Now big in Japan, the ex-Megadeth fret-burner takes his axe to that country's modern megahits for a collection of instrumental guitar rock, Tokyo Jukebox 3.
Over a career that spans almost four decades, Marty Friedman made his mark as a guitar hero with his playing on Megadeth's iconic albums, including the classics Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction, and as the co-founder of Cacophony—a shred-metal duo with Jason Becker (whose career was tragically cut short after he was diagnosed with ALS). But there's a whole 'nother side of Friedman that many might not be aware of. In the Land of the Rising Sun, where he's lived since 2003, Friedman is a huge television personality who has appeared on over 700 TV shows. In fact, Friedman has even been dubbed "the Ryan Seacrest of Japan."
Essentially, Friedman is having his cake and eating it, too. He's still a guitarist par excellence, and his latest release, Tokyo Jukebox 3, features exciting instrumental arrangements of popular hits from Japanese idol culture. To put this rather strange marriage of influences in context for a Western perspective, it would be akin to someone like Steve Vai covering Backstreet Boys hits. "Nothing wrong with being strange [laughs]," says Friedman. "But yeah, that's a very good American analogy. I'd love to hear Steve Vai cover a Backstreet Boys song. Those Backstreet Boys songs are absolutely wonderfully crafted pieces of music, and Steve Vai is an absolutely wonderful guitarist, so to hear him play those kinds of great pieces of pop music, his interpretation, would be of very high interest to me. If you notice, the music that I chose is very well crafted in the first place, and then I totally destroy it and build it back up from the beginning, keeping the essence of what I like about it very much intact."
Tokyo Jukebox 3 is the third in Friedman's TokyoJukebox series, which showcases his affinity for J-Pop. "In Japanese pop music, there's absolutely no genre laws at all," he explains. "You might have a totally sappy ballad right next to a totally dark, gruesome heavy metal song, and then a real cheerful disco-type song, all within the same artist. I like that freedom and the lack of stigma to a particular genre. In American music, it's either heavy metal, pop, dance music, R&B, or hip-hop. The genres might collaborate but they don't really collaborate in the mainstream very much. The other thing I like about Japanese music, as compared to American music, is the melody is top priority—it takes an even higher priority than the abilities of the singer! In America, many times in mainstream music, a vocalist is a super-vocalist, and you wouldn't even want to attempt to try to sing like that because you'd just be making a fool of yourself. You don't have people dancing around the house trying to sing like Adele, because she's too amazing of a singer. But in Japanese music, it's the magic of the voice, not the technique of the voice, so anybody can sing the song. It's kind of doable."
The recording of Tokyo Jukebox 3 began in January 2020, and Friedman had hoped to release it by May. Then the pandemic hit. This setback turned out to be a blessing in disguise. "I was like, 'Oh yes, I can always find something to polish up, something to throw out and replace with something better,'" recalls Friedman. "When I'm actually playing and recording, it's hard to really listen objectively, but after you've done a few mixes of something, you listen to it while you're jogging and you hear things that are just not there when you have your instrument in your hands. Just because you played something that is difficult or maybe feels like a big achievement doesn't mean listening to it is any good at all. The proof is in the listening—when you listen back to it, do you get chills or not?"
"The other thing I like about Japanese music, as compared to American music, is the melody is top priority."
Friedman was appointed a Japan Heritage Ambassador by the country's government in 2017 and has played the opening ceremony of the annual Tokyo Marathon since. In an unofficial capacity as ambassador, his albums like Tokyo Jukebox 3 serve to bridge a cultural gap. "I think it might be a way to introduce [my fans] to certain Japanese artists and songs that I like," he says. "By the time I'm done with my arrangements of the songs, they just sound like my music anyway. It's kind of all through my filter, so even if you don't know the origin of the song, you could listen to it on face value as just another one of my songs. If they hear it and if they like it, they might be interested in the origin of it."
Of course, as an ambassador of heritage, Friedman does have more responsibilities than just being a figurehead. He was commissioned by the Japanese government to compose the "Japan Heritage Official Theme Song," which he performed with the Tokyo Philharmonic. This composition—which features a cello solo that Friedman wrote for his wife, Hiyori Okuda—appears on Tokyo Jukebox 3 and was quite an undertaking. "I had to write for a 70- to 80-piece orchestra, and I wanted to come up with something that was kind of everyday Japanese. A lot of times when foreigners try to compose a piece of music that sounds Japanese, they come up with something that sounds like what's in the background of a sushi restaurant or martial arts movies," says Friedman. "I just prayed that the people who asked me to compose it weren't going to turn it down and say, 'Okay, we need a Japanese person to do this. You have no idea what you're doing. Let's scrap it.'"
TIDBIT: Friedman says the photo shoot for his latest album's cover was "a huge undertaking. It was done with so much energy, love, and expertise. There were just so many experts on the scene—the kimono expert, the kabuki makeup expert, regular makeup expert, hair expert, photography expert, graphic designer expert, all in the same room doing this thing."
But composing the piece was only the beginning. After it was completed, Friedman had an even more daunting task: He had to play the song in front of Japanese-government officials. "That was nerve-racking, man," admits Friedman. "It's nothing like playing for record company people. With record company people all you do is turn the volume up in the studio and anything sounds great. But this is different—the government people were there with their suits! Luckily, everybody liked it."
When we spoke, I mentioned the composition's pungent but beautiful and ear-catching bends. "Pungent is a great word," says Friedman. "I'm going to use that from now on. I find that, not only with bending but with any note that you have, especially since I play so many melodies, you have to come up with interesting ways to interpret them. If you're always interpreting them with the same kind of phrasing all the time, all melodies would get redundant. I like to have hundreds of options to approach things and it seems like when I do bends, people respond to them. They notice them more than a lot of the other things that I might put more attention to. That might be a thing that sticks out and is quite pungent [laughs]. It stinks. It really has an aroma, good or bad. I tend to do that and that's one of the things that people pick up on."
Marty Friedman's Gear
Friedman played a variety of Jackson guitars during his tenure with Megadeth, including the Randy Rhoads model in this 1992 photo.
Photo by Frank Forcino/Frank White Agency
- Jackson MF-1 with two EMG MF (Marty Friedman Signature) humbuckers
- ENGL Marty Friedman Inferno E766 (100-watts)
- ENGL 4x12 cabinets
Strings and Picks
- D'Addario NYXL (.010–.046)
- Dunlop 1 mm
- Boss ES-8 Effects Switching System
- Boss CH-1 Super Chorus
- Boss DD-500 Digital Delay
- Maxon AF-9 Auto Filter
- Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer
- MXR M135 Smart Gate
- MXR Phase 90
- MXR M87 Bass Compressor
"The Perfect World," the sole vocal track on Tokyo Jukebox 3, is a "self cover" and was actually originally released in 2018 as the theme song for the Netflix anime series B: The Beginning. The song went straight to the top of the charts, and then took an unexpected detour. "It was one of those music business things that happens, and when it happened it was a drag," says Friedman. "Between myself, Netflix, and the creators of that anime, the song took a year in production to get to where it was just right. Then all the stars aligned, and it was perfect—it hit No. 1 on the iTunes chart the day it came out, and everybody was just fantastically happy. The very next day, there was a shakedown at the record label and the team working on my record was all gone. There was a whole new staff and whole new plans for everything, and all promotion for the record was completely shelved. So, I really felt like there was unfinished business with that song. It was almost like a revenge version."
The latest version of Friedman's signature model Jackson has the same MF-1 appointments but comes with a prismatic purple mirror finish.
Photo by Susumu Miyawaki
The cover image for Tokyo Jukebox 3 features Friedman in kabuki makeup, decked out in a traditional Japanese Kimono. "It came out like one of these wonderful album covers from the '70s," says Friedman. "I'm just really proud of that cover." Now, in advance of any pitchfork-wielding wokesters ready for their next "cultural appropriation" hit piece, Friedman is quick to point out that the album cover was the brainchild of a Japanese crew, and has been very well received in Japan. "They love it—it was their idea," he recalls. "It was the product of many meetings with the best graphic designers in Japan. It was a huge project, a huge undertaking. It was done with so much energy, love, and expertise. There were just so many experts on the scene—the kimono expert, the kabuki makeup expert, regular makeup expert, hair expert, photography expert, graphic designer expert, all in the same room doing this thing."
Marty Friedman on Black Sabbath's "Into the Void" - Hooked
As both a guitar god of the highest order and a mega-celeb TV star in Japan, Friedman still refuses to simply rest on his laurels. "I always say the best thing is the thing I haven't done yet," he confesses. "I'm trying to raise the bar on my own work, so it's like a personal best kind of thing. I'm really proud of the most recent video I did for 'Makenaide.'" That particular video features a super tearjerker ending with Jason Becker, in the center of a massive Zoom collage of over 120 people from Friedman's Facebook fan group, holding a sign that reads "Never Give Up On Yourself."
Bach, Sarasate and "Japan Heritage Official Theme Song" - Marty Friedman / Gen Ohta / OEK
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- Hooked: Marty Friedman on Black Sabbath's "Into the Void" - Premier Guitar ›
- Hooked: Marty Friedman on Black Sabbath's "Into the Void" - Premier Guitar ›
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Designed for utmost comfort and performance, the Vertigo Ultra Bass is Mono’s answer to those who seek the ultimate gigging experience.
Complete with a range of game-changing design features, such as the patent-pending attachable FREERIDE Wheel System, premium water-resistant and reflective materials, shockproof shell structure and improved ergonomic features, the Vertigo Ultra Bass takes gear protection to the next level.
The Vertigo Ultra Bass features:
- Patent-pending FREERIDE Wheel System that allows for wheels to be attached on the case in no time, giving you the option to travel with it seamlessly
- Upgraded materials, including a water-resistant 1680D Ballistic Nylon outer shell, plush inner lining and new reflective trim for maximum backstage and night visibility
- Enhanced protection with a shockproof shell structure and heavy-duty water-resistant YKK zippers for protection from the elements
- Improved ergonomics and functionality including added back support and load-lifting detachable shoulder straps with side release buckles
- Flexible storage options with added space for touring essentials
The Generation Collection of acoustic guitars features the exclusive Gibson Player Port designed to offer a unique and immersive sonic experience.
The G-Bird, the newest addition to the Generation Collection--represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird colliding with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port to add a new dimension to the G-Bird sound. The Gibson Player Port allows players to hear more of themselves as the audience hears it. With a tone that is crisp and resonant, all of the Gibson Generation Collection acoustics are designed to be comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time. All Generation Collection guitars feature the Gibson Player Port, slim, lightweight bodies, a flatter fingerboard radius, Walnut back and sides, Sitka spruce tops, and a stunning Natural finish. Additionally, the new G-Bird, and the G-200 and G-Writer are equipped with LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup systems which amplify deep bass and crystal-clear highs.
The G-Bird represents the glorious legacy of the Gibson Hummingbird with modern sonic enhancement through the Gibson Player Port adding a new dimension to the G-Bird’s sound. The G-Bird features a stunning solid Sitka spruce top and solid walnut back and sides for the ultimate in crisp, resonant tone. This square-shoulder dreadnought delivers all the rich low end and well-balanced mids and highs the original Hummingbird is famous for. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with chrome Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning. The utile neck, with its easy-playing Advanced Response neck profile, is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird also comes equipped with an LR Baggs™ Element Bronze pickup system, so it will always sound as good to your audience as it does to you. The G-Bird is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Modeled after Gibson’s pioneering small-body parlor acoustic guitars from the 1930’s, the G-00 is a top choice for blues and fingerstyle guitar performances. Despite its more compact size, the G-00 achieves a full, balanced sound. The G-00 fills any room with rich tones-which players can hear like never before, with the exclusive Gibson Player Port. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-00 is handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustic guitars. The G-00 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-00 parlor-sized body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-00 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
The G-45, a round-shouldered jumbo, adds the Gibson Player Port to its famous “Workhorse” J-45 style body, which is Gibson’s best-selling acoustic guitar of all time. On the G-45, players can now hear more clearly than ever how this beloved guitar responds to every style and technique of playing. Powerful one moment and soft the next, the G-45 delivers all sounds with incredible dynamic range in an elegant, medium body size. The G-45 is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-45 features a slightly thinner round shoulder body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and play. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-45 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is included.
Gibson’s impressive range of square-shouldered guitars have become an expressive standard for rock, pop, folk, and country artists. The G-Writer is known for its wide range of sounds, from gutsy and loud, to soft and sweet; they are superb for all styles and shine, whether strumming chords or fingering intricate solos. The G-Writer comes ready for the stage or studio with an LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system and the ear-opening Gibson Player Port. The G-Writer is part of the Gibson Generation Collection and like all models in this collection, it is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. It features a solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The G-Writer features a slightly thinner cutaway body, is more comfortable to play and provides effortless access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners deliver solid tuning stability, so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-Writer is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
Gibson built its first “Super Jumbo” SJ-200 as a custom order for country and western singer and film star Ray Whitley, who desired a big, loud, and deep flat-top over which to croon. The SJ-200 quickly became a staple of cowboy singers and horseback troubadours, and then country music, 60’s folk stars, and onto every acoustic guitar genre that has followed. Ray would be proud to hear the booming sound from the Gibson Player Port on the new G-200, which comes ready for the stage or studio with a LR Baggs Element Bronze pickup system. Like all models in the Gibson Generation Collection, the G-200 is handcrafted in Bozeman, MT, by the same highly--skilled craftspeople who make all Gibson acoustics. The G-200 features a beautiful solid Sitka spruce top and solid Walnut back and sides for tone that sounds crisp and resonant. The slightly thinner G-200 cutaway jumbo body is exceptionally comfortable to hold and provides excellent access to the upper frets. The TUSQ nut and saddle, along with the Grover Mini Rotomatic tuners, deliver solid tuning stability so you can spend more time playing instead of tuning, and the utile neck with its easy-playing neck profile is so comfortable you won’t want to put it down. The G-200 is available in Natural finish. A gig bag is also included.
G-Bird | Generation Collection
For more information, please visit gibson.com.
Looking for a compact, “noiseless” way to plug in and play guitar? Check out the brand-new Gibson Digital Amp, available only in the Gibson App.
The new Gibson App simplifies the learning process and brings guitar playing to life for the current and next generation of guitarists in a modern, comprehensive, and intuitive way. The Gibson App is the place to take your guitar playing to the next level. New to the Gibson App is the Gibson Digital Amp, the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediate players and pros to get their sound anywhere. The Gibson Digital Amp is an accessible amplifier for both acoustic and electric guitars, and is currently available for Apple/iOS users--an Android version will debut next year.
Use the Gibson Digital Amp’s jamming guide to get started and transform your sound with built-in effects and pedals, jam to backing tracks, or use it in lessons and songs. The Gibson Digital Amp only requires your phone, and wired headphones for the best playing experience, no cables are needed. The amp features 3 acoustic mic presets, 4 electric amp presets, and 6 effects pedals.
The Gibson Digital Amp is the ultimate starting amplifier for beginners and a flexible amp on-the-go for intermediates and pros.
The Gibson App uses a unique two-way, interactive platform to teach guitar students how to do everything from playing their first note to shredding loads of songs. The Gibson App features interactive lessons with thousands of lessons and songs. Learn the songs step-by-step with video tutorials from superstar artists and pro guitarists in the “Gibson App Guide.” The Gibson App also includes the new Digital Amp, a built-in tuner, a metronome, Gibson TV, and new songs are added every week. New Gibson App Guides are added regularly and include Tommy “Spaceman” Thayer’s favorite iconic KISS guitar solos, Richie Faulkner’s (Judas Priest) “Guide to Metal,” Jared James Nichols’ “Guide to Blues,” CELISSE’s “Guide to Songwriting,” and more.
The Gibson App uses “audio augmented reality” to provide dynamic feedback to students as they learn and play. As you pluck a note or strum a chord, the Gibson App listens to your guitar and gives you real-time feedback on your playing. It also gives students a more contextual learning experience: Instead of learning chords and scales in a vacuum, you’re able to practice on a scrolling tablature that lets you hear how you sound with the backing of a virtual band. That means you can load up “Hurt” by Johnny Cash, “Brown Eyed Girl” by Van Morrison, “American Girl" by Tom Petty, “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica, “Where is My Mind" by Pixies, “Country Roads” by John Denver, “I Hate Myself For Loving You" by Joan Jett, “Heaven” by Kane Brown, “Shape Of You” by Ed Sheeran, “Killer Queen” by Queen,“ Sweet Child O’ Mine,” by Guns ‘N Roses, “Run to the Hills” by Iron Maiden, “Roxanne” by The Police, and “Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “The Man Who Sold the World” by Nirvana, “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and “Don't Look Back In Anger” by Oasis and hundreds more songs in a wide range of genres, to see how your play matches up with such seminal tracks.
As you’re playing, the Gibson App gives you feedback on timing and tone, ensuring that students are getting active input on how their play is developing. The Gibson App appeals to players of all levels, it’s not just for beginners looking to learn a few chords; the app can assist seasoned guitarists who are working their way through difficult riffs, want to learn their favorite songs, or polish their advanced techniques.
Players can also challenge themselves by speeding up or slowing the tabs. Like having a full-time guitar teacher, the Gibson App keeps track of all your progress and adjusts lesson plans accordingly. The Gibson App released a “backing track mode” which supports both lesson and song playback without headphones, so users can self-select what works best for their current environment. And that’s not all: the Gibson App also packs in a fully-featured digital tuner for guitar first-timers, there’s even a detailed lesson on how to tune your instrument, a multi-function metronome, players can connect to free one-on-one consultations with Gibson’s Virtual Guitar Tech team, and to direct links to the Gibson, Epiphone, and Kramer online stores for easy shopping for guitars, gear, apparel, and accessories.
Learn Guitar With The Gibson App
The Gibson App is more than a pocket-sized guitar teacher, it’s loaded with an archive of exclusive content and original programming from its premium and accessible award-winning online network, Gibson TV, featuring music icons telling their best guitar stories, with more episodes and installments added regularly. Users can watch Black Sabbath’s Tony Iommi share insights and tales from his decades-long career on the series “Icons,” dive into Joe Bonamassa’s assortment of legendary Les Paul guitars on “The Collection,” or see how Gibson’s iconic instruments are made in their Nashville factory from body to binding on “The Process.” There’s even a series called “The Scene” that focuses on backstage stories from hallowed music venues from coast to coast like The Troubadour and Grand Ole Opry.
The Gibson App free version features a few lessons a day; the premium version of the Gibson App offers full access and a 14-day free trial, then costs $19.99/£16.49 monthly or $119.99/£98.99 yearly.
For more information, please visit gibson.com.