INTERVIEW AND PHOTOS BY MARKO SYRJALA
Marty Friedman is an American guitarist, best known for his career as the lead/rhythm guitarist for Megadeth which spanned nearly the full decade of the 1990s. During that period, the band reached its commercial peak and released several classic albums including RUST IN PEACE, COUNTDOWN TO EXTINCTION and YOUTHANASIA. Marty’s last album with the band was RISK (1999) and after the following tour he quit the band. Later on, Friedman relocated in Tokyo where he’s been living since 2003. Friedman has been visibly active in Japan. He’s hosted several TV and radio shows and works with various Japanese musicians. Friedman has released several solo albums, first of those were released prior his Megadeth tenure, and he just put out INFERNO which is his 12th solo release to date. This spring, Friedman finally returned to Finland, for the first time since the Risk tour. The current tour, titled GUITAR UNIVERSE 2, also features Friedman’s long-time friend Gus G. and it started in Helsinki on May 2nd. Before the show we had the pleasure to sit down with Marty and discuss about his current tour, INFERNO, living in Japan, the Metal All Stars tour, KISS, and various other topics.
GUITAR UNIVERSE TOUR WITH GUS G.
Metal-Rules.com: First of all, welcome to Finland.
Marty Freidman: Thank you. It’s great to be back here.
Metal-Rules.com: In fact you guys have been here a couple of days already?
Marty Friedman: Yeah. Like a long time, like four days, five days.
Metal-Rules.com: Let’s start with this current Guitar Universe tour which features you and Gus G. co-headlining. How you two decided to do this tour together?
Marty Friedman: Gus and I we’ve been friends for a long time, a real long time. And sometimes we jam together, sometimes we just go out to eat when we are in the same country or whatever just like normal friends. We always say, “Wouldn’t it be fun sometime to do a tour?” And now the chance came, we both have a record out at the same time. We both wanted to come to Europe. So, it just worked out that we did it together and it’s a lot of fun and we really enjoyed playing together and stuff.
Metal-Rules.com: Gus is a little younger than you, right?
Marty Friedman: A little bit, yeah.
Metal-Rules.com: When did the two of you get to know each other?
Marty Friedman: That’s a good question. Maybe 10 years ago or more. As a matter of fact I was offered, after I left Megadeth I wanted him to get the gig in Megadeth. Because I think he would have been perfect for that band. It didn’t happen that way, but I’ve always been a big supporter of him and he’s always coming and visit me in Japan or watch my Japanese concerts and stuff. And he does a lot of stuff in Japan. So, I think we met… It’s a good question. We met probably something having to do with guitar in Japan or playing music in Japan, we were both in Japan and I think that’s how we met.
Metal-Rules.com: But Gus would have been quite young at the time to join Megadeth?
Marty Friedman: I think he would have been great, he was a fantastic guitarist already back then.
Metal-Rules.com: So, on this tour you’re both playing your own sets and at the end you’re doing a few songs together. Tell us something about the band you have now?
Marty Friedman: The band is a great band. Bass player’s name is Or Lubianiker. He’s from Israel and he did my last European tour, my last solo tour. And the drummer is Johan Nunez from Gus’s band Firewind. And the guitar player he’s been in my solo band for many years in Japan, his name is Takayoshi Ohmura. He’s also the guitarist in Babymetal in Japan. So, we have a really good vibe together and so it’s a good sound.
Metal-Rules.com: The tour is of course the main thing now but you’re also releasing a brand new solo album titled INFERNO in few weeks. It’s your 12th solo album to date, right?
Marty Friedman: You’re right here.
Metal-Rules.com: I’ve heard only track “Meat Hook” from the album and if you ask me, it sounded just insane “Laughs”
Marty Friedman: Thank you.
Metal-Rules.com: Is that song kind of… does that track present the vibe of the whole album?
Marty Friedman: No. Well, it does in a way that it’s insane. Every track is insane in a little bit different way, that’s the only track with saxophone on it. And I hate saxophones, but I love Shining from Norway and that’s Jorgen’s band. Do you know Shining? And I just think it was so, a nice way to blend the instrument I don’t like into a music that I like. I hear their music it’s so powerful and metal, but it sounds really new and modern and fresh. And the use of saxophone in there surprised me, because I usually don’t like the sound of the instrument. So I definitely want to collaborate with this guy and turns up that we are both fans of each other, and on the same label in America. So, it was just a natural thing to do and we are both kind of crazy, evil mind people.
Metal-Rules.com: I would say that you both are such an experimental people.
Marty Friedman: Experimental people. So, yeah. The whole record, that spirit is all over the record but that’s the only one with that sound.
Metal-Rules.com: I do have all of your albums and it seems that you always want to find new ways to impress yourself. Do you agree with that?
Marty Friedman: I always impress myself to keep myself entertained. Keep challenging, because I always try to reach for something new, something new kind of challenge. Something “Wow, I can’t believe I did it”. I always want to do something new.
Metal-Rules.com: On the new album, you have lots of guests. Tell something more about them?
Marty Friedman: About who they are? I basically got a list of people from record company in America. Musicians who have mentioned my name in interviews and I’ve been in Japan for ten years and I haven’t followed like any kind of heavy metal or guitar type of press outside of Japan for a long time. So, when I saw this list of these people, who said so many things about me. First, I was very impressed and then I started to like do some research on these people who they are. Fantastic people, really, really impressive and I wanted to see if I could get some of their enthusiasm in a collaboration. And that’s how I just started going down that list and talking to people and seeing who was most excited and who was available, had the time to do it and I wound up with a lot of great people like Rodrigo and Gabriela and Alexi Laiho from Finland. And Danko Jones, Dave Davidson. There is this great… there a lot of great guys on there.
Metal-Rules.com: Were there any names on your list that you would have liked to have but they didn’t make it on the album?
Marty Friedman: There was a lot of people that had schedule problems or there was just a lot of people but there was nobody who was like, “I don’t want to do it man.” Or, “I’m not interested.” But yeah, I don’t remember all the people on the list but there were some people like in newer metal bands that are probably popular metal bands now that I just wasn’t familiar with and I listened to it and was impressed by. And Dave Davidson is one of those guys, and he did the record, his band was called Revocation. Do you know them?
Metal-Rules.com: I know the name and I know that they’re a new band they play a kind of old school metal?
Marty Friedman: Yeah. I think you still might like them; they are like old school but still new school. So, I think you might like them. It’s super, super heavy but the guitar is really good. I think he’s a real; he’s going to be a big star in the guitar world.
Metal-Rules.com: Okay. I have to check them out although I don’t follow newer bands too much. I’m stuck in old school, you know “Laughs”.
Marty Friedman: Yeah, check him out and remember that there is a lot of good new things you don’t want to miss out. You don’t want to miss out but I know how you feel because it’s very comfortable to stay in what you are comfortable with, and it’s easier to do that. But sometimes you can surprise yourself.
LIVING IN JAPAN
Metal-Rules.com: You have been living in Japan for a long time, 10 years already. How your life is different in Japan instead of in the States?
Marty Friedman: There are many, many more things I can do musically and creatively and I’m like constantly on TV, constantly on the radio, constantly doing articles for newspapers and magazines on top of doing my music. So, I’m constantly stimulated doing work that’s getting me somewhere and realizing my potential. Where I would be if I was still in America? I don’t know what I would be doing. I would probably be, hopefully be in a really good band. But there is just so much more in the current music scene in Japan that I can contribute to. I don’t really know what’s going on in America, but it’s just a very creative environment in Japan.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you see that you would move back to the States some day?
Marty Friedman: I would love to, I mean ideally I would love to live in America and Japan half and half. I would like to share it, but I’m too busy to do that. I go to America, like I do a lot of recording in America. I did INFERNO in America. So, I go back I got family back in America but there is just too much work that I have to do in Japan. And I can’t get away for that long, and I’m kind of sad about that really because I love America and my family and friends and I love being in there. But I’m so content in Japan and the way I have freedom to do whatever I want and I get good interesting things that I can do there. So, I wind up living there all the time.
Metal-Rules.com: I was going to ask something about Japanese bands and music. Personally I only know a very few bands from Japan. In fact, I only know Loudness and Vow Wow, but how is the metal music doing Japan in general?
Marty Friedman: Yeah. Those are the godfathers of Japanese heavy metal, but in Japan heavy metal is not… There is no heavy metal scene, but the sound of heavy metal find its way into other genres in Japan. Like if you listen to Visual Kei’s, it sounds like heavy metal to me. I mean it’s very heavy loud guitars and hard riffs and double bass drums and even in pop music and idol music, it sounds like heavy metal, those girls singing.
Metal-Rules.com: And then there’s Babymetal “Laughs”
Marty Friedman: Babymetal. It’s like heavy metal, we know heavy metal doesn’t sell a lot of records in any country but in Japan it gets more into like other more popular mainstream music. So, everybody is hearing the sound of heavy metal but they are not hearing like Accept or like some kind of traditional metal thing. Of course there is a core following for that too, but in the mainstream you can hear the sound of heavy loud guitars. I like that.
Metal-Rules.com: For some reason Japanese bands have never made it big outside of Japan and I’m talking about old schools heavy/metal bands here. In your opinion, what might have been the reason for that?
Marty Friedman: I don’t know about much about that… but now, look at Dir En Grey. Dir En Grey, they are not considered metal in Japan they are considered Visual Kei but their sound is metal. And it sounds like metal to me, maybe you know Maximum the Hormone?
Metal-Rules.com: I know the name.
Marty Friedman: They are total metal, and Babymetal is metal. To me Babymetal sounds like Meshuggah with little girls on top of it. Which is very interesting combination, isn’t it? “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: Like I mentioned before interview, it’s been 14 or 15 years since we met last time and that was during the Risk -tour.
Marty Friedman: Did we talk back then?
Metal-Rules.com: Yes we did. I think you were on tour with Iron Maiden then.
Marty Friedman: What year was it? ’99?
Metal-Rules.com: It was in 1999 or 2000. I was going to ask, it was almost 15 years ago, how do you remember that time in your life now afterwards? It wasn’t long after before you quit with Megadeth.
Marty Friedman: Probably that particular time was really, really hard because I loved the band members and I didn’t want to leave and I just didn’t see my potential being used there. It was just a waste; I was playing music that was not challenging. It wasn’t modern; it wasn’t like what anybody cared about. And then we couldn’t agree on making something that was more challenging and more like mainstream. You can still be metal and be mainstream, we made compromises and they were the wrong compromises. I wanted to make it heavier and more like mainstream at the same time. All the other bands were heavier than us, there was like Korn and Marilyn Manson and all these bands that sounded like that and even Limp Bizkit sounded heavier than Megadeth. And we have this name Megadeth, and we sound like mid tempo ’80s metal. To me it sounded like Ratt, and I just never cared about that. I liked it, but I didn’t want to keep doing it in 1999. I’d love all that ’80s rock and metal and stuff, but I definitely didn’t want to keep doing in the year 2000. And so, I saw some limitations there. I was very unhappy at that point, because I had to leave my brothers in the band. But up until then I was extremely happy, I loved every minute of it.
Metal-Rules.com: For me it was the single “Crush ‘Em” which broke the camel’s neck.
Marty Friedman: Was it?
Metal-Rules.com: It wasn’t Megadeth anymore for me.
Marty Friedman: This was one of our compromises, I don’t really remember the song but I remember it was too complicated. I agreed, I wanted to make a big sports anthem. The idea was to make a Gary Glitter Rock n Roll, which I love. I was all for that, but then when you put other guys into the mix they want to make it too complicated. And it was just too complicated, nobody understood it. It was not simple enough, there was too many changes, too many chord changes, too many beat changes, too many…
Metal-Rules.com: And its sound overall, it was really strange.
Marty Friedman: I don’t remember the sound but, I didn’t think… Let’s put it this way. The album came out, and when we were done with it, it was the best that we could do. And if it would have gone triple platinum, we would be having a different conversation “Laughs”.
Metal-Rules.com: But it still went gold. So it wasn’t that bad after all?
Marty Friedman: …It still went gold, you can’t complain but yeah. I wanted to have like a really sad ballad on there, something dark. I had missed darkness, because in music heavy metal music it should be dark. But in Megadeth, it was never very dark. Don’t you agree? It was kind of like fast and jumpy and kind of like riffs and stuff. I listened to like Marilyn Manson, and I’m like:”That shit is dark.” And I just wanted a little bit of that.
THE METAL ALL STARS TOUR THING…
Metal-Rules.com: Earlier this year there was a tour called Metal All Stars and it was announced that you are going to be a part of it together with Nick Menza. But you both canceled the tour. So I was going to ask, were you ever going to be a part of that tour?
Marty Friedman: No. I didn’t cancel anything; I don’t know anything about it. I heard about it later, somebody said that you are going to play in… I don’t remember where it was, some country. And I said,” What?” I never heard about it.
Metal-Rules.com: I fact, I was in touch with Nick because I wanted to arrange interview with him in Helsinki, and I learned that he was about to do the tour but then he cancelled it a few days before the tour started.
Marty Friedman: But he was going to actually go?
Marty Friedman: I was never actually, nobody even… I don’t know anything about it.
Metal-Rules.com: You were not the only one who didn’t know because half of the “confirmed artists” did cancel. There were names like: Rob Halford, Tom Araya, Phil Anselmo, Vince Neil etc. who never showed up.
Marty Friedman: Sounds like some pretty shady business? Was this supposed to come here?
Metal-Rules.com: Yeah, and in fact they played here. It was, they played in huge arena with a capacity of 13,000 people and they managed to sell less than 2000 tickets after all…
Marty Friedman: Wow, that’s tough.
SOME KISS TALK (OF COURSE)
Metal-Rules.com: I was going to ask something about KISS because I know you were a very huge fan.
Marty Friedman: Yes, yes. And I’m still now.
Metal-Rules.com: Can you tell how you got into the with the KISS world?
Marty Friedman: You know it’s funny. Danko Jones is on the INFERNO record, that’s how we met because we are both crazy KISS fans. But yeah, KISS is the reason I started playing and before I saw KISS I wanted to play sports, but if you look at me I’m not a sports guy. Definitely not American football, which I love. So, I saw KISS and I’m like, “I can do that.”
Metal-Rules.com: When did you see KISS first time live?
Marty Friedman: It was “Rock and Roll Over” –tour in 1977. So, I saw that and I’m like, “That’s what I’m doing.” It was very next day I bought a guitar. I didn’t know anything about playing music, I just saw that. I said, “I can do that. I can’t do sports but I can do that.” So, that’s how it started.
Metal-Rules.com: Have you always stayed loyal for the band, through the non-make up era and so on?
Marty Friedman: Yeah. I didn’t like that the non-make-up era but of course I followed it, I kept in touch with listening to what they were doing and always hoping for them, supporting them.
Metal-Rules.com: Did you know that here in Finland Kiss was bigger without make-up than with make-up.
Marty Friedman: Really? You guys are crazy “Laughs”
Metal-Rules.com: Believe or not but LICK IT UP, ANIMALIZE and CRAZY NIGHT were probably the biggest selling KISS albums here.
Marty Friedman: Wow, what about the reunion tour?
Metal-Rules.com: Of course it was huge.
Marty Friedman: I’m glad. But that’s interesting; they were bigger without the make-up?
Metal-Rules.com: Yes, but at the time they also toured here a lot in here unlike in the 70’s.
Marty Friedman: Right. Did you read the books?
Marty Friedman: All of them, all four?
Marty Friedman: I’m almost finished with Paul’s.
Metal-Rules.com: It’s interesting one. Much better than I expected. Usually he hardly says anything interesting because he’s so polite person “Laughs”
Marty Friedman: He’s always like it’s like a script, he was good. But I thought Peter; his book was the most interesting.
Metal-Rules.com: It was, it was the most honest of all four.
Marty Friedman: It was honest and now I understand why everybody has every… Everybody was honest; I think all the books were honest. In their own way. But like I totally believe everything that Paul says about Peter, because Peter admits all those things in his book. He didn’t really try to make himself look so good. It was nice to be honest. I thought it was a very, more interesting than Gene’s. That’s for sure.
Metal-Rules.com: And Ace’s book which is mostly like, “I don’t remember” “Laughs”
Marty Friedman: Yeah. That’s so funny, “I don’t remember”
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