VintageRock.com spoke with former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman at this year's NAMM (National Association Of Music Merchants) show, which is taking place January 23-26 at the Anaheim Convention Center in Anaheim, California. You can now watch the chat below.
Friedman's new studio album, "Inferno", will be released in May via Prosthetic Records. The CD will contain several collaborations with players influenced by Friedman, including Alexi Laiho (CHILDREN OF BODOM), REVOCATION guitar whiz David Davidson and the flamenco/metal acoustic duo RODRIGO Y GABRIELA. In addition, the album includes Friedman's first songwriting collaboration with Jason Becker since the pair played together in the pioneering duo of guitar mayhem CACOPHONY.
Regarding his brand new collaboration with Becker — who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, a.k.a. Lou Gehrig's Disease) at age 20, shortly after joining David Lee Roth's band for the gold-selling 1991 album "A Little Ain't Enough" — Marty said: "[Jason is] able to make music, but he's not able to play guitar. If you see the [documentary] movie 'Not Dead Yet', you'll learn how he does it with his eye movements, because that's all he can move. But his brain is completely intact and his music has evolved, just like any other musician would have evolved over time. So it's really insane how his evolved his music is."
He continued: "I wanted to have one song where [Jason and I] could collaborate, just like we used to collaborate together in CACOPHONY. And what he did was he gave me a bunch of his musical ideas to choose from, and I chose from those, and then I arranged them. And I added my parts to those and I fleshed it out into a complete kind of an opus of a song — it's really long; it's, like, seven and a half minutes or something. And then it came to the point where now I've gotta play Jason's parts of have someone play Jason's parts. So, basically, I played everything that was electric. But there's an acoustic section of the song that I'd rather have an acoustic master play than me, 'cause I'm totally a half-assed acoustic player. So I had a friend of mine named Ewan Dobson, who is also a friend of Jason's, I had him play what Jason wrote and what I arranged of Jason's parts, I had him be Jason. So I had him come into the studio and be Jason, and I had him play exactly the way I had arranged Jason's material. And it was literally just like sitting in a room with Jason and having him play it, because [Ewan] didn't diverge from what was actually written at all, he just interpreted it exactly the way it was… It was written down — I arranged it, I had it written down — so he just nailed it completely perfectly and I wanted to make sure it was true to a Marty-and-Jason collaboration. I mean, [Ewan is] a fantastic guitarist — I would love to collaborate with him sometime — but on this, it was all about the Marty-and-Jason thing. So I had him do the Jason parts on acoustic, and I played everything else on electric. Of course, I play nothing like Jason."
Friedman also spoke in more detail about the track itself, telling VintageRock.com: "The song, it's definitely CACOPHONY, and it's definitely what [Jason and I] would be doing in 2014 and the future. So it's very evolved, it's very new, but it's definitely the two of us. And it came to life thanks to Jason's willingness to contribute and to Ewan's willingness to be Jason for me."
He continued: "I played a rough mix for Jason the other day, and he just loved it. We finished mixing it this week.
"I wanna play it for everybody so bad, but I guess you'll just have to wait until May. I'm very pleased with it."
According to Friedman, his relationship with Becker has not changed since Jason was diagnosed with ALS more than two decades ago.
"To know Jason, to know his story…. Of course, ALS is the worst thing ever, it's an unbelievably sad, horrible situation," Marty explained. "But Jason, whenever [we are in contact with each other], ever since he's had it, it's the same as it ever was, just the same as friends. We never talk about, 'Oh, it's so sad, I'm so bummed, I'm so depressed.' We totally insult each other like we always did, we put down each other's favorite football teams, we call each other bastards… I mean, nothing has changed; his brain is just as perverted as he ever was. He's exactly the same. His spirit is just perfect. And just seeing him in that situation gives me so much inspiration. And now people will hear the incarnate of something that we've done together in 2014, and I'm just so glad that it's happening. And it's a very important part of my record. I mean, it's a big, important part of the record."
Friedman's first original material in four years, and his first album in more than a decade that will be released simultaneously worldwide, "Inferno" will feature what Friedman feels is the heaviest, most intense playing of his career.
"I'm extremely proud of the work I've done with CACOPHONY and MEGADETH, but I was never interested in stopping there," Friedman said. "'Inferno' is the album that fans of my work with those two bands have always wanted me to make. I've finally made it, and completely on my own maniacal terms."
He added: "On the guests' songs, each would write a song from scratch, and then I would arrange it and add my parts to it," Friedman said. "That way, we were both invested in it, and it’s a little bit of a deeper experience than just banging out a guest solo."
Make no mistake, though — "Inferno" is unquestionably a Marty Friedman album, and one he plans to tour behind extensively (including his first U.S. performances since 2003). Furthermore, it features what Friedman told Guitar World is "the most intense writing and playing I can do," with the goal of "go(ing) completely ape-shit and smok(ing) everything else I've ever done."
"I wanted to create a new landmark to which my future music will be compared," Friedman said. "That idea of just going completely balls-out — knowing what the full potential of my music and my playing could possibly be, and actually making it a reality — was what drove me through the whole process."
"Steroidhead" song audio stream: