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20 Questions with Jason Becker, 10/28/03



Jason Becker


Of all the 20 Questions we’ve done, this is one of our most favorites because it’s with somebody who is a real life role model, plus it took him a lot of effort to do this for us. If you’re not familiar with Jason, here is a little bit of what he wrote on his website:

At sixteen I met my friend, Marty Friedman, a great guitarist, who had already made a few records. We made four albums of virtuoso-type guitar playing together, and played in Japan and across the U.S. We never got mega-famous together but we are known all over the world for our innovative style. In 1989, I left to do my own music only. I joined David Lee Roth’s band when I was 20. Every guitarist would have killed for this gig because the two previous guitarists, Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai were respected stars. In 1990, I won a readers’ poll for best new guitarist in "Guitar Magazine".

Jason then played on David Lee Roth’s "A Little Ain’t Enough" CD but while recording that CD he found out he had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was told back in 1989 that he had 3 to 5 years left to live, and now being 2003, you can see that he’s still here. Currently, Jason has no movement, voice, and can’t breathe without a machine. However, despite all of that, he was able to do our 20 Questions! He has a computer program that makes it possible for him to spell with his eyes, so to answer our questions obviously took a lot of his time and we thank him for doing it. Kinda puts to shame the people who can type and still can’t get our answers back to us! Anyway, Jason’s mom sent back the 20 Questions along with this email.

To Metal Sludge:

Hey guys, I am attaching Jason’s answers to your interview questions. I have to say that this was a most enjoyable interview (for both of us I think). Jason spells with his eyes so it can be time consuming, but you kept us laughing with your questions; some were downright made for him (he has a great sense of humor). Anyway, thanks for the interest and fun. Let me know if you need anything else.

Pat Becker (Jason’s mom)

We knew going into this that Jason had a good sense of humor so we didn’t hold back and hit him up with our typical Sludge questions. He was totally able to hang and here they are. Enjoy!


1. What are you up to?

Mostly meditating.

2. How is your current condition? Better, worse, the same?

The same. Thanks for asking.

3. When you were only 17 years old, you teamed up with Marty Friedman to form Cacophony. How did you originally hook up with Marty, and why was it that Cacophony only released 2 studio albums?

Mike Varney of Shrapnel Records, hooked up and we only made 2 CD’s because I left the band to do more solo work. Maybe unconsciously I knew I would get ALS and would need money from playing with David Lee Roth.

Marty and Jason

4. What hard/heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?

On one hand, if someone loves playing music, who am I to say quit? On the other hand, even though he inspired and helped me tremendously, David Lee Roth. Mainly because no one takes him seriously anymore (his own fault).

5. Rate the following guitarists on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being somebody who totally sucks and 10 being a virtuoso.

Before I rate these guys, let me say my ratings don’t reflect their song writing or importance in the guitar world.

Ace Frehley = 5

C.C. DeVille = 4

Warren DeMartini = 7

George Lynch = 8

Slash = 5

Zakk Wylde =9

Dave Mustaine = 6

Ted Nugent = 6

Steve Vai = 9

Jimi Hendrix = 10

6. Going through the shit you have, does it annoy you when you read about the bands quitting on or canceling their tours, or musicians bitching about their traveling conditions?

Oh, nah. Some people are more shallow than others. That is their nature. It doesn’t help to get annoyed.

7. What happened to your collaboration with Eddie Van Halen? Did we miss that or has it not happened yet?

It won’t be happening. After a few years of him telling me he wanted to do it he finally said he didn’t want to. But don’t hate Eddie. He has helped me big time in other ways.

8. Who’s the most overrated band today and why?

I am just not up on bands today so I am drawing a blank.

9. Your life has been greatly altered and not by choice. Please give us your thoughts on the musicians who have knowingly taken their own lives like Kurt Cobain? And on the other hand the ones who have taken their own life by way of a substance like Layne Staley?

You know, this might surprise you but I understand them. We all want to be happy and loved, and when we aren’t, it feels like hell. We wonder what the point is. I have happiness, love and meditation, but still, sometimes I wonder what the point is. Imagine what others without these things feel. And obviously, wealth and fame don’t bring happiness or love.

10. The last of Jason Becker:

Last concert you saw =
January 1, 2003, Marty Friedman with an orchestra in San Francisco playing my song, "End of the Beginning."

Last time you were drunk = a couple of years ago.

Last time you couldn’t park in a handicapped space because a non-handicapped person was parked there = a few months ago at a movie theater.

Last time you had an erection = within the last week.

Last time you flipped somebody off = at least 15 years ago, but my father sometimes helps me flip him off.

Last book you read = "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" by Chogyam Trungpa.

Last movie you saw = last new movies was "Transporter" because my buddy, Matt Schulze, is one of the stars.

Last time you were in the hospital = February, 1997

Last really good sponge bath you received = a few weeks ago.

Last "rock star" that you met = I don’t remember.

11. Rolling Stone’s recently "Top 100 Guitarists Of All Time" had Eddie Van Halen at #70. What do you think about that and where would you have ranked Eddie?

Wow, he got completely ripped off. I would put him number one or, at least in the top five.

12. What rock star deserves a smack in the mouth and why?

Well, I don’t know personally but from stories I have heard, Yngwie.

13. Which would you rather have happen (and you have to pick one):

a) While sitting outside by yourself one day, a UFO flies overhead and catches you in its tractor beam. It pulls you aboard the spaceship and tiny grey aliens subject you to a full week of poking, prodding, and anal probing. At the end of the week, the tractor beam lowers you back to the ground, except it puts you smack dab in the middle of a railroad track far from any form of civilization, where you sit for nearly 12 hours before a speeding freight train comes around the bend and squashes you like a bug.


b) Marty Friedman is abducted by a pack of psychotic Ninjas and thrown headfirst into an active volcano.

Which will it be?


14. When you were working with David Lee Roth, what are some of the most hilarious moments you remember?

Truth be told, it was hanging out with Steve Hunter. He is hilarious and has many great stories about hanging and touring with rock legends.

15. Which do you prefer:

Gwen Stefani or Pink =
Gwen Stefani

Strawberries or Raspberries = Strawberries

Catheters or IVs = IVs

Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera = toss up

Larry Flynt or Christopher Reeves = Christopher Reeves (duh)

Grateful Dead or Phish = Phish

Different Strokes or Facts of Life = Facts of Life

Richie Kotzen or Tony MacAlpine = Richie Kotzen

Dean Markleys or GHS Boomers = Dean Markleys

Diapers or Bedpans = Bedpans

16. Have you ever used your situation to make chicks feel sorry for you and get them to give you blow jobs or anything?

I have never had to so I have never even thought about it.

17. Your parents are hippies. When you were growing up, were they running around the house naked and smoking pot and stuff?

They just had the great liberal ideals that the 60’s stood for.

Jason with Cacophony

18. If you could go back in the time and re-live any one year of your life, which year would it be and why?

Good question. I guess it would be my 20th year because then I would know that it would be my last year of walking and playing good guitar.

19. Would you agree that despite your condition, you can still probably talk more understandably than Ozzy Osbourne?

No question.

20. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association. We mention a name and you give us your thoughts.

David Lee Roth =
cool guy with some little social problems.

Joe Holmes = sweet guy with some chops.

Greg Bissonette = awesome, sharing person, brilliant drummer.

Kenny Stavopoulous = great person, friend and drummer, total crack-up.

Gene Simmons = Smart, legendary and weird.

Deen Catronovo = Upbeat, enthusiastic, sweet, unbelievable drummer.

Billy Sheehan = Awesome bass player and sweet guy; very innovative and great performer.

Ted Nugent = Um, at the risk of getting shot, not my kind of fellow.

Mike Varney = Funny guy who really gave me my shot.

Marty Friedman = Genius, my biggest musical influence, he is like a brother.

Hey, thank you for not asking the same old questions. Fun interview.

Jason Becker

Thank you Jason!

If anybody should be allowed to be bitter and jaded, it would be Jason, but he isn’t. He’s making the best of the cards he’s been dealt and isn’t complaining about it, unlike a lot of rock stars who might bitch and cry if they don’t have the right catering or if people aren’t singing along to their songs or they can’t handle not being famous anymore.Jason’s a true inspiration to all.

For more on Jason, you can visit his website at www.JasonBecker.com.

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