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Marty Friedman has been living and making music in Japan for the past decade. “I wasn’t reaching my full potential in that band anymore,” he says of his decision to quit Megadeth.
What guitars did you bring out for Inferno?
I’ve been endorsing PRS for the last three years, and I have a new PRS Marty Friedman model that just came out. I used about five different PRS guitars on this record. The one that got used the most became the prototype for my signature model. It’s just an ass-kicking and really great-sounding guitar.
What amps were you running?
Engl amps. They send me five or six amps, I switch from one to the other, and they all sound good. An important thing when switching amps is, if you’re the same guy playing rhythms and leads, you don’t necessarily want to go through the same amp, because the tones tend to blend. But within only one Engl amp, you can get a great variety of sounds. I used the Steve Morse signature for the majority of the solos and then a Powerball on some stuff.
What about effects?
Wow, almost none. I used a Boss Chorus and these amp simulators I love to use when I’m doubling a rhythm. I’ll use the real amps for the main rhythm passage, and I’ll double it with an amp simulator with a really odd tone you wouldn’t expect to record with. I used this thing called a Maxon Auto Filter sometimes on solos, and that’s about it. I don’t really spend a lot of time on effects.
“Inferno” opens the album with those mournful lines.
The title track is based on that opening melody. A lot of people want to hear me totally play my ass off. That’s okay, but to fit my other criteria of pleasing me, it’s got to have a purpose. As far as showing off on guitar, I did that in spades when I was 18, and it’s not gonna turn me on so much right now even if I know that’s what people want me to do. I have to make it have a purpose and have those waves of excitement. It has to have a goal and a musical motif that actually gives you something of value.
Then you close the album with “Inferno (Reprise).”
You have to put a purpose in to make all of the flashy playing really have value. It’s almost structured like a classical piece: You have a theme, and then it goes through several different morphs with a lot of passages that hopefully lead you from one to the next.
“Resin” is another track that opens with a beautifully lyrical line. How do you develop those types of thematic phrases?
I’m constantly searching for new lines and motifs that somebody hasn’t already done—and I haven’t already done. To me the charm point of that piece is the very beginning and the end. They’re basically the same motifs, but at the beginning it’s like going into a damp, dark, musty cave of hellishness. You go through a bunch of stuff, and then at the end it takes you to a climax of noise before dropping you off the cliff into the next song. That is quite a challenging process, because it’s all about the way you’re made to feel from point A to point B.
How do you achieve that?
Making exciting beats that force people to feel a certain way, so by the end of the song there’s nowhere else to go except off the edge of the cliff. It takes a lot of living with demos and shaving things just right and a lot of experimentation. That’s a good example of the way I write.
Tell us about “Wicked Panacea,” the flamenco track you do with Rodrigo y Gabriela.
I knew if I was going to work with them, I would want to do something they’ve never done and I’ve never done. It’d be easy for me to bang a solo over one of their songs, and it would be easy for them to play acoustic guitar over one of my songs. I had them write a whole bunch of things I could loop and make sections out of. I took what I liked and created an arrangement out of what they sent me. By the time I finished with it, it didn’t really look much like what they originally sent. I wrote my own music around what I had of theirs, and hence you have something that sounds like the ultimate collaboration between the two of us.
Is that what you did for “Steroidhead,” your collaboration with Keshav Dhar from Skyharbor?
Not a lot of guitar players get onto my radar, but when I heard him I was like, “This shit is great. This guy’s going to be a star.” I’ve been in the guitar business for a long time and I’ve pretty much heard it all, but this was fresh. I wanted to have a song that was like if we were in the same band together. That’s his sound going through my filter and my arrangements.
“I Can’t Relax” is one of the vocal tracks with Danko Jones. Is your dynamic approach different on vocal and instrumental tracks?
The only thing that’s mentally different is you have a shorter space in which the guitar is the main instrument, which is really the way it should be. Let’s face it, no matter how unique or interesting your guitar playing is, it’s a challenge for a lot of people to listen to that much guitar. Some people are up for that challenge, and God bless ’em, I love every one of them. But myself? It’s more refreshing to hear a fantastic guitar passage in the middle of a great song with vocals. But my concept of playing doesn’t change no matter what I’m doing.