MARTY FRIEDMAN: AUSTRALIAN TOUR INTERVIEW
Legendary guitar virtuoso MARTY FRIEDMAN will be returning to Australia, for the first time with his full “Super Band” in December. With a career spanning over thirty years with some of the world’s biggest heavy metal acts including Megadeth, on top of a stellar solo career, Marty Friedman is a household name for guitarists across the world. Due to massive demand from Australian fans, Marty will also be doing 4 very special masterclasses before each show in Australia, giving guitarists across the country the opportunity to learn from one of the world’s greatest guitarists in an extremely intimate setting.
Ahead of the Australian tour, Marty took some time out to chat with local guitar identity James Ryan about his career, gear and the upcoming concerts and masterclasses.
James: Marty this will be your first ever band tour to Australia, although you have been here before because I saw you in clinic years ago…
Marty: Yeah that was the most recent time. I think around 2010. This is first time coming with my band and they are extremely pumped and excited about it. Not a lot of Japanese people get to play in Australia. It’s a legendary destination and I am really glad that I am the guy to guide them down there, even though I haven’t been there very much myself.
Can you tell me about your current band? It’s fairly new isn’t it?
Not really. I’ve had several different incarnations of my solo band and sometimes there are long term members and sometimes there’s a new member depending on what part of the world I am in and what the schedules are like and how long the tour is, all these different factors are involved. On this tour you are going to see the bass player Kiyoshi who did my recent record and live album and is my main core bass player. My guitarist Naoki is Japanese too, who has done stuff for me in Japan … a young kid, who is absolutely amazing. What is going to happen is that you might come to the concert to see me but when you leave the show you are going to be talking about my band. That’s pretty much the guarantee and they are going to outshine me every single night. That’s the way I like it, especially with this set that we have planned, where there is room for everyone to be themselves, it’s not all about me and not just a recital of my music.
That’s what I have always got from watching your videos. Everyone gets to do their own thing and gets to have their own personality in there and it’s always a brutal band. Apart from the concerts, there has also been a big demand for your masterclasses too. Do you have a particular approach for the masterclasses?
The only real approach I have is to completely let the people who come to have it their way. I don’t have any agenda or don’t plan to teach anything. I just play a little bit including some songs I don’t play in the live concert and then pretty much I just answer questions. It’s a big Q&A festival and I let everybody get as many questions in as possible about anything they want, it doesn’t have to be about music. I let them run it and it’s just as much fun for me because I get to know what makes everyone tick.
I wanted to take you back to the early days of Cacophony with Jason Becker. Do you ever have a sneaky listen to that stuff as it was a pretty wild era for you?
Jason and I are great friends and we email each other all the time. We are actually going to do a little Cacophony stuff in the show in Australia because I have never played there as a solo band and I want to acknowledge a lot of the people who have followed me for a long time but have never got to see anything live. I am bringing back a few things from early in my career, Dragon’s Kiss, a little bit of Cacophony stuff and let people know that I care that they have supported me and we haven’t been there as much as Jason and I would have loved to have been there. It’s always a thrill to me when I do that and mention Jason’s name because people perk up and it is a fantastic thing, the fact that although he hasn’t toured for so long, he is still appreciated in all kinds of countries and it shows the power of his music and power and warmth of the fans. In Australia we are going to do this thing where my guitar player Naoki does a mean Jason Becker impression. It’s going to be fun.
Did that early period help to shape your tone and style or was it just already there?
It’s always been ‘already there’ but it’s been an evolving work in progress. It has definitely evolved since then and if you listen to my most recent stuff, it’s really like Cacophony on steroids. It’s kind of the same person, same melodic sene but the musical decisions are much more well thought out and executed maybe and a lot of the fat got trimmed off but that was a very important part of my evolution and I really have no regrets about that stuff.
You’ve always seemed to be attracted to some more exotic sounds and outside ways of approaching harmony and melody and that has carried right through your career.
Certainly. At that time what happened was, anything I was inspired by I would immediately put in a song and try it out and throw everything into the kitchen sink before I really understood it. If I got any kind of new information whatsoever, I would throw it into something. That’s great but sometimes it’s hit and miss and after you have had years to find a little bit of musical sense and experience you tend to do it a bit smarter and you get more satisfaction out of it. In your early 20s you just go, I know this and I am going to throw it in there. It’s a childlike mentality which is not always bad but like I said, I have no regrets. Sometimes I listen back and think well this is a little funny … I was trying my best
What a fantastic idea though, to throw that stuff in there while you feel it is exciting. Otherwise you’re not going to get onto some of the more interesting sounds that you sometimes trip over …
That’s exactly right and back then we didn’t really have anybody telling us it sucked and sometimes that can be helpful. If we thought it was cool we’d put it in there but a third ear sometimes can be helpful as far as mainstream appeal goes but we weren’t really interested in mainstream appeal and I am not that terribly interested in it that much today either. But you know, you learn, with any record that is done you think there are a couple of things you might have wanted to do differently.
I was looking on your website and there was this track that you did for the Japanese government. At first I thought what a cool freakin song and then mostly I just thought, Japan must have the coolest government in the universe to ask you to do that?
Thank you so much that means a lot to hear, it really does. I agree with you that the fact that their government commissioned me to do it … I wasn’t born in Japan, I am from America … so to have the government get me to do it when there are stacks of amazing Japanese musicians out there, it was a huge responsibility. I really loved the challenge and the way it came out and when you collaborate with the Tokyo Philharmonic, it is a chance to make a piece of music sound really grand. It was a lot of work done over a relatively short period of time but I am so satisfied with the piece of music. Sometimes I will play that in the clinics but it is just a thing I am very proud of.
You seem to get most of your sound through your technique, the way you hit the strings and using your volume control. You never seemed to get caught up in the whole gear side of things, did you?
No not really. I admire people who have the head for gear and have a sense of electronics and pedals and boards but I never had that. I have always tried to streamline my playing experience where it is basically me plugging into an amp and making my musical statement with note choices and the way I phrase notes and compositions, things that I can control. I don’t really get into effects. I think it is really pure, although I do admire people who can express themselves using different effects.
You are not relying on all this stuff, so wherever you go in the world, as long as you have a good amp, and your Jackson guitar you’re happy! The Jackson thing has worked out well for you. You must be enjoying using those guitars?
Yeah I love it. It’s a signature model that has really been a source of pride. Jackson was there when I was putting out signature models for other companies. They have always remained close family to me and helped me in many situations even when I was not an official Jackson guy. They never writ me off, which tends to happen in the music business. When I was out of contract with another company they said whenever you want to start work on a signature model just call us and I did and it was a long process during the Wall of Sound recording and they sent me lots of prototypes. Like I was saying before, I am not a gear guy, so contacting them wasn’t very good in regard to getting them to fix the things I needed fixed, so they put up with a lot of my stupidity. After many prototypes … all of which I recorded that album Wall of Sound on, or the majority, it was me just trying out guitars. We nailed down the final guitar by the end of the recording. It is just a very basic, simple guitar that looks great and I will be playing it in Australia. A wonderful company known for metal but they’re good for a lot more as you will see more of in the future.
Are there any guitar players you are hearing at the moment that you would like to do something with?
There are so many great guitar players. There’s a guy named Mateus Asato. I think he is a wonderful player and there are so many guys but he is the first one that comes to mind. He has such a sweet touch and a really nice player.
What’s your approach to writing when you need to come up with a new album? Is there a process you go through to kick that off?
It’s a scary time because it is like starting with a blank piece of paper and I don’t like it at all. I hate it but it has to be done, I am not one of those guys who catalogues a lot of old stuff and goes back to it. I think if it sucked before, it is not going to get any better by sitting in a computer, so I start from scratch again.
There’s a pressure which comes from not wanting to repeat what you’ve done before. The last records I think are my best and everyone should feel that way. The last thing they released is what they should be most proud of. I’d hate to wind up saying the first album is my best and I haven’t really passed it since. Sometimes I do feel I am never going to top that so why bother.
I imagine there’s always something that comes along to inspire you though and you can shake off that voice in your head?
It always happens thankfully and it’s usually when one new thing comes into the equation, a new collaboration or new studio or new engineer. It takes one little spark to set you off and I am always waiting for that to happen.
Wednesday, December 11: Crowbar, Sydney – Masterclass @ 5.00pm
Thursday, December 12: Crowbar, Brisbane – Masterclass @ 5.00pm
Friday, December 13: Bendigo Hotel, Melbourne SOLD OUT
Saturday, December 14: The Basement, Canberra – Masterclass @ 5.00pm
Sunday, December 15: The Evelyn Hotel, Melbourne NEW SHOW – Masterclass @ 5.00pm
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