Veteran shred guitarist Marty Friedman’s recent trip to California from his home in Japan was anything but a vacation.
Soon after arriving, he was onstage at the venerable Hollywood Bowl playing a smoldering rendition of “Oblivion” by Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla with the Mexican acoustic duo Rodrigo y Gabriela [Watch it below].
“We wrote a song together and I had them play on it on my last album, Inferno,” Friedman explains. “Working with them was such a joy, so when they found out I was a big fan of Piazzolla, it all just came together. It was fantastic.”
Still, the key item on Friedman’s California agenda was to camp out at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606 with renowned engineer Paul Fig (Alice in Chains, Rush, Deftones) to continue work on his forthcoming 2017 solo release for Prosthetic Records.
Although the final track listing and title is still to be determined, Friedman promises it will expand upon the sonic power and diversity of his prior release.
“The new album’s a way more intense version of Inferno: deeper, sadder, happier and more aggressive.” To hear Friedman tell it, the secret to smooth album sessions lies in the demo process.
“This is going to be my 13th record and I think I’ve finally found the way to do it properly. I spend a lot of time writing and demoing. So by the time I’m playing it for real in the studio, I can play all of the stuff, and it’s really easy to ad-lib out of it and do cooler things than I had originally intended. When you have a good demo, it's so much more easy, fun and painless to go in the studio and bang out the real tracks.”
His approach to maximizing the contributions of album guests, he adds, has also evolved over the years. “That’s another thing I’ve learned,” he says. “You’ve got to make use of the guest. You can’t just have them come in and pop out a solo or bang out a vocal. With Inferno, I made sure it was a complete collaboration between the guest and me. I wanted to make them write so they’d have a dog in the fight.” In that way, the guitarist explains, “the song becomes a lot more personal, and both people get more invested in it.”
For his upcoming release, Friedman’s collaborating with prog-thrashers Mutoid Man, Jorgen Munkeby of the avant-garde jazz-metal outfit Shining (NOR) and Jinxx of the neo-glam rockers Black Veil Brides. His work with Jinxx, Friedman observes, exemplifies the kind of creative partnerships he likes to cultivate. “I’m a big fan of Jinxx and Black Veil Brides. He came to my show in L.A. in 2015. Right after that, I was told that he plays violin. I didn’t even know that! Then light bulbs went off. I thought, Now’s the chance to really turn some heads by doing something that’s a little bit, well, a lot, unexpected to my fans and his fans.”
The result, according to Friedman, is “this very dark, extravagant piece with a lot of intense playing on both of our parts. We traded ideas for months before he came into the studio in L.A. It kind of snowballed into this massive piece of music. We wanted to do something that was really new and exciting, and when he came in to do his violin parts, he was there from morning until night. I think a lot of people are going to be shocked when they hear it, because it’s definitely a monster track.”
Friedman remains an enthusiast of Engl amps (“They’ve absolutely never let me down”), and for his new album he tracked solely with the final prototype of his soon-to-be-released Jackson signature model.
“I think it’s the most solid Jackson I’ve ever played. You really put a guitar to the test when you record. When I’m in the studio, whatever is the best sounding guitar for the part, that’s the one I play. My Jackson went head-to-head with Gibsons, Fenders and other major brands, and it got chosen every time.” That trial by fire, the guitarist asserts, convinced him “that this new prototype had been tweaked enough to call it the real thing.”
Upon his album’s release, Friedman looks forward to an extensive tour. “I like playing live more than anything else. For Inferno, I did Europe, Japan, the U.S. and some parts of Asia; in 2017 I want to do more of the same.” Ultimately, he declares, “If the people want to be there to hear me, I want to be there to play for them.”
For more about Friedman, visit martyfriedman.com.