Once again I can’t believe how lucky I am sometimes. I got to have a Skype chat with none other than Marty Friedman, guitarist and composer extraordinaire not too long ago!! We talked about his new album (and first U.S. release in years) Inferno, out now via Prosthetic Records, and a whole host of other stuff. So take a look-see:
Marty: Thanks, man.
Amps: What was the impetus behind this record?
Marty: I just knew I wanted to make a new kind of landmark album. This is my twelfth solo album and I knew that I was gonna have an opportunity to do a worldwide simultaneous release which is something I haven’t done in a while. So I wanted to come out with some impact. I took a long time to get it right and have it be something that whether you love it or hate it, it’s kind of hard to ignore it. And I always work hard but maybe I just worked longer this time than on any other album I’ve ever done. I wanted to step up my game like ten notches as opposed to my usual one or two. I was extra strict on myself and everybody else so I was kind of a pain in the ass for everybody (laughs). But it came out good at the end of the day.
Amps: What’s funny is that there are two bands that everyone loves and I’m not real big on. I don’t hate them but I’m not a DANKO JONES fan or a CHILDREN OF BODOM fan, and yet those are two of the frickin’ best songs on the record! “Lycanthrope” and “I Can’t Relax”!!
Marty: (Laughing) cool, man! Maybe the missing ingredient is whatever we did when we got together and played.
Amps: I wanted to ask you about “Lycanthrope”. What a killer song! How did working with Alexi Laiho and Danko Jones come about?
Marty: Oh man, I’m glad you like it. I had heard that Alexi was influenced by me through my publicist. They listed a bunch of people who said nice things about me in interviews and stuff and he was one of them. And I heard his music and I was totally blown away, so I said, “Listen, you wanna write a song on my record? And then I’ll co-write and produce it.” And he was VERY enthusiastic about that. He wrote the song; I just added to it and assembled, produced, and played lead on it. But it’s our baby, really. Like what it would sound like if he and I were in the same band. And once the song started taking shape I started to hear a duet image for it because I was working with Danko on another song at the time. And I just thought it would be a perfect kind of compliment to each other to have these two voices shouting back and forth at each other within the confines of the song and it just came together over a lot of rewrites and re-updated demos. It was a labor of love and it was fun from the beginning to the end.
Amps: Definitely my favorite track on Inferno. Now I know you’re living in Japan. Will there be a U.S. tour?
Marty: We’re putting together Japan, North America, and South America right now. You know the U.S. is very important to me so I do plan to do some touring over there. We’ll be able to announce some things soon! First we’ll finish this European tour and then things will come together.
Amps: Tell me about life in Japan.
Marty: It’s awesome. It’s everything I wanted it to be and more. Artistic freedom that I need and it allows me to do everything I want to do. I’ve released all my records there and done tons of TV, and as much media as you’d ever want to do, it’s fantastic.
Amps: What clicked when you got to Japan that made you say, “I want to move here.”
Marty: It was the music. I had been touring there for several years before I ever even thought about living there. The music of Japan was always curious to me because it was just so different than what I’d been brought up on and what was going on in America. I just kept telling myself that one day I wanted to play in this music scene, not the American scene. I just up and left, it was a weird thing.
Amps: Yeah when I heard that I thought, “Oh, cool! Kudos to him.” I’ve always wanted to go there.
Marty: Have you ever been there? You have to at least once.
Amps: I will or die trying! Talk to me about “Horrors” and writing with Jason Becker again.
Marty: Well he’s got ALS which is no picnic. But you never hear the guy complain and writing the song was very similar to when we used to write in CACOPHONY. We’d both have ideas, we’d put them together and then I would arrange them into a song and I would produce it. So really nothing has changed on that level except for the fact that both of us have groan A LOT since we last played together. So it’s really special that we played together now, X number of years later.
Amps: I remember being at Sam Goody and Uncle Phil’s on Long Island and seeing the next CACOPHONY record out and seeing these two young guitar hotshots just rippin’ shit up. I’m so glad we got to do this, because I really think you hit a home run this time out!
Marty: Man, thanks a lot, it’s wonderful to hear.
Amps: Rodrigo y Gabriela, Gregg Bissonette, Tony Franklin, so many great players on the album. How did you work with everyone? Was there a lot of sending tapes and files?
Marty: Luckily I recorded the majority of it in L.A. and I had a lot of the guys come to the studio and actually record with me in person. Some people recorded in other cities around the world in places like India, Sweden, Finland, Canada, England, the U.S. and Japan. It was all over the place, and that’s why it took 16 months. It was an insane logistical feat to make this record happen but that’s what you do when you don’t compromise anything.
Amps: You’ve lived the dream of playing with so many great people. How do you feel that’s shaped and/or changed you as a writer and performer over the years?
Marty: I just do what I do, you know? I’ve been very fortunate to surround myself with people I enjoy working with and always try to be appreciative of every situation and learn something and move on and be better the next time. The longer you do something, hopefully you get better at it. I’d hate to keep doing something and get worse (laughs)! It’s all been good, man.
Amps: Do you have a favorite track on the album, or no?
Marty: I almost never ever do but I might have to say “Meat Hook”, man. Because I’m not a sax fan at all, and I would’ve never thought I could do something this cool with a sax. And that’s thanks to Jørgen Munkeby who played the sax on it and his warped ideas. But that’s a big sense of accomplishment there. It kills me man, I just did it. The first time you hear it it’s kind of like, “What the hell is THAT?!?” but I think it takes at least two listens to decide whether you hate it or love it. And on my second listen I loved it. So that may be my favorite.
Amps: What do you want to say to all the Marty Friedman fans all over the world?
Marty: Listen to Inferno. Hate it, love it. I don’t think people will be apathetic about it which is good enough for me. I like a strong and polarizing opinion. I feel super-good about it and it doesn’t hurt that people like yourself have been saying really nice things to me. I can detect the genuineness of it, and it’s not that kind of ass-kissing that you usually get when you release a record. It seems very genuine from a lot of people. That being said it’s something I’m happy with and I hope everybody takes a listen and gets something to enjoy from it. It’s a record that’s gonna make you feel some kind of emotion: A grotesque orgy of guitar orgasms.
And I will leave it at that, since Marty summed it up perfectly. That was pretty cool, eh? If for some reason you haven’t checked out Inferno from Marty Friedman then hit yourself in the melon with a hammer because you are clearly a dunderhead!!