Megadeth will welcome back a long-estranged figure from their past at their upcoming, first-ever gig at Tokyo’s famed Budokan: Marty Friedman. The guitarist played on some of the band’s best-selling albums, including 1990’s Rust in Peace and 1992’s Countdown to Extinction. The Budokan concert, which will be livestreamed on Feb. 27 and available on demand for a couple of days after, marks the first time in more than two decades Friedman has shared a stage with the group.
“When Marty said, ‘Hey, I can play at this gig,’ I thought, ‘This is so magnificent,’” frontman Dave Mustaine tells Rolling Stone. Friedman will join the band, which includes current lead guitarist Kiko Loureiro, for three songs for the gig’s encore. “It’s gonna be so much fun to get Kiko and Marty together, because they’re both geniuses on guitar. So this is like a gigantic birthday and Christmas present for me.”
“It has been a long time — 23 years to be exact since I’ve been on the same stage with Dave Mustaine making music,” Friedman said in a statement. “We’ve both taken drastically different paths since then. That doesn’t change the fact that I’m extremely proud of the part that I played in Megadeth’s history and legacy. I’m also very, very proud of the band’s many great achievements and continued success in my absence. For right now, I just feel immense joy and some serious adrenaline. I am looking forward to playing with Megadeth at this very cool place, the Budokan.”
Friedman originally joined Megadeth in 1990, playing fiery, exotic leads on the band’s celebrated Rust in Peace and its singles “Holy Wars … the Punishment Due” and “Hangar 18.” Mustaine remembers being initially hesitant to listen to Friedman’s CD because of Friedman’s two-toned hair color, which was black and orange. “I know this sounds really stupid,” he says. “I thought he was like a glam guy or a rock guy; I didn’t think he was a metal guy. So one day, I was in our manager’s office, and we put the CD in and I went, ‘This guy wants to play with us? Fuck, call him up.’ And that was the beginning of a really magic period in heavy metal music.”
After Rust in Peace, Friedman played on and cowrote songs for 1992’s Countdown to Extinction (home to “Symphony of Destruction” and “Sweating Bullets”), 1994’s Youthanasia, and 1997’s Cryptic Writings, all of which earned the band gold or platinum plaques. His final album with the group was 1999’s Risk, which featured a more mainstream hard-rock sound; he exited at the time citing creative differences. “There was no bad blood with Marty,” Mustaine says. “Marty wanted to do something different and that’s really the long and short of it.”
Megadeth returned to heavier music after Risk, and last year put out The Sick, the Dying … and the Dead, which featured the Grammy-nominated “We’ll Be Back.” Friedman moved to Tokyo in 2003 without knowing anyone in the industry. He quickly became a sensation there, hosting television shows like Mr. Heavy Metal and Rock Fujiyama. In a 2014 Rolling Stone interview, he estimated that he made more than 600 TV appearances including his own cooking show and appearances on news, political, and variety shows. “Once other TV production companies saw that I was interesting,” he said, “and I could face off with anyone, from comedians to intellectuals, and that I had an unusual point of view, I was constantly asked to do more and more TV shows, commercials and even a couple of movies.”
Friedman, now a Japan Heritage ambassador, recently composed and performed “Japan Heritage Official Theme Song.” “I always wanted to do a spectacular video showing the rich yet completely understated beauty of Japan, to show people a side of the country rarely seen outside of Japan,” he wrote in a Facebook post.
Mustaine attempted to reunite the Friedman lineup of Megadeth at one point — they even met with their managers at the instrument convention NAMM — but negotiations failed, and now a full reunion is impossible. “Nick [Menza], unfortunately is no longer with us,” he says of the drummer, “and we all know about [former bassist David] Ellefson so that went out the window. So sadly, it’s never going to happen again.” Mustaine feels that the part of the band that Megadeth fans are most nostalgic for from that era is Friedman’s guitar playing, so he invited the guitarist to appear at the band’s Budokan concert.
“We haven’t been to Japan in a long time,” Mustaine says. “I thought that inviting Marty was just a very thoughtful thing to do. Megadeth has not been a band has had a lot of guest appearances from other players. We are not a jam band. I asked Kiko how he felt about this, and Kiko is completely confident in his guitar playing.
“This is not like when the Police handed their instruments to U2 to pass the torch,” the continues. “This is doing something really grateful to the Japanese audience. We want it to be a gift. So everybody who bought that ticket before today, you’re welcome. … I’m really looking forward to this moment. It’s gonna be great.”