Former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman tells RollingStone.com that he is a huge fan of BABYMETAL, the offshoot of the Japanese pop idol group SAKURA GAKUIN that performs a distinctly Japanese mix of schoolgirl J-pop and heavy metal.
Takayoshi Ohmura, the guitarist in Friedman's own solo band, is also the guitarist in BABYMETAL, whose members wear gothy schoolgirl costumes, do choreographed dance routines and bang their heads violently.
"I love aggressive music, death metal and stuff like that," Marty says. "But the lyrics just crack me up: the satanic stuff, I mean, really? I can't get into it. I love the sound of the music so much that I'm willing to put up with [the lyrics], but why not have that same aggressive sound in something that's a little bit more realistic, you know?"
He adds: "I love the sound of metal but I've been doing it since I was a teenager, and I [felt I needed] to do something more unique with that sound. The sound of metal is what I love about it, but the fact that you have to stay within a genre, and you have to be in this really narrow genre, really turned me off.
"BABYMETAL, if you strip off that heavy metal guitar stuff, all you have is your basic fun, quirky, Japanese pop stuff. But the interpretation is super-metal. To me, it sounds like MESHUGGAH with Japanese pop on top of it. So for someone like me who's been playing metal forever, it's really fresh to hear. I mean, I can hear another PANTERA song, and it's great, but we've heard it before a billion times."
BABYMETAL played its first-ever U.S. show on July 27 at the sold-out Fonda Theatre (capacity: 1,200) in Los Angeles, California and supported pop superstar Lady Gaga on five American concerts.
Many heavy metal fans have been reluctant to embrace BABYMETAL — which also includes producer Kobametal and a backing band of corpse-painted virtuosos — with some Internet forums calling them "the definition of a gimmick", "awful" and "metal for hipsters."
CARCASS bassist/vocalist Jeff Walker recently stated that he is "starting to warm to the idea of what [BABYMETAL is] doing. It's actually fun, you know — like GHOST, to be honest," he said. 'Some people get very reactionary about a band like GHOST or BABYMETAL. It puts a smile on people's faces. That's what music's about, isn't it?! Enjoying it and not being so serious." CARCASS guitarist Bill Steer added: "I mean, obviously, we don't cover this ourselves, but the fun, entertainment angle [in music], it is important."
One of the Nameless Ghouls from GHOST was also quick to defend BABYMETAL, telling TeamRock: "They obviously attract so much attention wherever they go, and for a reason, of course — they are bizarre in many ways. I mean, we obviously like bizarre, so they are obviously doing something right."
Photo courtesy of Marty Friedman's Facebook page