Marty Friedman used his guitars to fight fear after the 2011 Japanese earthquake


By Steve Newton

Marty Friedman first made a major name for himself in the metal world as lead guitarist in Megadeth for ten years, but three years after exiting the band he took up residence in Tokyo, Japan.

“I just fell in love with the music,” Friedman told me last week, during a phone interview to promote his show in Vancouver this Saturday. “The traditional Japanese music–and current pop music–was something that really appealed to me, and through the music I just found myself in love with the culture and the country and I had to live there.”

Friedman was in a Tokyo studio rehearsing for some shows on March 13, 2011, when the earthquake that would cause the devastating tsunami hit big time.

“The place just rocked in a terrible way,” he recalls. “It was unbelievable.”

He didn’t consider leaving the Land of the Rising Sun, though.

“Not really leaving, but it really scared the hell out of me. And what I did was I auctioned off all of my guitars from the Megadeth era, and I sold them for charity for the earthquake and tsunami. That was the only thing I could do to kinda take the edge off of how frightened I was, you know. I thought, ‘Well, if I can help a little bit, it can maybe be cathartic for me.’ And it was.

The effects of the earthquake and tsunami–and the meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant–are still being felt, of course. Daily life is a lot different from that in the good old U S of A.

“When you buy food there’s markings on the wrappers whether something was checked for radiation or not,” explains Friedman, “and what city the food came from. So you kinda try to avoid the cities that still have fear of radiation, but it’s really sad for all the farmers and people who live there. It’s really hard to get a correct read on everything, but what can you do?”

If you thought Friedman might have been inspired by the historic catastrophe to compose a tune about it, you’d be pretty close. 

“I didn’t write a song about it,” he says, “but if you look up ‘Marty Friedman’s Sukiyaki’ on YouTube you’ll see a little ballad that I did with Steve Lukather, kind of just dedicated to that whole situation. There’s words that come up on the screen. Check it out if you have a moment.

“Right after it happened I recorded that song, so it’s really got a lot of complex feelings like sadness, fear, love. Fear, mostly. And just, ‘What can you do?’ There’s nothing to do.”

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