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Marty Friedman 2003 interview by Rom
05 May 2003
Marty Friedman 2003 interview by Rom

1. Hi Marty. We appreciate very much your willingness to do this interview with us. How are you doing?
Great, couldn't be better.

2. You started at the age of 15 and you had a band called DEUCE. Can you tell us about this band. How did it all started? Who were the line up?
Deuce was me and my friends back in Washington DC. The only member that any of you may know is Tom Gattis, who went on to sing and play guitar in Tension and Wardog. He also did a Kiss compilation album with me. He is one of my best friends in the world. We were the core of Deuce. We were kind of punk, kind of rock and roll, but at the same time we loved tricky little guitar parts. All the band members were between 14 and 17, but we had a huge fan base in our area, mainly beacuse we put on a show
EVERY NIGHT at our rehearsals. We never really rehearsed, we just made our 'practices' a 'concert' and a big party for everyone. We all learned a lot from that.

3. Did you get much support from your family?
Yes, actually I spent my college fund on a Marshall amp instead of going to college. My folks were cool about it and that made me work that much harder to try to succeed in music. I didn't want them to think that they had wasted their money.

4. Were there any big achievements with this band?
Yes, many. For little kids, it's a big deal to play to 150-200 people a night, JUST AT REHEARSAL! We were like little rock gods. (Check the pictures at We also recorded a professional demo (you can hear it on my "The Essential Marty Friedman" instructional video) and basically pissed off a lot of the older bands in town. Those were big things for us.

What kind of stuff were you playing?
I would say that it was a punky rock 'n roll band. Kiss meets Angel, the Ramones and Mahogany Rush.

5. Tell us about your second band. HAWAII.
I quit Deuce because my father got transferred to Hawaii and I had to move. I formed Hawaii with some other musicians. It was hard work finding aggressive players in the laziest state in America.

6. What did you personally achieved from this group(HAWAII). Did it contribute to your musical development?
Since nobody really helped me with anything down there very much, I learned to coordinate a lot of things by myself. I also got very familiar with the recording process. Also, instead of smoking pot and hanging out at the beach, my time in Hawaii was probably the time of my life when I practiced and studied my instrument the most. Hawaii also developed a cult following in Europe and Japan.

Then, why did you not proceed with the band.?
We did a very short tour of California and then we parted ways after the San Francisco show. Nobody had any idea what to do next. We didn't even say goodbye to each other. It was weird.

7. How did you meet up with Jason Becker and formed CACOPHONY?
Mike Varney introduced us. Jason came to my apartment in downtown San Francisco and we jammed a little and quickly became friends.

8. Both of you are sweet melodic players. How did you divide the parts between the two of you?
He played the hard stuff, and I did the easy stuff!! Actually, I wrote most of our first album (Speed Metal Symphony) so I pretty much arranged where everything went, but by our 2nd album (Go Off!), we were doing it all together. Painless.

9. We in Malaysia thought that you guys were really kicking ass. Back in 1990, I managed a local metal band in Kuala Lumpur, called EKA. Cacophony was like THE reference band. Even now, Cacophony is still refence band to many metal bands in Malaysia. Of course Megadeth was and still is everyone $B!G (Bs reference. So everyone was still listening to you till 2000. But why did you and Jason decide to split up? Was it not happening well enough?
We did a tour of the U.S. and Japan, and we had SO MUCH FUN! We were playing this technical music, but we were living like Poison or Motley Crue! But by the time the tours ended, we had no money or record company support. We were all the best of friends, so it was hard to break up the band, but we knew that we could all be more successful separately. We quickly did-Jason with David Lee Roth, me with Megadeth, Jimmy with Eyes, Kenny with Starship.

10. Tell us about your entry into Megadeth? How did it happen?
A friend of Megadeth's manager suggested that I do an audition. It was very normal, I played about 6 songs, they liked it, that was it. I had an audition with Madonna that same week, but I got the Megadeth gig, so I didn't need to go.

Madonna would have been a lot more fun wouldn't it? Ha..ha..ha.. Sorry!
But of course, Megadeth is cooler. Madonna would have certainly been fun and I wouldn't have minded a bit, but Megadeth gave me the chance to play what really came natural to me, aggressive rock guitar.

11. You have had quite a long stint with Megadeth. Why did you leave after being with the band for so long? Can you tell us something about it?
I thought the music was too old fashioned and didn't represent the kind of music that I liked anymore. I like to continue to evolve, but the band was just too old school. It was hard to leave because the members were (and still are) like family, but I felt like I was lying to the fans. For example, playing "Peace Sells" and "In My Darkest Hour" in the year 2000 just seemed unnecessary in my life. It was hard to act like I still LOVED these tunes.

Evolution is the word of the day. I tend to agree with you on that judging by the likes of DISTURBED and many of the newer ones. Even Jeff Beck evolved? But where do you think you would evolve into? I mean , we know where you are now, through your last 2 solo albums.
Listen to 'music for speeding' and then ask me. I think I'm really getting into playing more than ever.

12. What is your best gig so far with Megadeth? Why?
They were all great! Rock in Rio was pretty amazing though, 160,000 screaming fans...

13. What has Megadeth done to you musically and as a person?
Great question! Musically, I learned how to get feedback from large numbers of fans, and consider that feedback in making new music. As a person, from traveling to hundreds of exotic places, I got to appreciate the beautiful differences between all the cultures.

Exotic places would have some very exotic sounding scales to offer..what have you picked up along the way. Any particular scales you really like?
A scale is like a tool and asking if there is a particular scale that I like is like asking a handyman which size screwdriver he likes the best. They are meaningless. It's literally a mathematical order of notes. It's what you do with your NOTE choices, not SCALE choices that defines a player as a musician.

I think I didn't put that right. What I meant was flavours, moods, expressions of the various places that you've been too. not scales really. For example if you play in Baghdad..there would be a different culture, Indonesia..a different culture..each expressing themselves differently. Did you pick up any flavours from any culture.
It's possible that wherever I go, I subliminally soak up a little of the sights and sounds of the country, like a tourist, but I never analyzed it much.

What do you think of Indian ragas?
Love 'em! I studied a bit of Ravi Shankar's playing and it really opened up the fretboard and my mind.

When you did Scenes, I though that you figured that Indian stuff, was overused and that you chose to try Japanese to be different. Was I right? No offence there Marty. Just want to clear my opinion at the time.
I didn't think that deeply about it. I just played the music that was in my head.

14. How bad is Mustaine's injury? I hear he is going through some therapy for it and that he can't play at all. Is that true.?
You would have to ask him that.

Would love to. If I can have his contact!
Try the megadeth website, I guess. We don't usually give out each other's info to anyone...Sorry about that!

15. Did you have a good relationship with Mustaine?
Very. We were like the kind of friends I would have in Junior High or High School. We appreciated each other's talent.

16. Megadeth disbanding? This is sad news. How do you feel about Megadeth disbanding after 15 years?
Time to move on!

17. What are your main activities nowadays, since leaving Megadeth?
I have a new album, "music for speeding" coming out on May 20, 2003.. There is a lot of info and even an audio sample on

18. What is it in Asian and middle eastern music that interests you?
It's so different from East Coast America where I grew up that it seems so exotic and cool to me.

Have you come across the javanese scale?
I once had a book of all these foreign scales, I think it was in there. I gave up on learning scales because I couldn't find the purpose in having to know the DIFFERENCE between all of these sequences of notes. I decided to look at the fretboard as one huge scale.

19. You recorded Scenes in 1992 with Kitaro producing it. Are you satisfied with this album?
Yes. I think other than "music for speeding", "Scenes" is my best solo album.

20. What was it that you were out to do in the album? Do you think you achieved it? If yes, how? If not, why?
I was touring HEAVILY with Megadeth, about 200 shows a year. After all that intense metal riffing, I felt it was time to show a little of the romantic side. I like contrast. I think I achieved exactly what I wanted to do.

21. Lets talk about your gear. I am sure a lot of people want to know here in Malaysia. What was your first guitar that you had when you started out with Deuce??
Fender Strat (Antigua color) Yamaha SG (Red). Marshall 100 watt head, 4x12 cab. MXR Phase 90, E/H Memory Man.

22. I believe you used a lot of Jacksons during your career. But what is your preferred guitar? Any reasons.
I like anything that is simple, solid, works well, stays in tune after a lot of abuse. I am using Ibanez exclusively now.

23. You are endorsing Crate Amplifiers. Do the amps do the job for you or are there any other preferred amplifier?
The new Crate 300 watt amp is the best amp I have ever heard. Period.

24. How do you choose an amplifier?
Tone, simplicity, and most important, consistency. It must sound the same everywhere you go in the world.

I really like your clean sound on Luna, Escapism, Night, Arrival, Mama. I think it is the most unique sound I have ever heard. How do you get that sound? Doesn't sound like it came from a normal pickup. Is it single or humbucker? Which guitar did you use. Are the pickups modified. Are there any special wirings done on the guitar.
Thanks! That was a Fernandes Strat. 1 humbucker and 2 single coils. I used the same guitar for most of "Scenes". No pickup modification, no special wiring. There are quite a bit of switches and stuff, in and out of phase switches, though.

Any effects? What were they (if any)
Quadraverb. The patch was a preset called "Wet Rhythm Guitar", I believe it was #49 or #59.

25. Now the sensitive question. Would you share your EQ setting for your amplifier? What are the positions of the bass, mid, treble etc. These are what interest the young guitarists here and all over the world I guess.( just an approximate setting )
I have no idea! Tone comes strictly from the hands, so at whatever setting I may be set at, I sound pretty much the same. Even on other people's gear, I wind up sounding the same. I can tell you that I like to play loud because you get a lot of good sustain and tone that way.

26. How do you approach composing songs. Any specific formula?
No. I hear a piece of music in my head and if it's good I can remember it long enough to get somewhere to record it or write it down.

27. How do you approach soloing?
In my mind, I'm following chord changes, but I'm trying to feel the music as much as I can, and I'm trying to let my subconscious pick out melodies as I play.

Do have any specific practice routines? Like scales or arpeggios..etc
I practice when I have a particular purpose, like learning a piece of music, or planning for an album or a tour. Depending what the event is, that is what I would concentrate on.

28. We have not heard your recent solo album. Don't know who the distributor is. Can you comment on this album musically, soundwise etc? What have you achieved.
Universal Music will release the record in Japan, Favored Nations in the US and various others worldwide. This record rocks. Hard. That's all I can say...

We look forward to the new album I am sure it will be great .Could you share with us who your influences were as you were growing up. Any particular musician influenced you the most?
Growing up was all about Kiss, Ramones, Frank Marino, Uli Roth, Angel, stuff like that.

What do you think are the best 5 albums today.


What is your opinion about the music today . Rock I mean. What do you think about the new bands hitting the scene nowadays. There seem to be little emphasis on guitar playing other than riffs. So, no new guitar heroes.
You are listening for the wrong things. Today's guitar cleverness lies in the subtle production tricks and hook melodies. There is SO MUCH great guitar being played in current rock.

I must be ancient and out of touch..ha..ha..ha..I suppose the emphasis on guitar playing has shifted . Could you kindly elborate where the guitar cleverness now lies. Some examples would be good. I think there may be more like me.
Sure! For example, learn the rhythm guitar part to Andrew W.K.'s "She IS Beautiful" EXACTLY. I mean EXACTLY. You will find many tight, cool guitar nuances there. Also, try "I Think I'm Paranoid" by Garbage (from Version 2.0) and do the same thing. Wonderful guitar parts all over the place. Actually you could break down just about any Garbage song and find many, many gems.

Do you think the era of guitar heroes like the early 90s will come back?
I hope not! We have all heard show-off guitar solos enough that we probably won't spend any more money buying that stuff, right? The way to keep guitar alive is to make great music that INCLUDES the guitar, not showing off some exercises that someone practiced in their bedroom for x number of years. It's time to make some cool music with this great instrument.

29. If guys here wants to play and sound like Marty Friedman, what would you advise them?
Learn a bunch of my melodies, then think about what you personally would do to change them and make them better and make them your own.

The reason why I have been asking about your influences and all those things about exotic scales and?so forth is that you melody lines are far-out. I just cannot pin you down. I am trying to figure out where and how your melodies and expressions come from. I mean they are just far out!! Period!! Maybe now you can try tell us about your melodies.
I've always been a fool for beautiful, sad melodies. I just love 'em. At the same time, I've never been a 'guitar music' fan. But, the instrument I happen to play is guitar. So-instead of mimicking other guitarists, my playing naturally revolves around these sad and gorgeous melodies swimming around in my head. After playing basic rock guitar, I developed a lot of my technique from learning passages in foreign music, like a few indian ragas, Chinese Erhu music, Japanese flute and koto music, Okinawan music, Turkish and Iranian violin music, etc. I never got too deep into any one of those things and that's probably why it's so hard to trace down exactly what it is exactly that I'm doing.

Finally, I on behalf of my staff and all guitar players in this country would like to thank very much for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. We will be with you always. And we hope that your CDs are made available here more easily. Cheers.
Thank YOU and I hope to visit your country soon!