MARTY FRIEDMAN: 'When I First Started Playing, I Wanted To Do The Most Extreme Music I Possibly Could'

September 26, 2023

In a new interview with Australia's Wall Of Sound, former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman, who has been living and recording music in Japan since 2003, was asked what it has been like watching the guitars evolve as heavy metal went from having a handful of subgenres in the 1980s to the now seemingly dozens of subgenres on offer. He said: "I just think it's great, unexpected kind of success.

"When I first started playing, I wanted to do the most extreme music I possibly could, and I knew that there's no way this music was ever gonna make it into the mainstream. When METALLICA came out with an album that made it into the mainstream, I thought it was the end of the world. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that mainstream people were gonna start getting into metal. The fact that it became more and more popular over the years, and now it's branched into so many other kinds of music like a disease, and even more so in Japan than anywhere else."

He continued: "In America, there's a lot of festivals and concerts and there's a lot of people going to see metal shows, but if you look on the charts, there's not a whole lot of evidence of metal over there. But here in Japan, even on the charts in the pop songs, there's always a guitar presence in it. There's guitar solos. Sometimes there's like metal breakdowns. And very modern — not dated kind of metal clichés, but there's just a presence of metal. It's growing and growing and growing so I feel it's like a bonus. [I'm] very happy to watch [it] unfold and [I'm] happy for me to be a part of it, and because that's what I set out to do. I wanted to play this kind of rebellious music, but, of course, we all want as many people to hear it as possible, so it's a wonderful thing to watch."

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 performed on more than two dozen dates with QUEENSRŸCHE, running through April 16, where the tour wrapped up in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Marty's "Tokyo Jukebox 3" album received a North American release in April 2021 via The Players Club/Mascot Label Group. The record, which was made available in Japan in October 2020, was the third in a series that began with "Tokyo Jukebox" in 2009, and then "Tokyo Jukebox 2" following in 2011. The trilogy presents Friedman's inspired performances to Japanese repertoire he's chosen to cover.

Marty's presence in the world of music, the world of guitar and Japanese pop culture is mystifying, bizarre, and nothing short of inspiring. His first major impact in music was in the game-changing guitar duo CACOPHONY, which he founded with equally enigmatic and now-legendary guitarist Jason Becker. He then spent 10 years as lead guitarist in the genre-defining thrash metal act MEGADETH before moving to Tokyo due to his love for Japanese music, language, and culture.

Following his move, he landed a starring role for a new TV comedy "Hebimeta-san" ("Mr. Heavy Metal") and its spinoff, "Rock Fujiyama", which ran for six seasons and propelled him into the living rooms of Japan's mainstream. He has since appeared in over 800 TV shows, movies and commercials, including a two-year campaign with Coca-Cola for Fanta, authored two best-selling novels and was the first-ever foreigner to be appointed as an ambassador of Japan heritage and perform at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Marathon in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2022.

At the same time, Marty has continued his career in music with several solo albums in addition to writing and performing with the top artists in Japanese music, racking up countless chart hits, including a No. 1 with SMAP, two No. 2 songs with MOMOIRO CLOVER, a No. 2 with SOUND HORIZON — just to name a few.

Image credit: Jackson Guitars

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