Interview with Jason Becker
Band: Jason Becker
By: Nermin Habib - 2012-12-01
For those of you who haven't had the privilege of discovering the musical artistry of famed guitarist, Jason Becker; and for those of you still rereading the title in disbelief, read on as JorZine takes full advantage of this incredible opportunity to discuss his upcoming documentary, his experiences and, most importantly, his music.
JZ: What were your expectations when you entered Cacophony? Was the band formed as more of an experimental “stepping-stone” or as a permanent project?
JB: I was very young when I joined Cacophony, so I had no expectations, other than to be excited about being in a band with the brilliant musician/guitarist, Marty Friedman, to record an album and go on tour. I was still in high school, so I pretty much walked into a great gig. I don’t think Marty or I were thinking as far as "stepping-stones" or "permanent projects." We just had music to get out there and Shrapnel let us do it the way we wanted.
JZ: I've noticed that a lot of the questions asked on your website's forum and in general are about the musicians and bands that inspired you – this next question is somewhat similar: Were you aware of the musical direction you were taking from the very beginning? Or did you manage to keep incorporating techniques and sounds until you perfected the final output?
JB: I was aware of what musical direction I liked at the time (which used to be the beginning) and all the way through to now. I thought of it more as the music I liked, not the direction I was taking. I always incorporate techniques and sounds until I perfect the final output, but I also never think I quite reach perfection.
I was always open to new directions and influences; I still am. I just loved music, and it was thrilling to explore all kinds of wild directions. I guess my only plan was to do it all in a heavy guitar setting.
JZ: The Middle East is somewhat of an untapped area in terms of musical output. How surprising is it to know that your music has reached all the way here and has inspired so many guitarists? On a side-note, in the last guitar competition we had here, the winner went on stage and covered “Altitudes”!
JB: Man, that's so nice to hear. Thank you. I am honored that 'Altitudes' was covered, and that guitarists are inspired by my music. Actually, what I hope is that my music touches a person's heart and soul, whatever country they come from, whatever age, race, gender, religion. That really touches me.
Music is a universal language. I get so much inspiration from music of the whole world, and quite a lot from the Middle East, so it is awesome that my music goes back to those places. It is like a beautiful circle.
JZ: Compared to your other albums, “Perspective” is intensely emotional. I realize that the recording process must have also been the same, was composing the album in some way therapeutic or more of an expression of emotion?
JB: Well, 'Perspective' was created once I got home from making the David Lee Roth album, 'A Little Ain't Enough,' so I was going through a lot of different emotions and dealing with all the ALS hell. But, the music seemed to just flow out of me. I think it was therapeutic and an expression of emotion at the same time.
Creating music is always therapeutic for me, but you are right, ‘Perspective’ was extra special because many of the pieces came to me almost finished in my head. It was like they were gifts from God or something.
JZ: You've worked with a lot of different musicians since you started playing professionally, but Marty Friedman and Richie Kotzen were more fortunate to have worked with you longer. Could you explain your experience in collaborating with each of them?
JB: Well, you know Marty was my biggest musical influence. We met when I was 16 years old. He taught me by example, but treated me like an equal, which encouraged me to become one. We were fascinated by the infinite possibilities of music. We pushed each other to be the best we could be. We constantly jammed and wrote together. We also were into being rock stars.
Marty helped me become a force in music, so when I was 19 years old, Mike Varney asked me to produce Richie Kotzen’s first album. He was 6 months younger than I was. We had such a blast making his music, hanging out, and being silly teenagers together. Richie has become a ridiculously talented musician; he can do absolutely anything. He is like the rock Prince.
JZ: You were playing with David Lee Roth when you were first diagnosed, were you planning on continuing with the band or moving on to other projects? What were your future plans before the diagnosis?
JB: I got the DLR gig a week before being diagnosed with ALS, but I fully planned on recording and touring with him. I'm sure I would have moved on after a couple of albums with Dave, but I would have loved to have gone on tour with him and the guys. My only future plans were to keep making music in what ever way I wanted to go.
JZ: I'm sorry I took so much of your time (I know I said a couple of questions) but I am completely blown away by the fact that I'm even writing this! Final question is about the documentary coming out next year: was it difficult to endure the equipment and the intrusion on your privacy? What was your reaction when you first learned of their interest in documenting your life?
JB: No problem. You are sneaky. HA HA! When the director, Jesse Vile, first asked me about it, I declined because I had been so disappointed with other projects like this that had come and gone, without any end product, and I was totally out of energy. He was persistent though, and made a movie trailer from just things he found on YouTube. I was so impressed with what he made out of almost nothing, that I had to let him do it. Plus my mom totally believed in him and she helped to get him all the material to put it all together.
I saw the first cut and it is amazing!
The filming process wasn’t like a reality show, so privacy wasn’t an issue. The five film crew people were wonderful cats and we became good friends. They made it so easy. I can’t wait for the film to be out there.
JZ: OK, final, final question! Is there anything you would like to add that I haven't already asked? And thank you so much for this opportunity, I really appreciate it!
JB: My pleasure!
I would just like to thank my fans profusely for all the love and support. I have the coolest, sweetest fans ever!