Former MEGADETH guitarist Marty Friedman recently answered several fan-submitted questions for a “Dear Guitar Hero” feature for Guitar World magazine. A couple of excerpts follow below.

Guitar World: What was it like for you when the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011?

Friedman: It was by far the most frightening experience I’ve ever gone through. I wasn’t in Fukushima when it happened; I was in Tokyo with my band in our rehearsal space, and the whole building rocked hard. Luckily, all the cabs and PA equipment were really huge, so no little things were falling from the ceiling. It was unbelievable. Everyone evacuated outside. Then, along with all of the nuclear stuff that was going on, the aftershocks were serious, too. You’d turn on the news and the newscasters would be wearing helmets, and their cameras were shaking. It was the saddest thing to see, because you knew all the people that were suffering were just regular folks like you and me. One minute they were in school or wherever, and the next they were washed up in the ocean. It was horrible. Now, obviously everything has settled down. But there’s still been aftershocks every day, and you just never know when, or if, something like that is going to happen again. You just have to appreciate what you have when you have it. Back when it happened, I felt so helpless, and I just had to think of a way to do something. So I sold all my MEGADETH-era guitars, amps and effects to try and help. The least thing I could do was bring some attention to the situation and contribute some money to help. It ended up being a cathartic experience. It felt good and took the edge off for me. It was also a good closure to [get rid of] all the equipment, which had been sitting in a locker. It was all in pristine condition and hadn’t been touched for years. It can’t bring back the people who are gone, but hopefully it helped a little bit for the people who are left here.

Guitar World: Considering that you’ve now had an extensive career both in the U.S. and Japan, I was wondering if you could describe the differences between the U.S. and Japanese music scenes.

Friedman: The biggest one is the absence of gangster rap here in Japan. When rap happens here the lyrical messages are very positive and uplifting. Another thing is that music here is a whole lot more melody based than that in America. America seems to be really focused on the American Idol way of singing, which is singing half the song regularly, and then singing the rest like Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey or Kelly Clarkson. It’s all about strong women screaming. In Japan, it’s more like, “You can never be too cute or happy.” It’s so sickeningly sweet that it can give you a toothache, but if you can dig that, then you’ll be in paradise. One last difference is that in Japan you can have sickeningly sweet pop music chock-full of very cool guitar. I love that. In America, if there’s ever guitar in pop music it’s usually throwaway bullshit guitar. But over here, people tend to like the sound of a distorted guitar even if they’re not a heavy metal or rock fan. In Japan, a distorted guitar fits in adult-oriented traditional music, dance music and even pop songs. It’s really a trip.

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