What would it be like to move to another country and end up being called "Mr. Heavy Metal"? Marty Friedman knows. The gifted guitar player, initially known for his groundbreaking work in Cacophony, moved to Japan a decade ago after living in Phoenix from 1993 to 2003. Since his move, Friedman has added "TV personality" to his list of accomplishments, doing everything from music shows to game shows to educational TV for kids.
"I do an awful lot of [Japanese] television. It's a strange twist to my story. Music is my main thing. I had a television show about eight years ago, and it took off right away. I've done about 700 television shows. The majority of people who know me [in Japan] know me from TV more than music. It's very freaky," says Friedman, who adds that only about one in four of his television appearances is music-related. The 53-year-old rocker has the voice and charisma to carry just about any conversation, though, so it is not a surprise he became popular in Japan after moving there from Scottsdale in 2003.
"The first one I did, the one that kind of started it off, was called Hebi Meta-San, which means Mr. Heavy Metal. It was a comedy/variety show about heavy metal music," Friedman says.
This show kicked Friedman's new TV career into gear and led to his dabbling in journalism as well, writing regular columns in various Japanese magazines.
"Someone who might know me from my previous stuff might think, 'This guy's gone out of his mind,' and they would be right. But it is fun," Friedman says.
He moved to Japan because of his love for Japanese music, specifically J-pop, which often is miscategorized as merely background music on Powerpuff Girls cartoons, but it is really quite diverse, fusing elements of traditional Japanese music with rock, heavy metal, and pop, among other genres.
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"I just started really falling in love with Japanese music," Friedman says. "I knew that I wanted to play music that was like the current Japanese music scene. The melodic sense, the overall vibe of the music, really was my taste more than what was happening in America [in 2003]. There was much more emphasis on melody in music [in Japan] than in western music."
Friedman spent many of the years he lived in the Phoenix area playing guitar in Megadeth, the band he left in December 1999. The guitarist, however, remains reluctant to discuss his time in the band. As Friedman points out, "It's been 16 years" since he left Megadeth and, frankly, he's done just fine without them and has released a dozen solo albums, though his stance on a reunion has softened over the years. In August, for example, Friedman spoke to Blabbermouth.net about being open to some type of reunion show or event.
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Friedman is launching the final leg of his touring for his most recent release, 2014's Inferno, at the Rebel Lounge. He is hopeful his former hometown crowd will be into it.
"Usually, guitar music isn't this heavy and heavy music isn't this guitar-laden. The amount of energy between my band and myself is really exciting," says Friedman, whose group also includes another Phoenician, Razer guitarist Jordan Ziff. "He's a young guy. I've known him since he was 14. He's an amazing player."
Friedman is happy to have the homecoming show on his itinerary.
"It's perfect we're kicking off the last leg of the tour in Phoenix. I have a lot of great memories from living there," Friedman says.