Interview : Robert Cavuoto
Photos: © Maria Debiassi
Marty Friedman will be releasing his 14th solo album, One Bad M.F. Live!! on October 19 via Prosthetic Records. It’s an all-out celebration of his music in its rawest form with bandmates: Kiyoshi [bass], Jordan Ziff [guitar], and Chargeeee [drums]. The CD was recorded live during his 2018 Wall of Sound tour on its final show in Mexico City at Centro Cultural on April 14, 2018. Now with the release of One Bad M.F. Live!! and the combination of his otherworldly experiences culminate into an avalanche of emotion, in his immediately recognizable style.
I had the opportunity to speak with Marty about his new live CD, how his playing technique changes weekly, and if he would ever consider joining a supergroup.
Robert Cavuoto: One Bad M.F. Live!! was recorded in Mexico, do you record all of your shows then pick the best one for release or was this show this Mexico show a pre-determined situation?
Marty Friedman: We record all of our shows from the mixing board but not with a mobile recording truck as we did with this one. This was the only show that we recorded in that capacity.
Robert Cavuoto: Was there a concern if something went wrong?
Marty Friedman: No, we didn’t think about that [laughing]. I suppose that in a worst-case scenario of a major train wreck in a song, we could replay the song at the concert explaining that we were recording. We also play for two hours and this being a double CD we needed a minimum of 75-80 minutes. There were a lot of songs that were “musts” as you can hear there was pacing on the CD that we wanted to keep up with. Fortunately, there was nothing to worry about that day of recording.
Robert Cavuoto: This show was the end of the tour, so everyone had all the nuances, and parts nailed but were there still a heightened sense of nervousness from the band about being recorded?
Marty Friedman: No, we have been on tour for so long even before this tour started. We did a Wall of Sound Tour last year and then did a South American run just before this show. We were like a well-oiled machine. The only thing I was worried about was, the day before the Mexico show our drummer, Chargeeee, got food poisoning in Colombia plus the oxygen is thin up there. After the Columbia show, they had the EMTs give him oxygen and fluids. He barely pulled through that show. He was not of the normal energy that I expect from him. It was sad to see. He was a little better in Mexico, but he knew we were making a record, so he gave it 1000%. The food poising was the worst; we all ate the same thing. The food was fantastic, and I think he just had some bad luck. He is the biggest the trooper of the band and can barrel through anything. He would have played and kicked major ass even if he had IVs in his arms.
Robert Cavuoto: I met your guitarist, Jordan Ziff at a Ratt concert as he is playing guitar with them.
Marty Friedman: Jordan is all over this record. He is such a great guitar player and fantastic part of the band. His presence is very important to the overall vibe and sound. He hasn’t heard the record as yet [laughing] only the two songs on YouTube.
Robert Cavuoto: I was impressed by the CD’s tracking for the live show, how do you determine which songs will create the perfect flow from the beginning to the middle to the end?
Marty Friedman: The instrumental aspect puts a whole different spin on the set list. You can’t see that it’s four people on stage going crazy. You also have to think a little differently when it comes to editing the live version; some parts need to be shortened. For example, there is long solo that Jordan is playing on, while our drummer is pouring beer in his mouth, and I’m tossing guitar picks at his face. It’s a pretty hilarious moment in the show. The audience is going crazy, but when you are listening to it on the CD, you go “What the hell is this?” Things like that have to be shortened, and then the record gets tighter.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you approach playing the song in a live environment differently from the way they were recorded in a studio?
Marty Friedman: The main difference is my studio recordings have a lot of overdubs and layered guitar. I have to arrange the guitar part a little different when we play them live because there are only two guys playing and you can only have two things going on at the same time. I like to do more ad-libbing to give it that live feel. From there some happy accidents can occur. The studio tracks are very meticulous. I’m very anal about getting things right and not stopping until its perfect. Live you only have one shot at everything, so you are more in tune with entertaining people. It sounds looser and easier to listen to in the live recording context.
Robert Cavuoto: Is difficult to write instrumental songs that evoke emotion or do you leave that to the listener?
Marty Friedman: Hopefully, I’m trying to give as much emotion as possible. One of my key points for any song that I write or cover is for the melody to sing on my guitar. I’m really trying to be a singer with the way I interpret a melody and the way I arrange the band’s parts so I can sing on top of it with the guitar. The ultimate goal which I feel I have accomplished is that people don’t miss a vocalist when they see my band play. That they enjoy it as it is. The worst thing I could ever hear is “You guys are great if you just had a singer!” The best thing I can hear is, “I didn’t miss that you didn’t have a singer for a second!” There are two sides of the spectrum. I’m a big fan of vocals, and it’s a hard sell for me too. If I’m listening to instrumental music and I don’t miss the singer than I feel great about it.
Robert Cavuoto: I understand that this CD is a tip of the hat to the live albums that blew your mind growing up? What were some of those live albums?
Marty Friedman: When I was a kid, live albums were the shit! I love the live albums even more than the studio versions. I love Kiss Alive, Frampton Comes Alive, Mahogany Rush, Robin Trower, and Blue Oyster Cult. The Ramones live album was one of my favorites. The whole concert experience comes out when you listen to a live album.
Robert Cavuoto: Is there any song on this CD that makes the hair on your arms stand up when you are performing it?
Marty Friedman: Hopefully all of them [laughing]. On ballads like “The Devil takes Tomorrow” and “Undertow” sometimes it just sits in the right place, and I get the chills. It’s weird when you are doing your own music, and you try to keep it modest. It happens to me, particularly on the ballads. Usually, I’m trying to keep focused on the audience, but sometimes the music will take over.
Robert Cavuoto: Do you feel your playing technique has changed from Megadeth to your solo band?
Marty Friedman: My playing changes every week. It’s a good thing as it evolves and gets deeper. To make it easy to explain, when you are starting out on an instrument and getting decent where your fingers are workings so they can play in time and at all different speed; your machine is working. What happens after that is really important as your ears and mind can hear things that you want to play. If you keep honing your mind and your ears you will be playing more interesting and deeper things. You will be able to hear things better with different lines and counterpoints than a year prior. Your basic technique of playing may change a little but what changes over the years is your ability to do cooler things. Anybody can play 16th notes at 200BPM but what does that have to do with thinking of cool things to play? A lot of the technique happens at an early age and after that, you hear deeper things with experience. I feel very lucky that I keep growing and haven’t stopped. I want to be the type of guy who is always evolving. If I were playing as I did 10-15 years ago, I would be bored as Hell! Something I’m working on now might be different than something I was working on a month ago only because I heard a certain chord in a particular rhythm. It’s so important to my playing. The technique is the same but hearing depth is very, very different.
Robert Cavuoto: Have you ever considering putting together a supergroup with a vocalist?
Marty Friedman: I would love to do it. Sometimes those things come up, and I would be interested. I’m interested in hearing things from different counties as well. It goes back to the last question. The more things you pile and get experience on you have the deeper understanding. I played with Rodrigo y Gabriela at the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s an unusual combination, but I thrive on those things. I would be into doing a supergroup but with people that you might not expect me to play with. I’m the guy for that, and I’m not afraid of weird combinations.