Marty Friedman Discusses His Intense New Album, 'One Bad M.F. Live!!'

(Image credit: Maria DeBiassi)

“The type of thing I do is not simple music,” Marty Friedman says. But, he adds, “it should be simple to enjoy.”

As if to illustrate that point, the guitarist has put together a new release, One Bad M.F. Live!! that goes a long way toward demonstrating just how enjoyable the onstage Friedman experience can be. Recorded at an April 14, 2018, gig at Centro Cultural in Mexico City, the album finds Friedman blasting through tracks from his solo shred career, in particular from his last two albums, 2014’s Inferno and 2017’s Wall of Sound

It’s a high-energy romp that combines ridiculously acrobatic and adrenalized guitar playing with similarly electrifying instrumental backing from his band mates — bassist Kiyoshi, guitarist Jordan Ziff and drummer Chargeeee (“He’s like Animal from The Muppets,” Friedman says). At the same time, Friedman, who has lived in Tokyo for the past several years, also manages to inject a bit of whimsy into the proceedings, whether it’s performing Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” or offering the Mexico City crowd a lesson in how to curse in Japanese.

Overall, he says, “I just wanted to document what’s been going on at these shows — the great vibes that have been happening onstage and the smiles I see on people’s faces in the audience. When we get up there it looks like we’re having so much fun, and that’s because we are. So recording this album was a labor of love. And I think it really just came out fantastic.”

One thing that is evident from One Bad M.F. Live!! is that you put on an extremely high-energy show. On the first few songs — “Street Demon,” “Elixir,” “Amagi Goe” — you just come racing straight out of the gate.

Definitely. I mean, that’s the word right there — energy. The shows I like the best when I’m in the audience are the ones where I just get this enormous energy from the people playing onstage. I receive it in my body and I get this feeling where I’m lifted up and I feel great. And I hope that’s what people feel when they’re at my show. That’s what I try to give out and that’s what I wanted to capture on record. And I think we got it.

At one point in the set, I think it’s before your song “Inferno,” you say to the audience that you’re “going to bring the energy from Tokyo tonight.” I was wondering — is there a particular Japanese sort of energy to how you perform?

There is. There’s definitely a different kind of energy that comes from Japanese bands. It’s like this feeling of, “Let’s just go out and blow shit up!” [laughs] “Let’s go completely ape shit like this is the last show we’re ever going to play!” And it’s not a competition between musicians — it’s more like a friendly invitation to a duel between the band members. And it just becomes this snowball thing.

You’ve referred to that concept as “feel-good aggression.”

Yeah. That’s a good point. There’s not a whole lot of anger — we’re just having so much fun onstage. And even though it’s not angry music, it’s certainly music that you can rage big-time to. If you’re pissed off about something you’ll find it very therapeutic, because we are literally ripping people’s heads off. [laughs] Well, not literally, but we’re treating our instruments like we’re ripping the heads off these things and pouncing on this stuff. But it’s all done in a very good-natured way.

Speaking to that good-naturedness, in “Dragon Mistress,” which is this incredibly intense instrumental, you stop in the middle to teach the audience how to say “fuck yeah” in Japanese, and you also perform a pretty spot-on cover of “Hound Dog.” I can’t think of another instrumental shred show where the band breaks into an Elvis tune.

That’s right. A lot of people who haven’t seen me play live, they have a preconceived idea of what it’s going to be like. But I’m not above doing silly things, like all of a sudden singing an Elvis song or teaching the audience a cuss word in a whole different language.

Do you have more touring coming up?

Yeah, definitely. I’m going to be touring America in January and February 2019 and Europe in April. Playing live is just my favorite thing to do. And we’ll eventually do another album. But I’ll be honest, I don’t know how I’m going to top Wall of Sound. I really can’t express how much of an unhealthy obsession I have with that record. It’s my favorite. So I wanted to document it with the One Bad M.F. Live!! record. And we’re going to keep doing shows because I want to make sure everybody sees this tour, the Wall of Sound tour, before I try to top that thing, which eventually I will do. So we’re going to tour a lot in 2019, because I love playing music that I love to play. [laughs] I mean, sometimes I play music that I don’t love to play, and I still love it! It’s always fun.

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Richard Bienstock

Rich is the co-author of the best-selling Nöthin' But a Good Time: The Uncensored History of the '80s Hard Rock Explosion. He is also a recording and performing musician, and a former editor of Guitar World magazine and executive editor of Guitar Aficionado magazine. He has authored several additional books, among them Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, the companion to the documentary of the same name.