Interview with Marty Friedman
January 10, 1998
Marty Friedman, guitarist for Megadeth, took the time to speak to Rock Notes between shows. Marty joined Megadeth in 1990 and has appeared on four of their seven studio albums. The most current release, “Cryptic Writings”, has earned the group a Grammy nomination for the song “Trust”. Marty also has numerous solo records, the most recent being “True Obsessions”. He’s got a signature guitar made by Jackson and a new monthly column in Guitar Magazine. Megadeth is appearing at the Webster Theatre on January 20, 1998.
Rock Notes: So you’re about halfway through this leg of the tour, right?
Marty Friedman: This particular leg. We’ve actually been on tour since last June.
RN: We’ve noticed that this part of the tour includes mostly smaller venues versus the big auditoriums of last summer.
MF: We’re playing a lot of secondary markets where some places we’ve never even played. We don’t really know what kind of following we have in some of these places. We’d just as soon make sure that we sell out everywhere rather than booking the biggest arena in town and half filling it and losing money. We’ve sold out just about every night of this tour and we’ve done all different sizes from really large ones, like thirty thousand in Chicago, to the smallest one I think was fourteen hundred in San Diego. It all depends on how much we’ve cultivated in that particular market. Some of these places are new territory for us.
RN: I know our readers are glad to see you come to Hartford. The closest you came last summer was Great Woods in Massachusetts.
MF: I don’t remember if we’ve ever played in Hartford.
RN: I don’t know either but we saw you at the New Haven Coliseum [in support of the record “Countdown To Extinction”] and Lake Compounce [with the Clash Of The Titans Tour], so this show will be very different for us because the venue is actually pretty small, like 800 or so capacity.
MF: It’s going to be a mad house I’m sure. All the really loyal fans get the tickets first and it just becomes a real mob in there.
RN: Do you think we’ll ever see a live album?
MF: We’re working on it, actually. We’ve recorded some tracks. We recorded a show we did in Buenes Aires, Argentina, last month. We’re keeping things in the can and we’re getting prepared for it. We don’t have any release information or anything like that.
RN: How long did it take to write and record “Cryptic Writings”?
MF: It took around a year from note one to mixing. It was rather painless, a lot of it was written on the road and then some of it when we got home, so it wasn’t a terribly intensive year of writing. The stuff came together naturally and we weren’t rushed to get a record out. We actually spent a lot of time between these last two records.
RN: You have a new producer on “Cryptic Writings”?
MF: Yes. Dan Huff. It was his producing debut with Megadeth.
RN: How did you get involved with the Queen tribute [Dragon Attack]?
MF: Actually, the company that put it together had done a previous tribute to Ace Frehley. Ace had his management call a bunch of guys who they thought would be interested and they called me which I was flattered to hear that, you know, growing up as a little kid with Ace posters on my wall. So after that was done, the same company did the Queen one, and I’m a huge Brian May fan so I was also honored to do that. So I just banged it out in an afternoon.
RN: Which Queen song did you do?
MF: I did a song called, “Sheer Heart Attack”.
RN: Cool! So was it Megadeth or was it a collaboration with other artists?
MF: It wasn’t with Megadeth. I played guitar, James LaBrie from Dream Theater did the vocals, a good friend of mine — Tony Franklin — played bass, and Carmine Appice played drums. No one was in the same room. It was all taped flying around the country.
RN: Are you working on another solo effort?
MF: No, right now we’re making this a really big tour and it’s taking up pretty much all of my time. My priority is definitely Megadeth right now. To do my solo stuff, I like to really get into it one hundred percent. I can’t just do it as a hobby. Right now I’m not really thinking about it too much but I’m sure in the future something will be done.
RN: I was curious how you hooked up with Kitaro for your last CD?
MF: That was five years ago! He’s a good friend of mine. I met Kitaro through a translator who was translating an interview that I did for Japan. I couldn’t believe he agreed to do my record with me. He had no idea who I was or what it was going to be like. We just had this vibe. I don’t believe in cosmic stuff but we totally have this vibe. We didn’t really even have to talk, he just knew it was a record he wanted to do, and I knew that I wanted to work with him. It just worked out great.
RN: When did you start playing guitar?
MF: I started playing guitar when I was in junior high.
RN: You were born in Washington, DC?
MF: Yes. I was born in DC and moved back and forth between DC, Germany and Hawaii because of my dad’s job.
RN: When did you become a full-time musician?
MF: Pretty much right as I started. Six months later I started teaching. Ever since then I’ve been playing music.
RN: Is it true that you auditioned for Ozzy?
MF: Wow, that’s not something that comes up too much. I auditioned for Ozzy not too long before the Megadeth thing came up. It didn’t work out. I think they were looking for someone with a vibe to hang out. I just wanted to go down there and play music. I thought I played okay, I jammed with his band on a bunch of songs. But I could just tell by the way they were dressed and the way I was dressed that it just wasn’t gonna be. I’m in like a pair of Levi’s and a shirt, and those guys were like boots and belts and chains and shit hanging off them. I think they got a great guitar player at the time, they ended up with Zakk Wilde.
RN: What type of music do you like to listen to?
MF: I like to listen to all kinds of music, especially soundtrack music. I’m really interested in foreign music — it’s just different than what you hear everyday in America. I like pop music. I’m a great fan of good music.
RN: Do you have any hobbies?
MF: I study the Japanese language. That’s pretty much it, I don’t really have a whole lot of time that’s not related to music.
RN: What was your first rock concert?
MF: Kiss, 1976.