How was it to work with Jason Becker? Sadly, because of his illness, he can't play guitar anymore.
“The main consideration was that what Jason wrote for Horrors was acoustic based. Just like I did when we were in Cacophony together, I took what he had, which was more of a traditional classical thing, and I played something way more abstract to counterpoint it. Being that Jason can’t play guitar, I thought, ‘Wow, I’ve got to play his stuff myself... Fuck that!’ [Laughs] So I contacted this wonderful guitarist named Ewan Dobson from Canada, who’s like this YouTube sensation, and I basically asked him, ‘How would you like to be Jason Becker on this song?’
“I gave him Jason’s acoustic parts along with my acoustic parts, and he was able to play them in literally half the time if would have taken me to do them – he’s such an acoustic master. It came out great. It’s almost as if Jason’s spirit is in the room.
“Unlike Cacophony, I played all the electric stuff myself, and that was cool. It wasn’t any more challenging than anything else I did on the record. The whole vibe was really, ‘Here’s the Marty and Jason that you wished would have continued if he hadn’t have gotten sick.’ This is what we would sound like in 2014 if we had been able to keep playing together and evolving.”
When you and Jason came out in Cacophony, it was during the height of the shred era. In retrospect, do any aspects of that scene feel a little over the top? The pointy guitars, the hair, the focus on speed licks and tricks?
“Well, I’m a big fan of pointy guitars and hair. [Laughs] But I’ll bring Jason into this and speak for him at the same time. I don’t think there was anybody else in that scene that we really cared for at all. We respected everybody’s abilities, but as insane as the core of that scene was, the idea for us was to create wonderful music that was based on melody and emotion. When we heard all of these other guitarists who were put into the shred genre, we thought it was wanking of the highest order.
“We’d rag on a lot of that stuff. We called it ‘NAMM show music.’ It was the same kind of pseudo-progressive drum beats – no cajones, no balls. There were no crying melodies to that stuff. It was lots of chops but little else. Jason and I didn’t like the term ‘shred.’ We didn’t like being lumped in with those guys, even if some of them were selling more records than us. We didn’t want to be associated with the scene then, and we still don’t.
“I had to get over it and just get on with what I was doing. The term ‘virtuoso shredder’ makes me cringe. I see myself described like that – ‘Marty Friedman, virtuoso shredder' – and it's like, 'Why?' Those just aren’t words that I like. Whoever bought a record because somebody was a virtuoso or a shredder, you know? But some guitar players, they hear the word ‘shredder’ and they just get a hard-on for it.
“Guitar magazines and advertising companies go crazy over that word – 'shredder.' It gives them something to sell; they can sell it to young amateurs. Anybody who sticks with music for a long time won’t pay attention to that stuff – it goes right past them. But the money is made with the beginners, and those people respond to words like ‘shred’ or ‘virtuoso.’ It’s just the way it goes.”