Jason Becker is a name that needs no introduction . Hailed as one of the greatest guitarist of our era Jason has made iconic music , fought ALS disease and inspired millions to fight on despite all difficulties and still continues millions more across the world. I caught up with the man to discuss about his music, his upcoming album and how he keep on getting stronger everyday !!!
Hi Jason , greetings from India and welcome to Anylouder.
Thank you very much.
I am doing okay.
How have you been and how’s the new album coming up? Can you give an insight on the themes and musical influence on the new album?
Feeling a bit darker than usual. Looking for meaning in this seemingly pointless world. Music takes my mind and heart to happier places though.
I have four orchestral pieces that a real orchestra will probably play on. To me, they are emotional stories – not just musical ideas. Marty Friedman and Uli Jon Roth will play on two of them. Chris Broderick plays classical guitar on the one Uli is working on.
I have two pieces with lyrics. One is called Hold On. It is about my life and life in general. I am trying to get one of my favorite singers to sing it.
The working title of the other is Purple because it is kind of a Prince tribute. It has a lot of my old, unreleased guitar playing on it. It was something I was working on when I was losing the ability to play. Funk horns and heavy guitar sound great together.
I wrote a simple, western/Ennio Morricone sounding piece for a bunch of guitar players to solo on. I have gotten great solos from Joe Bonamassa, Neal Schon, Richie Kotzen, Paul Gilbert, Mattias IA Eklundh, Jeff Loomis, Gus G. and more. Ben Woods played some cool flamenco guitar too. It will be a lot of fun.
I have two more guitar songs that I recorded during the David Lee Roth time.
Some players have soloed over my piece, River of Longing, such as Joe Satriani, Guthrie Govan, Steve Morse, Aleks Sever, and Trevor Rabin. Trevor actually played guitar and piano over the whole piece. He is working on a symphony now, so we just hope he has time to get us the stems.
My friend, Gary Rosenberg, did a beautiful cover of Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind. I wrote a guitar solo on it.
If my friend/producer Dan Alvarez, has time, he wants to make an orchestral arrangement over a Paganini Caprice that I recorded when I was 16.
Perpetual Burn is hailed as a classic. Can you tell us about the songwriting and recording process of the album? Was Cacophony something you had planned or it just happened?
Thank you; that is nice to hear. Yes, is seems that a lot of people like Perpetual Burn, which feels really good. After Marty and I recorded Speed Metal Symphony, I had gotten better, and had so many ideas that I had to get out. Playing with Marty had taken my creativity to places it had never been. I was spending every day writing and recording on my Tascam 4-track cassette recorder. I had so much music that I played for Marty and Mike Varney. Varney suggested that we each put out a solo album. We both would guest on the others’ album.
Marty helped me produce Perpetual Burn, so he was working overtime. I knew most of what I was doing, so he wasn’t too stressed. He helped so much though. I was only 18 and he was my best friend and musical mentor. I remember lots of fun and laughter amidst the almost constant work. It sure didn’t feel like work though.
It didn’t take too long if I remember correctly. I first rehearsed with Atma in a freezing room for two or three days. Then we recorded Atma, then bass and rhythm guitar. Air took me a little extra time, because I had to nail each part. I did extra punching in.
Marty and I both used his student’s Marshall amp and Boss overdrive pedal. I used my white and black Hurricane guitar on the whole thing.
I lost my virginity during that time.
Cacophony wasn’t planned. When I was 16, I sent a demo to Mike Varney. He suggested I go meet Marty. For quite a while, we would get together just to jam and hang out. I would also record his ideas, and play some guitar on my 4-track. We were just friends, we didn’t talk about a band. One day, Mike and Marty decided to ask me to join Marty on his album, and start Cacophony together.
Fan question –
Antariksh Gupta asks “As a pioneer of prog shredding what he thinks about the modern ways of progressive metal, the way everyone is progressing and if he thinks it’s heading towards a good direction or there could have been some/many corrections according to him? “
Thank you, Antariksh. Hmmm…good question. Well, the thing is, I have rarely listened to modern progressive metal. It is just not where my head is. What little I have heard is really good, but mostly not my cup of tea. Maybe if I were a teenager, or if I could still play guitar, I would love it. Honestly, my opinion doesn’t matter. No one’s opinion, about music you love, should matter. It hits us all differently.
You have been an inspiration to millions throughout the years. What makes you keep going? What has been your family’s contribution?
That is nice to hear. It is a good question. I am not exactly sure. Sometimes I wonder what keeps any one of us in the world going. I guess, for me, I am not too attached to my body or to moving. We all need to feel like we matter to someone. We need to feel we have a little purpose. I am lucky to have passion for music, and other things. When I lose my passion, it feels terrible.
With that said, no matter how much energy I have, if I didn’t have friends and family to help me, I couldn’t do anything. We all get tired and down at different times. When that happens we have to be extra strong and pick each other up.
I think I am generally a strong and positive person, but I do get lazy and down. It is weird, though. My depression doesn’t seem to come from ALS, but more from the suffering that every person has to go through. I don’t like it.
Many people are not aware of how you make music now. Can you please elaborate on the technology and people that blend together to help you produce the music?
I don’t use any computer eye-tracking technology for anything. I haven’t come across anything that is even close to as fast as my dad’s communication system, which doesn’t use a computer. I met the genius, Stephen Hawking, and his system is great for prepared speeches, but my system is way faster for spontaneous conversation.
So, I just tell whoever my caregiver is at the time, what to do in Logic. They don’t have to play keyboard. They just put in a note with the instrument I want, and I tell them where I want it to be. Then we copy and paste one note at a time. Once we get a melody or phrase, I mess with velocity and minor timing stuff to give it emotion. We do this with all instruments. Sometimes I mix some old guitar in there. Once I have a final piece, my friend/producer, Dan Alvarez, comes and checks it out. He usually replays the keyboard parts, at least.We often have real drummers,singers, bassists and sometimes guitarists play on it.
Do you like Indian music Jason? Have you ever thought of collaborating with an Indian musician?
I LOVE Indian music.I did work with an Indian singer on my song, Electric Prayer for Peace. I would love to do more of that. I met ZakirHussain at a show of his in San Francisco. We really got along great. I would love to do something with him, but it hasn’t happened. Zakir, call me!
I am also a big fan of the guitarist, Prasanna. Guthrie Govan turned me on to him.
Any advice to young guitarists and musicians on perfecting the art and staying strong?
Well, if you love it and practice a lot, that is great. That should be enough. I know that it is tougher today to make it in the music business, and to stand out as a guitarist. I guess try to do something new and fresh that will get people’s attention. Really, the main thing is to love what you do without expectation.
Thank you Jason for taking your time out and doing this interview. Leave a message for the Anylouder readers. Take care and God bless you!!!
Thank you so very much. I appreciate all of your love and support. It truly means a lot. God bless you too.
Here is the Indie gogo campaign for the new album:
Interviewed by : Ashiqur Rohman