Marty Friedman: It Feels ‘More Natural to Make Music’ Than to Work in Television
Legendary guitarist Marty Friedman was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The axeman discussed his new album Wall of Sound and its guest collaborators which includes members of Deafheaven, Shining (Norway) and Black Veil Brides, also touching on his extensive work on Japanese television. What was it like for Friedman to return to America on tour after living in Japan for a number of years? Get the scoop on it all in the chat below.
How are you?
What’s up Jackie, nice to meet you.
Talking to you in Japan right now. [laughs] I was reading this article where they had premiered some of your music and they were writing about how you're big in Japan, which is always funny when people say that. But you are legit big in Japan.
Yeah. It’s such a cliche and I have to forgive the people who abuse that cliche, but you can’t control what people write. Hopefully people will come up with something a little bit more original. But I guess that’s the first thing that comes to people’s mind. But it’s all right.
So you were living in Japan for something like, 12 years?
Yeah, something like that, yeah.
How does Japanese culture and sensibility steer your ingrained Americanisms in terms of creativity?
Great question to start off. I like you already. It’s a good question. I’m born in America, grew up in America, but luckily I've been everywhere. I lived in Germany as a kid and obviously toured all over the world and have seen every different possible kind of culture and worked with people of every possible nationality. So it kind of gets blurry along the way and you just realize that everybody is exactly the same wherever you go. Culture shock is kind of not that big of a deal.
That being said, having the language really makes things different because the language of Japanese compared to American English is quite polite and it’s kind of got a built-in politeness about it; a built-in kind of consideration for the other person that you’re talking to. Whether or not you like this person is a completely different story. It’s in the language and that’s not really in any English language. So the dynamic between people one on one is quite different from [the] American way of life and way of talking. So I notice that when I go back to speaking English, like I’m talking to you, I sound rather polite when I’m not really that polite, I’m just a random dude. But just speaking so much Japanese, it kind of made me become a little bit more polite so to speak, if that answers your question at all.
People who follow your career as a musician might not know your work in TV. How does that fulfillment compare to music?
It’s a very interesting aside to music. When I came to Japan, I didn’t have any ideas of doing TV. I just was so interested in being part of the Japanese domestic music scene and that’s all I was thinking about. And then I got offered to do a TV show and I kind of did it as a lark really. Maybe this will help me get where I want to go with my Japanese music and stuff. So I did it and the show became a hit. Immediately, I got picked up by the top management firm in Japan and the show went on for another 52 weeks.
Consequently, I’ve been with the same management for about 12 years and have done hundreds, maybe 700-800 shows. And really the main thing the way it connects with music is, it has an effect. I have a life outside of music that can give me experiences to draw on when I make music. It makes my music so much fresher because I’m so much better at music than I am at TV. So when you get back to something that you’re good at or you think you’re confident with, if feels so good.
I mean, sometimes doing TV is really easy, but sometimes there is a lot of preparation and it’s quite difficult and you have to act interested in something that you couldn’t care less about. You have to really know what you’re talking about. There is a lot of work and preparation involved and you have to be interesting. I don’t really care about being interesting. I just want to make music. But so, I do that and when it comes time to make my music, it’s like, "Ah, this is what I’m meant to do." It’s so much easier. It feels like it’s more natural to make music and I can really do fresher music because of the change of pace by doing TV.
Let's talk about the new album, which is called Wall Of Sound. It features guys from Deafheaven, Shining and Black Veil Brides. What's especially important to you when considering collaborating with someone?
Another great question. I've done so many collaborations over my career but recently, starting with my previous album Inferno, when I have a guest to collaborate with me I have them write the song with me and get them really committed to it and make sure they have like, a dog in the fight. If you just have a guy come in and do a solo or sing a vocal on something, there's not really that much responsibility and there's not really that much, "Oh my god, I really care what happens in the end."
Of course you care but like when you're actually writing the song from the beginning or collaborating from beginning to end, it's like, what would it sound like if these two guys were in a band together? Then you get the real flavor of both people rather than, "Ah this is kind of cute, the guy did a little solo on my song."
This way, you get to really hear what myself and Deafheaven sound like doing an actual collaboration that worked out so well on Inferno with the guests on that record that I took it to the next level on this record and did some really really interesting stuff with Jinxx from Black Veil Brides and stuff that's going to blow his fans minds away and my fans too. No one is going to know what to expect and it's really a monster. It's really getting commitment from the people who want to do it. It takes a lot of time and energy to continue to write together for months, edit it and replay. But it's worth it and I'm really super proud of the collaborations on the record.
You're touring Wall Of Sound here in the United States. What's your biggest culture shock whenever you come back to America?
Definitely the audience because I'm so wrapped up with what I'm doing in Japan that I really have no idea what the atmosphere of who's going to show up to my shows in the first place and what their response is going to be like. Especially on the last Inferno tour, I really had no idea. I hadn't been in America for a long time and I was just absolutely blown away, completely overwhelmed by the energy of the audience and excitement of just seeing their faces when I come on with my band from Japan. We have a very different energy than I think that is common in America. We really tear it up and the audience was so incredibly supportive that it really confirmed to me that I was so glad I came back to America and it made me want to come back again.
Wall of Sound is your thirteenth solo album. In what ways does it reflect differences in your sensibility as a musician now compared to other times in your career?
It's definitely showing the experiences that have piled up over my career and my personal life and all that. Mainly the evolution of my music. It's reaching a point where I'm really excited about it. Often times, I'll record an album or release and tour it and it'll still be good for me for about a year but then I'll start to figure out I could have done this or that better. Since Inferno, I thought I was never going to top that. I was so happy with that record. But lo and behold, I came out with Wall Of Sound. At least in my opinion, I topped it from my own purposes and I just love it. I think it's - I'm in a place where I can really do my best and go for the long run with this stuff and let it last for a long time where it's like, earlier in my career - if I liked something in that moment, I just put it right out and it was cool then, but now I think I want to have stuff that I'm going to live with for a long time to make damn sure it's something I really, really love.
So many things can influence and reflect the overall sound and style of an album. What had the biggest impact on you in terms of how you wanted Wall of Sound to turn out?
I think the biggest thing I wanted to go for was literally bigness. When I did Inferno, it was kind of a test to see what exactly people in America wanted from me, if anything. I really was oblivious to what's going on in America, especially in regards to what people expect from me or want from me so when I did that I thought, "Well, fans want to hear me go crazy and play really aggressive and have a lot of big, huge contrast in my music," which I love. They just want it to be over the top and I can go there. So I wanted to take that to the next level up, more over the top, more deeper Marty-isms so to speak. So if you like my stuff at all you're really, really gonna like it. If you don't like my stuff it's gonna be a pain in the butt and you're not gonna like it at all. You're gonna want to use it as a beer coaster. If there's anything about my style overall, whether it be the kind of exotic type of playing - perverted time changes and really my own way of doing heavy stuff. I don’t really think it sounds like anybody else, if you like that particular style, I think you're really gonna dig the record. Otherwise, maybe not.
Thanks to Marty Friedman for the interview, Grab your copy of 'Wall of Sound' at Amazon or digitally through iTunes and to keep up with everything the guitarist is doing, follow him on Facebook. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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