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Millions of TV viewers in Japan know guitarist Marty Friedman for his hosting appearances on shows such as Rock Fujiyama and Hebimstasan – the latter of which translates to "Mr. Heavy Metal." But Friedman laughs at the suggestion that he's any kind of walking authority on the genre.
"That's just the name of the show, or at least that's the English translation of the title," he says. "Maybe people think that’s what I am, but it’s not the case. I would never think for a second that I was an expert on all things metal. God, no!”
You wouldn't know it from his past work – his furious guitar playing along with former partner Jason Becker in the '80s instrumental axe duo Cacophony, or certainly his 10-year stint trading head-spinning licks with Dave Mustaine in the thrash metal band Megadeth. And you certainly couldn't tell from one listen to his upcoming album Inferno, a wide-ranging musical affair that doesn't skimp on the metallic goodness. The record – Friedman's first worldwide since he relocated to Japan some 15 years ago – features guests spots by Rodrigo & Gabriela, Alexi Leiho of Children of Bodom, Revocation's David Davidson and, significantly, a songwriting collaboration between Becker and Friedman (it's the first time they've worked together since their Cacophony days).
Friedman sat down with MusicRadar recently to talk about Inferno, his successful career in Japan, how he and Becker worked together on their track Horrors (Jason suffers from ALS) and what he feels about being called a "shred virtuoso" (spoiler alert: He's not crazy about it).
I’m curious – what led to your decision to relocate to Japan in the first place?
“It really stemmed from the fact that I was listening to Japanese music 100 percent of the time. I had lost all interest in the music from America and England. I had become infatuated with the wide variety of popular music in Japan, everything from full-on deep metal to full-on sugary pop. I just thought that I could do so much more if I was in the Japanese music scene. I felt like a logical decision to go where the music was happening.”
It worked out, obviously, but at the time did it feel like something of a risky gambit?
“Yeah, I knew it was a daunting task and probably not the smartest thing to do at the time, but as an artist I know that all you can do is believe in yourself. What I wanted to do was happening in Japan, so that’s where I went. It sounds corny, but you have to follow your dreams.
“You’ve gotta be where you can do the most damage and where you can reach your potential. If you’re a French chef, you don’t want to be living in Indonesia. In many ways, it was like starting from scratch, but it turned out to be the best thing I’ve ever done. The whole thing totally exceeded anything I could have imagined, musically and personally.”
Inferno is your first American release, but how is if different from the solo albums you’ve put out in Japan?
“Well, one of the things that having a TV career in Japan has allowed me to do is put out solo albums without a single consideration for who the end user is. I can cater to every one of my whims, and the only person I have to worry about pleasing is myself. If you wanna come to the party, that’s great.
“Inferno is a worldwide release, and the company that put the whole thing together is American. I gathered a lot of thoughts from people all over the world as to what they wanted from me. What came back was, people wanted me to play my ass off and be aggressive, and they wanted it to be metal.”