Playing Grog Shop
Marty Friedman is a heavy metal guitarist who has quite an impressive resume. From starting out in the band Cacophony with guitarist Jason Becker, to his tenure in Megadeth, to his fifteen solo records, including his 2018 release One Bad M.F. Live! The man has seen and done it all.
Friedman and his band will be making an appearance at The Grog Shop on February 16th in support of his latest release.
We had the opportunity chat with Marty to discuss his career, his new album and his upcoming appearance at The Grog Shop.
Greg Drugan: Thanks for taking some time with me today. Is it freezing where you are?
Marty Friedman: I’m in Tucson, Arizona right now.
GD: Well, it’s negative 30 here in Cleveland. I’m glad you aren’t in this polar vortex! Hopefully it will be gone when you guys get here.
MF: Oh my god! Well, we’ll heat you guys up! I’ll tell you that much for sure!
GD: I love the name of your new album. How did you decide on that title because it can be taken two different ways?
MF: Which two different ways? I can only think of one way.
GD: Well, it’s your initials and an abbreviated expletive.
MF: I forgot about my initials! (laughs) It was a title that I threw out. Everyone that I mentioned it to latched on to it right away. I said, let’s do it because it fits. It fits the band, it fits all of our personalities. Everyone liked it.
GD: Absolutely! What made you decide to put out a live album?
MF: It’s been going so well with this band on tour. It’s been the exact same lineup for several years now. We’ve really have this special chemistry and I had to get it documented. We were on a South American tour and the audiences were fantastic so we wanted to get a proper document of it. We wanted to do the ultimate live album to show what it’s like to be at one of our shows. It’s a pretty fair representation of what you get.
GD: It really sounds great. The album sounds fantastic.
MF: Thank you so much!
GD: We are excited that you are coming to town. Do you have any memories of playing in Cleveland in the past?
MF: I have memories of playing there several times. I have a lot of friends there. We’ve played in many cities in Ohio, but this time the only city we are playing in is Cleveland. Everybody knows that it’s a rock city. I really appreciate all of the support the city has given me. It also has good food of all things. I remember an amazing Italian restaurant. I wish I remembered the name, but it’s been years.
That’s kinda what you do when you’re on tour. You get to a city and think, there’s an amazing clothing shop three streets down, or a great restaurant. I just hope I see it when I get into town because I don’t remember the name.
GD: Cleveland has actually become a food town. There are a lot of foodies now and celebrity chefs that have opened restaurants. There’s really a lot going on downtown. If you haven’t been here in a while, it has definitely changed, it’s beautiful downtown.
MF: Oh really? Everyone in my band are total foodies. So they will be looking forward to it.
GD: So looking back on your career, who was the first band you ever saw in concert and how did that impact you?
MF: The first band I ever saw was Kiss and that impacted me big time. The next day I decided that’s what I had to do. So I got a guitar right away and started playing. It really was because of Kiss. The Kiss Alive album is really almost a template to my live album. The pacing is kinda similar, there are solo’s where every band member gets to shine. The audience is apart of the cast so to speak. The Kiss experience made a huge impact on me as to how a live concert experience should be. Not just the music, but the action and the audience interaction.
GD: So was that like in ‘76 or ‘77?
MF: It was the Rock N Roll Over, so it was somewhere around there.
GD: So you started playing guitar right away. Are you basically self-taught and do you play any other instruments?
MF: I’m self taught. I had lessons for about a year or less. My teacher was a total hippie and it just didn’t work out. I was a punk rocker. He was a great teacher but I wasn’t about that at that point. I don’t really play anything else. I do a really bad bass impression.
GD: Well, you are pretty prolific at the guitar and we’re pretty happy with that. Besides Kiss, who were some of your musical influences growing up?
MF: Growing up it was Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, The Runaways. A lot of punk rock like The Dead Boys and The Sex Pistols. Anything with a lot of action in it, I really liked.
GD: How did you end up meeting Jason Becker and did you enjoy your time in Cacophony?
MF: Oh wow. We met, he was a kid and I was a little bit older than him. I just fell in love with him right away. I knew if I wanted to put together a band, doing my music with so much guitar layering in it, he was really the only guy I would consider doing it with. Most people aren’t good enough to play my music. Or they are into jazz music with short hair and polo shirts and they hold the guitar really high. The didn’t want to do my oppressive noisy music anyway, so it was a no-brainer working with him.
GD: So did meet out in the clubs or something like that?
MF: I met him through the record label, they suggested I meet up with this kid. I was doing a solo record myself and I didn’t want to meet anybody. But I didn’t want to rock the boat, so I said send him over to my house. He came over and I fell in love with him from note one. Not only as a person, but a guitar player. He was boiling over with potential. At that time, he didn't have much musical knowledge but he had so much dexterity and so much good sense and abilities. His musical knowledge grew so fast, it was like a train. A runaway train. He was such an unbelievable person.
GD: That’s great. You were pretty prolific in the ‘90s by playing and touring with Megadeth and also releasing solo albums. How did you find time and inspiration to do both?
MF: I’ve always done my solo albums. I’m working on my fourteenth right now. Regardless of what’s going on, I’ve got music that fits only in my solo world. Luckily, there’s a niche audience that’s followed my solo stuff throughout my entire career. It has its own sound and its own vibe. I’m constantly writing music and its gotta go somewhere, and it's gotta come out. Since 2002, I’ve been touring it live and each year it gets a little bit better. Right now, we are having so much fun.
GD: When did you start living in Japan and what do you like most about the Japanese culture?
MF: I moved there about fifteen years ago because I wanted to play the music that was popular in Japan. I was a situation that when I looked at the Top Ten on their charts, I would like nine songs. Then I would look at the Top Ten in America and I would maybe like one song. It just wasn’t my taste. It was music that didn’t appeal to me much. In Japan, that music appealed to me more. It was an atmosphere where I could really add my own musicality to it. I moved there and became a part of the domestic music scene.
GD: How are Japanese audiences different than American audiences?
MF: For one thing, they are definitely quieter. It’s not because they are more shy or anything, but they really want to listen to every little thing. They make it a point between the songs to make noise and go wild, but while the song is playing, you can hear a pin drop. They want to hear any little nuance that you’re playing. It’s wonderful as a musician but it’s also nerve-wracking because they also hear every imperfection as well. Every country has its own different way of enjoying music.
GD: Like I said, we are excited that you are playing in Cleveland in a couple of weeks. What can fans expect from your show?
MF: We are so excited to play there. It will be our first Ohio show period, I believe. My band is from Japan and there are places in America that they have never seen. I’m happy to show them different parts of the country.
What you can expect is a huge jolt of energy, Tokyo style. It’s really a different animal. I guess, if you want to see what it looks like, there are some clips online. I encourage you not to cellphone video the concert. Just be in the moment and enjoy it! It’s an intense night and the audience will be drained in sweat when it’s done!
GD: Awesome, sounds great! Thank you so much for taking some time with me today. I’m looking forward to seeing the show and hopefully we’ll pack the place for you.
MF: Absolutely! It’s been my pleasure and I look forward to meeting you there.
GD: Have a great tour and we look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks!
MF: Thanks! Take care!
Make sure to catch Marty Friedman and his band at The Grog Shop on Saturday, February 16th. Tickets start at $20 and can be purchased here.