Sludge Re-Wind with Cacophony guitarist Jason Becker.
Jason Becker’s original 20 Questions from 2003 is >HERE< We suggest you check this out first if you have not already done so.
We also urge you to read Jason’s full story on his website and myspace. You will soon see what an incredible story he has to tell. And what an incredibly brave and rare person he is. Ladies and gentleman we give you the extraordinary Jason Becker.
1. We first interviewed you in October of 2003. It’s now been 5+ years. What’s different about today in the life of Jason Becker from 5 years ago?
Well, tie me up and call me Frankie! Has it been that long? I am going on 40. Soon I am going to have to stick a horn in my ear and say, “what did you say, sonny?” I have grey in my beard. I don’t have anymore butt hole caregivers; knock on wood, because Serra-na became a licensed nurse. I have a new CD, JB Paradise guitar, JB Pro Tone distor-tion pedal, JB Shred Neck, and soon a JB amp. Our old dog, Angel, died while Uli Jon Roth was here for a visit, so we got a black and tan hound from the shelter named Star. We have three new cats named Bear, Ali and Layla. They like to sleep with me. I have another niece, Lily, who is two and a half now. She is one of my biggest fans and wants to listen to my music over and over again, except “It’s Showtime.” I came out of the closet; just kidding; sorry guys.
2. Your interview was a huge hit with our fans. We will say, that as big of dicks as Metal Sludge can be, all of us who were involved in your original interview shed some tears when we read your story on your site. And your replies to our dick questions were great. You surely have an amazing strength. What do you recall about the reaction you got when we ran your article, and how does our Sludge interview differ from others you’ve done?
Aw, how sweet. I like your dick questions; they are refreshing and give me a chance to express my own dickdom. I got nothing but positive reactions from that article. I got a lot of new fans thanks to you. Your interview questions are a blast. I get to think about things I don’t normally think about during interviews. I like fun questions. Sometimes I get bored talking about guitar or being an inspiration. Eh, it is all good.
3. Tell us about your latest CD Jason Becker “Collection”. How did you go about choos-ing what tracks to include. What kind of time, etc.. goes into something like this for you?
I had wanted to do a “best of” album for a while. I wanted one “perfect” CD for new people who are interested in hearing me, but who want to get my whole scene without having to buy all of my albums. As you know, my music can be diverse, so if you buy one album, you don’t get the whole picture. I also wanted my old fans to have new stuff. Mike Varney and I talked about waiting for me to write and record new songs. I was nervous about that because I hadn’t written music ever since I couldn’t move my hands or head. It would be a completely new process which might not work. I had to try it though because I owed it to myself and my fans. The California Department of Rehabilitation had just gotten me a new computer, music software and some great studio tools. My girlfriend and I had just broken up, so sex wasn’t a distraction anymore. It was time to see if I was still good or did I lose it all and suck? It was an incredible feeling to be creating again.
I picked my older songs that move me the most, which coincidentally are the pieces my fans write me the most about. These songs apparently speak to “normal” people as well as guitarists. Even when I shred, I am trying to make music. I am happy that people hear my emotion and feelings in my music and playing.
I also added some bonus material that is available when you stick the CD in your com-puter. I have eleven minutes of me noodling on the guitar back in ’89 for a couple of my students. Also, there are my guitar demos for my guitar concerto “End of the Beginning.” Michael Lee Firkins played on the final version. I thought it would be fun for people to see how the piece started out, with me playing.
It took quite a while, only because of the new songs. I also had to work around my co-producer, Dan Alvarez’s schedule. He did so much work; he is such a genius.
Jason Becker back in the hey day.
4. We know you’re a big fan of the speedy guitarists from the hey day, and quite sure Paul Gilbert falls into this class. Racer X has announced a reunion of sorts with a show at NAMM 2009. What is your take on Racer X past, present, future?
I only know Racer X past. I think they were awesome. Paul is such a monster talent. I am sure that whatever they do will be totally cool. I am curious to hear what they are working on now.
Marty Friedman & Jason Becker late mid/late 80s.
5. Rate a scab. This is where you rate the scab player 1-10. Scab is a guy who joined a band taking the “original” players place. And of course a 1 is a scab who sucks, or sucks in the way he fills the other guys shoes, and a 10 is a great scab and a guy who kicks ass.
This is pretty much of an impossible thing for me to do because I haven’t heard most of these scabs. I saw Wolfgang on youtube and I would say he sounded great. I give him a 9.5. He doesn’t get a 10 only because he isn’t Billy Sheehan. Michael Anthony was great too. I have gotten burned by Yngwie’s albums too many times to check any more out. The same thing over and over can get annoying. With that said, I would love to work with Yngwie on a piece of mine in the future; it would be a thrill. People keep tell-ing me I need to check out Buckethead, but when I do, I am not into it. I am probably not listening to the right stuff. I do appreciate his eclectic tastes. In my last Metal Sludge interview, I think I didn’t give Slash enough credit. I think Robert Trujillo is so incredibly awesome, but so is Jason Newsted. I recently met Metallica at one of their shows. They were all so sweet to me. Great band!
Tommy Thayer replaces Ace Frehley in KISS =
Robert Mason replacing Jani Lane on vocals in Warrant =
Al Petrelli replacing Marty Friedman in Megadeth =
Johnny Solinger singing in place of Sebastian Bach in Skid Row =
Wolgang replacing Michael Anthony in Van Halen =
Stevie D replacing Yogi on rhythm guitar in Buckcherry =
Tim “Ripper” Owens replacing the last several singers in Yngwie’s band =
Eric Singer replacing Peter Criss in KISS =
Buckethead taking Slash’s place in Guns n’ Roses =
Robert Trujillo replacing Newsted in Metallica =
6. Axl recently put out the long awaited “Chinese Democracy” CD. What are Jason Becker’s thoughts and opinions on the release, and/or the Axl Rose story over the last decade?
Well, I hadn’t heard any of it when I read this question, so I just went to itunes and bought the two most popular songs, “Better” and “Chinese Democracy.” I liked “Better” a lot. “Chinese Democracy” didn’t do anything for me. It usually takes me two or three lis-tens to a song before I know if I like it or not though. I don’t know enough about Axl’s story to comment on it. Michael Lee Firkins told me he auditioned for GNR. Axl was sit-ting in the dark. He told Firkins that he used the whammy bar too much. HA HA! That made me lose a lot of respect for Axl. He obviously has no ear for brilliant and unique guitar playing. I think he blew it by not hiring Firkins.
When I was staying in Roth’s condo off of the Sunset Strip, right above Tower Records, I guess Axl was staying there too, because I ran into him on the elevator. He had a huge body guard with him. Axl and I nodded to each other, but I felt like he would prefer that I didn’t say anything, so I kept my trap shut.
Rad pick ups, Rad pants, Rad guitarist.
7. What kind of dreams do you have? Have you ever awoke from a dream that seemed so real that it felt like you were walking, on stage or doing things you did years ago? If so, how do these dreams affect you good or bad?
In my dreams I am always healthy and able to move completely. I am used to it. Some-times if it is a really good dream, I can wake up and be a bit bummed, but that is rare. When I was recording with David Lee Roth in Vancouver I was limping. I had a very real dream in which I could walk normally. I woke up and completely forgot I had a limp, and I walked to the bathroom without any limp. Then, once I realized what was happening, I started limping again.
8. Life is full of crazy things. Since we spoke to you Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott of Pantera was murdered on stage while playing. This had a HUGE impact on the music world. How did it affect you when you heard the news?
It made me so sad. I just don’t understand how anyone could do that. It isn’t fair. Now Dimebag can’t live out his life like he should have. No more learning, growing and loving - this time around, anyway. Well, he is happy now. At least that is what I felt in my close to death experience.
9. We’re not sure about how much of the entire music world know about you, or your story. But over the years, have you ever been contacted by other musicians outside of the guitar/rock genre who inquired to meet you, work with you, or just become your friend?
I am not sure either. No one outside of the guitar/rock genre has contacted me. Back when I was going to possibly work with Steve Perry, Randy Jackson came up to me at a NAMM show. He had the eraser hairdo. He was so sweet and enthusiastic. He said Steve raved about me and he couldn’t wait to hear me. That was fun. I want him to hear my new CD.
I would love it if someone like Oprah got my story out. It is very unique and the kind of thing people need to hear these days. There are so many musicians I admire and would love to hear from. Hopefully I will soon.
We have a few Special Guests asking Jason some questions for this interview.
First up from NEVERMORE – the Internationally known Guitar shredder Jeff Loomis.
10. Jason, Many consider Perpetual Burn (including me) to be one of the greatest in-strumental recordings, but a lot of people don’t know what your experience was like to play and record it. Could you tell me a little bit about recording that amazing album, es-pecially being at the young age you were at the time? Was there ever any video docu-mentation that was done during the making of this album as well?
First of all, yo, Jeff, my brother! Thank you so much for sending me your brilliant solo album. I love it a lot!
It means a lot to me that you feel that way about “Perpetual Burn.” Unfortunately, there was no video taken during the recording. After Marty Friedman and I finished recording “Speed Metal Symphony,” I was very happy with it, but I had so many ideas that I wanted to get out. I spent tons of time writing at my four-track. I would play stuff for Mike Varney and Marty. It became obvious that this had to become a solo album. There wasn’t any room for vocals. Varney suggested that Marty put together a solo album too. I wasn’t thinking about my age. Playing with and learning from Friedman added years of experience, creativity and confidence to my whole outlook. He was the catapult for everything for me. I recorded at the same studio that we did “Speed Metal Symphony” in, and with the same engineer, Steve Fontano, so I was comfortable in that way, but this time I had to run the show. Marty wasn’t there when we recorded Atma’s drums. That made me a little nervous, but Fontano complimented me on how I was bobbing my head to keep Atma in time. That felt really good.
I remember when I had Fontano lay the click track down for “Air,” he didn’t know what the hell I was doing. Six minutes of click track is pretty funny to hear in a professional studio. When recording the first licks in “Perpetual Burn,” I had to use a bar in between them, instead of stopping like I wanted, because there was too much feedback when I stopped, and the gate wouldn’t respond quick enough. This was a drag. I also played them sloppy. I hadn’t quite mastered the technique yet. I did my first take of the blues solo in “Eleven Blue Egyptians” late at night. It sounded stiff but I couldn’t figure out why. Fontano suggested I get sleep and try again tomorrow. I usually hate to leave something hanging, but I took his advice. The next day it just flowed out of me easily. Marty, of course, was recording “Dragon’s Kiss” at the same time. He was working extra long hours. He was giving Fontano a break from hitting record during “Air.” During re-cording, Marty and I both nodded off in the middle of a lick. We woke up and cracked up. One day Marty called me to do my part on “Jewel.” His dad was visiting in the stu-dio. I have no idea why, but I was being argumentative. As always, Marty was calm and understanding. I still feel bad about that. I was a butt hole to my mentor in front of his dad. I love his parents. On another day, Marty called me in to play a part for him be-cause the drummer, Deen, had played it too fast. He knew I could play the part fast enough. That felt so nice, being able to help the person who had constantly helped me.
I met Greg Howe at this time. We got along great. He had me play a harmony to a lick that he had always wanted to play with another guitarist. We had a blast hanging and jamming. Greg was working with Billy Sheehan, so I got to spend a little time with him. I was a little star struck. I was stoked when he compared “Air” to Van Halen’s “Eruption” for its uniqueness and innovation.
Cacophony on stage, Jason far left.
11. Back in about 1988 I was lucky enough to see Cacophony perform one of two shows in a small club in Chicago called the Thirsty Whale. One of the more crazier things that happened during your set was seeing your singer Peter Marino going totally ape-shit on a kid who had a small hand held tape recorder in the front row trying to capture the moment! Can you tell me some other strange or crazy things that happened with Cacophony on one of those few tours you did with the band at that time?
Ha ha! Man, Peter was a character. We were playing at a club in Southern California, and some Carvin reps came to see the show. At one point, Marty and I were having trouble getting in tune. Peter proceeded to tell the audience how terrible Carvin was. Marty and I looked at each other and shook our heads. At that same show I met a kid who was too young to get in. That club even said I was too young, so I couldn’t go in until we were actually on stage. Of course I snuck in anyway. So this kid was really sad, so I spent time with him outside the club before and after the gig. I gave him some picks, too. Cacophony all went to a deli. Apparently Peter and I had ordered the same thing. I picked mine up and Peter yanked it out of my hand and said this is mine. I flashed back to some butt holes at school who used to do that kind of thing. I grabbed my carton of chocolate milk and threw it hard at him. I missed and it splattered all over the wall. Marty, Kenny and Jimmy were cracking up. Peter went outside to call his girlfriend. The people working in the deli were scared as shit. I apologized and Jimmy and I cleaned it up.
After a gig on a hot muggy night in Jacksonville, we all went to a fans house to hang out. I grabbed an acoustic guitar and started playing and singing really loud a song I was writing on the spot about our day, the gig and us hanging out with the fans. There were lots of people there so it seemed appropriate. A guy came out of his room and said “do you know what time it is?” People were whispering, “that is Jason Becker.” He said, “I don’t care who it is, I have to go to work in the morning.” I cracked up and played quietly.
12. My Father was the one who really encouraged me to take a path down the musical road that I lead nowadays. I know that your father Gary is a very talented artist and also is a big role model in your life. What is one of the most important lessons he has taught you be it in music or just life in general?
Hmmm…there are so many. I guess the main thing is the beauty of creativity, and how to go about getting it and living it. Creativity isn’t always necessarily about art. It is about living artfully in each moment. He worked at Safeway, which he hated, but he turned the store into a magical place. He turned the book section into the best book store in the bay area. He painted the store windows and displays with his own style of art. He brought fun and happiness to adults, and especially kids in a silly old grocery store. When he came home from work, he was hella tired, but he always took time to toss the football with me, my brother and my friends. He is a brilliant, yet fun teacher in every subject. My friends all loved my folks. My pops always eventually found time for his art. He taught me to have fire and discipline in life as well as music.
Thanks Jason, Jeff Loomis
A very young Jason Becker.
13. Memory Lane with Jason Becker. What do you remember about the following years.
1980 = I was in the 5th grade. I won a trophy for my Fire Prevention folder. I was playing and singing every Bob Dylan song. I was collecting football cards. My favorite football player had just changed from Ken Stabler to Joe Montana. I thought I had to hurry up and decide whether I should become a football player or a musician.
1983 = I’m in the 8th grade now. I played lots of basketball at school. I was playing mostly Clapton licks on my new Fender Stratocaster. I had a girlfriend named Flandrea, but I was too shy to kiss her. Then my old friend, Denise, who was 2 years older than I was, frenched me and I had a new girlfriend.
1986 = Junior in high school now. I sent a tape to Mike Varney, who introduced me to Marty Friedman. I learned a ton from Marty; that was the biggest event in my musical life. In school, everyone knew I was a good guitar player. People were impressed when I played something by Prince. I was into Yngwie then. I wore my shirt unbuttoned with lots of necklaces.
1989 = Cacophony toured in Japan and the States. I was at a creative and technical peak in my guitar playing. I tried to break up with my wacky girlfriend, but she kept threatening to kill herself. I started limping a lot but I didn’t get it checked out because I thought I could exercise it away. Varney and Gregg Bissonette got me in David Lee Roth’s band. A week later I was diagnosed with ALS. I got a spinal tap, which hurt for two weeks.
1992 = I was writing my album, “Perspective.” I played my last guitar part on my song “Primal.” I got my mercury fillings taken out. I went to get massage therapy in Berkeley from Serrana. We fell for each other.
1995 = My broham, Mike B., had introduced me to Dan Alvarez. We all three had worked very hard to finish “Perspective.” There were other parties involved who made it difficult. I was getting really weak and my breathing was too shallow.
1998 = I had gotten my trache so now I could breathe. Serrana and I broke up and Ma-rilyn and I fell for each other. I was heavily into my guru, Amma. I still am, but it was brand new then. I wasn’t working on music.
2001 = My album, “The Raspberry Jams” was out. Marilyn and I were having trouble because of another woman. She looked like Cameron Diaz. I am too charming, damn it! They both wanted me to choose, and when I chose Marilyn (the obvious choice), the other one moved to Hawaii.
2004 = Hmmmm….nothing is standing out. I guess I was just chillin’.
2007 = I was busy working on new songs with Dan Alvarez for the “Collection” CD.
More questions from another guest Guitarist who can shred with the best of them.
Howie Simon from Alcatrazz & Jeff Scott Soto band.
Jason- You are an incredible inspiration not to just guitarists and musicians but all people everywhere…I admire you tremendously. So I ask you with all due respect-
14. If you still had your physical guitar playing ability today, do you think you would still be doing the 80′s metal shred type thing (like Yngwie or Joe Satriani)? Or would you have cut your hair and tried to get a pop sideman gig (like Greg Howe)? Or be a genius who got the hell out of music altogether and made some REAL money (like Greg Giuffria)? Or would you be out of sight completely and just disappeared (like Vito Bratta)?
Hey Howie. Thank you for the questions, my man. I need to check out your playing.
HA HA! Great question! I certainly wouldn’t cut my hair, unless Joss Stone or Christina Aguilera asked me to. I wouldn’t be doing the 80s thing either. Hopefully, I would be doing something similar to what I am doing now, only with my guitar. I would like to be considered as the new Jeff Beck, only with lots more instruments. Yeah, that is it. Jeff Beck has the coolest gig. My priority isn’t money, it has always been music that I like. Money sure is nice, damn it, but I haven’t thought about it when making music.
15. Since your last Metal Sludge interview, has your condition gotten worse, improved or just stayed the same? Are there any new advances in the fight against ALS?
I would say it has pretty much stayed the same. Stem cell research is the only thing I see that would really make a difference. Thank God for Obama.
Jason at home with friend Greg Howe.
16. Without too much detail, can you give us an idea of what a typical day is for you right now?
I wake up between 7 and 8. Serrana helps me do all the normal morning stuff that we all do. I do a lot of my mantra and meditation during this time. Then I get in my wheelchair and do some computer work. That can take all day if I am working on music. Sometimes if my eyes are burned out from being too close to the computer, I just play chess, listen to music, watch TV, or hang with my peeps. The night routine starts between 8 and 9. I usually turn the TV on until we finish, around 11. This type of day varies a lot because I often have company.
Thanks very much…I hope I have the honor to meet you in person some day.
Howie Simon (Alcatrazz feat. Graham Bonnet/Jeff Scott Soto Band/ Talisman)
Come hang out any time, brother. There is only one condition; you have to play my poor lonely guitars!
Our 3rd guest interviewer, is guitarist Keri Kelli from Alice Cooper.
17. What music have you been listening to lately?
Yo Keri! Now I know three Alice Cooper guitarists; cool! Thank you, man.
Quite a lot since I discovered iTunes. This past week I bought the Slumdog Millionaire soundtrack. That has some really cool stuff on it. I am digging M.I.A. I almost always lis-ten to Peter Gabriel and Jeff Beck. Beck’s new live album is great. I hope to work with him some day. Dylan is often on my play list. There is a song from his latest bootleg al-bum called “Born in Time” which is beautiful. Sarah MacLachlan is giving me goose-bumps. Check out her version of “The Rainbow Connection.” Killswitch Engage did an awesome version of “Holy Diver.” Dweezil did an incredible thing with his Zappa plays Zappa thing. Steve Vai’s orchestra thing was brilliant. Uli Jon Roth always kills me with his phrasing and feeling. I could go on and on about music I am digging on.
18. Have you developed new interests besides music?
Not exactly. I love meditating and my guru, Amma. I have always been way into football, and I still am. I love playing chess.
19. What happened to the marshall plexi that you got from kurt james? I (keri kelli) was there with kurt when jim marshall signed it!
Wow, cool! I am glad you asked about this. Kurt and I were best of friends when I moved to L.A. to play with Roth. He is an incredible player, and such a cool guy. I had my dad call him a couple of times (I had lost my voice) after I moved back to the San Francisco Bay Area. I wanted to say hi and ask him if he wanted to trade back the amp for a guitar or something. He is a big equipment trader and I would have loved to have one of his strats. He never called back so I figured he was on to other things or some-thing. Many years later I really needed some money. I sold it to a great guy in Southern California. He came over to get it and we are friends now. I wanted to be cool to Kurt, but I couldn’t turn this offer down, plus a mutual friend told me that he has tons of amps, guitars and cars.
Metal Sludge would like to thank Jeff, Howie and Keri for their contributions.
Jason (left) on stage with Marty Friedman and Cacophony.
20. Your life has been changed so much and things we take for granted are just a memory for you, or maybe not? We want to know, if you could choose from either of the following what would Jason Becker pick and why if you care to elaborate.
Play a thru a Marshall Stack on 10 or a Fender Twin w/ a clean channel = I would have to say Marshall Stack. I played Marshalls most of my life. It would feel so good to bug the neighbors again.
Eat a Big Mac n’ Fries or Bacon n’ Eggs w/ Toast = I used to eat tons of Big Macs. I got my fill of McDonalds; never again. Bacon and eggs with toast would be incredible. Make the eggs over easy. I actually don’t miss food anymore, believe it or not.
Drink a cold beer or a chocolate malt w/ whipped cream = Cold beer. I was never much of a drinker, but it would feel cool.
Jack off to some good porn or Get blown by a groupie on the bus =Are you kidding? This is too easy; the groupie, by far! These things aren’t gone in my life though. With ALS you can still pop wood and have normal sex. By the way, my mom is typing for me. HA HA!
Give a bad driver the finger or wave to a pretty girl at a stop light = Another easy one. I never flipped people off while driving. I have no road rage, although I drove fast as hell. Waving at a pretty girl is fun.
Play rhythm w/ bar chords only or let a searing sick solo rip up n’ down the neck = Sick solo, man. I can leave the bar chords to other folks.
Piss on your own at a urinal at the Rainbow Bar n’ Grill or shit in a port o’ potty at Ozz-fest = HA HA! You are a little piggy. I always hated pooing in a public place. So, it would have to be pissing ANY where. I actually have a condom catheter so I am able to piss anywhere anytime. Can you say the same?
Go swimming in the ocean or Snow skiing down a mountain = Let me ask you; did you see the documentary, “Jaws”? I would never swim in the ocean, plus I can barely swim anyway. I would snow ski; there is a first time for everything.
Take a long walk on the beach or run in the Boston Marathon = Tough one. If I had a dog with me I would choose the beach. A happy dog is heaven.
Win the lottery or Perform live with Cacophony at Staples Center = Fuck the lottery! Ca-cophony fo sho.
Jason and family. We are big fans, and our devoted readers are as well.
I am a fan of “Metal Sludge.”
More on Jason at WikiPedia >HERE< or to become one of the nearly 50,000 friends Jason has on Myspace and watch him SHRED YOUR FACE OFF ON GUITAR go >HERE< now. There are several YouTube links and live clips.
There isn’t much more to say, but Jason Becker fucking rules.