Marty Friedman – Beast From The East
Guitar World|August 2021
On the goosebumps-inducing Tokyo Jukebox 3, shred great Marty Friedman tackles the japanese pop charts: “it’s pretty much straight-up j-pop that I put on steroids”
By Joe Bosso

While most musicians’ tour plans are still sidelined by COVID-19, Marty Friedman happily reports that he’s already played live dates — in Japan. “Gigs are happening here, and for a lot of people that’s a great thing,” says the guitarist, a Tokyo resident since 2003. However, he’s quick to point out that, for the time being, concerts in his adopted homeland have been a far cry from what he’s used to. “There are very strict guidelines everybody has to follow. We can’t go beyond 50 percent capacity at any venue, and the other restriction is, artists can’t use their voices on stage. So there’s no singing.”

Which, of course, isn’t a big deal for Friedman, whose setlists, as usual, have been comprised of instrumentals. “Yeah, I’m fortunate in that regard,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong — touring now requires 10 times the effort to achieve half the results, but if that’s what it takes to play, that’s what I’ll do. Everybody needs music. I mean, sure, there are other priorities in life, but music is really important. They need something that makes them happy, now more than ever. If I have the chance to play, I’m there.”

Friedman’s dates in Japan have been his first live shows since 2019. For much of 2020, he was recording Tokyo Jukebox 3, the third album in a series he began with Tokyo Jukebox in 2009 and continued with — you guessed it — Tokyo Jukebox 2 in 2011. The new record finds the guitarist putting a crunching, metallic spin on his favorite hits from the Japanese pop charts. “If I can say anything positive about the past year, it’s that I was pretty much forced to work on this record — there was very little else I could do,” he says. “It was great to work without all the usual distractions. I don’t usually get so much time to focus on just one album.”

On Tokyo Jukebox 3, Friedman blitzes his way through instrumental versions of tracks such as “Gurenge” (a big hit for LiSA) and “Skukumei” (originally made famous by Official Hige Dandism) as well as other contemporary J-pop selections. The only exceptions are “The Perfect World,” a reworking of the guitarist’s own 2018 composition that now features vocals by the popular Japanese singer Alfakyun, and “Japan Heritage Theme Song,” which Friedman wrote and then recorded with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra.

“Those are the only two songs that don’t fit the rest of the format,” says Friedman, “although I guess you could call ‘The Perfect World’ a self-cover. Everything else is me doing instrumentals of Japanese vocal songs. The guitar is a new element on these tracks, so that was fun for me. It’s pretty much straight-up J-pop that I put on steroids and made really heavy and emotional. I wanted to bring up the goosebumps and tear-jerking elements using the guitar. That was the big challenge.”

When recording covers, did you feel as if you were halfway home? You were starting with proven material.

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