You might know Marty Friedman from his days in Cacophony with Jason Becker. Or maybe you know him from his time with Dave Mustaine in Megadeth. There, he contributed to some of the band’s best work, including Rust In Peace, Countdown To Extinction, and Youthanasia. After 10 years with the group, he decided to part ways and move to Japan. As successful as he was in the United States, Friedman has become somewhat of an icon as a domestic artist in Japan. Not only has he been putting out records and touring, but he has been heavily involved in television as well. Most notably, he hosted both Rock Fujiyama and Hebimeta-san, also referred to as Mr. Heavy Metal.
After signing with Prosthetic Records in 2012, five of Friedman’s previous Japan-only releases made their way to the United States. His most recent effort, Inferno, is his first album to be released simultaneously worldwide in over a decade. Friedman worked with a lot of contributors on this LP including Jason Becker, Rodrigo Y Gabriela, and Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom), amongst others.
I was extremely fortunate to chat with Mr. Heavy Metal himself about his return to the United States. Even though I had a brief chat with Friedman, he had a lot to say about the making of Inferno and working with Prosthetic Records. He also discussed some of the differences in being an artist in Japan and in the U.S., and how this tour of his homeland came about. Check out what Marty had to say below:
How did Inferno come about?
Prosthetic Records came to me and they said if there was ever a time for me to do a “balls out” record in America, now would be the time. They were very up front about it all and they said that they wouldn’t rush me and to take my time. I did just that. It took me about 18 months to get everything to how I envisioned it. It was great to be the only one putting pressure on myself. There were no other troubles being put upon the completion of this thing. So I was very tough on myself. I wanted to make sure that this was an album that I wanted to put out myself, but also that this is one that people wanted me to make. I know my fans want me to play my ass off, and of course, I owe them that. I wanted to make sure that it had that crazy, heavy, and aggressive guitar playing in there. But I also like a lot of avant garde, eclectic things that might turn some fans off. So I was strict on myself making sure there was a balance of it all. I gotta say, the record label was just phenomenal in giving me such creative freedom.
Going off of that, did you also have to balance the writing in a way, in order to cater to this worldwide release? Making sure it is accessible to what fans in the U.S. and Japan would typically listen to?
In a way, absolutely. I wasn’t watching trends in American music right now, and trying to copy them or anything like that in any way. Just from my own knowledge, what do I do that would appeal people in America? What can I do that is new and fresh and exciting, that the American people can get into? I had to hold onto that criteria as I was writing this stuff. But I did feel the need to be honest to myself. I had to enjoy it and if I am the only one that thinks it’s great, then it doesn’t really matter. I just reflected on my previous work and tried to figure out how to take that and make it new, and modern. There was a lot of self reflection going on there. I think it came out good in the end (laughs).
Now you recorded this thing in L.A. Were you able to meet with all of the artists that collaborated on this album there?
Some of it was done in person, like that, and some of it was done in separate studios. Man, there are a lot of countries being represented on this release (laughs). There is some stuff done in India, some in Finland, and even Cyprus. More was done in England, America, Canada, and of course, Japan. This was just such a trip to make and it’s got to be one of the most culturally diverse albums out there. The majority of it was all done in Los Angeles though.
In terms of the tour, was that brought up by the label when you initially met, or did that come up later on?
Yeah, well there was obviously going to be a tour to promote the record, but that would come up after the release of the LP. The main concern, however, was the writing. To give me the time to do that, they re-released five albums that were previously only available in Japan. So that really gave me the time I needed to come up with Inferno. And not only did it buy me this time, but it also gauged people’s interest in my previous work. The idea was that this would help us in terms of how to promote the new record to the people that care about it. It was a well-thought-out, long-term business plan. Frankly, it was nice to see. I was flattered that any company would spend that much time and be interested in what I was doing, because it is all really quite eclectic to me. I am happy that Prosthetic saw something that would appeal to their audience. It has been a good ride so far.
Are you expecting anything on this ride in America? Anything you are looking forward to?
Yeah, I mean, I am extremely excited just to come back to my homeland, and be able tour properly. I’ve been in Japan for so long, that it is kind of a backwards culture shock, if you know what I mean (laughs). I have absolutely no idea what to expect and all that I know is that it will be something different for my fans out there. It came about very organically and it’s something that I am just very excited about. It started out from just a seed from the record label and it turned into Inferno, which I am incredibly proud of. And my band is absolutely apeshit crazy (laughs). This is a band that I think a lot of people will be surprised with. A lot of people hear instrumental music and head to the refreshment counter. I know being pigeonholed into this category isn’t easy. But I believe everyone will be blown away by how different they are. Even though the music is instrumental, it’s non-instrumental in a way.
You have mentioned in the past that you do more as a domestic artist in Japan than in the U.S. You aren’t just writing music and touring, there are a lot of different things you can do. Do you think that is the future of the music industry now that album sales aren’t as prevalent?
I think everyone has their own way of getting their business done. With CD sales lacking, there are a number of options a musician and band can use. The goal is to add more value to the music for the fans. I have been fortunate enough to enter television heavily in Japan. It has been a godsend for me personally. Most Japanese artists do various other things. Some may have a TV or radio show, or even a weekly article in the newspaper or whatever. Every artist needs to find their own way to branch out.
Marty and crew will roll into New York, NY and perform at the Gramercy Theatre on Sept. 10. They will then arrive in Philadelphia, PA on Sept. 12 to take the stage at North Star Bar. Inferno is available now. For more tour dates and information, head on over to martyfriedman.com.