Marty Friedman is truly a man with a history. From the neoclassical speed metal duo Cacophony in the late 80's to his rise in fame playing in Megadeth, the virtuosic guitarist peaks at a pinnacle of talent and humility thirteen solo albums later. This year, he released Wall of Sound, his second release via Prosthetic Records since his departure from the Japanese-based label Avex Trax. In a recent interview, we discussed the new LP, guest musicians featured on the album, current supporting US tour, relationship with thrash metal, and an upcoming documentary. Stay tuned for our article on Marty's dream tour and setlist as well.
You can check out my personal review of the Wall of Sound album by clicking here and be sure to catch Marty Friedman perform live on his current tour with Scale the Summit and The Fine Constant.
You’re over halfway done with your US tour supporting your most recent LP, how has it been thus far?
It’s been absolutely fantastic. The band is tighter than ever and we’re just having a blast out here.
Can you talk about the other bands you’ve been sharing the stage with on this tour?
There are two really cool bands we’re with: Scale the Summit and The Fine Constant. They’re both very modern and atmospheric. There’s a lot of great guitar playing going on from both guys and girls. I see a lot of potential in these bands, it’s a peek into the future of the genre.
And who’s currently a part of your backing band for this tour?
My band is pretty much the same band that I take everywhere. We did a US tour for Inferno and all around the world. It’s myself on guitar along with Jordan Ziff, Kiyoshi on bass, and Chargeee on drums. Three of us are from Japan, but Jordan lives in Arizona, so we always meet up with him in America. We’re trying to bring our Japanese energy over here to America.
In a little over a week I’ll be seeing you play at the Whisky in Hollywood on August 26th. What can myself and fans expect for this show?
Just like music on steroids. What we play is instrumental for the most part. We don’t have the power of lyrical meaning, so we have to keep people interested with the melody and energy. It is literally a full-on balls-out assault show. Instrumental music is kinda known as something to be listened to but we want it to be something to be seen, experienced, and actually make you feel some sort of emotion. If you haven’t seen us before, you may be really surprised at all the high energy. There’s a lot of punk and aggressive elements that you may not have expected. A lot of screwing around too, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
You had a really rad recording lineup for Wall of Sound including drummers Anup Sastry and Gregg Bissonette. Can you talk about how you met them and their contribution to the album?
I’ve known Gregg forever. He’s recorded on a lot my albums and started on my fourth solo album, so we go way back. And Anup did the drums on Inferno as well. I met him through a band called Skyharbor that I did some work with. He is a complete monster of a musician and brings a unique, new modern style to drumming.
Regarding Wall of Sound, you had some very diverse guest musicians show up as well. Were you previously a fan of Black Veil Brides or Deafheaven beforehand?
Yeah, I was a fan of them, but my drummer Chargeee is a huge fan of Black Veil Brides, so I was quite familiar with their stuff. But, what I didn’t know is that their guitarist Jinxx was brought up as a classical violinist. When we met at one of my shows in LA at the Whisky during the Inferno tour, it dawned on me that we should do something that no one would expect from either one of us. It took a long time to grow into what that song became. You can really hear both of us on that track.
Jorgen from Shining added vocals as well on “Something to Fight” which was a big surprise when contrasted to an all instrumental album. Can you talk about that decision?
Well I definitely wanted to have some sort of change or contrast in the album. When you add some vocals after four or five instrumental tracks, it really has an impact. I learned that on the Inferno record when I had Danko Jones sing a song called “I Can’t Relax” and it just pumps out in such an insane way that I knew I had to have another vocal track on this record. I’ve been working with Jorgen for a while and I love his band Shining. So, we’ve been talking about doing a vocal song together for a couple years now. It came together very slowly and precisely. We’re both super perfectionists and he wrote that song with me. We arranged it together. That was probably the most detailed collaboration on the record. Jorgen is an absolute maniac and he’s one to definitely watch in the future.
I suppose the only unfortunate part of having guest musicians play on songs is you can’t exactly perform the tracks live without them there. Are there plans to ever have any of the guests from Wall of Sound on stage with you someday?
These things happen. I did some touring in the UK with Jorgen and he actually sang “I Can’t Relax,” originally sang by Danko. It’s just something that happens organically, not really something that is planned. A couple weeks ago in Boston, I had David Davidson from Revocation come on stage and jam with me. When making a record, doing it live is the last thing that I’m concerned with. I just want to make a document of the best record I can make at that time.
Do you feel that writing instrumental music can be more fulfilling than for a song with lyrics?
It’s a lot easier to write for a vocal song when having a vocalist in mind. When you’re writing an instrumental song, the guitarist is the vocalist. I really try to make the guitar not be a guitar and have the listener not miss a singer. The one thing I really don’t want to hear is “wow, this song would sound great with a singer,” because then I failed. It’s more challenging to write instrumental music, but at the end of the day, they’re both equally fulfilling.
Wall of Sound is your second release on Prosthetic Records, do you feel you had more room for creativity since you proved your worth on Inferno?
They’ve always been completely open to whatever creative decisions I had and never stepped into the musical realm of what I was doing, which is a big plus to me. They were the ones who came to me in Japan and asked to put music out in America. I was completely content to stay in Japan and do my thing, but they showed great enthusiasm and that meant a lot to me. I wanted to please them and please the American public, so I did Inferno, kind of with the American public and world in mind, not just Japan. Creatively, they've never told me to do this or that.
I feel that Wall of Sound is just more moody or emotional compared to Inferno.
Well I'm very, very happy to hear that and I appreciate you saying that.
Going back to your current tour, I’ve heard that you've also been playing some covers in your live set this tour, is that true?
There's some moments of covers, yes. We do a lot of medleys and mash-ups to keep it exciting. So we do snippets of songs people know and stick them in between parts that may be unexpected. I wouldn't say we do full covers though. We play a section of "Asche zu Asche" by Rammstein and we blend it with another one of my songs and it was really odd, but it just works. And there are other moments of Queen, Elvis, Boston, and others we've been doing. They're influences on everybody I think. Everyone knows those bands and loves them, especially the parts we bring out.
I understand it has been over fifteen years since you left the thrash realm of Megadeth, but do you still find yourself listening to the big four's recent releases at all or does that genre not interest you?
I love the new Metallica record. I haven’t heard the new Megadeth album, but I heard it’s very good and I’m sure it is. But I definitely have had the Metallica record on for a while and I like it a lot.
Last year you spoke about filming a documentary about your time and output in Japan, is this still in production or did it get scrapped?
Yes, it’s in production right now. We’ll probably have cameras at the Whisky show to film and interview fans. It’s a lot of daily life on the road. A documentary takes a while and the team wants to get a lot of things in Japan. We’ve been filming for almost two years now. Probably in about another year or more, it should be completed. You get used to the cameras around. I guess the hardest part is coming up with an ending.