Last week I was given the opportunity to interview Marty Friedman. Marty is probably best known for playing guitar in Megadeth through the 90s although since then he relocated to Japan and has played in many bands there since then, including his eponymous solo project. I asked him a lot about his latest solo record, his upcoming tour and even his time living in the DMV area, but unfortunately he didn’t want to talk much about Megadeth and quickly ended the interview when I started asking about it. So I didn’t get to ask everything I wanted to (including lots more non-Megadeth stuff too) but there’s still some interesting info in this eight minute interview and you can stream it by pressing the orange play button below, download it as an 18mb mp3 here, or read the transcription below. As usual, my words are in bold.
Hello this is Metal Chris from DCHeavyMetal.com and I’m talking to the legendary guitarist Marty Friedman via Skype from Japan right now. Marty released a solo album in 2014 titled Inferno and he’ll be kicking off his US tour in our area at the Baltimore Soundstage on September 9th. Now Marty, you have eleven solo albums to choose material from and songs from other bands as well that you’ve been in. So what kind of set list can fans expect to see on this tour?
It’s going to have a little bit of everything in there. Obviously it’s a lot of stuff to choose from. There’s only about two hours to play. I think we’re shooting for like a two hour show, give or take a few minutes either way but there’s going to be a lot of surprises, a lot of things that people don’t expect. The stuff that’s worked best live in the past and the stuff that I’ve been wanting to play from my new album Inferno is going to get the most air time during the concerts.
So can fans expect anything from your older bands like Cacophony or Megadeth or Metal Clone X or anything like that?
Hahaha. Um, Metal Clone X maybe. Yeah I wouldn’t expect anything from the other bands really. I’ve got twelve albums of solo stuff to choose from. Yeah I really wouldn’t expect stuff from other bands. It could happen but I wouldn’t go counting on it.
So are you going to have a vocalist for these shows on this tour?
No, but there might be vocals anyway.
So maybe a couple guests might come out or something?
That could happen. There could be guests. There could be a surprise vocal by myself or someone else from the band. [There is] going to be a lot of different things that you wouldn’t really expect but the main focus is probably going to be on overall adrenaline and overall, wow I can’t believe it was this intense you know, and kind of surprise. That’s the kind of reaction that I think we’re going to get.
In May of 2014 you released Inferno and that is your first solo album to be released in the US in I think a decade or so here. Is there a reason you didn’t release anything to us in the US here for so long?
Yeah I’ve been really pretty much tied up in Japan with my activities over here and I’ve released several albums here in Japan. It was just a, you know, too much… I didn’t have the time or ability to cultivate the world outside of Japan so much and to do stuff like that right you really have to spend a lot of time touring and doing press and stuff like that and there just wasn’t enough hours in the day because I was so incredibly busy in Japan with everything here that I couldn’t give the albums the, you know, cultivation that they deserved outside of Japan. And then Prosthetic Records came up with the idea of reissuing all of my Japan only albums in America and topping it off with a new worldwide release called Inferno. I thought that was a fantastic idea and it allowed me to reissue my old stuff, not really old but my stuff that was only in Japan, and also let people see what I’m doing exactly right now all around the world so I really have to thank Prosthetic for that.
So is this going to lead to more releases here in the West and more touring?
Definitely. Definitely. This first tour is really just to kind of get my feet wet and introduce my Japanese band to people in America and I think they’re going to think it’s super fresh. It’s really exciting and it’s different you know. I really don’t know what to expect from the audiences in America as I haven’t played there in forever. But that’s the whole thing you know. The album got wonderful attention in America. Fantastic reviews in places like Rolling Stone and Grammy.com and Billboard. Places that usually completely ignore anything I do. It seemed to be a good sign to take it to America and go on tour. We’re already talking about a second leg of this thing in America and we haven’t even started the first one yet so that’s a good sign. It’s my home country and especially Baltimore is my hometown so I’m really super excited to kick off the tour there.
Why exactly did you name the album Inferno? Are you a Dante fan or does it have some other meaning to you?
Haha. Actually I wanted to have kind of a cliché heavy metal title. I had the concept for the cover way before I really had finished all the music. I wanted people to know that it was a heavy record and I wanted a really super cliché heavy metal word. But I wanted the photo, or the graphics on the cover to be like really artistic and non-cliché. So I wanted that kind of a opposite contrast. I wanted a super, almost corny title, but you know it’s metal. But I wanted to have the front cover, the whole entire cover, look like a gorgeous piece of art. Not a terribly typical heavy metal cover at all. That’s kind of where the title came from.
Now like you said before, you used to live in this area. You lived in Laurel, Maryland then I think right?
That’s right. Yep, Laurel.
So when exactly was that and were you in any local metal bands here or anything?
Yeah I grew up in Laurel all the way through my teens and I was in a band called Deuce. We were uh, I don’t know if you’d call it metal but maybe metal, punk, rock and roll. And we played in the area. We played as far as New York and Delaware and Virginia and DC and all that kind of stuff. Really intense, kind of punk, kind of metal.
So did you ever go to Hammerjacks or some of the other venues around here back then?
Where did we play? We played at Louie’s Rock City. Is that even still there?
No. Most of the older venues are gone. 9:30 Club is still around.
We didn’t play there.
Black Cat, but a lot of the older ones they’ve gone under or moved or whatever. There’s new ones that have taken a lot of their places too.
Yeah, I really wouldn’t… it’s been a while man, it’s been a while. But it was absolutely great times and a lot of the guys from the band are hopefully going to be at this Baltimore show and we’re going to have a good time.
So why did you end up leaving the area?
My dad got transferred. His job got transferred to Hawaii. And which I loved going to Hawaii but it sucked leaving my band and it sucks for music in Hawaii so it was a double edged sword type of thing.
At some point though you ended up out in the San Francisco Bay Area or something right?
Right, that’s right.
Is that when you started Cacophony?
Yeah that’s where we put that together.
Cool, cool. Now how did you end up going from Cacophony to Megadeth? They were a fairly obscure band, to a much bigger name band?
Yeah you know what we’re going to, we’re going to have to like end this interview really quickly because the next one is up so if you have like one last final question you want to ask I can get to that but the next one is already on the line here so I’m already holding him on.
Alright I was told I had 15 minutes but alright um… why did you decide to move to Japan?
The Japan thing happened completely because I just got way into Japanese domestic music, or J-pop so to speak, which sounds like pop but it really includes rock and metal and dance music and electro music and everything. I just started listening to it 100% of the time and I’m like, you know this is where I want to make music so it was really that simple.
Alright now are there any songs or albums in your career that you would say that you’re the most proud of?
Definitely Inferno. I mean, hey it’s a common question but like if you can’t say your most recent album, if you have to say well I like my first album or my third album the best then you’re doing something wrong. Of course I like everything I’ve done but you know I wouldn’t bother releasing something if I didn’t think it was the best I could possibly do ever so I would have to say Inferno and we’ll play a lot of that at the show in Baltimore.
Cool. Well is there anything else you’d like to say to your metal fans in the DC/Baltimore, Maryland area?
I can’t wait to see what [the] DC/Baltimore area is like now. I haven’t been there in a long time and that’s where I grew up so I can’t wait to get back.
We’ve got a lot of metal heads and I know a lot of people are excited for this show.
Thank you very much. It’s so nice talking to you Chris.
Alright, thank you so much for your time.
Cool, take care.