Interview ~ Marty Friedman

If you think you know Marty Friedman from his past then you are missing out on what this remarkable guitar player has been doing for the last 15-plus years. He has moved well beyond any preconceived notions many have about his playing style and is one of the great players putting out new music and touring to this day.

On his latest release, One Bad M. F. Live, Friedman takes us to where he’s been and our advice to everyone is come along for the ride because Marty truly is one bad M. F.

Recorded in Mexico City, at the final show of their last tour, the band is tight on this record and travels East to West showcasing some Friedman’s best tunes. Friedman said this was recorded the way live records were done when he first started becoming interested in music. One show, one recording, two guitars and all the bumps that come with a live show.

Not sure about everyone else, but that’s how music is meant to be played, and enjoyed – bring it out of the studio and perform. One Bad M. F. does exactly that and from open to close we can’t find a “favorite” because each and every one of the songs on this album is a recommended listen.

For those who are looking for the metal riffs they’re used to hearing Friedman deliver – tenfold. However, don’t get caught thinking that’s the only thing you’re going to hear. There’s Latin influence and the influence he’s gotten after more than a decade and a half living in Japan.

From the opening of “Street Demon” and “Elixir” to “Mutation Medley” and “Stigmata Addition,” there are very pure, very real instances where Friedman and crew bring this music to life.

In addition, “Amagi Goe” and “Kaeritakunatta Yo” are beautifully played and if listeners react to those the same way people who were there that night they will undoubtedly put this album on repeat – for a long time.

Friedman will bring his band back to the United States in early 2019 for about a month and a half and we know we’ll do everything we can to catch this show.

You’ve got a new live album coming out, I’ve been listening to it and it is amazing! What can you tell me about it?

Marty Friedman: Thank you so much, yeah, I really dig it myself. I’ve been touring with this same band for a long time and it’s always been so good that I just wanted to document it, for lack of a better reason. I’m sure we’ll do a live video at some point, but I wanted to do an old school double live album because that’s how we play the shows and I was like this would be great for an old school live album and that’s exactly what it is. I’m really happy with it and I can’t wait until people hear it. I don’t really do a lot of old school things but this kind of feels nostalgic.

Yeah, almost like your classic live albums, Double Live Gonzo, and things like that …

Yeah, yeah it’s like that.

Not the same music exactly but similar in style.

You know, I liked the feeling of live albums when I was a kid and I first started getting really excited about music. It was always the live albums rather than the studio albums. I’ve done a live album before, I did it in 2007 and it was good, I’m very happy with it, but, this time it feels more like … how do I explain, it feels more natural, last time we did a whole bunch of shows and we recorded everything and I weeded through it until I found the best performances. It was ok, but this time it was just one show straight through and nothing from any other shows. The flow of it is a lot more of what I remember the show actually being like so for me it feels a lot more real and it’s just done really well. I’m really happy with it.

Any reason you picked Mexico City to record?

It just happened to be the last show of our tour and that’s the safest. I knew I only wanted to record one and, the band is always tight but the last show is probably as tight as it’s going to get. A lot of things happen on the last show that are spontaneous and really no other reason.

I see you incorporated your initials into the album title, or does that maybe mean something else?

(Laughs) It does mean something else but it’s funny, it’s an idea Gene Simmons actually gave me a long time ago. We did a movie together in Japan and I had like a tiny cameo in it. I was playing in his band in the movie. As a KISS fan growing up it was like, “this is awesome.” The movie was called Detroit Metal City, there’s a scene where he’s playing with a band, and it took like three days to film and so, that whole three days I was the only one at the studio where it was being filmed that spoke English so I was the only one Gene was trying to talk to. That was fine with me, and I was a KISS fan and he got into this thing about, you know you really need to get your name out and use your name more and say something like, I’m a really bad M.F. and you need t-shirts like that. I didn’t ask him for any advice, he just gave it to me and it’s actually really good advice. It just came to mind when I started thinking about doing a live album, you know I’m going to give it a shot and it looks great on a t-shirt just like he said it would.

Well, he’s a master marketer that’s for sure.

That’s for sure he is; I sometimes tend to forget that part of the business.

You’ve been in Japan now for what, about 12-13 years?

More like 15 or so. A little longer than that.

What draws you to Japan, why did you pick Japan?

I came here so many times on tour and I always found the local music really interesting and stuff that I would always want to take home with me and listen to later. I just wound up listening to Japanese music all the time and really nothing else. It came to the point where I should be living where they’re making this music and I can add my touch to it. I want to get into this music scene here and it was strictly about the music. It was by pure luck that I had a hobby of speaking Japanese for years before that because that really helps. But it was the music that brought me here.

Do you ever get back to Laurel (Maryland) much?

Oh, you know Laurel?

Yeah, I worked at Fort Meade for a while.

Oh my God, my dad worked at Fort Meade all the time when I live in Laurel, it’s unbelievable. Yeah, I’m going to be playing in Baltimore in February. I’ve got tons of friends there and my family is all spread out around the country so they don’t live in that area anymore but I got lots of friends there and have really fond memories of growing up there. That was the last time I lived anywhere that wasn’t like a major city. My last place where I had a ‘normal’ life.

Do you know which venue you’ll be playing in Baltimore? The Ottobar, or Ram’s Head or …

That sounds very familiar and it’s probably going to be one of those two. We played the Soundstage last year and I’m not exactly sure but we’ll be there in late February.

In other interviews I’ve seen where you’ve said you don’t particularly care for the term “shredder,” why is that?

Maybe the term means something different now than when I thought it was intended to mean when I first heard it. To me, when I hear that, it sounds like someone who’s thing is playing as fast as the possibly can and going ape shit playing as fast as the possibly can. I’d really hate to spend my entire life making music and being known for that, even though people who use that term use it as a compliment. I take it as a compliment but I really dislike being put in that box. Especially now, it’s different now that it was maybe ten years ago. Everybody plays guitar now and there’s a lot of people who just play really, really fast which is completely fine it that’s what you’re setting out to do. But it’s so far away from what I’ve done and what I’m doing I just really don’t like to be lumped into that term.

Yeah, I think you can hear that on One Bad M. F. Live, talk about a diversity of music.

Yeah, it’s crazy. It leads me to think that I don’t know what the term means. Sometimes I’ll put out a total ballad, like a full on ballad, something like “Undertow” or “For a Friend” off Wall of Sound. I’ll put this out and then someone will make a video of it and says, “this song shreds” or “this is shredding” or “more shredding from Marty Friedman” it’s like – did you listen to the song? The tempo is about 76 and there’s nothing even remotely quick in there so maybe I’m misconstruing the tempo but it’s not something I dig too much.

It’s probably more about them and their preconceived notions from what they’re expecting from some of the hits, you know?

Again, I do know it’s all like meant to be positive so I can’t get angry. For them they’re saying something nice so it’s not like I’m angry with it. I just don’t particularly dig that term myself.

Where do you interests lie outside of music these days?

Oh man, if only I had time to have interests outside of music, I’d love the luxury but, right now I’ve just started promoting this live album coming out in October and I’m doing a bunch of TV stuff in Japan and it always gets really busy before I go on tour because I’m out of the country for a couple of months. It kind of gets busy with that type of thing here in Japan. Mainly I’m starting to talk about the live record, you’re like right around the top of talking about it so I don’t even know what I’m talking about yet.

Hopefully, I’m giving you good practice.

Yeah, yeah it’s all good man.

People always like to ask who your influences where when you were getting started and that, but who, or what new influences to you have?

New influences? Yeah, it happens all the time. In Japan there a lot of really cool producers that I like. The first one that would come to mind is a guy named Hyadain, I don’t know if his name means too much in the States but he’s just a really smart musical modern innovative quick thinking genius. Music is flowing out of this guy and I worked with him on a song once and we’ve done a bunch of TV and radio together but he’s a guy I’d love to work with a whole lot more. A lot of producers over here, in my experience here in Japan the production of music a lot more things that attract me to it than to say that this player or that player, there’s a lot of great players but it’s the people creating the musical landscapes of the current music, the producers that are just doing mind blowing stuff and I love being involved with a project where I can do something new and fresh and grow as a musician. There’s a lot of great producers here in Japan that allow me to do that.

You mentioned you’ll be touring the U. S., will it be an extensive tour?

It’s going to be about a month and a half maybe little more. Which is a pretty good size for the amount of touring that I usually do in the U. S. We’re going to hit all the major cities. It’s my favorite thing to do, you can hear it on the live record. I love making my albums and it’s the most stressful thing in the world to do. Making a live record pushes the joy and hopefully that contrast between the perfection of a studio record you know cause it’s tighter than a gnat’s ass on those studio records cause I’m just really anal about making things right because that’s your one shot at making things right and you’re able to make things perfect so why not? But, on the live record there’s a lot of, you know, happy accidents, there’s a lot of things that couldn’t be reproduced, I’m sure there’s a couple of mistakes on there and there’s definitely some timing shifts and things that would never be allowed on a record but all of those things came out of the joy of making music. You can hear it, it’s just a different animal from the studio records and I’m really happy to have that option out there.

Absolutely, for me, live albums are who the band truly is and it’s just them with their instruments.

It really is, it’s only myself and another guitar player and you only get two tracks of guitar and on my albums there might be 15 tracks of guitar on a song with all kinds of counter point and things like that. That’s how the song was originally arranged but live is completely different and it’s kind of the way I grew up listening music. To me, it’s fresh to hear my songs done in that way and I’m really looking forward to how people listen to this thing.

Well, if I’m any indicator people are going to love it.

Thank you so much man, it’s really good to hear right off the bat.

You’re welcome, hey, I don’t want to take up too much of your time, is there anything else you want to add or want people to know?

Yeah, thanks so much for your incredible support of whatever it is I do because I’m so far away from the States and out of sight out of mind is something that you say a lot but people have been following me for a long time and supporting me even though I’m not in the states all the time, it means a lot to me and hopefully you can see how happy I am when I come back to play for everybody. I just want to thank everybody for the continued support.   

By Contributing Writer Don Manuszewski

Stream/Purchase One Bad M.F. Live HERE

Top Photo: Maria Debiassi

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