Ex-Megadether Marty Friedman, a longtime PRS player, recently launched a single-cutaway signature SE model.

For 10 years Marty Friedman basked in Megadeth’s bright white light. He virtually wrote the code for thrash metal guitar on the band’s early-’90s albums Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction, and to this day shredders regularly tout those records as touchstones. But the fame and hoopla turned sour, and Friedman simply walked away from it all. “I wasn’t reaching my full potential in that band anymore,” he says. “We’d be on tour and people would come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you’re in Megadeth—are they still a band?’”

Friedman retreated to Tokyo, where he’s lived and worked for the past decade—but not that you’d know it. He concentrated on the Asian music market, playing with Japanese pop artists and releasing solo albums. But the 51-year-old master shredder has returned with Inferno, his first guitar instrumental album since 2006’s Loudspeaker.

Even though he’s been away for some time, Friedman understood exactly what his fans wanted to hear. “They wanted to hear me play my friggin’ ass off,” he says. “They wanted to hear heavy, aggressive, innovative, and warped shit.”

“The main direction I gave to my guitar tech was, ‘Get me a tone that any guy in a bar band would have.’ I paid 99 percent of my attention to the content and the performance and one percent on how to get sounds.”

And that’s exactly what the guitarist delivers. Engineered by Chris Rakestraw (Children of Bodom, Danzig) and mixed by Jens Bogren (Opeth), Inferno is Marty Friedman unleashed on a dozen tracks of blistering guitar. Owing to multiple rewrites, arrangement changes, edits, and simply Friedman’s meticulous attention to detail—which can meant burning down 100 takes of the same solo—the album took 14 months to complete. Working with the rhythm section of Skyharbor drummer Anup Sastry and bassist Toshiki Oomomo, the guitarist also called on friends like Children of Bodom’s Alexi Laiho, vocalist Danko Jones, Skyharbor’s Keshav Dhar, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and the Shining’s saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby to guest on selected tracks. There’s also an eerily beautiful song called “Horrors,” a writing collaboration with longtime friend and former Cacophony bandmate Jason Becker.

“I was going to take a long time to make the greatest album of my career,” Friedman says. “Do it with the love and respect all the people waiting for me deserve.”

Freidman told Premier Guitar about his experience making Inferno—and why he detests instrumental guitar music, doesn’t care about effects, and never really understood Jimi Hendrix.

Have you kept your finger on the pulse of American instrumental guitar music?
Absolutely not. I hate instrumental guitar music. Believe me, if someone did some instrumental music that set me on fire, I would love it. Unfortunately, I hear a lot of fantastic music, but nothing touches me.

Official track stream “Steroidhead”

You say you hate instrumental guitar music. How do you reconcile that with the fact you are a guitarist who plays instrumental music?
I have the right to be a hypocrite! I don’t mind being lumped in with fantastic musicians even if they do instrumental music. But I think my music doesn’t even slightly sound like these other guys. My influences and the place I come from are so different from what the other guys do. I don’t think I have any of the same goals as a lot of my contemporaries. These guys love the instrument and the history of guitar. They idolize Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, and fantastic musicianship, but I could really give a shit about any of that stuff, man.

Hendrix and Page don’t mean anything to you?
All these instrumental guys say the same types of things, like, “I love jazz, fusion, classical. Jimi Hendrix, and Eric Clapton.” These are indisputably fantastic things, but I fell in love with different things. I’m into current pop music from Japan and ’50s music like the early rock ’n’ roll and the doo-wop stuff. Girl groups, the Beach Boys, Phil Spector, and those types of melodic soundscapes. And super-intense and brutal, brutal death metal-type riffage.

Were you challenged in coming up with new and edgy guitar sounds?
I really don’t get into that because I don’t know about any of those things. The other thing is, I don’t have the time. I’m way too interested in the content of the music itself. The main direction I gave to my guitar tech was, “Get me a tone that any guy in a bar band would have.” I paid 99 percent of my attention to the content and the performance and one percent to getting sounds. Which is basically leaving it up to someone who knows what they’re doing.

How much of Inferno was improvised?
There’s quite a bit of improvising in the demo stage when I’m creating the actual shape of the song—where it’s supposed to go up and down and the basic flow. I often throw just anything down on the demo just so I know there’s supposed to be a solo there. When I’m recording the thing for real, I’ll do thousands of takes on one little section. The main meat and potatoes of everything is completely worked out and sculpted. In the very last stage, I have a lot of fun with stuff and just improvise like crazy.