Steve Hunter says things like, “My fingers are built for pleasure, not for speed,” and “I never started playing guitar to impress, but to touch people. So if you’re looking for me to impress you, I’m not going to do it. But if you’re looking for me to touch you, I will!” I think the most impressive thing to do in music is to touch someone deeply, and Steve does that. He isn’t necessarily impressed by my fast stuff, but he loves my music, because no matter how fast some notes are played, they can still have feel and heart. By the way, when Steve had to learn the fast harmonies in “Drop in the Bucket” on the album A Little Ain’t Enough, he nailed them.
Steve is a brilliant player and musician. He has played with Alice Cooper, Lou Reed, Aerosmith (without getting credit at the time), and Julian Lennon, among many others. He played on one of my favorite songs: Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” I think his best work is on his latest CD, The Manhattan Blues Project, though. He has never sounded better in my opinion. The record just oozes soul, and has many incredible guest players as well. It should be required listening for all musicians who need to inject a shot of heart into their playing. He sure made me much better after I was already good.
In 1989, David Lee Roth threw a big bash at his mansion in Pasadena to introduce me, the “new gun slinger in town.” My parents and Steve were there. They were the only ones who knew of my ALS diagnosis at that time. We knew Steve would be going to Vancouver to work on Dave’s album and I think my parents asked him to keep an eye on me. He had worked as a medic in the army in the ’60s, so he was pretty comfortable with wounds (I had a nice slice of flesh cut out of my leg at the time) and he even gave me B12 shots. He knew why I would fall and he watched out for me. His eyes are bad and we used to joke that he would carry me on his shoulders and I would tell him where to go. Really, all the guys in the band, including Dave, had my back, because I was so young at the time and they appreciated my youth, energy, and innocence. It was a really cool time, except for that pesky ALS diagnosis and all.
You know how sometimes you listen to music that has lots of great qualities, but it just doesn’t move you enough to go listen to it again? Why is that? I don’t know, but I think creativity is deeper and more vast than most of us realize. Music can be an expression of God. Sometimes my descriptions of what Steve taught me are kind of vague. Although he taught me many licks and ideas, the most valuable thing I learned was a subtle part of creativity that is hard to put into words. It wasn’t even anything he told me. I think I already had some of it, so I was open to what he was conveying with his guitar.
Jason Becker is a composer and guitarist whose work can be heard on his solo albums, and with Cacophony and David Lee Roth. Check out this sexy man’s story in the award-winning documentary
Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.