before listeners’ ears are hit with hide’s distinctive, slightly nasal singing voice.

Before passing away, hide had already completed the arrangement and backing tracks for the song. But while the lyrics for “Ko Gyaru” were all set, he hadn’t recorded anything other than the gibberish fillers of “ba ba ba ba” that can be heard throughout the tune.

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So how does the version uploaded to YouTube get its voice? You might think it’s the work of a person with an incredible ability to replicate hide’s voice, but that’s actually only half right, as the late musician’s voice was recreated using Yamaha’s Vocaloid technology.

While virtual idols like Hatsune Miku are the poster children for the programs, Vocaloid technology isn’t limited to creating singers out of absolutely nothing. In the case of “Ko Gyaru,” technicians worked with available samples of hide’s singing from near the time of his death, using them as building blocks to create a cohesive performance for the song.

I.N.A., a longtime percussionist and music programmer who collaborated with hide during his time with the bands X Japan and Spread Beaver, was involved with the project, but was extremely skeptical early on, saying, “When I heard the early versions from the Vocaloid, it didn’t sound like hide’s singing at all. ‘There’s no way we can release something like this,’ I thought.”

After two years of tinkering with the synthesized vocals, though, I.N.A. has changed his tune. “I had no idea we could make this much progress,” he explained. “Now, I can’t believe what I’m hearing.”

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Source: Grape
Images: YouTube