Former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman was interviewed on the September 29 – October 1 edition of Full Metal Jackie‘s nationally syndicated radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the Podbean widget below. A few excerpts follow.
Full Metal Jackie: [As someone who has lived in Japan for more than a decade] how does Japanese culture and sensibility steer your ingrained Americanisms in terms of creativity?
Friedman: “I’m born in America, grew up in America, but luckily, I’ve been everywhere. I lived in Germany as a kid and, obviously, toured all over the world and everywhere and seen every different possible kind of culture and worked with people of every possible nationality. So it kind of gets blurry along the way and you just realize that everybody is exactly the same wherever you go. Culture shock is kind of not that big of a deal. That being said, having the language really makes things different, because the language of Japanese, compared to American English, is quite polite [chuckles] and it’s kind of got a built-in politeness about it, a built-in kind of consideration for the other person that you’re talking to. Whether or not you like this person is a completely different story; it’s just in the language, and that’s not really in the English language. So the dynamic between people, one on one, is quite different from the American way of life and way of talking. So I noticed that when I go back to speaking English, like I’m talking to you, I sound rather polite when I’m not really that polite, I’m just a regular dude. But just by speaking so much Japanese, it’s kind of made me become a little bit more polite, so to speak, if that answers your question at all.”
Full Metal Jackie: People who follow your career as a musician might not know your work in TV. How does that fulfillment compare to music?
Friedman: “It’s a very interesting aside to music. When I came to Japan, I didn’t have any ideas of doing TV. I just was so interested in being part of the Japanese domestic music scene, and that’s all I was thinking about. And I got offered to do a TV show, and I kind of did it as a lark, really. I thought, ‘Well, maybe this will help me get where I wanna go with my Japanese music and stuff.’ So I did it, and the show became a hit. And immediately, I got picked up by the top management firm in Japan, and the show went on for another fifty-two weeks. Consequently, I’ve been with the same management for about twelve years and have done hundreds — maybe seven, eight hundred — different TV shows. And, really, the main thing the way it connects with music is it has an effect as, like, I have a life outside of music that can give me experiences to draw on when I make music. And it makes my music so much fresher, because I’m so much better at music than I am at TV. [Chuckles] And so when you get back to something that you’re good at, or you think you’re confident with, if feels so good. I mean, sometimes doing TV is really easy, but sometimes there’s a lot of preparation and it’s quite difficult and you have to act interested in something that you couldn’t care less about and you have to really know what you’re talking about. There’s a lot of work and preparation involved, and you’ve gotta be interesting, which… I don’t really care about being interesting; I just wanna make music. But so, I do that, and then when it comes time to make my music, it’s, like, ‘Ah, this is what I’m meant to do.’ It’s so much easier. It feels like it’s more natural to make music and I can really do fresher music because of the change of pace by doing TV.”
Full Metal Jackie: Let’s talk about the new album, which is called “Wall Of Sound”. It features guys from DEAFHEAVEN, SHINING and BLACK VEIL BRIDES. What’s especially important to you when considering collaborating with someone?
Friedman: “I’ve done so many collaborations over my career, but recently, starting with my previous album, ‘Inferno’, when I have a guest to collaborate with me, I have them write the song with me, actually have them [write] the song themselves and get them really committed to it and make sure they have, like, a dog in the fight. If you just have a guy come in and do a solo or sing a vocal on something, there’s not really that much responsibility and there’s not really that much, ‘Oh my god, I really care what happens in the end.’ Of course you care, but like when you’re actually writing the song from the beginning or collaborating from beginning to end, it’s really like, ‘What would it sound like if these two guys were in a band together?’ Then you get the real flavor of both people rather than, ‘Ah, this is kind of cute. The guy did a little solo on my song.’ This way, you get to really hear what myself and DEAFHEAVEN sound like doing an actual collaboration, and that worked out so well on ‘Inferno’ with the guests on that record that I took it to the next level on this record and did some really, really interesting stuff with Jinxx from BLACK VEIL BRIDES and stuff that’s gonna blow his fans’ minds away and my fans’ too. Nobody’s gonna know what to expect, but it’s really a monster. The key to that is really getting commitment from the people who wanna do it. It takes a lot of time and a lot of energy to continue to write together for months and edit and re-edit and replay. But it’s worth it, and I’m really super proud of the collaborations on the record.”
Full Metal Jackie: You’re touring “Wall Of Sound” here in the United States. What’s your biggest culture shock whenever you come back to America?
Friedman: “It’s definitely the audience, because I’m so wrapped up with what I’m doing in Japan that I really have no idea what the atmosphere of who’s gonna show up to my shows in the first place and what their response is gonna be like. Especially on the last ‘Inferno’ tour, I really had no idea — I hadn’t been in America for a long time — and I was just absolutely blown away, completely overwhelmed by the energy of the audience and the excitement of just seeing their faces when I come on with my band from Japan. And we have a very different energy than I think that is common in America; we really tear it up. And the audience was so incredibly supportive that it really confirmed to me that I was so glad that I came back to America and it made me wanna come right back again.”
Full Metal Jackie: “Wall Of Sound” is your thirteenth solo project. In what ways does it reflect differences in your sensibility as a musician now compared to other times in your career?
Friedman: “I think it’s definitely showing the experiences that have piled up over my career and my personal life and all that — mainly the evolution of my music. I mean, it’s reaching a point where I’m really excited about it. Oftentimes, I’ll record an album, I’ll release it and tour it, and it’ll still be good for me for about a year but then I’ll start thinking, ‘Well, I could have done better.’ But since ‘Inferno’, I thought I was never gonna top that, I was so happy with that record, but lo and behold, I came out with ‘Wall Of Sound’, and at least in my opinion, I topped it, from my own purposes, and I just love it. So I think it’s… I’m in a place where I can really do my best and go for the long run with this stuff and stuff that lasts for a long time, wheres earlier in my career, if I liked something at that moment, I’d just put it right out, and it was cool then. But now I think I wanna have stuff that I’m gonna live with for a long time, so I make damn sure that it’s something I really, really love.”
Full Metal Jackie: So many things can influence and affect the overall sound and style of an album. What had the biggest impact on you in terms of how you wanted “Wall Of Sound” to turn out?
Friedman: “I think the biggest thing I wanted to go for was literally bigness. When I did ‘Inferno’, it was kind of a test to see what exactly people in America wanted from me, if anything. ‘Cause I really was oblivious to what’s going on in America, especially in regards to what people expect from me or want from me. So when I did that, I thought, ‘Well, these fans wanna hear me go crazy and play really aggressive and have a lot of big, huge contrast in my music,’ which I love. And they just want it to be over the top, and I can go there. So I wanted to take that to the next level up — more over the top, deeper Marty-ism, so to speak. So if you like my stuff at all, you’re really, really gonna like it. If you don’t like my stuff, it’s gonna be a pain in the butt and you’re not gonna like it at all; you’re gonna wanna use it as a beer coaster. But if there’s anything about my style overall, whether it be the kind of exotic type of playing, kind of perverted time changes and really my own way of doing heavy stuff — I mean, I don’t really think it sounds like anybody else — if you like that particular style, I think you’re really gonna dig the record. Otherwise, maybe not.”
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