Jamie Ludwig of Noisey recently conducted an interview with former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Noisey: Take me back to the tail end of your time in Megadeath. It's a difficult thing to reinvent yourself. Once the transition was over and you were in Japan, how did you go about establishing a new life in a completely different culture?
Friedman: It wasn't really that difficult. Quite the opposite. On paper, it sounds weird to leave a multi-platinum band and start from ground zero, but I just knew I could reach my potential so much more by being in Japan. It was really the best decision I've ever made. As a musician, or anything where you're making decisions on your own personal tastes and your creativity, you know where you need to be to make those things happen. If you're a French chef and you're in Boise, Idaho, you're in the wrong place. I looked at the Top 10 in Japan and I'd like nine of the songs, and I looked at the Top 10 in America and I'd maybe like one of them. So, I'm a musician — where should I be? It was that simple. What was happening in America, musically, wasn't nearly as appealing as what was happening every day in Japan. I was missing out.
Noisey: I read an interview where you said the concept of genre as it exists for American audiences is something that doesn't really apply in Japan. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Friedman: That's really important. Growing up and playing music in America, you know how it is... if you play heavy metal, you're not necessarily going to make a lot of friends playing R&B. If you play hip-hop, you're not going to make a lot of friends playing country. The borders are very strictly drawn and there's not a lot of mixing. It's "heavy metal or die," or "country music or die." The fans of all this music like to have an open mind, but I think people are afraid to share that information in front of their friends. They might act like they're totally into metal all the time, but when they get home they listen to something else by themselves. In Japan there's much less stigma about that. It's better suited for me and my taste, particularly.
Noisey: Outside of music, you're very busy with television in Japan. Was that ever a career option you'd thought of back in the states?
Friedman: No way. I was never interested in doing it. It seemed like so much work and I thought it might take away from my music. When I was first offered some television work, I did it reluctantly, but it went really well from the first day and it became the great stimulus for my music. When you just record and tour all the time, you just get in that habit, but doing a different TV show every week or whatever, there is so much preparation and brainwork, there's so much stimulation that when I go back to making music, it's just fresher. I can definitely look at my musical output since I started doing television and say, "This blows away what I've done before." I don't think I'm that good at TV. It's not something I aspire to do, but I love doing it, it's fun, and it helps my music. Sometimes you don't have to prepare much, but sometimes you have to be prepared to talk about a subject you might not have a lot of knowledge of, and you have to do a lot of research to be prepared to come up with something to say off the top of your head. It's just really simulating.
Noisey: In America, most of the clips we see from Japanese television are the crazy game shows. Have you ever had to do anything completely nuts?
Friedman: You do so much stuff that none of it stands out any more. Some of the Japanese things that make their way to American TV are completely off-the-wall, but not everything in Japan is like that. I've done some crazy stuff, but I have a manager who is pretty strict about making sure I don't go on anything that makes me look like an idiot.