Thursday, August 9, 2012

''GUITAR GODS: Jason Becker''

- David "Skinny Devil" McLean
originally published at Tinfoil Music
Date: Tuesday, December 07 2004 @ 15:32:06 GMT

The tragedy of Jason Becker often overshadows technical brilliance of his performances and the scope of his musical offerings, but today we celebrate the man & his music.
Jason began with guitar at a very early, and before he was 20 years old he had already recorded with friend Marty Friedman (see Marty's "Guitar Gods" interview here) for Cacophony's "Speed Metal Symphony", toured the world (especially Europe & Japan), and more. How much more? Try another Cacophony album (1988's "Go Off!"), a solo album ("Perpetual Burn", also in 1988), guest spots on recordings by Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, and Ritche Kotzen (see Greg's "Guitar Gods" interview here), a Hot Licks instructional video, various "best new guitarist" awards, and the covers of numerous guitar magazines.

At the ripe old age of 20, Jason was recruited by none other than David Lee Roth to replace Steve Vai (go here for our Vai interview & lesson), and found himself in the studio recording "A Little Ain't Enough" (1991). It was while wrapping the recording sessions that Jason was diagnosed with ALS. He dropped from the band before the tour, but continued to record in his home studio, ultimately completing a second solo album, "Perspective" (1996). "Raspberry Jams" (a collection of demos) was released a few years later, followed by "Blackberry Jams".

While his many friends & peers have stepped in on his behalf - Eddie Van Halen campaigned to have "Perspective" released on Warner, and other guitar stars contributed trax to "Warmth in the Wilderness: A Tribute to Jason Becker " (Marty Friedman, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Chris Poland, Jeff Watson, Mike Campese, Stevie Salas, and more) and "Warmth in the Wilderness 2" (Steve Vai, Randy Coven, Rusty Cooley, Joe Becker, and more) - it's worth noting that Jason continues to work on new music. While he is unable to play guitar and is extremely limited physically due to ALS, his mind is full of deep ideas for new music.

It is also crucial that we realize the enormous impact Jason had on guitar music in such a short time. While he is certainly not a household name, Jason has inspired more guitarists to great musical heights with just a few recordings than perhaps anyone since Jimi Hendrix. Part of this is certainly because Jason is such a nice guy; part of it due to his unique circumstances. But none of that holds any water without extreme talent. Even a cursory listen to Jason's work will dazzle even the most finicky and hard-to-pease listener. With unbelievable technical command of the instrument and an uber-modern sense of harmony, Jason exploded onto the scene and will continue to influence budding guitar gods for decades to come.
Jason with fellow "Guitar God" interviewee Greg Howe

To keep up with new developments from the Jason Becker camp (and to hear music, see video, and more), visit his web-site.

I had a chance to rap with Jason recently. Check it out!



1. What are your current projects?

I am hoping to write new music with lyrics. That will be a big challenge. I would also like to put out a "Best of" CD with a couple of new things on it, but I don't see the point, because my records don't really sell shit.

2. How does this (do these) differ from your past work?

My new music would be less complicated - more like Peter Gabriel.

3. Do you have one project that you are most proud of as a guitarist?

Oh, I guess "Images", "Opus Pocus" and "Meet Me In the Morning" and some "Raspberry Jams".

4. Can you give our readers a run-down of your basic gear?

Mostly a 100 watt Marshall, Seymour Duncan JB, Boss super overdrive, and really, any good guitar and effects thing.

5. Who would you cite as early influences, and who are your favorite new players?

Clapton, Beck, Hendrix, Roy Buchanan, SRV, Eddie Van Halen, Morse, Yngwie, Uli Roth, Marty Friedman and Steve Hunter. There are some really good players on Favored Nations and Liquid Note Records, but I don't know their names.

6. Can you give a few tips to aspiring players?

Practice a lot, listen to different kinds of music to get your own style, be a nice person, learn from everyone you can, don't be a snob, and get yourself heard anywhere.

7. What are your future plans?

Stay alive.

8. Thanks for talking to us, Jason!

My pleasure. Thanks, man. 

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