Former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman recently gave an interview to his official web site regarding his recent and upcoming activities. The question-and-answer session follows:
Q: 2005 was a big year for you with 6 months on a hit TV series, three live DVDs, lots of new music of your own as well as with artists that you are currently producing, but I'm sure you're aching to talk about the New Year's show you just did! We'll get to all that but I'd like to start by getting the status of your new solo album.
Marty: "Cool by me. The album is moving along well and I plan to be finished with all of the tracking by the end of January. I started recording in March but it has been really hard to get a lot of recording time in between all the touring and television I've been doing. The good thing about that is I've had more time than usual to live with the rough mixes and that allows me to make valuable adjustments that usually I don't have the luxury of making when I make an album in two or three months"
Q: You said before that the album will come out on Avex in Japan. What about the other countries?
Marty: "I have good labels in mind for the U.S. and Europe, and Avex has territories outside Japan in Asia."
Q: So how about putting up some samples on the site?!
Marty: "Maybe when it gets closer to the release date, which will be in late spring. I did play a rough mix of a song called 'Black Orchid' for all the fans at Masa Ito's Heavy Metal Soundhouse. I sandwiched it between MINISTRY and AVENGED SEVENFOLD, and I think it held up pretty good!"
Q: You mentioned a guest player on the album. Who is it?
Marty: "Let's just say he's a monster guitarist! We've agreed to do the song together and all systems are go, but it's always a good thing to keep those kind of things quiet until tracks are in the can, just in case something unexpected gets in the way. I'm sure I'll be telling you how cool the track is by the end of the month!"
Q: You have concentrated your efforts in Japan for the last couple years which has done extremely well for you in Japan, but what about your many fans in other countries? We get literally thousands of emails here at the site asking when you will be playing here or there and even people flying to Japan to see your shows for fear you may not visit their country ever again! Do you have any plans outside Japan anytime soon?
Marty: "Thanks for your patience! I got to Italy, South America and Asia in 2004 and 2005 and I was blown away by everybody's support. It was better than ever. You can be sure it will be worth the wait by the time I get back. My next album will be released worldwide, and I plan to do concerts and/or special promotional events all over the world to coincide with the new album. The main thing that has kept me from leaving Japan more often is the intense TV schedule that started for me in 2005. To be honest, I never expected in my wildest dreams that I would wind up doing so much TV in Japan."
Q: Are you talking about "Hebimetasan"? I saw an episode on the Internet, and I couldn't understand the language, but it looked pretty crazy.
Marty: "It kind of all started with 'Hebimetasan'. Right after the first episode aired, I started being managed by the top television production company in Japan, so I wound up doing even more TV than the 6 months that I did with 'Hebimetasan'."
Q: So you made the transition from musician to TV personality? Why did you go in that direction and what did you learn in the process?
Marty: "First off, I didn't make any such transition, and it's very important to me that whatever I do, I'm a musician first, and anything outside of that is just fun and if it helps introduce my music to a wider audience, that's great. That said, doing TV lets me do so many things that normally I would have no chance to do, and get so many cool experiences to draw from. As far as learning, it's an ongoing thing, for sure."
Q: I've known you as a guitarist for so long, it's hard for me to imagine that there are people in Japan who only know you from TV.
Marty: "It's strange for me too. People just kinda treat you different. It's an amazing thing to be a part of a hit TV show, and especially one that I was there from the very beginning of, every step of the way. It's real hard work to keep having fresh and entertaining stuff to do every week and I'm real proud of the work I've done on the show."
Q: Is the show going to return next year? And is it ok if we put a few episodes up on this site?
Marty: "Let's just say I believe a new season is very likely, but again until the first one is in the can, let's just wait and see. I doubt that we can put up any episodes, but I'm sure we can try to put up a few clips on the site."
Q: OK, tell me about your New Year's.
Marty: "Yeah, on New Year's Eve I did a show called 'Kouhaku', which is a show I have wanted to be on ever since I lived in Hawaii. This is the 56th annual broadcast. It is a legendary show, but the main reason I have always loved it is because instead of giving out awards and listening to long winded speeches, there are about 40 of the most popular Japanese artists, I guess to put in English terms, that stylistically range from Frank Sinatra to Marilyn Manson to Christina Aguilera to Bob Dylan and everything in between. Each act is more extravagant than the next. I played a song with Suzuki Ami. It seemed to go by on a flash."
Q: That`s great! Can the show be seen outside Japan?
Marty: "Yes, on a delayed worldwide NHK broadcast."
Q: You did three tours of Japan in 2005 and each of those tours became live DVDs (all released on Avex). How were they different from the other tours you have done, and can you tell us a little bit about each one?
Marty: "Musically, the Suzuki Ami tour was fresh because the music is straight up dance/club pop, but the producers and staff are all rock and metal freaks so they encouraged me to add rough edges and lots of guitar to the music. I was more than happy to do so because I think pop needs fat, aggressive guitars a lot of the time."
Q: Tell us about Suzuki Ami. What kind of girl is she?
Marty: "She is breathtakingly cute in person. Of course she can sing and dance great, but I'm convinced that her presence and charisma is a huge part of why she has so many loyal fans. We had a lot of laughs, and one thing I'll never forget is when we did a duet of an ENKA song ('Amagi Goe') at an after show party! Somewhere there is a bootleg video of that floating around."
Q: Maybe it will appear on the live DVD?
Marty: "I doubt it!"
Q: I saw the KIRITO live DVD, of course again I didn't understand the Japanese, but it was cool to see the rehearsal footage and backstage footage and how it all builds up to the live show. That show was really different than what I expected, very rock, but very Japanese and visual-oriented.
Marty: "Kirito's a super-talented and unique guy. You know, I only do tours and recording other than my solo stuff when there is truly a special connection between me and the others involved. Kirito and I hit it off especially on stage, there was a natural rapport that felt like we were in the same band since high school."
Q: I couldn`t help but notice the audience was all girls. What was that like? Do you think Kirito just gets dismissed as an idol singer?
Marty: "First of all, I don`t understand why more guys don't show up, because the music is very heavy, powerful and full of guitars. What I did learn about some heavy bands that have lots of female fans in Japan like PIERROT (Kirito's band), SEX MACHINE GUNS, and TM REVOLUTION, is that they do have male fans but they are embarrassed to show up to gigs that are filled with screaming girls. So what these bands do is have 'guys only' shows where only guys show up and they play maybe some more obscure or heavy material. The whole thing fascinates me! That said, I like girls as much as the next guy, probably more, so that tour was a whole lot of fun!"
Q: It was a big year for you and Aikawa Nanase as well. There are lots of news blurbs on the site about what is going on there, but maybe you can give me some details? I'm looking forward to the new live CD/DVD because I really enjoyed the "Live Emotion" DVD you sent me last year as well as the fact that you play with Pata from X JAPAN!
Marty: "X JAPAN is one of the main reasons I got into J-pop and J-rock in the first place. I was stoked to tour with Pata! He's a great player with a cool presence and tons of fans! We did the Japan tour which is on the live CDs and DVD, plus a great show in Korea. We also recorded the new Aikawa album together as well as doing two videos for the first two singles off the album. After all of that, I did the annual unplugged fan club only concert which was amazing! There are so many sides to Nanase's music, kind of like my own music; I love to play everything from the extremely heavy to the sweetest ballad. That is one reason we hit it off so well, for sure. There will be a DVD of this show coming out so I guess that makes four live DVDs in one year. No rest for the wicked!"
Q: This makes your third year with Aikawa Nanase. To what do you attribute this longevity?
Marty: "I think it's because as much as we work together, I just never stop being a fan. Sometimes in concert, it's like an out-of body experience, I often forget I'm even playing! Our chemistry is special, and you can really hear it in how my guitar style matches well with her moods on the new album. Now I'm working with her in the studio on a song in English, and she is doing great!"
Q: Has she sung in English before?
Marty: "Never a complete song. I'm being way strict on the pronunciation."
Q: Hopefully fans outside of Japan will be able to get to hear it. I hear a lot of the music you are doing in Japan, and it sounds good, but for most of us it's really hard to get into because of the language. You can surely tell it's you on guitar, but to be honest, when the singing is going on I lose interest sometimes. Do you find that this affects your fans outside of Japan the same way?"
Marty: "I'm sure most people would feel the same, and not only that, most of them do not get a chance to hear the music in the first place. What may be a household name in Japan is very likely completely unheard of in Italy for example, and vice versa. I love PAULA & CHIARA from Italy but they couldn't get arrested in Japan!"
Marty: "See what I mean?"