JASON BECKER: 'I Have Love For Life'

Guitar World magazine recently conducted an interview with guitarist Jason Becker (DAVID LEE ROTH, CACOPHONY). A few excerpts from the question-and-answer session follow:

Q: Because of your physical limitations, has your creativity been sparked in new areas?

Jason Becker: I remember when I was first losing my ability to play my fast licks and my hands were shaking and falling off the guitar. It forced me to sort of create a new slow style. I was very inspired and recorded Dylan's "Meet Me in the Morning". Then when I couldn't play at all, I got inspired by world and classical music. Now I am sparked by Indian and Funk music, which is evident in my new stuff. Not being able to play makes one be able to listen and receive better. The constant noodling on guitar can be great, but also distracting to the universal music inside you.

Q: What inspired you to first pick up a guitar? What was your first guitar?

Jason Becker: My dad, uncle and Bob Dylan inspired me to play. My dad was a really good classical guitarist. He took lessons with a student of Andre Segovia. My uncle was into Roy Buchanan. I loved everything they did. To me Dylan was and still is the coolest and the greatest. His melodies, words and inflections were so moving. Check out his albums, "Bringing it All Back Home", "Freewheelin' Bob Dylan", and "Highway 61 Revisited". For my fifth Christmas on earth (1974) my folks got me a Franciscan Acoustic guitar. I still have it. My dad tried to teach me the notes and how to read music, but I was so bored with that. A year later my brother got a little toy xylophone. Dad taught him Dylan's song, "As I Went Out One Morning". I said, "Hey why don't you teach me that good stuff?" So he did. From then on I was playing and singing every Dylan song.

Q: Jason, your courage and playing are both unreal. How do you manage to keep your spirits up? Thanks for the inspiration.

Jason Becker: Thanks Homey. I guess the short answer is I have love for life. I love people, including myself. I am loved and taken care of by my family, friends and Guru Amma. I am still able to create, albeit in a different way. I don't want to make light of ALS because it is hard as hell. you can't even imagine, (well, some of you can) but inside myself it has mostly just become a different lifestyle. You know, some people think since I can't move I am a vegetable. Wrong. Just picture yourself as you are, just always sitting down and if you need something a hot babe takes care of you. I am exaggerating a little, but this is how I see it. I have reasons to live. I have hopes and dreams. I am not in any real pain. I laugh and joke, make music, write, make love and party. To people who are with me and meet me, they totally get it. I have my down days just like anyone but pshaw.

Q: What was the most important musical lesson that you received from hours of jamming with Marty Friedman?

Jason Becker: Whew, there are so many. Mainly to be yourself, be unique, don't do what has been done. He taught me a lot about the beauty in non-conventional harmonies and rhythms. He made up an exercise that we would often do together. We would take turns playing solos and chords, but we would have no idea what the chord guy would play. We would try to make the soloist look foolish by playing the most unexpected chords we could think of. The exercise was meant to train ourselves to bend up to good notes, and to learn weird phrasing. Also our ears would get used to interesting progressions, and we might come up with cool ideas for songs. Every day I learned something new from Marty. You could learn a lot from just learning to play one of his songs. I sure did. To be honest, I would be nothing without his influence. Oh yeah, and he turned me on to Japanese music.

Q: What was it like working with David Lee Roth? Do you two ever keep in touch?

Jason Becker: It was mostly a blast. He was pretty sweet to me. He often complimented me but wasn't afraid to tell me if I was sucking. He was the wild horn dog you would expect, but he had a soft side too. He met a nice girl in Vancouver and asked my advice on how to get such a nice girl. He was half teasing but he also was half serious. Cute. He was really good with me in the studio. He had to break up an argument between me and Bob Rock. I thought Bob couldn't hear good tone for shit. I was probably wrong; he is way talented. Dave was very diplomatic. Every guy in that band took me under their wings. I love them all. Dave and everyone knew I was having health problems. I was really limping and sometimes tripping. They were all very understanding except two guys around that camp. I won't mention names but one was a well-known manager. (heh heh)

Man, big love to everyone around me and Dave back in those days. I love and appreciate you all. We haven't talked since we parted but he wrote a sweet page about me in his book, and a quote about "Perspective" for me. I also got a nice message from him on MySpace but who knows if that was really him.

Read the entire interview at this location.


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