Popularly known as the former lead guitarist for heavy metal band Megadeth, Marty Friedman moved to Japan in 2003, where his success has very much continued on foreign shores.
MONO caught up with him recently to find out about his move and his unorthodox picking style.
In previous interviews, you’ve stated that one of the main reasons you decided to move to Japan was the music. What would you say is the main difference between Japanese music and what you were hearing back in the US?
The main difference is that in Japan melody is king. Without a strong melody and truly deep song construction, you don’t have a song in Japan. Melodies in Japanese music can be long and complex, and yet somehow they come out sounding simple. It’s really magic.
Do you have any awesome stories about living in Japan that you can share with us?
Tons of them but you`ll have to wait for the book! I have an autobiography in the works and it will be chock full of juicy stories.
What is the music scene like over there?
There is more music in Tokyo than in any other city I have seen, including NYC and LA. There are so many venues of every size that cater to every possible kind of music you can imagine. On top of the international artists touring Japan, the domestic music scene is massive, despite being such a small country. It is a very musical place.
Has it changed or shaped your songwriting and arrangements?
I have become a much better songwriter, thanks to the challenge of writing songs in Japan. I have had a few #1’s, a few top 10’s and a lot of songs on the charts, for myself as well as other artists.
If there was one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring musician who wants to make the jump to Japan to make music, what would that be?
Most important is that you must learn the language well. If you can only speak and read and write like a 1st grader, how could you possibly make your way through any business? It takes a certain kind of crazy to come to Japan to make music. Still, I`m no genius and I was able to do it so I believe anything can be done if you want it bad enough.
What do you have to do to survive in today’s modern music industry?
Make better music is the easy answer. If you make undeniably great and enjoyable music (note I did not say play an instrument well, as millions of people can do that) eventually people will find it. It may take a long time, but great things find their way to people. And if you are able to sell yourself well, that is a plus too.
Your latest album “Wall of Sound” saw you collaborate with a number of artists like Shiv Mehra of Deafheaven. How do these collaborations come about? How do you choose who you collaborate with?
Very organically. Shiv and Jinxx came to shows on my Inferno tour, and since I’m a fan of both of them it was a natural thing to ask them to collab. Jorgen from Shining played on my Inferno record and we toured the UK together, so we always want to do new stuff.
The metal scene has changed so much over the last 10 years. How do you see it going over the next 10 and are there any new notable acts you can see pushing the scene further?
Glad it’s doing better than ever. I like Skyharbor, Gojira and Maximum The Hormone a lot.
What is one of your favorite stories from life on the road and touring?
All in the book… When you have been doing it this long, nothing stands out as it’s all crazy.
You’ve got quite a unique picking technique – how did you start developing or gravitating towards that? What are the specific benefits of your style?
It’s simply something I do unconsciously because I don’t like muted notes during solos. I keep my hand away from the strings so they ring louder and more clearly with more pitch. That’s pretty much it.
What’s one piece of your current stage setup you cannot do without?
My new Jackson sig model.
What is it that you like about MONO?
It’s a new level of sturdy. It gives you peace of mind that the guitars will show up in one piece to the next show whether they get carried on board or gate checked. I thought, “A gig bag is a gig bag”, but my tech, Alan Sosa was telling me how this was a whole new animal, and will revolutionize how people travel with guitars. That’s good enough for me!
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