My Favourite Game

The gui­tar god and for­mer Me­gadeth man on con­quer­ing Pong, los­ing at Taiko No Tat­su­jin, and rock­ing out for otaku

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For­mer Me­gadeth gui­tarist Marty Fried­man looks back at Q*bert

Be­fore teach­ing him­self gui­tar, Marty Fried­man taught him­self Pac-Man rou­tines and bested his en­tire city at Pong. His rise to su­per­star­dom stole his fo­cus from games, but he reg­u­larly con­trib­utes mu­sic to ti­tles in Ja­pan, his home since 2003. He tells us how a Wii Taiko No Tat­su­jin set saved his dig­nity on Ja­panese TV. When did you start play­ing videogames? When I was a lit­tle kid, I loved pin­ball, and I was cham­pion of the Washington DC area at Pong. I en­tered this con­test when I was eight or nine, and played against the whole city of Washington. The foot­ball player from the Washington Red­skins gave me some kind of prize. And then Pac-Man came out, and I got su­per good at that. Once you find the pat­tern in Pac-Man, you can play end­lessly and get high scores. So I got the pat­tern and I was good at it. But then I started to play mu­sic for real, and once I got se­ri­ous, all that en­ergy went into mak­ing mu­sic and I went cold turkey on games. But it was a guilty plea­sure. I loved Q*bert and Mis­sile Com­mand. As a self-taught mu­si­cian with an un­usu­ally com­plex style, do you see par­al­lels be­tween learn­ing gui­tar and learn­ing the in­tri­ca­cies of Pac-Man? No, I think the par­al­lel would be that you’re us­ing your brain. In videogames I think you have to be cre­ative and you have to use the synapses in your brain that work re­ally fast, so that’s prob­a­bly some­thing they have in com­mon, but that’s a very me­chan­i­cal part of mak­ing mu­sic. The rest comes from the co­jones. How have videogames touched your life as a mu­si­cian? I’ve made a lot of mu­sic that’s been used in games, and I do a lot of in­stru­men­tal mu­sic that’s re­ally like an amuse­ment park of metal – there are a lot of ups and downs and fast turns, and it’s re­ally suited for videogame mu­sic. I played at the press con­fer­ence for Gui­tar Hero 3 in Ja­pan [in 2007] – they’ve had sim­i­lar games in ar­cades here for years. Have game con­soles al­ways been fixtures when you’ve been on tour? Yeah, ev­ery­one’s got a PlayS­ta­tion or Xbox, and it’s to­tally rad. I played Grand Theft Auto [on a tour bus]. The imag­i­na­tion they put into the game is where the fun is for me, be­cause it takes a lot of time to get de­cent at these games. With pin­ball you could shake it and rock it… but you have to be quite ded­i­cated to get past the first cou­ple of lev­els of a videogame. What do you think of mu­sic games? I played Taiko No Tat­su­jin on a TV show… They had it at the game cen­tre down the street [from my house], so I prac­tised there. Those guys are in­sane down there, but I prac­tised and prac­tised… I re­ally didn’t want to make an ass of my­self on TV. I did pretty good, con­sid­er­ing. I lost, but at least it was fair. bunch of peo­ple in a game and get­ting points. It feels good. I get that, but I’m so con­tent and happy with what I do that I just don’t want to hurt any­body [laughs]. You were in­volved with the mu­sic for Bravely De­fault, right? Yes. Revo from [the band] Sound Hori­zon came to me with a song that he had writ­ten for that game and we worked on it to­gether in the stu­dio, and I played on the sin­gle. I played the con­cert too, and that’s a whole new sub­cul­ture… the otaku fans are re­ally into this fairy­tale world.

“I’d love to play a new Q*bert. The con­cept is sim­ple, but to get good at it is hard – that’s the same as mu­sic”

What sort of games don’t you like? I’m not so much into shoot­ing games. I un­der­stand the ap­peal of shoot­ing a When you make mu­sic for videogames, do you write in a dif­fer­ent way? Some­times they say, “We’re mak­ing this kind of game, it’s about this, write a song for it” – that’s easy. One time it was quite dif­fi­cult be­cause they had things that hap­pen at cer­tain pe­ri­ods of time, like at 16 sec­onds it’s got to have a stop, at 24 sec­onds it’s got to play some­thing fast, lots of spe­cific things. What’s your favourite game of all time? Def­i­nitely Q*bert. If they made a new Q*bert game I would love to play it. The con­cept is sim­ple, but to get good at it is hard – that’s the same as mu­sic. You can ex­plain Q*bert eas­ily: you jump on the cubes and don’t fall off the cliff. That’s it. But you get into the flow. An­other com­mon thing with mu­sic is the flow. The longer you play mu­sic, the longer you’re in the zone, and even­tu­ally you’re in the zone all the time.

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