Guitar icon Marty Friedman is man of duality. After spending the first half of his career developing his craft as one of the most intense and expressionistic guitar players in heavy metal music, he walked away from that success to reinvent himself thousands of miles away in Japan as a pop-cult hero, and eminent force in the Japanese music scene.
Marty Friedman hails from Maryland but gained notoriety in the late ’80s as part of a two-guitar shred duo in San Francisco-based metal outfit, Cacophony; a band which also featured guitar virtuoso Jason Becker. The band recorded two notable records before disbanding, followed by Friedman’s debut solo album, Dragon’s Kiss in 1988. These three records became the gateway to Friedman’s induction into thrash heavyweight, Megadeth. Friedman served as guitarist for the band’s 1990 opus, Rust in Peace, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. It marked a turning point for Megadeth and for Friedman, vaulting both to worldwide notoriety. Friedman spent a decade with the band, recording five albums and an EP, before walking away in January 2000. Megadeth sold over 10 million albums during Friedman’s tenure. The guitarist also released three more solo efforts during that period.
To the surprise of the music community, Friedman not only walked away from one of the world’s most successful bands, but moved his entire life to Japan and began a new journey that lead to a series of television shows and musical projects, far removed from his early career. This week, Metalholic and Metal Wani caught up with one of heavy music’s most interesting figures, to talk about his new album Inferno, the new tour, his love of Babymetal, and why he walked away from everything he had built to recreate his future.
Friedman keeps a full schedule of professional commitments in Japan and has considered doing a new solo record for worldwide consumption over the years but has had little time to do so. When Prosthetic Records contacted him about the possibility, it opened the door. After the label re-issued his previous Japan-only solo efforts in America and enjoyed some success with that, the guitarist spent 18 months creating his newest beast, Inferno, which was released worldwide last year. Friedman talked about his mindset in making the record:
“I thought really honestly, what does everyone outside of Japan want me to do? What do they wanna hear? I came to the realization that they just wanted me to go apesh*t, and be batsh*t crazy and make some insane music with guitar way out there in the front of it, and that’s what I did. Beyond my belief, the response to Inferno has just been fantastic. I expected nothing and got wonderful, wonderful response from the most unexpected places. I mean, places like Rolling Stone and Billboard, and Grammy.com. They were all giving me love on this record but they ignored me for my entire career. So, just a lot of unexpected, really good news came from it.”
Friedman’s love of Japanese music is what originally led the guitarist to Japan, where the music scene is much different and expresses a love of blending genres like J-pop (Japanese pop) with something like heavy metal. The guitarist, who has played with just such a band in Momoiro Clover Z, acknowledges a love of worldwide phenoms, Babymetal, but admits he understands to some degree why American listeners find the music hard to accept:
“I think the best thing about Babymetal is the fact that it’s very polarizing. You either have to absolutely love them or totally hate them. I think that’s the mark of great things. Of course I love them and have supported them since the beginning. The guitarist in my solo band over here is also the guitarist in Babymetal. So I’m definitely a huge supporter and I think they are a fantastic unit. But I can totally see a metal purist go, ‘Hey this is not right. This is not what metal’s supposed to be. I can’t stand it. No. No way!’ I totally get it, but that’s what I also love about them. It breaks a lot of rules, and I’m all about breaking rules.”
With the success of Inferno, it begs the question how the guitarist will balance his highly successful life in Japan with the call of his older, more global career which has now resurfaced:
“I can only do it a little at a time. Taking one month and going to America for touring is a big step. I’ve made little mini-tours before doing like maybe a two-week run in America, and I’ve done maybe a month, four or five times in Europe and South America. That’s the way it’s going to have to be because there are a lot of irons in the fire in Japan and a lot of weekly commitments and monthly commitments that don’t really allow me to go on the road for say a year at a time. But, especially if this tour goes well, I plan to take these monthly trips and do more of them.”
This September, Friedman will return to North America for his first U.S. tour in over a decade. The tour will be in support of his 2014 solo album, Inferno, which received critical praise from fans and critics alike. You can listen to the full interview in the video above and catch Marty Friedman on his first U.S. tour in 12 years.