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Australian Guitar Magazine new interview HERE!
01 March 2004
Australian Guitar Magazine #39 interview by Craig White



01. To what extent has your progression through different bands and projects represented a development within yourself as an instrumentalist and composer?

I?m finding that I?m a much better player than an instrumentalist and composer; or better yet let?s put it this way; it?s way easier to just play than to create music from the ground up. I do both of course, but sometimes I wanna just rock, and not worry about making orchestrations and arrangements.

02. You have concentrated your efforts on markets that many Western performers ignore, basing yourself in Japan and touring countries such as Peru and Taiwan. It has been suggested that such a global perspective is evidenced by your exotic melodies ?Edo you see a causal link, do your melodies become more Peruvian after exposure to Peruvian culture?

Subliminally more than anything else. For example when I was in Peru recently I played a solo guitar version of ?El Condor Pasa?Ewhich is probably the most widely known Peruvian song. It?s the only one I know anyway! Which means I may do something stupid like go to Australia and play ?Waltzing Matilda?Efor the same reason?Enyway, it?s just that little bit of caring about the places that I go that goes a long way with the fans and I always wind up indirectly learning something.

03. We read quite a bit about your involvement with Japanese artists. Unfortunately, we rarely get to hear any Japanese artists in this country. I can only imagine that you play less guitar than in your days with Cacophony or Megadeth - can you tell us a little about your experiences with J-pop, particularly as a guitar player.

I love it!! It?s so professional for lack of a better word. For example, in Aikawa Nanase?s band, from the very first note of the very first rehearsal, we sounded like a band ready for a coliseum tour. Tight! Everyone knew their stuff and the music just pumps. I don?t think I play any less guitar now than in Cacophony or Megadeth, it?s just that the nuances are different. There is certainly lots of cool guitar to play now, but you really can?t compare it to the insane playing from Cacophony. That was really some sick stuff. I?m still most definitely the same player, and the same flavors come out in my Japanese music, but the palette is way wider than before. There is a phrase in the solo of Aikawa?s new single, ?Ai No Uta?Ethat I played, that could easily been in a Cacophony song. Only this time it lasted for 8 bars, not 128 bars!

04. Why do you think it is that Japanese music rarely finds an audience outside of Japan?

Obviously the language alienates a lot of people. Also the high voices irritate western listeners. I don?t get that though, because westerners can?t seem to get enough of Celine Dion?s or Mariah Carey?s perpetual high screaming. In j-pop, there is very high singing but no screaming. That attractes me to it. I don't wanna be shouted at. Musically though, j-pop is the most diverse, cutting edge, melodic, fun music I have ever heard. Plus there is a lot of room for cool, heavy rock guitar.

05. You say that you have little interest in scales, and that you rather imagine the entire fretboard as one big scale. As with any chromatic approach, this requires an excellent ear. Did you concentrate on ear training as a young guitarist, and do you recommend such an approach to aspiring instrumentalists?

The only thing I ?concentrated?Eon, was ?being a musician?E which means playing (rather than purely 'practicing') music as much as humanly possible, and retaining as much information as possible along the way that might help me be a better musician. The more you listen as you play, your ear naturally should develop.

06. You have stated that you were unwilling to contribute to Dave Mustaine?s solo recordings as it would steal the thunder from any potential Megadeth reunion. What is the latest word on any such reunion?

There really is no word on that. I don?t have any interest in that now. But I never say never. Who knows? The guys are all my buds. There is no debating the great chemistry between us.

07. Does the fact that you would contemplate such a reunion mean that you have changed your mind regarding the issues that originally influenced you to leave the band, or does the short-term nature of any such reunion allow you to ignore such issues for the duration?

Great question, but you are thinking too deep into it. I would just need to see something musically exciting happening to even consider it. Something even greater than it was before. I am not at all interested in just picking up where the band left off. There would have to be some kind of interesting twist to it.

08. Your playing has encompassed many moods and styles over the years ?Edo you find a segment of your audience only wants to hear a particular style, or material from a certain era?

I think I am known for intense guitar playing, and that?s fine. People wanna hear Cacophony and Megadeth stuff from me. That?s what I?m known for so that?s what they expect. Makes sense. It?s like a TV actor who gets known for his part on a popular TV show. But my playing and taste goes so far beyond that, and I hope that I can play other stuff for people too. Now in Japan, I?m getting that chance, because a lot of people who have no interest in foreign music are hearing me play for the first time now. It?s kind of weird but fun!

09. You have spoken about how thrilling it has been to play your own compositions live, in a concert setting rather than just at clinics. Now that you have a band that can concentrate on your own material, would you consider a long stint in somebody else?s band again?

I didn?t consider Megadeth ?somebody else?s band?E if that?s what you mean. It was 4-piece unit, a team, with a strong front person. I am more in ?somebody else?s band?Enow in Japan with Aikawa Nanase, who is a household name here.

10. I have read that you switched to Ibanez guitars in search of a more versatile instrument. Were you attracted to a particular model, or did you work with the company to develop a guitar that satisfied this need?

I?m still working with Ibanez to find the perfect fit. They have so many cool axes and options, plus they are very easy to work with. It is a good partnership. I have been playing the new SZ a lot lately. Good solid guitar.

11. You say the 300 watt Crate amplifier is the best amplifier you have ever heard ?Ethat is quite an assessment. What is it you look for in an amplifier? Does the perfect amp have a certain character of its own, or is it able to faithfully recreate the tone that your guitar produces, essentially making it louder (we know you like to play loud) without altering the inherent tone?

The perfect amp sounds a lot like a Marshall, but not quite exactly. A little unidentifiable variation from a Marshall sound keeps things interesting. But more important than that, is consistency. I can make any amp sound good, as long as it?s working. I like an amp that NEVER breaks down, despite the most brutal treatment.

12. How about effects? What is in your rack these days?

I use a Boss GT-6 for some stuff and a Roland VG-88 for other stuff. I used that for my US solo tour. That?s it, I keep it pretty simple.

13. Dave Mustaine has had his online guitar auctions of late. You apparently have quite a collection of instruments yourself. Are you the sort of person who holds onto guitars regardless, or do you like to get rid of instruments you no longer use? Will we ever see a Marty Friedman guitar auction?

No, I just keep ?em or sometimes I give guitars to friends rather than sell them. I just don?t have the desire to sell them.

14. You have said that there is some great guitar happening in music right now, citing bands like Garbage as an example of the way modern electric guitar is integrated into the piece rather than pushed out front as a flashy solo. Unfortunately, few possess your insight and there seems to be a constant chorus bemoaning the dumbing down of rock music in the post-Nirvana nineties. Would you address that for us, and talk a little about your ideas regarding the role of the electric guitar in better realising composition.

You got it right, my ?insight?E Any monkey can play an exercise at warp speed with a metronome and rudimentary practice. Making music is a completely different thing. The idea is to play interesting guitar within the context of a good song. (Think Brian May, Trevor Rabin) The only people who care about that flashy exercise stuff are beginner and amateur guitarists. Trust me! Ask your girlfriend! It?s a big world out there, let?s try to impress other people than just the guitar player on the block you are competing with. As far as ?dumbing down?Egoes, it?s a consumer?s market. If there is a demand for something it?s up to the creators of music to give it to them. It has nothing to do with dumb or smart.

15. The Metal Sludge website has a great interview with you in which you state that the White Stripes are the most over-rated band around at the moment (no argument here). In the same interview you say that you have purchased many Ramones bootlegs, obviously implying that you are a keen fan (again, no argument from us). As rock?n?roll primitives, what did the Ramones have that the White Stripes lack?

Bass! (Just kidding?E Fun maybe? Memorable songs that you can sing along with the first time you hear them. Guitar that makes you wanna play air guitar?I love that! WS are cool, and I think they are better than most, but in that genre, I love the Ramones, Shonen Knife and the Donnas 100 times more.

16. In the same interview, you are hardly complimentary about Hendrix, calling him a hippy who wouldn?t have amounted to much if it weren?t for the fact that so many in his audience were tripping on acid at the time. Without getting into the validity of this statement, you must surely experience criticism for such statements, which go against the accepted wisdom that Hendrix was unchallenged as an electric guitarist. For example, I see that Rolling Stone have just published their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time, and there he is at number one. Would you discuss your feelings about Hendrix for us? Who would you have placed in the top spot on that list? What about a top five?

It?s like this; Rolling Stone is a magazine for real people with real jobs who enjoy music. What they write is completely valid. I?m a musician, I enjoy music in a different way and my taste is going to be a little warped compared to the mainstream public. It?s all a matter of taste so no one is right or wrong, but Rolling Stone and their readers are certainly in the majority with their opinions. That said, I never cared for hippie music, culture, fashion, etc. I mean, tripping on acid and rolling around in mud? What is that? There is no question that Hendrix is a great player, but I can only name 1 or 2 of his songs. Plus every guitar player in every bar band can play just like Hendrix. If you want to say ?unchallenged?E how about Brian May? Call me when one of those stoners comes up with a solo like ?Bohemian Rhapsody??

17. How important is a rhythm section in what you do? Some detractors would suggest that solid time keeping is more important than the ability to swing in much modern instrumental guitar music. Would you address that suggestion and talk a little about your experience with rhythm sections. Who have been your favourite players to work with?

I?ve been lucky to play with great drummers ever since my first band as a teen. I?m spoiled. It?s all about playing in time. I like a drummer and bassist who can play together in time. Simple stuff.

18. Do you keep in touch with Jason Becker? How is he going these days?

The last I saw him was New Years 02-03 in San Francisco when I played a piece of Jason?s music with an orchestra. It was pretty heavy having him watch me play. I was kinda nervous! We are in touch and he is still the same wonderful spirited person as always. Please visit his website, www.jasonbecker.com

19. So what is on the horizon for Marty Friedman? Can we expect more of your solo instrumental work or do you see yourself working more with Japanese pop artists?

More of both. A single I recorded with Aikawa Nanase will come out in January, and I am writing music with songwriters here in Tokyo too. I also have some ideas for my solo music as well. I plan to do some major collaborations this year in Japan. Current updates as always will be at www.martyfriedman.com

20. With you being based in Japan these days, is there any chance we might see you in Australia soon?

I hope so!! It has been way too long. I wanna go to the Gold Coast!!
Thanks for the interview!
 
 
 
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