MARTY FRIEDMAN Says It's A 'Huge Misconception' That Metal Is Big In Japan

August 24, 2019

Guitar legend Marty Friedman (MEGADETH, CACOPHONY) recently spoke with Paul Tadday of Australia's Amnplify. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On moving to Japan:

Marty: "It [was] a crazy decision, but it was really something I just had to do. It was all about the music. I found myself listening to Japanese 100 percent, and I had lost interest in what was going on in the American music scene. I was really consumed with what was going on in Japan, and I thought the only way I can really continue to grow as an artist is to make music that I really want to make, and contribute what I can to a music scene that really appealed to me. I thought the only way to do that was to live in Japan. I was really right. Sometimes it takes a really crazy decision like that to get to the next step in your career. I was very lucky that I either had enough balls to do it, or I was stupid enough to do it, one or the other... After touring all over the place, you kind of don't really feel you're a foreigner in so many places, because you've been to so many places so many different times. You just feel like a citizen of the world, more or less, and you don't really feel that out of place whether you might be in Austria or China or Russia or Brazil. About three or four times going anywhere, you sort of feel like you know the place, and after being in Japan so many times, it really wasn't that big of a leap to actually live here."

On the notion that metal is big in Japan:

Marty: "That's a huge misconception. That style of music is not big in Japan. However, that influence has found itself in popular music. There's a lot of very heavy metal-oriented pop music in Japan, and there's a lot of very guitar-oriented pop music in Japan, and dance music. All kinds of music that is current will have elements of things that don't show up in the pop music of America and Europe. American pop music is pretty much based on R&B and rap and country music, and occasionally, there's a small influence of rock in there, but there's really not too much in the way of guitar being in the spotlight so much in American pop music. But some for reason, the sound of the electric guitar is still at the forefront in Japanese pop music, probably for the reason that in traditional Japanese music, there was an instrument called the shamisan, which is a three-stringed instrument kind of played like a guitar. It's been in Japanese music for centuries, so people's grandparents and great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents are used to hearing the sound of, like, kind of solos played on guitar, because the shamisan plays a lot of solo lines and melodies and slow melodies and fast melodies — things that could be compared to lead guitar. I think for some reason in the culture, they're very accustomed to hearing lead guitar, even in a pop context, even in a dance context. For me, I'm way more into pop music than into traditional, straight-ahead, old-school metal. I need to have some kind of new twist on it. I was into metal and all that stuff when I grew up and I loved it, but it has to grow. It has to do something new. It has to be more futuristic, more modern, more adventurous, and the only way to do that is to mix all kinds of different things with it. Then, I can still love the sound of metal. I think that's what is fun for me about being in Japan, because you can see the pop chart and look at the first few songs, and there's a guitar solo in one and a heavy riff in the other and some progressive-sounding things in the other, and odd time signatures and all those fun things that we all loved growing up, but have completely fallen out of the American musicscape. I couldn't analyze it that well when I decided to move here, but I think subliminally, that's the reason why I did."

On how recording technology has evolved over the course of his career:

Marty: "I think things have changed and made it easier for some aspects of it. Obviously, Pro Tools is a wonderful thing to have in the studio, but still at the end of the day, the person who's creating the germ of the idea — the seeds of the new songs — you still have something from inside. Just getting it from out of you on to other people's ears, technology helps that go along, but you still have to have all these ideas, and you still have to try to create new ideas. I don't think technology has really helped the creative process in my case, other than allowing me to do more things in less time. For example, back in the old days, we didn't have Pro Tools in the studio, so we had to really prepare everything before we got into the studio [to] record, but now, I can do hundreds and hundreds of takes of a single melody, and then scroll through them at my own leisure. I can get a lot more done in a lot less time, but at the end of the day, it's the same creative process — you've got to come up with something, and then you've got to perform it... I'm a huge workaholic, so anything that's going to save me time and get more work done in less time is great, but as for the creative process, using a guitar — which is an actual instrument, not a synthesizer — it's still a very human process in my case."

On performing live:

Marty: "I like to do real, human, raw, sweaty [shows], just exploding and going crazy and having fun, but I still also enjoy some artists that use a lot of technology in their concerts. Sometimes, they even use backing synthesizers and other things and supplement their live sound. I'm not against that at all, depending on the project that it's used in. For example, there's a three-girl singing group called PERFUME in Japan, and they don't sing anything, but in the context of their concert, it's really a non-issue, because their concert is so incredibly exciting, and the visuals that they give you and the formations that they do and the amazing, imaginative stage sets and dance performances and vocal performances that match with the actual recorded vocals, it's so exciting. It's not about a person actually performing and singing. I really kind of don't like when people get hung up on, 'Well, it's not really being sung, so I can't enjoy myself.' It's a new age right now. There's a lot of different ways to enjoy yourself. It just depends on which artist you're watching. If you watch a guy like Elton John, it's a different kind of atmosphere altogether. That guy is a human god. He sits down there – one man, one piano – and just does everything himself. It's not an atmosphere that would require supplemental things, but there are other things [where] it's not just about music — it's about the whole world that's created inside that concert hall, and music might just be a part of it. Sometimes, you have to be modern and adjust things to make the whole world inside that concert hall perfect. I'm open to anything — as long as I get entertained at the end of the thing, I'm happy. It all depends on what you enjoy. For me, my concert, it's really very, very old-school. It's just four people really playing their asses off. That's pretty much all you're going to get, and that's the way I like it for my music... the whole concept is to be entertaining without having a singer. It's not a guitar clinic — it's a concert. It's not about showing off; it's not about, 'Look at this guitar lick.' It's about entertaining people, and having people walk away from that concert energized and feeling like they received something. My favorite compliment when people say it to me is, 'I had no idea instrumental music could be this fun. I didn't miss a singer at all.'"

Friedman continues to tour in support of his 14th solo record, "One Bad M.F. Live!!", which was released last October. The album was recorded in Mexico City on April 14, 2018 during the final concert of Friedman's world tour in support of his 2017 album "Wall Of Sound".

Joining Friedman on "One Bad M.F. Live!!" are his bandmates Kiyoshi on bass, Jordan Ziff (RATT) on guitar and Chargeeee on drums.

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