MARTY FRIEDMAN Discusses 'Definitive' New Solo Album, 'Drama': 'I Wanted To Do Something Where You Feel Uplifted'

April 16, 2024

By David E. Gehlke

Marty Friedman recently finished writing his autobiography. For those who have charted the guitar player's career from his halcyon days as part of the Shrapnel Records stable through his stint during MEGADETH's most successful period to an even greater (and more successful) leap to Japanese music and television, it should be quite the read. Friedman has managed to remain above the fray in everything he has done, including remaining in Dave Mustaine's good graces, which is something of a world-beating accomplishment. Aside from that, Friedman's constant thirst for new creative avenues has made his solo career an unpredictable and almost always satisfying ride.

After a pair of super-heavy, over-the-top solo jaunts with 2014's "Inferno" and 2017's "Wall Of Sound", Friedman has returned with "Drama" a semi-ode to the textured, almost soothing style of guitar playing found on his second solo album, 1992's "Scenes". "Drama" and the aforementioned autobiography were to be the focus of BLABBERMOUTH.NET's chat with Friedman, but before anything else, a trip 32 years back in time felt necessary.

Blabbermouth: "Drama" has some of the same textures and styles as the "Scenes" record. Can we go back to 1992? What's the first thing that comes to mind?

Marty: "The first thing that comes to mind was a lucky encounter with a guitar. I had written the entire album, and I knew it was going to be a romantic, orchestral thing. I was playing full-on, living my heavy metal life at that point completely. Now I had a chance to record an album of anything else, so that's what I did—all ballads. I was recording the album in L.A. at Sound City. I was going to do all my guitars last. I was going to do all the pianos, synthesizers and all the backgrounds first, then the guitars last. I didn't really think about which guitars I was going to play. I just brought a bunch of guitars. At the beginning of the recording, this totally good-looking girl walked into the studio carrying a guitar case. Usually, people don't walk into the studio, but she walked in with a guitar case, and I'm like, 'That's weird.' I thought she was a ten. She said, 'I'm from the Fernandes guitar company. We heard that you were here. We'd like you to try this guitar if you are interested.' I couldn't have been less interested in the guitar. [Laughs] I didn't care about the guitar, but I wanted this chick's digits. It's all I cared about. I said, 'Sure. Let me hold onto the guitar and I'll check it out when I get the chance.' She gave me the guitar, and I put it in a closet and forgot about it. I got her number and we went out once or twice, but then I got back into recording and everything was normal. I did all the tracks. It finally came time to do my guitar tracks. I have four or five of my own guitars. I started putting them up, and they're my full-on Jackson Kelly signature models. They sound great for the regular solos, but on 'Scenes', there are a lot of quiet melodies and there are a lot of really gentle motifs going on. None of my guitars were sounding good for that at all. The engineer said, 'Dude. We need to rent some guitars or something. Get a Strat or old person guitar in here.' [Laughs] I'm like, 'Oh, really? I guess so.' We're about to rent some guitars and then the assistant or somebody said, 'What about that guitar you put into the closet from that chick?' I'm like, 'Ah, that guitar probably sucks. Forget about it. Let's call SIR and rent some guitars. Before we do that, let's put the guitar up.' We put the guitar up and plugged it into the board. As soon as we plugged it in, it was like the heavens parted. The most gorgeous, glorious, glassy guitar sound came out of this guitar. I couldn't believe my ears. I'm like, 'That's the sound!' It was plugged straight into this old-school effect called a Quadraverb. It was on whatever setting was up there. I said, 'Dude. Do not touch anything. We're going to record the entire album right now with this setting and tone.' I went from one song to the next song to the next song. I did all the guitars right there with that sound. It was the best clean guitar sound I ever had."

Blabbermouth: Being this was prime-era Marty Friedman Jackson, did you have to hide from them that you played a Fernandes?

Marty: "I didn't hide it, but back then, there was no Instagram when you're playing in the studio. It never came up until later when I was asked repeatedly about this guitar and its sound. Later on, I had Jackson try to simulate that sound. They came pretty damn close, definitely close to replicating it live. Big props to them, but even Fernandes, I fell in love with the sound. I said, 'You have to make me a replica of that exact guitar.' They did it, and it was the exact same in every spec, but it didn't sound the same. It must have been that chick who brought it to me."

Blabbermouth: You already said it, but this is also when MEGADETH was a platinum heavy metal band. You had Nick Menza play on "Scenes", which was pretty cool.

Marty: "When you're in a band like MEGADETH, it has such a recognizable sound. What a lot of people don't know is that each member has a whole lot of different musical vocabulary and other musical things they want to get out and Nick was no exception. Nick was extremely well-rounded and could completely understand what I was going for on 'Scenes'. The thing about Nick was that I did the drums last on that record, which is a very strange idea. I had everything else done first. He heard my tracks and instinctively knew how to play that way. It's not a metal way of drumming. I could have got a guy like Gregg Bissonette, who plays on 'Drama', who does ballads. My favorite ballad drummer in the world is him, and I could have gotten him to do 'Scenes' in a flash, but Nick was in my band, and we were talking about it. I knew he had it in him. He was just as comfortable doing 'Scenes' as he was with the MEGADETH stuff. It was perfect and perfectly natural for him. I was totally impressed with him."

Blabbermouth: One last thing before we move on to "Drama": Every picture of you or your MEGADETH bandmates had you in flannel. Did you ever run out of those kinds of shirts to wear?

Marty: "Usually, it was a different band member's since we got each other's laundry. We were cross-collaborating. We didn't know whose was whose. I didn't know how that happened. [Laughs] People still point it out to me."

Blabbermouth: Your previous two solo albums were very complex and heavy. What made you go in a lighter direction for "Scenes"?

Marty: "I knew that if I were going to do my definitive album, it would be in this vein. I wanted to do something where you feel uplifted, and maybe a tear will come out, or you get a chill or goosebumps—some kind of emotion gets transported to you. I always enjoy that. Sometimes, you go to a classical concert or any kind of concert, and for some reason, there are certain points in a piece of music that you uncontrollably get this wave of emotion. It's like, 'Why the hell does that happen?' During my entire musical career, I've been analyzing that and trying to put as many of those elements in my music as I can because I want people to feel that way. 'Drama' is the all-encompassing outcome of all that analyzing and whatever it is I'm trying to say, it's all on this record. Nothing says it better than 'uplifting.' Sometimes, working on music, you get completely taken away from the purpose of listening to music because it's so all-encompassing, the amount of work and planning. Sometimes, when life is hard and when you say, 'The only thing that will heal me is putting on this album.' You know that feeling when things suck so bad and it's really horrible, but when you put this on, it feels a little bit better. I wanted to do that with my record. I wanted 'Drama' to be a record that people can do that with. How do I do that? How do I make a record like that? That was a two-year journey of a lot of trial and error. It's kind of like 'Scenes' when you listen to it. It's not an intense metal record at all."

Blabbermouth: Can you get into how your guitar acts as a vocalist? Instead of having a singer on most of these tracks, your guitar lines are essentially doing what someone in that role would.

Marty: "That's the ultimate goal. I spend 80 percent of the time creating the background to which my melodies can be on top. It's like a picture frame. You can put anything in there, and the whole thing will look great, but if you have a crappy picture frame, you can play the most beautiful guitar thing; it's only going to look as bad as the picture frame. I spent all the time creating the atmosphere, and then, when it comes time to let my guitar sing, I'm trying so many different ways, different nuances to voice each note."

Blabbermouth: How far back do you and Gregg Bissonnette go? Does he intersect with Jason Becker at all?

Marty: "Even before that. We would find ourselves on the clinic circuit a lot. You'd be in Italy, and he'd be doing something the same day as I, and we'd run into each other. Of course, there's mutual respect. He first played on 'True Obsessions'. He hit a home run. On that album, I had a song called 'Hands Of Time', which was my first attempt at doing a real pop ballad. I called Gregg. The song is five minutes long and it took Gregg five minutes to do the song. [Laughs] To watch a pro like that is mind-boggling. He's always been on my top-tier list. We've been great friends since then. He and Steve Lukather called me to play with Ringo Starr when they played in Japan. I'm eternally grateful for all their friendship. But Gregg is the ballad guy. He's the guy. Every hit you've ever heard from your childhood to now, it's him. When you're doing an album with ballads, that also requires a lot of progressive elements on 'Drama'. Not a lot of odd-time signatures, but there's aggressive drum playing within the ballads. He's the type of guy who can handle both of those things with ease. He's such a joy to be around on a personal level. He was a no-brainer for this record."

Blabbermouth: You had a good quote about touring the States with your solo band where you're doing it "one fan at a time." You've got a few tours under your belt now. What's the experience been like?

Marty: "I love it. In the mid-2010s, I had no desire or anything even to cultivate my American career because I was so focused on Japan. I never thought I would have the time or ambition to take on other countries. When I was asked to pursue it a little bit from Prosthetic [Records] and 'Inferno' came out, the floodgates opened. I started touring America and the rest of the world more. It has been an immensely enjoyable experience. The two main things I get out of it are that I get to see America and other countries through my Japanese band member's eyes. They're all Japanese. It's like giving them their first Hostess Fruit Pie. [Laughs] Those little daily things that Americans know, but they don't know. It's such a wonderful, fun experience. Then, they can get feedback from American fans in real-time. It's such a thrill to watch it through their eyes. I also love to see the interesting demographic that has been supporting me in America. It's the whole thing. There are teens and pre-teens, and there are parents and people who have been following me even before MEGADETH. They're still there. It's such a wonderful honor to be able to play for them and cultivate new people. A lot of people are finding me because they're interested in Japanese music and that's how they find me. And they have no idea I have 16 solo albums. They find out, then they're coming to my shows. It's such an interesting blend of people. I'm so fortunate to have it. I never take it for granted."

Blabbermouth: You've been teasing an autobiography. How's it coming along?

Marty: "We're in the last editing stages. All the content is done. It's extremely long. The point that we're at is that 'You got to cut out a lot of this.' We're cutting out things. It's hard because it is extremely long. It's too long. We're cutting out certain things, but what I can say about it is it is by far the most detailed account of anything I've participated in in my life. Any little subject has the deepest details about it. There are little details and very personal details. Of course, a lot of people want to know about MEGADETH. I made it very sure to give the most complete and honest account of all things that were never in any interviews. Interviews are usually where you're talking about a topic and in 'impress mode.' But I wanted to get personal and talk about how things affected me in every little situation. All that is in great detail, as well as the transition into Japanese television and being the only foreigner in a world of completely Japanese people, as well as the pros and cons of that. It has all of the very important details that you can't say in interviews, like private and personal things that don't usually come out. I tried to keep that as the criteria: Did I talk about this in an interview? If so, it got cut. It's all new stuff, and hopefully, by Christmas of this year, it will be available."

Find more on Marty friedman
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • reddit
  • email

Comments Disclaimer And Information

BLABBERMOUTH.NET uses the Facebook Comments plugin to let people comment on content on the site using their Facebook account. The comments reside on Facebook servers and are not stored on BLABBERMOUTH.NET. To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@) with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).