This article first appeared in Regional Music Journal on June 30, 2019.
Touring the U.S. for just four short weeks in support of his 14th solo album, Marty Friedman and his amazing band of musicians made it to the Lone Star State all the way from Japan playing at Come and Take It Live in Austin, Texas.
Most people associate Friedman with his role as lead guitarist in Megadeth, but did you know that Friedman has also enjoys an illustrious solo career and has received high accolades for his contributions to the music world in Japan?
Being mostly self-taught, Friedman began playing guitar at the age of 15. He threw himself into studying the guitar and began exploring ethnic music in search of new, exotic scales to incorporate into his lead playing.
When Friedman joined Megadeth in 1990 led by Dave Mustaine, he brought stability to the lead guitar position and remained with the band for 10 years contributing to their four albums. He integrated his style of exotic scale solos into their music, which is typically filled with fast rhythm sections and lyrical themes of death, war, politics, and religion.
Friedman brought his “Marty-esque” technical accomplishments to Megadeth which was a key element to their ultimate success. During his time with the iconic group, they sold more than 10 million albums worldwide and earned multiple Grammy nominations.
Interestingly, Friedman is critical of being called a ‘shredder’ and wasn’t always a fan of the lyrics and the heavy themes. However, he did love the sound of the music enough that he “put up with the lyrics,” so to speak. He soon began to realize that he could keep the aggressive sound of heavy metal, but combine it with more realism to create something more substantial than just playing amazing guitar solos.
As much as he loved being a part of Megadeth, its music, and its fans, Friedman always felt an overwhelming pull towards Japanese music, Japanese language, and the Japanese way of life. He decided to leave the band and move to Tokyo in 2000 to pursue his longtime dream of living in and adopting the Japanese culture.
Over the past decade or so, his solo albums stylistically range from orchestral soundtrack style music to furious aggressive rock, improvisations and exotic fusion of Eastern and Western music, have achieved high global success.
But Friedman isn’t just an ordinary guitar genius living in Japan. During his 11 years, he has appeared on more than 600 TV shows, including the Japanese Cooking Show, contributed to Japanese music magazines and national newspapers, and written several Japanese Top 10 hits, including a #1 single in 2011 and a #3 single in 2012.
His latest album pays homage to “the live albums that blew my mind when I was a kid,” says Friedman, and considers it filled with “modern and atomic-powered, but old school music.”
Friedman took his show on the road during the first part of 2019 and describes his live shows and his interactions with the audience as “happy accidents, once in a lifetime ad libs, things that could have only happened because we were high on the audience’s energy.”
Playing alongside Friedman since 2015 is the bold-performing bassist Kiyoshi, who brings her original style of play with powerful percussive slaps. Growing up in Scottsdale, Arizona guitarist Jordan Ziff idolized Friedman. Ziff showcases his amazing musical talent on a guitar rendition of ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ that is sweet, sweet music to the ears. Japanese drummer Chargeeee “The Animal” is the quensential, energetic, rock and roll drummer and an incredible showman.
Accompanying Friedman on tour is the progressive, power metal band, Immortal Guardian. The Texas-based virtuosic metal quartet has made a name for themselves within the metal music realm.
The band was founded in 2012 by Gabriel Guardian, a multi-instrumentalist with a unique ability of playing guitar and keyboard, simultaneously, with impeccable precision to boot. He brings new meaning to the word ‘multi-tasker.’ Guardian’s new style of live performances has been recognized by the biggest names in metal like Judas Priest, Slayer, and Steve Vai, to name a few.
Brazilian singer Carlos Zema provides lead vocals for Immortal Guardian while Cody Gilliland is on drums and vocals and Thad Stevens on bass guitar. Immortal Guardian has evolved into a metal assault of anthemic melodies, technical rhythms, and powerful high octave vocals.
Immortal Guardian worked with legendary producer/engineer Roy Z on its “Revolution Part I” EP giving the tracks a unique sound that evokes the New Wave of British Heavy Metal-styling heard in Z’s high profile clients such as Iron Maiden’s Bruce Dickinson. It was this sound and musicality that helped get them the new gig with Friedman.
In 2017, the Japanese Government appointed Friedman as an Ambassador of Japan Heritage, for three years carrying through the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Friedman continues to be one of the most influential and respected guitar players in the world and his impact on heavy metal and guitar-playing continue to inspire generations of musicians and music fans.
I’ve never been a thrash metal fan, but when the ear-piercing vocals are gone, these guys really know how to play great rock and roll music.
Cover: Marty Friedman, courtesy Lisa Davis
Lisa Davis is a freelance writer and editorial assistant in Austin, Texas