[26 December 2013]
Mayzan (webmaster www.martyfriedman.com) : Thank you for doing this again, Marty, I`m sure we have a lot to talk about so let`s get started.
Marty Friedman: No problem, nice to talk to you again.
.COM: I want to get into some details on your upcoming album, “Inferno”, but before that, please tell me what kind of year 2013 was.
MF: The main thing for me this year was that I spent much more time in the studio than usual. I did some shows but all of them were in Japan. I got to play Budokan a couple times and a bunch of other places all over the country, but no touring outside of Japan this year.
.COM: Is that strange for you?
MF: Not strange, but not as easy to do as I thought. I love playing live more than anything. I knew going into 2013 that I would spend most of the time completing “Inferno”. I also wound up writing and recording an entirely new album for my side project Metal Clone X as well as recording an album of “guitar remixes” of the first Metal Clone X album. It seemed like I constantly had a guitar in my hands. I was glad that the 3 projects were so different that it was easy to separate my brain and concentrate on each one separately though. The content was pretty overwhelming now that I look back on it.
.COM: Any other highlights of 2013 for you?
MF: Between the endless “Inferno” sessions, Metal Clone X made its live debut at the Loud Park Festival at the Saitama Super Arena which was cool. I wrote and recorded a single for a Japanese superstar named Yashiro Aki, and we made the rounds together playing on several live TV shows. It was thrilling. Since that another legendary singer came to me for 2 new songs which we completed last month. I`ll announce that once I`m allowed to. (laughs) Doing lots of TV stuff this year also made for a great change of pace from recording. I host a worldwide show on NHK World called Asia Music Network, which is fun and I do several non music related TV shows as well.
.COM: Your television career in Japan has always puzzled me. Why is it such a big part of your activities in Japan? Were you always interested in doing TV?
MF: I`ll tell you as simply as possible. Have you ever learned a foreign language in school, and then gone on a field trip or something to a place where you can actually use it?
.COM: No, but English is not my first language, and speaking it has given me the opportunity to work with you, as well as other people, so I kind of know what you mean. But most of my friends speak better English than I do (laughs).
MF: When I first came to Japan and used my Japanese, it was such a thrill, it was like “hey-this actually works!”(laughs) So I would make use of every single opportunity to learn more and use my Japanese. Often those opportunities came in the form of TV shows. Let me tell you, there is no better way to sharpen your language abilities than going on live TV and going head to head with whoever else is on the show. The first couple times it was like an acid trip! It was like, what the hell am I doing? I immediately realized that it was one thing to be fluent, but a completely different animal to be interesting. I guess that`s the same with music.
.COM: That`s a pretty good analogy.
MF: So being put on the spot all the time really sharpened a new part of my brain, and I got kind of addicted to the pressure of having to come up with something interesting to say, in front of not only the people in front of the camera, but the staff behind it as well. I managed to put it out of my mind that people at home would be watching too (laughs). Lots of ad libbing, man.
.COM: Have you ever blown it, or embarrassed yourself on a show?
MF: Oh, sure. Sometimes the content of the show will be so ridiculous that there is no way to come out looking cool, but I still enjoy it even then, because if you take yourself too seriously, TV in Japan is probably not gonna be your thing. One time I said a word on live radio that at the time I had no idea it was one of the Japanese words you are not allowed to say on the air. The host went white as a ghost, but couldn`t explain what happened to me until we were off the air. It sucked.
.COM: Can you tell me what you said?
MF: In Japanese swear words like fuck and shit are not taken nearly as seriously as they are in the US, but words and phrases that relate to mental health issues, such as “crazy”, “out of his mind”, “going nuts”, have to be used with extreme caution, and best not to be used at all, as I learned that day. I said something to the effect of, “that guy is crazy”.
.COM: In some countries I know religious words are taboo, but I would have never expected mental health issues. When did this happen?
MF: This happened before I moved here and wasn`t really fluent yet. If I was fluent I might have had the common sense to avoid that phrase. But one time the opposite happened, I was doing this TV show called “Transporter” and they had me talking about some English bands. I was just reading the cue cards and this one band`s name was Selfish Cunt. I burst out laughing, and said to the director, do I really get to say this? Are you sure it`s ok? No one even knew what the word cunt meant, so all was fine. When they started filming, I made sure to say the band name as many times as possible, and as loudly and clearly as possible. The co-host was this cute model and it was surreal saying cunt, cunt, cunt in front of her and laughing about it. I would love to have that show on DVD.
.COM: Me too! That would be great to put up in our new video section!
MF: I haven`t seen it since it was on air, I hope you can find it online or somewhere.
.COM: Japan is a big part of your personality, musical and otherwise. You`re working on “Inferno” now, tell me about your thought process creating an album specifically for the non-Japanese audience, is it different from usual and what kinds of sacrifices were involved?
MF: I wouldn`t say it`s specifically for the non-Japanese audience, as it is to be released worldwide, but for the first time in quite a while, I`m making an American made record from the ground up.
.COM: What do you mean by “American made record”?
MF: Prosthetic is an American company. I recorded it in the US with an all-US staff. The only thing Japanese on this record is the bass player. (laughs) Actually his name is Toshiki Oomomo and he`s a total badass who comes from a cool band called Crossfaith.
.COM: You started work on “Inferno” a year ago if I remember correctly.
MF: Yeah, about 13 months ago. We`re done with the performances right now, and mixing just after new years. The album is dense, even after all fat has been trimmed off, so to speak. It`s been a luxury to do so many edits, different versions with different musicians and engineers, and to have the time get rid of songs and parts that needed to be scrapped. Nothing at all was rushed. Prosthetic was cool with me taking my sweet time on it, when it`s done, it`s done.
.COM: Is it too early to talk about some of the songs specifically? I`ve heard the trailer for the title cut (listen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MO8dP0pPpjQ ) it`s quite short but is that a clue to the overall sound?
MF: It`s actually a bit early to get into song details, but it is fair to say that if you like the clip, you should like the rest. I`ll get into details about songs, some very cool guests, and my band on this record over the next few months.
.COM: Would you call “Inferno” a “comeback” album?
MF: I was gonna say I never really left anywhere, but I did leave somewhere! I left the US almost 10 years ago, and it still feels like I`m on another planet, the only constant being my music.
.COM: Do you have anything against the US?
MF: Absolutely not. I do love the US. I wish it was closer to Japan, so I could go home more often, so more Americans can experience how amazing Japan is, and so Japanese people can experience how cool the US is.
.COM: So why did you choose to spend the majority of your time in Japan?
MF: When I first got here, I planned to live in LA and Tokyo half and half. I really had no idea my career would take so many positive turns here in Japan as it did. As a result, recurring television and performing commitments have made it difficult to be away from Japan for super long periods of time.
.COM: Thanks to the internet, fans outside of Japan can follow your Japanese career to some extent.
MF: Yes and no. Most of the stuff I do in Japan, musically and on television is all Japanese content, and you would have to type in Japanese to look the majority of it up. I`m sure there is a bunch of Japanese stuff of mine you can find on the net if one was a bit crafty about it, maybe with Japanese speaking friends or translating apps. I try to update social media as much as I can, (see Marty`s FB here: https://www.facebook.com/martyfriedman.official ) but there is only so much updating you can do and make music at the same time.
.COM: We plan to update this site with more of your YouTube stuff, things that would normally be hard to find.
MF: That will be awesome!
.COM: Do you plan to tour the world anytime soon?
MF: If I`m going to make any steps outside of Japan, it`s gotta be something special. There`s no question that “Inferno” is the most ambitious album I`ve attempted by far, so I think now`s the time. I`m comfortable with any sacrifices I would have to make in Japan to go and tour the world on it.
.COM: Come to Jakarta! You`ve never been here before. You will love the food.
MF: I would love to! I hope it happens this time.
.COM: Around the world, I think there are many people discovering the vast amount of music you have put out, and the influence it has on so many people out there. Your style of playing and composing seems to keep evolving with each new stage of your career. Do you ever look back at something you`ve released before and criticize it? What are the things that bring on the changes in your music?
MF: I think if you continuously do anything, you should be naturally get better at whatever that is over time, be it race car driving, painting, cooking, sex (laughs). You wind up finding ways to be more creative about it, ways to make it more interesting, make it more beautiful. Each day, music is one day deeper than the day before.
.COM: But what do you think of your earlier stuff?
MF: I`m sorry, I completely ignored your question! Anything in particular?
.COM: No, I just wondered if you look back on some of your stuff and still like it or not.
MF: I see. If I do hear any of my previous work, I usually still like it, but I almost always immediately think that if it were to be done now, I would have phrased things differently, and played the parts better, maybe with a more interesting note choice. I especially notice the length of sustained notes leading up to the next note. I`ve been pretty anal about that for the last few years.
.COM: What do you mean? Can you give me an example of that?
MF: It would be hard to come up with a song title off the top of my head, but if you listen to anything from my most recent 2 or 3 albums, the sustained notes within interesting phrases connect tastefully and intentionally. This is important! Listen closely for this, not only in my playing but in anyone`s. It really separates the men from the boys. On my older stuff, while it wasn`t bad at all, there wasn`t nearly as much love and thought put into making the melodies sing as they do now. The more thought you put into the options of how you connect notes, the more your melodies sing and your fast passages jump out and become exciting. It took a long time to figure this out. So if I were to listen to something from “Introduction” for example, I`m sure I would want to re-cut most of it. But I`m still happy with it and in reality if given a chance to re-cut it, I wouldn`t. How`s that for a hypocritical answer!
.COM: That is a little confusing!
MF: if I were to take the effort to re-cut something, I would rather take that effort to do something new. The past was great, but now is way more important.
.COM: This is kind of hard to say, but even though I think I can tell you're your playing is much better than before, and maybe more developed, but some of your older stuff just means so much more to me than whatever your most recent thing might be. I hope that came out right (laughs). Do you know what I mean?
MF: I get that and appreciate it. The way music stays with us is directly related to our personal experiences happening at the time we were exposed to that music. For example, when I was a kid, I despised southern rock. Lynryd Skynyrd and stuff like that. But in those days I was partying like a maniac, losing my virginity, rocking with my first band, having tons of fun, and on the east coast that southern stuff was constantly on the radio. You couldn`t escape it. I abhorred it. But now when I hear it, which is still admittedly not too often being in Japan, I actually love it because great emotions are attached to it. I think the key to enjoying music is to continue to have good experiences while being surrounded with new music. Then you will avoid being one of those bitter people always complaining that today`s music sucks and music used to be better and so on.
.COM: You sound like a motivational speaker! (laughs)
MF: It`s easy to turn into one of those people. I don`t like to see it.
.COM: Tell me quickly something about your side project Metal Clone X. (see video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Um2-RgdGco0 and here; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_5EFDLdv51g ) What exactly is Metal Clone X and do you plan to take it outside of Japan?
MF: Metal Clone X is a side project of mine with Freddy from Chthonic. Right now it`s Japan only, but you never know. I think it would go over elsewhere too. We started it for fun because he and I are huge fans of Momoiro Clover Z.
.COM: They are the girls you are playing live with in your Twitter background?
MF: Yeah. We thought it would be a riot if we covered some of their songs and remake them from the sugary pop songs they are to the heaviest death metal we could bash out. Maybe it`s not death metal? I`m not sure what defines the genres. Anyway, it`s pretty damn intense, and fun at the same time. An all original album is in the can as well.
.COM: Before we finish, I would like to quickly ask you about your PRS signature model guitar. (see here: http://www.prsguitars.com/semartyfriedman/) How did you develop this guitar with PRS?
MF: As you know, I know very little about what goes into making a guitar. But I can tell you in 2 seconds whether I like a guitar, how it sounds, feels, plays, holds a tune, balances its weight and things like that. So I had a boatload of PRS guitars in the studio when I was in LA tracking “Inferno”. After tons of tracking, you definitely know what your go-to guitar is. So I told them to fashion my sig model after this one guitar that I was just loving in the studio. I had them replicate that guitar to the smallest detail. It`s pretty much as simple as that. That thing is all over the record.
.COM: As a guy who has had the pleasure of playing your own personal guitars, I can say that I`m sure it will be a killer, man. Thanks for doing this chat with me! Have a great 2014!
MF: Thank you, Mayzan! As usual I appreciate all of your work on the site, and I appreciate all the fans support. I wish all of you a happy New Year and an amazing year ahead!!
QUESTIONS FROM FANS (from FB and Twitter) !!
Pawel Golinski writes: Did you ever consider recording an album featuring your own vocals?
I have been asked to do it several times by my record company and management here, but I feel that my vocal range is too narrow to carry an entire album. It`s a cool sounding voice and solid in its range, but is probably best as the middle part in a harmony vocal. (see video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCnetigWF_A)
Mohamad Raditya Putra writes: Who is your favourite AKB48 member? Also what is your favourite Japanese Idol Group currently?
MA-YU-YU!! As for groups, I love most of them, but I`m a little biased towards Momoiro Clover, for obvious reasons.
John Jacobs writes: What's your favourite Judas Priest guitar solo?
Could anything possibly be better than “Beyond the Realms of Death”? Damn!
Bas Lanters writes: Did you ever take Karate lessons?
No, but I did some basic Aikido for a TV show once and got my ass handed to me by a girl with a black belt. It was almost like that scene in “Jackass”. I could have used some karate lessons then!
Soma Azzacov writes: How was the experience to work with guitarists Rodrigo y Gabriela?
Fantastic. They are just as friendly and warm people as their music is innovative and exciting.
Vargas Fernando writes: I haven't seen you and Jason Becker together in quite some time. If things are bad between the two of you. Isn't this the time of year to mend old friendships?
Jason and I are best friends, and there has never once been a harsh word between us. So rest easy, my friend!
Chandra Ciputra Suyadi writes : What are 5 best songs in 2013 for you?
SHINING (NORWAY) “I Won`t Forget”
BULL ZEICHEN 88 “3/4 No Good Job Night One Show”
DANKO JONES “I Don`t Care”
TOKYO CHEER PARTY 2 “Ii Jyan”
C&K “Ai Ai no Uta”