Marty Friedman | Interview


Exclusive Interview

By Andrew M

MART3386 (2)

Guitarist Marty Friedman first placed himself on the map nationally with his work as lead guitarist in Cacophony and Megadeth.

During his time with Megadeth the band sold ten million records and was nominated for eleven Grammys,  but that is beside the point.

Marty cares about his personal development as an artist and his primary objective is to release great music regardless of album sales. This is a highly respectable decision in an age where some artists are willing to bow to the “formulated” ways of the modern music business model. Marty is one of the best guitarists on tour in the entire world and his latest album to date, Inferno, is proof of that.

Andrew M spoke with Marty on a variety of topics including his new album, his solo career, life in Japan, the state of the modern music industry, and much more.

Andrew McConnell: You were wildly successful with Cacophony and Megadeth. Over the years you’ve sought to push the envelope and break down the barriers in your career. You chose to write a new chapter in your career and pursue other musical ventures. Was the decision to go solo primarily a result of an artistic need of further self explorations? And in what ways have you personally and artistically grown as a result of making music on your own terms?

Marty Friedman: Well I’ve been doing solo stuff kind of parallel to everything else that I’ve done ever since I’ve started. Even before I joined Megadeth and while I was in Cacophony, I was still doing solo stuff back then, so this was my twelfth solo album, so it’s pretty much been something I’ve kept going no matter what I’m doing outside of it. So it has been a great outlet to do things that are maybe too insane for something else.

AM:  What avenues of artistic development did Japan present that you would not be able to find in the United States? And has the music industry there offered some benefits that you would not have found in the US as well?

MF: Absolutely. Right there, you hit the nail on the head. The music in Japan is one hundred percent the main thing that brought me to Japan.

The current music scene… If I’ve listened to what is on the top ten in Japan, chances are that I’d like nine of the songs. Listening to the top ten in America, I’d be lucky if there was one song on there that I liked.

The current music scene in Japan is very healthy and vibrant, and there’s a lot of really interesting, crazy stuff going on that appeals to me. Whereas, America it just seems to be very hip-hop, American Idol, and it is kind of dull. I mean, there are a lot of fantastic musicians and fantastic music going on, but it doesn’t, I’m kind of a whacked out character and I need some really exciting music to stimulate me and I found that in the Japanese music scene.

AM: The experimental aspect is something that I could see being a huge benefit. I feel like people are scared to do that in the US for numerous reasons, correct?

MF: See, in Japan you could do something totally off the wall and if it’s really good, people will listen to it. You don’t have to stick to a genre or what people expect of you, but if you come up with a good song there’s a chance people will listen to it. It gives you hope in Japan, especially for someone who made his living in a world of heavy metal. You can’t really get out of that mold if you stay in America.

AM: The traditional structures of the industry are rapidly evolving. Mainstream music is marked in the US by an over formulated song structure. It provides little room for experimentation. Do you feel that one benefit of a changing industry, in the midst of declining album sales, is a growing emphasis on live performance? What do you see the benefit of putting the emphasis back on live concerts we saw decades ago?

MF: Live concerts are by far the most fun way to enjoy music, especially now. Everything is digital when you buy music, so it’s not like you have a big album sleeve to look at huge pictures and read liner notes and clean out pot seeds and stuff like that.

Albums are coming back which is a cool thing, but still nothing is as fun as going to a concert.

It’s the most exciting way to enjoy music, so that’s always going to be there. More so now, because things are smaller now you are listening on your phone or iPod and it’s not as much as a relaxing, deep experience that it used to be. I think live music is going to grow more and more, plus that’s the only way that artists can really make money nowadays. You got to have a good concert, sell merchandise and make VIP packages for your fans. So the concert business should grow and grow, which is a good thing for me. I like that.

AM: This is the first new album in four years. Aside from the obvious credentials with Jens Bogran and Chris Rakestraw, you’ve obviously worked with some great people in the industry, what specifically did you enjoy about working with them? The production on this album is really top notch from the mixing and mastering to the engineering side. Could you walk us through the basics of the recording process?

MF: It was long… It was fourteen months of recording. I did all the demos myself in my own studio and then I went to LA and did the real recording. I did some additional stuff in Tokyo and Sweden and it was a world wide party, so to speak. I didn’t compromise on any fronts at all. I just made sure I was surrounded with great guys. A few guys fell by the wayside during the making of the album and I just wouldn’t stand for anything that wasn’t blowing my mind. So I wound up with a great cast of characters and that’s probably why I’m so happy to play with people. It sounds so good, it’s exactly what I envisioned it being and more.

AM: You said it is one of your favorite albums you’ve done to this point. On a personal level, what makes this one probably the most rewarding you’ve ever done?  In terms of your personal development as an artist, what do you feel makes this one of your favorite albums?

MF: Well, I stretched out a lot more. I really took into consideration what my fans would want. Usually I take that into consideration and I throw it out the window, because they’re selfish and it’s easier to do what I want. This time I really took a lot of time thinking of what can I do that I know my fans are going to like that I’m also going to be equally as excited about and everything fit those two criteria. It’s a lot harder trying to please more people other than yourself. That’s why it took so long, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just doing stuff for the fans or to follow any kind of tune whatsoever. I think a lot of my fans would like me to go back and do something I’ve already done before and I’m not interested in that in the slightest, so how can I do something totally new that’s still going to get them excited. That was the main point of the record, because I didn’t want people to think “oh this is so much like his such and such album that he did before.” It had to be futuristic, it had to be modern, and it had to be something that those guys would get into. So that was a big challenge, but I listen to it now and can’t think of any complaints that anyone would have about it.

AM: How did you link up with Rodrigo and Gabriella for this album? What drew you to their sound that made you think that it would be a good fit on Inferno? Their sound is more flamenco style, which influences some of your playing in certain passages. I’m not going to say it was a random pick for your collaboration, but it was certainly a unique pick. How did you get that idea?

MF: They were so kind to say some nice things about me in an interview and the record company passed that along to me and I researched their music. I went to see them in Tokyo and I was blown away by what they could do and by how they could get so excited. They were the first people to sign on to the record. They were so excited to do it. I just knew I wanted to do something that’s never been done before. I’m sure flamenco and heavy metal guitar have been mixed before in the past, but I wanted to do something modern, so I had them write some things and I looped it. It was a really futuristic arrangement of what they wrote and I wrote my parts around that, so it was really like a collaboration. A fantastic thing happened that I’d never heard that sound before.

AM: Do you have any plans in the near future tour-wise? Maybe a US tour?

MF: Well we’re putting together some sort of American tour this year and right now as we speak. There should be an official announcement of that within the next month or so.

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