Marty Friedman

A Guitar Inferno

Marty Friedman

BOSS Tone Video recently visited with Marty Friedman at Sunset Lodge Recording in Los Angeles, where the master shredder was putting the finishing touches on Inferno, his latest solo record. Marty discusses his unique picking style, views on instrumental guitar music, BOSS amp simulators, and much more.

Your playing style is very unique and melodic, and the way you select and bend notes is really uncommon. Tell us about your influences aside from rock and roll.

When I first started out, I was really playing a lot like Kiss. I wanted to challenge myself more and more, and I started listening to foreign music and instruments other than guitar. When I was a teenager, I listened to violin and Chinese violin-type things. That allowed me to subliminally decide that I don’t have to do guitar phrasing all the time, [that I can] phrase more like a vocalist might phrase. By doing that, my playing ends up sounding unorthodox.

I had the pleasure of doing a recording session with you in my former band, Tourniquet. I noticed at that time that you have a very interesting picking technique. How did that come about?

I really don’t know anything about it other than when I see pictures from when I was a kid, like 16 years old, I was doing it then too. It’s all subliminal. I like the sound of a rich, full note. So when my hand is like this [shows picking hand out in front of his body], it’s not muting. It’s actually as far away from the strings as possible, to allow the strings to ring as much as they can. Of course, it looks stupid. [Laughs.]

In the ‘80s, a number of guitarists such as you, Jason Becker, and Steve Vai began making music without vocals. In a sense, rock and roll guitar became its own voice. Why do you think that happened?

I think a good vocalist wouldn’t want to sing in front of all that crazy guitar playing. [Laughs.] If I was a great singer, the last thing I’d want to be doing is standing in front of two guitar players blazing their asses off. That’s the only logical explanation I can think of. I’m not a fan of instrumental music, really. But when I make it, I make it to the criteria of this has to be just as fun to listen to as something with a great vocal on it. And that’s pretty much the ultimate challenge as a musician or a guitar player. If somebody listens to my stuff and says the guitar player is great, that’s fine. But that is the farthest thing from my mind when I’m trying to make this stuff.

You joined Megadeth in 1990 and recorded five multi-platinum records with them. Was that a musical shift for you at that time?

Yeah. What I was doing way before that, when I was in a band called Hawaii, it was kind of like fast thrash-metal with a lot of intense guitar breaks and stuff. So I was really happy to do that music in a format where it was done properly and professionally. You know, when I was in Hawaii, we’d record a whole album in two weeks on an eight-track, and it just wouldn’t be the proper recording facility or anything, So, Megadeth, it was a joy to play in that band.

You speak Japanese fluently and now live in Tokyo. Tell us about the music and TV you’re doing in Japan.

Yeah, it’s really insane. I moved to Japan because I just love current Japanese pop music. When I say pop music, it means the ultimate heaviest metal to the ultimate pop-iest pop. And when I got over there, I started playing in the bands with my favorite singers. I was very lucky. Then I was asked to do a TV show, which I had zero interest in. I just wanted to play music, and [the show] became a hit right away.

I immediately got picked up by the biggest management team in Japan and ever since I’ve done maybe 600 TV shows. Maybe half of them have to do with music and the other half have nothing to do with music. Even though it takes a lot of time and energy to do TV and stuff, and do various musical projects in Japan, I find that it’s just such a healthy influence on my own music. So I’m willing to do the extra work.

You’ve used a lot of BOSS guitar products such as the GT-6, GT-8, and GS-10. How have you used those multi-effects processors?

The first thing that pops to mind is, especially doing a lot of TV in Japan, it won’t be like a concert setting. I’ll be on the panel and it might be a variety show or a comedy show and there might be a little section where there’s a little place where I have to play some guitar or do a little jam or something. Those times I had the GS-10, and you just plug it in and go. There’s no sound check, no setting up, no micing—engineers love it. It’s easy to deal with, you can show up and get the stuff done right away.

And I use the thing to do full-on concerts. I did a whole entire tour in Japan with a GS-10. Of course, it’s a different sound than your amp—you don’t have the air moving. But sometimes that sound fits in with the other sounds even better than an amp, and it’s easier to control in different musical environments. So it was a very helpful thing that GS-10.

You’re currently using the BOSS Micro BR BR-80 Digital Recorder. Tell us about that.
Marty Friedman with MICRO BR® BR-80

I’m just using it for the presets and for a lot of funky sounds that can find their way within the actual amp sounds to create a complete landscape. Sometimes the simulator sounds tend to peek out, stick out more, than another amp on top of another amp on top of another amp. It’s kind of like a secret thing. Every time I do that with a new engineer they’re like, “Wow. No one’s ever done that.”

The main point I want to make is people say, “Simulators sound like simulators, I wouldn’t use them for the real thing.” But I’m telling [you], there’s a song called Viper. Listen to it off [my solo album] Loudspeaker. My main solo, the longest solo—I’m dueling with Steve Vai, and I’m using the GT as the actual [solo] tone. So, it’s real. The simulator, if you stick it in the right place, it can be as good or better than amp sounds, no problem

You’re now in Hollywood recording a new record. Is the music similar to Tokyo Jukebox 2, your last solo release, which is very J-Pop and J-Rock? Or is this something different?

This new album I’m working on right now is called Inferno. It’s taken about five times more planning than anything I’ve ever done before. I want it to be kind of a landmark in my career. It’s similar to Tokyo Jukebox in the way that I’m playing my ass off as usual, but I wanted to take the intensity of all my stuff and just kick it up about a thousand notches.

It’s the absolute sickest thing I’ve ever done. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know. It’s definitely not commercial. [Laughs.] It’s just me being as sick as I possibly could ever be. Everything that people probably would hope that I would have done will be done in spades on this record.

What would you say to aspiring musicians looking to make a living at music?

There’s a lot of ways to make a living in music, but my advice to you is be truly honest with yourself about what you like to do in music. After you’ve played like two or three years, then you can see all the different layers of the music business and all of them are fantastic.

Some people are great luthiers, and some people are great techs. Some people are great on the gear side of things. People who know about gear are the absolute bomb to me, because I know zero about it. And when I see somebody dealing with gear and making my stuff sound good I’m like, “I love this.” That’s my best advice. There’s a lot of other things than just playing the instrument.