'Inferno': Marty Friedman Talks New Album, American Fans and Working with Jason Becker

by Richard Bienstock
Posted May 8, 2014 at 4:38pm

This is an excerpt from the June 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this story, plus features on Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, Pantera, Carlos Santana, the history of MXR pedals, Nergal, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from EVH Gear, Dunlop, Randall, Taylor Guitars and more, check out the June 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

Marty Friedman makes his return to the American market with Inferno, a blazing-hot disc featuring collaborations with Alexi Laiho, Jason Becker and a cast of metal firebrands.

Most fans of heavy music and hot-s--- guitar playing are well aware that virtuoso shredder Marty Friedman has been for many years living—and for the most part, working exclusively—in Japan.

But here's something people may not know: not only does he call the Asian nation his home but, most of the time, he speaks and thinks in Japanese.

To that point, during a conversation with Guitar World about his new PRS signature model SE guitar, Friedman stumbles mid-sentence, then apologizes, explaining that he was considering his words in Japanese, rather than English.

“Truthfully, I speak Japanese about 99 percent of the time,” he admits with a laugh. “The only time I really don't is when I'm doing interviews with people in other countries or talking with my family.”

In fact, the 51-year-old Friedman has been quite comfortable in his adopted homeland, where he has released several successful solo instrumental albums, recorded and performed with famous Japanese pop artists and become a popular television personality, serving as a host on shows like Hebimetasan (Mr. Heavy Metal) and Rock Fujiyama.

But since he left Megadeth 15 years ago, the thing that most of his American fans tend to talk about when they talk about Marty Friedman is to question when-or if-he'll ever make a return to the U.S. music scene. Now, he finally has. Inferno, Friedman's newest solo effort, is his first worldwide release in roughly a decade. Because of this, it is also an album that, for the first time in a long time, he “conceptualized with his American brain.”

What follows is an excerpt from our interview with Friedman. For the entire interview, check out the June 2014 issue of Guitar World

Do you feel that in America people still tend to focus overwhelmingly on your past work?

Sure. But I totally get it. I mean, I haven’t done a tour in America in 10 years. And people get caught up in their own countries—people in the U.S. don’t really look outside of the U.S. for their music. It’s the same in Japan, and maybe more so. Eighty percent of the music that is sold in Japan is made in Japan.

The remaining 20 percent includes artists like Lady Gaga, U2, Maroon 5, Metallica. All those big names are part of the minority. I’m part of the domestic scene in Japan, which is great. But I just do the music that I do. If people want to join the party, that’s fantastic. If not, that’s fine too. But this is the music I want to make, and I make it completely on my own terms.

One high point is “Horrors,” your collaboration with Jason Becker. Jason, as guitar fans know, suffers from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and can no longer play guitar. But you actually brought in another guitarist to perform his parts?

Yes. There’s a little acoustic interlude in the song, and it’s one of those Jason specialty-type things. And Jason wrote the part, because he writes with his eyes and with the computer. It was a really wonderful piece of music, and then I wrote a part to that.

Then I had a guy named Ewan Dobson come in and actually play the parts on acoustic guitar. And he really nailed it. It’s just like Jason is there on the album. It sounds like his phrasing, it sounds like his playing. It fits in exactly as we would have done it in Cacophony. And actually, this is the first “cacophonic” collaboration we’ve done since we were in the band together. So it’s definitely one of the most intense moments on the record. The song stinks of Jason and myself. Or maybe it just stinks. [laughs] But it was an absolute pleasure to work together again.

For the rest of this story, plus features on Mick Mars, Nikki Sixx, Pantera, Carlos Santana, the history of MXR pedals, Nergal, columns, tabs and reviews of new gear from EVH Gear, Dunlop, Randall, Taylor Guitars and more, check out the June 2014 issue at the Guitar World Online Store.

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