DATE OF INTERVIEW:
19th December 2014
METAL DISCOVERY: Youíve reworked quite a few J-pop and J-rock songs over the years, like on the two ĎTokyo Jukeboxí albums, but has living in Japan and any aspects of Japanese culture affected you as an artist and your music in any particular ways?
(Marty Friedman on his successful alternative career as a popular TV personality in Japan)
"...it was the most challenging, stimulating thing, much more than playing music. I mean, I play music and itís very natural, itís easy and I love it. Doing TV in another language, this is a great stimulation, so I continued to do it and Iíve maybe done over 600 shows since then."
Marty Friedman - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2013 Takaaki Henmi
Interview by Mark Holmes
MARTY: Completely. Absolutely. Completely. Well, Iíve always been influenced by whatever music Iím surrounded with. Iím lucky to go on tour to countries and constantly listen to the local music and the local popular music, which has been a blessing for me. Whatever country Ė France, Romania, Japan, China, EnglandÖ Iím a huge pop fan and I remember coming to England and being a huge fan of Transvision Vamp.
Official Marty Friedman Website:
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MARTY FRIEDMAN SOLO DISCOGRAPHY
Dragon's Kiss (1988)
Thanks to Duncan at Prosthetic Records for arranging the interview.
MD: Ahhhh, Wendy James.
MARTY: Wendy James, yeah.
MD: Sheís still going.
MARTY: Is she really?
MD: Yeah, with a solo career. Sheís just done an album with a load of old punk guys, like the old Sex Pistolsí bassist, Glen Matlock.
MARTY: Iím very interested in that. Iím gonna have to look that right up.
MD: Her voice is still good.
MARTY: Is it really?
MD: Yeah, yeah.
MARTY: I just loved her. She was like the sexy version of Madonna.
MD: Incredibly so.
MARTY: And the songs were just right up my alley, really like punk but popÖ just fantastic. I loved it. So yes, Iím very in tune with every country I go to, and the reason I moved to Japan is just because I loved the current pop music Ė whatís on the radio; whatís in the charts. And I did it in America; I just didnít care for all of that high screaming and rapping and country music and R&B. Itís all good, itís just not my taste. In Japan, the pop is just very melodic and it just suits me so Iím very influenced by it.
MD: I gather youíve become a popular TV personality in Japan, so is the presenting work something that came quite natural to you?
MARTY: Very, very hard work. It wasnít what I intended to do at all. Actually, intending to play music is the reason I went to live there but I was offered a TV show to try a pilot. And then we shot the one pilot and it went so well that that day I got managed by the biggest television management company in the country. They were like, ďthis is gonna be great, this will definitely go for at least a season.Ē The show went for two seasons and the spinoff went for four more seasons. So that kind of set me up to get a lot of television offers, which was not my intention but it was the most challenging, stimulating thing, much more than playing music. I mean, I play music and itís very natural, itís easy and I love it. Doing TV in another language, this is a great stimulation, so I continued to do it and Iíve maybe done over 600 shows since then.
MARTY: Yeah, itís crazy!
MD: And you still enjoy doing it?
MARTY: I enjoy it but the only thing I donít like about it is if you get a regular programme, like a weekly show, you canít do long tours.
MD: Of course, yeah.
MARTY: Just coming out here to do this was a lot of kicking and screaming, but I love it.
MD: There was a headline on Blabbermouth earlier this year where you were advising up-and-coming guitarists not to pursue a career in instrumental music.
MD: So do you think thereís too much genericism and lack of standout albums within the instrumental guitar genre?
MARTY: No, I donít have anything against the genre; Iím not a fan of instrumental music - the biggest hypocrite in the world because thatís what I play! But who listens to instrumental music? I mean, if I was giving somebody advice, if thatís what you love to do then definitely do it, but itís not gonna be popular. Itís a hard road ahead. Itís not something I would recommendÖ unless thatís your calling and life as a musician then absolutely I would recommend it, but I wouldnít say that itís a profitable field. I wouldnít say that itís a field where thereís gonna be a lot of love coming back your way. No, I wouldnít recommend it unless thatís what you do.
MD: Thatís fair enough. And you posted on your Facebook page a few days ago: ďI despise the term "shredder" with every fibre of my beingĒÖ
MD: Is that because the term seems to prioritise technique over emotional expression?
MARTY: Thatís a good way to put it. And emotional expression is one thing but I think content is the most important thing. You know, people overuse the phrase, ďplay with feelingĒ. Thatís also very overused. Of course, we all want to do that but Iíd say content; musical content. If the musical content is good and it makes people enjoy it, the technique is for granted. It doesnít take technique to play Nirvana and look how many people it pleased.
MD: So content in the general, wider sense of the term that includes feeling, melodies, composition, etcÖ
MARTY: Itís wonderful music if it makes people happy. And ďshredderĒ just totally discounts any content.
MD: It goes back to the virtuoso thing you were saying earlier.
MARTY: Yeah, itís even worse than virtuoso. I mean, virtuoso is one rank above. I just donít like it but, you see, I donít really know the current terms, especially in English, but that word has taken on a new slang and it may even be kinda trendy because guitar is on the uprise lately. So it may even be a compliment nowadays, and if it sells one more record then Iím a shredder!
MARTY: You know, hypocrite! But I just donít like it.
MD: Iím sure youíre being asked this quite a lot at the moment, but with a guitarist vacancy in Megadeth again now, is that a band youíd ever consider revisiting, even for just a tour or one album, or is that something youíre happy to leave in the past?
MARTY: I get asked all the time, yeah. Iím very proud of my history with Megadeth; I love every second of it. I would never say never to anything. If I were to, in fact, consider rejoining that band, or any band, there would have to be a really good reason and something worthwhile ahead to do that, because Iím very, very proud and attached to the history of it. Thatís pretty much the answer.
MD: Finally, with ĎInfernoí billed as your return to a more global market, I guessÖ
MD: Öcan we expect more of the same in the near future?
MARTY: Not the near future because Iím gonna do a lot of ĎInfernoí things for a while, but the next video for the song ĎUndertowí is coming out soon. And I plan to do more touring on ĎInfernoí, whether it be like with this kinda unique thing with Shining, or with my own band, or with another bandÖ itís allowed me a lot of freedom to do a lot of things, so Iím gonna be touring a lot on it.
MD: Well, thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it.
MARTY: Thank you very much. Really nice questions.
True Obsessions (1996)
Music for Speeding (2002)
Exhibit A: Live in Europe (2007)
Future Addict (2008)
Tokyo Jukebox (2009)
Bad D.N.A. (2010)
Tokyo Jukebox 2 (2011)