“Live Albums give you an Imagination that Studio Albums Don’t”: A Candid Conversation with Marty Friedman

To readers of this site, the name Marty Friedman needs no introduction. The legendary metal guitarist is releasing his new live album One Bad M.F. Live, his 14th solo album overall,this Friday October 19 via Prosthetic Records. Recorded at Centro Cultural in Mexico City on April 14 2018, this album is the rawest, purest representation and celebration of Marty’s career, as well as the sheer brilliance and class of his band, comprising Kiyoshi (bass), Jordan Ziff (guitar) and Chargeeee (drums). To celebrate the release, Marty Friedman and band will be playing a very special intimate concert at the Viper Room in West Hollywood on October 21. Marty recently spoke to Metal Assault to discuss the new record, his band, his favorite live albums, his memories of the Viper Room, and an obscure solo project from the past. Enjoy the candid conversation below.

Marty, it’s great to have you again on Metal Assault. You have a live album releasing very soon. First of all, how did the idea for that come about?

Nice to be talking to you again! Well, we were touring in support of the Wall of Sound album, which was the same setup as the Inferno tour. Everything was just so much fun on the road, just so much good experience, and I really wanted to get a document of what was going on. If for nothing else, just to have it immortalized in sound, because there were just so many amazing, special nights on the road, so many great smiles from the audiences, such great reaction everywhere, and so much fun within the band too. It’s just something that I wanted a real, good proper document of, and that’s what this live record is.

So, this is a recording of just one single show, right? 

Yeah, it’s all just one show!  We did one show in Mexico City and that’s it, that’s the one show recorded for this album. It was actually the last show of this touring cycle, so if there were any major train wrecks, we would have been in trouble (laughs). It’s pretty much just as you hear it. The only thing that’s different from the concert is, it’s a little bit shorter. We played two hours and the live album is about 75 minutes, so we had to cut some things for the album’s sake. But the whole recording is just really as raw as it could possibly get.

That’s awesome. I think you’ve said throughout the last couple of years that Wall of Sound is an album that means a lot to you, and that it’s the culmination of what you always wanted to do in your solo career. So, is that also a big part of the reason you’re doing a live record of this album tour cycle?

It probably has a good amount of reasoning to that. It was just so much fun to play the Wall of Sound stuff live, and it was exciting to get the crowd responses for that new stuff. They seemed to really like it even when the record was brand new, so it wasn’t really like they had a whole lot of time to get used to it. Stuff on the album just translates really well like and I feel ultra-comfortable playing it. Hopefully that comes through when you listen to the live record.

We’ve talked about this before, about your band that you’ve had with you, at least for the last few years that I’ve seen you live. They’re all amazing players with great stage presence and that obviously adds a lot to your show. You’ve hand-picked them as part of the band. Is this live album also a showcase for them, being about the band and not just about you, per se?

Well that’s exactly what the concert is. If it was just all about me, it’s not even something that I would want to do. It’s definitely a great showcase for the band, and I say this all the time, but those guys outshine me every night in concert, there’s no question about that. Hopefully that comes through in the live record, as it’s a really good showcase for all of them. Bass player Kiyoshi actually played on Wall of Sound, so it’s not the first time that she’s done a recording with me. But drummer Chargee only played one song in the studio with me before on Tokyo Jukebox 2, and this is the first time Jordan (Ziff) and I have shared a record together. So, it’s a really good introduction to those guys to people who don’t know them but should. They are all over this record and I can’t get over how much I love the bass on this record. It’s just so slamming. I remember when we did the soundcheck for this live record and I was listening to the playback on the remote, and I just thought it’s the best bass sound, even better than the studio bass sound, and I just was really exciting with her performance and the way it sits in with the band. People are going to really freak out when they hear it, specially bass players.

That’s exciting! Since these musicians are so great at what they do, would you say that they’ve also elevated your own playing, in the sense that you feel like you have to raise your level?

Oh, I wouldn’t choose anyone who didn’t make me feel away. I want to be the weakest link in the chain, so to speak. And more importantly, I like to choose people that make me feel like I’m enjoying playing, and I could completely get lost in what I’m doing, have the freedom to get what I can out of my guitar and to the audience, to be able to make a performance of the whole thing and not have to worry about what other people are doing. They’re basically lifting me up. They’re putting this big cloud out there for me to sit on and jam. It’s just a very solid cloud (laughs). Makes it very enjoyable for me to play.

It clearly does. I think live albums have been a big part of our genre for many decades. A lot of big bands and all kinds of bands have put out live albums as part of their catalog. In your opinion, what do you think a live album offers to the listener that may be a studio album doesn’t? To you, what’s the importance of live albums?

The best thing about live albums for me is the imagination that it gives the listener. Back when I was a kid, there was no YouTube and there were no videos of every concert. You just listened to the live album, and your mind went crazy about what it was actually like in the arena where the band was playing. Your mind just goes wild with imagination of what it would be like to be inside that atmosphere. That is what got me into rock music. I would listen to live albums when I was a kid, like Kiss Alive, Ramones’ It’s Alive, Frampton Comes Alive … and bands like UFO, Foghat, Blue Öyster Cult, they all had just stellar live albums and it was just a fantastic representation of, “Listen to all this insane stuff we’re doing in this arena we’re playing!” And then you go see them and it would take it to the next level. And listening to a live album, without a video to go on, each person gets their own personalized image of what the concert might be like. I just remembered so many hours of listening to live albums, just cranking them loud, wishing I was at the concert and wanting to play on stage like my favorite bands. That’s something that I didn’t get nearly as much from studio records. So I really gravitated towards live albums when I first started getting into music.

Right, and I think the other thing with that is, when a band records a show or records a live album over a series of shows, you get a taste of their discography. It’s not just one album. It’s a good representation of the band.

Yeah, good point! Like, there’s stuff from my first solo album on this new live record, and there’s stuff that literally had just come out. So it runs the whole gamut of my entire career on there.

The other thing I wanted to talk to you about is the upcoming show that you have in Hollywood, at the Viper Room! That’s going to be a special one, I’m sure. It’s such a tiny room and you’re doing your show there. What are you expecting from that, and what can we expect from you?

It’s kind of a party / concert / record release celebration. Lot of cool things that we want to get done in very short period of time for only the most hardcore people. What we’re going to do at the show is, we’re going to announce the actual tour which is going to take place in January and February of next year. This is just kind of like a thing to put an exclamation point on the release of the live album. Of course we’ll play the entire live set, including all the songs that didn’t wind up on the album. We’ll do the full tour set, and there will be surprises and stuff, we’ll bring people up on stage and have them play with us, and basically we’re just looking to have a really good show. We didn’t have a tour planned for right around the release but we wanted to do something to point out that we’re about to do a tour soon. The band is so excited to come from Japan to do this, and it’s going to be a wild, wild night!

I’m sure it will be! I think it’s an interesting way to do this as well. A lot of bands, whether it be a studio or a live album, they just go on tour right-away around the release, but then I guess people haven’t had the change to digest the album yet. So it might be better that you’re doing your tour a couple of months after release when everybody probably has the album.

Yeah, I’m glad you think that way! That wasn’t the original release why we did it this way but it’s definitely a bonus, and specially in Japan. Japanese people really tend to learn the music of the record, not on instrument, but they like to get used to what’s on the record so that when they go see the band live, they can kind of know what to expect and know what they’re looking for. So, the longer they’ve had to digest it, the better. As a fan, I kind of feel the same way myself, but in this case we just lucked out. The real reason we’re doing it later is because of scheduling concerns and things that are going on in Japan right around the release time. But I really wanted to at least get some events going on around the release date in the US, so we’re going to do the concert in LA and we’ll be doing a kind of a performance / interview in New York City, and a bunch of other things just to let people know that it is an American release and that we care about America very, very much and can’t wait to tour there in January!

Yeah, and the Viper Room is obviously a pretty well-known club. In your past experiences, have you had a chance to go there for anything?

We were going to do this release party somewhere on the Strip, so that it’s a party vibe, and so we chose the Viper Room. Actually, that’s a place I played once before, a long time ago. I had a project called Red Dye #2 that nobody really knows about. Only the most hardcore Marty fan would know about this thing. Well, it created a buzz in some of the industry magazines at the time and a lot of people were interested in it. We did a showcase at the Viper Room, and that was the end of that band (laughs). But I remember playing there and it was a really cool vibe, just a tiny, sweaty place to play, and I think it will be perfect for our new live record release.

That’s very interesting. Red Dye #2? I have to admit, I’ve never heard of that one.

Yeah! We only had a couple of songs in movie soundtracks. There’s a magazine called Hits Magazine in LA. I don’t know if it’s still there but it was kind of an industry magazine and they were really into this band. They put together the showcase for us and we did it, and we didn’t do anything else after that, except we did one show in Arizona. But this was a shortlived, very strange project with a couple of friends of mine. I have good memories of it, but the only real show was the showcase at the Viper Room. So, that’s been my only past experience at that place and I’m excited to be back there for the record release!

– by Andrew Bansal

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