MARTY FRIEDMAN On Being A TV Personality In Japan: 'It's Allowed Me To Live The Exact Life That I Want To Do'March 9, 2023
In a new interview with Greg Prato of Consequence, former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman, who has been living and recording music in Japan since 2003, was asked what it is about Japan that drew him there in the first place. He responded: "It was definitely the music. I wanted to make Japanese music, and the only way to do that is to be here and be completely immersed in it. When I came here, I got very lucky and I joined the band of one of my favorite Japanese singers, Aikawa Nanase. So, I was doing exactly what I wanted to do, pretty much as soon as I got here — six or eight months or something. And that just put my foot right where I wanted to be in J-pop music. I started to work with all of my favorite artists and all of my favorite producers playing live and recording and writing music. And then once I branched into doing television, the whole world really opened."
Friedman also talked about his status as a popular television personality in Japan. He said: "I didn't start off wanting to do that at all, actually. Like I said, I joined the band of one of my favorite J-pop singers when I first got here, and when you do that, people start seeing you. That kind of started a lot of new eyes coming on me, and one of the new eyes was a television production company that put me on a new show. I was initially not really into doing it, because I wanted to just focus on playing music — J-pop music. J-pop, when I say the word 'pop,' it's really very heavy metal. There's a lot of heavy metal influence. People get scared when they hear the word pop, but there's guitar going crazy in it. I was loving it. I wanted to concentrate on that, but they said, 'Just try this TV thing. Your Japanese is very good, and you have a very interesting viewpoint. Just give it a try.' And the first thing out of the box was a really big hit. It was a show called 'Heavymeta-san', which turned into 'Rock Fujiyama'. It lasted for six seasons. For a new show, it's unheard of. So, other offers came up, and my management over here started filling things up, and the next thing you know, more people know me from television than music. And it's still the case. Actually, doing this Budokan show [guest appearance with MEGADETH on February 27], when a lot of it was published on Yahoo! News and things like that, 'He's the guy from TV, but this is what he really does' was like the headline for that thing. Doing television has facilitated the fact that I can leave for two months and tour America with my own music — and not have any problems with that. It's allowed me to live the exact life that I want to do. It's given me a lot of freedom. Of course, you never know when people come up to you, what they know me from. But my real gig is making music, and I love making music more than anything else."
Back in November 2021, Friedman was asked if he experiences culture shock when he returns to his former home country of America. Marty said: "When I moved to Japan, I completely was encompassed by Japanese culture. No one I worked with spoke English. No one around me spoke English. The only time I spoke English was when I was doing international promotion or international tours or international interviews. So 24/7, it was all Japanese. And when that goes on for years and years, you start to dream in Japanese. My wife's Japanese, and we speak only Japanese. So, cultural things also become a part of you, because when you live somewhere, you become a part of the culture. And the things that matter in Japan are not the things that matter in America. Or the things that matter in Europe are not the things that matter in South America. So things that matter on a day-to-day basis are different. So culture 'shock' is kind of a shocking word, so I don't really feel shocked. But I feel like I'm very blessed, because when I go to America, I'm an American, so I can feel all the great things about being American. But I've lived in Japan for almost 20 years, and before I came here, I've been in so many Japanese situations that there's a definite part of me that is really a part of the Japanese culture so I can really feel both of them.
"You should never think that you're trying to belong," he continued. "Because it doesn't matter how perfect my Japanese is — and it's not perfect — but I'm never, ever gonna be Japanese. I feel a part of me is definitely influenced by Japan very much, but if your goal is to belong in another society, I think you're gonna be let down very, very much. Because as hard as you try, Japan is a one-race society and you just look different and you're born in a different place and you have different things in you. So the goal is not belonging; the goal is to add what you have to Japan. If you're trying to belong to something like that, I think you're gonna be let down. But it's not a letdown. You only really belong to yourself. And belonging to something is overrated. So I think you'll enjoy your Japan experience a whole lot more if you celebrate your differences while understanding Japan and enjoying the great things that you're able to enjoy about Japan. And don't be let down when sometimes people are not necessarily so friendly to foreigners. This happens to every country. You just have to let it be; it's just the way it is, especially with older generations. They're, like, 'Oh, the world is changing. Now there's English in the taxicabs. Oh my God.' People fear change. But you can't let that bother you. It's never bothered me once. I'm completely fine being a gaijin [a Japanese word for foreigners and non-Japanese citizens in Japan, specifically non-East Asian foreigners such as white and black people]; it hasn't stopped me from anything. So culture shock, it's not really as bad as people think it is. I enjoy being in America, and I enjoy being in Japan because both things have given me a lot of great things in my life. So learning English — English is the language of the world, so that's helped me everywhere. But in Japan, it's the opposite — in Japan, Japanese is the language, so it's a must. So culture shock is not really that big of a thing."
Friedman played his first U.S. show in four years on March 3 at The Plaza Live in Orlando, Florida as support act for QUEENSRŸCHE. Marty is confirmed to perform on a total of 31 dates with QUEENSRŸCHE, running through April 16, where the tour wraps up in St. Petersburg, Florida. Along the way, the trek will make stops in Dallas, Texas (March 11); Anaheim, California (March 19); Chicago, Illinois (March 31),New York City (April 10) and Nashville, Tennessee (April 14),to name a few. Also, Marty recently announced two headline shows on his own: March 17 in Las Vegas, Nevada at Count's Vamp'd and March 18 in Los Angeles, California at the Whisky A Go Go.
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