Marty Friedman Interview: 10 Albums That Changed My Life

Marty Friedman Interview

Feature Photo: Marty Friedman courtesy of Marty Friedman. Photo Credit: Shoma Yasukawa.

Perhaps more so than any other six-stringer of his era, Marty Friedman’s mind is perpetually in motion, leading to a torrent of forward-thinking, utterly unencumbered, and jaw-droppingly inspired guitar-driven music.

You might know him for his late ’80s records as a solo artist and with Cacophony – which also featured fellow axe-slinger Jason Becker – or you might recall his exploits with thrash icons Megadeth – who Friedman recently reunited with at Budokan for a three-song closing set.

Regardless of how you came upon Friedman’s music, it’s no matter because if you’re able to dial into his thought patterns, you’ll find a world of wonder awaits you. If that sort of adventure sounds like your thing, then you’re in for a treat: Friedman is taking his show on the road as he embarks on his first trek on US soil since the long-ago days when COVID wasn’t a “thing.”

Indeed, American audiences are now getting their first taste of Friedman’s latest record, Tokyo Jukebox 3, a verifiable kaleidoscope of sounds that, until this point, only audiences from his adopted homeland of Japan have been treated to. Sure, it’s true overtly that Friedman’s musical muse is perpetually fixed on an ever-expanding horizon, but that doesn’t mean he’s not up for looking back now and again.

During a break from the road, Marty Friedman dialed in with to recount the ten albums that changed his life.

# 1 – Alive! –  KISS

This was the album that forced me to be a musician and the type of musician who, when performing, somehow finds this bottomless well of energy. It still gets me pumped. Before this album, nothing was nearly as exciting to me. This completely changed my outlook on what I thought concerts were and shaped what I would think concerts should be. Discovering this album in one’s early teens is probably responsible for a lot of rock star dreams.

# 2 – Leave Home – The Ramones

I bought this just because four guys in leather jackets looked cool, and I was a kid who loved ’50s stuff. These guys looked like dime store hoodlums, so I was curious about what kind of music they made. I fell instantly in love with this album. I had never heard anything as powerful as this before. I didn’t even put two and two together, just how the Beach Boys and Girl Groups pop influenced it was. I was just overwhelmed by the loud buzzsaw guitars and the darkly funny lyrics. Discovering this just as I started picking up the guitar was a stroke of luck for me, as I could play it quickly, and it gave me immense satisfaction of achievement.

# 3 – American Graffiti Soundtrack

My favorite movie of all time and my favorite soundtrack of all time. I still believe this music is the only music that ever mattered, and everything that happened after the Beatles came along was okay but comparatively unimportant. The pop music from 1955-1963 had so much that I enjoyed. Rock was born, ballads were romantic, and pop music was like simplified jazz standards made for young people who had never had music aimed at them before. It was glorious. This four-sided album is great from beginning to end, and the songs are exactly in the same order as in the movie, which I’ve seen countless times.

# 4 – Garbage –  Garbage

This was the first album I heard in which amazing, clever, and interesting guitar parts were constantly used in the framework of great songs as opposed to being the main riff or the guitar solo of the song. Countless unique and exotic guitar hooks. This album made me rethink songwriting, guitar playing, and recording. So many innovative guitar parts on this and subsequent Garbage albums. The best thing about them is they completely support the vocals and the songs rather than putting the attention on the guitar player. It is an exquisite art to use guitar in that way. And such fresh, catchy songs, too.

# 5 – T.W.O. – Aya Matsuura

Aya’s drop-dead cute vocals and producer Tsunku’s overwhelmingly innovative use of supporting melodies and tricky arrangements made this J-pop idols album irresistible to me. Extremely complex arrangements and the kitchen sink of counterpoint melodies, fills, and backing vocals create a violent rollercoaster of happy pop. You never notice how intricate it all is unless you start analyzing it. I love that. I play this to non-Japanese musicians, and the first thing they say is, “Dude, this is crazy, information overload; I have no idea how to process this.” Then the second thing they say is, “This is genius.”

# 6 – The Phil Spector Christmas Album – Phil Spector

This may be the best thing ever recorded. There is so much to digest in the details of this album, but all that can be easily ignored as you just feel happy listening to this stuff. The arrangements and performances are so God-tier and unique that they give these well-known melodies more love than they ever got before or since. The album celebrates the power music can have and will immediately conjure up each listener’s unique memories of Christmas time. This is pure joy, and I don’t even celebrate Christmas…

# 7 – Elvis ’56 –  Elvis Presley

I am a world-class Elvis freak. I own over 1000 different vinyl records of his from all over the world and have been collecting his stuff since I was nine years old. I love Elvis. 1956 was my favorite year of his, and this album showcases his complete output in that year, which is overwhelming. In that one year alone, he completely changed music forever, and we are still influenced by what he did in that year now. I would recommend this album to anyone who has just discovered Elvis recently from the Elvis movie. It is so well mastered, it sounds like it was recorded today, and the clarity is like you are in the control room listening to it.

# 8 – Best Of –  Misora Hibari

Possibly the most famous singer in Japanese history, her vocals are so effortlessly emotional; it is like she is a conductor between some higher power and the people down on earth listening to her. These rich heavenly tones just naturally fall from her lips with so much expression. I spent a lot of time trying to emulate her voice on guitar and doing that shaped my guitar-playing style immensely. It made me play melodies and solos with a feeling of human expression as opposed to the more typical guitar phrasing that most players do because they were mainly influenced by other guitarists. Hibari’s voice can pull a tear from my eye at will.

# 9 – I Get Wet –  Andrew W.K.

This blew my mind when it came out, sonically especially. It was a heavy metal sound, but musically it was as poppy and fun as the most sugary idol singers I loved. It had a wall of gargantuan guitars, and the drums were recorded and arranged in such a way that it was an immediate and very blunt assault on the ears. I had never heard such stripped-down and powerful drums that excited me that much before. There are tons of unique recording techniques that I stole from this album, and when I eventually did a bunch of collaborations with Andrew, it was really exciting. Like the Ramones, there is no fat on any part of Andrew’s recordings, no meaningless riffs, fills, effects, or delays. All lean meat. This album made a lasting impact on how I record.

# 10 – Adios Nonino –  Astor Piazzolla

Piazzolla’s music is extremely violent, romantic, serene, modern, aggressive, melancholy, and complex, all at the same time. I marvel at the construction of it as well as the abilities of those who play it, but more importantly, I feel unique pleasurable emotions when I hear it. The effective use of contrasts and dissonance gets me every time. I was very influenced by the melodies and unique counter-rhythms. I was honored to play Piazzolla’s music at the Hollywood Bowl with Rodrigo y Gabriela. I also played it with Astor Piazzolla’s grandson Pipi in Buenos Aires at the Usina Del Arte. As a mammoth musical challenge, it was more of a love fest between the Argentinian people and me.

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