Jason Becker on Inspiration

Guitarists often ask me who inspires me.
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Guitarists often ask me who inspires me. Of course I was inspired by most of the great guitarists in my youth and beyond. I am in love with the guitar, but I can’t play it anymore, so I rarely listen to instrumental guitar music these days. Many people relate to me as a guitar player, and that is an awesome honor, but I think of myself as a composer first. That is partly out of necessity, but keep in mind that I was a teenager when I recorded most of my guitar stuff. I was still developing my technique and style, and when I look back on those days, what I admire most are the compositions, feeling, and creative spirit that my albums had. Besides Marty Friedman, I have to thank Mike Varney for that. He allowed Marty and me to do whatever we wanted, and that is a rare thing for record labels.

Fairly recently I was getting into the Andrews Sisters. I was digging the tight harmonies and cool melodies. I rediscovered them through listening to different versions of one of my favorite songs from that era, “It’s Only a Paper Moon.” I posted their “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” on my Facebook page. Some people really dug it. Then I came across the Andrews Sisters-inspired tune “Candyman” by Christina Aguilera. I posted it and man, some people got pissed and thought someone else was posting instead of me, that I got hacked, or that I was drunk. It was pretty amusing. How could a metal guitarist like any pop music? I listen to absolutely everything. When I was in Cacophony and afterwards, I was often listening to Paula Abdul. No musician could come up with anything unique if they only listened to one kind of music.

Since people do still ask me about my guitar influences, here are some of the things that made a big impact on me, starting with rhythm guitar:

The first rhythm work that inspired me was Bob Dylan and also Robbie Robertson from the Band. It was great stuff that fit the songs perfectly. I also liked the horns in the Band’s songs.

My three biggest rhythm influences were Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, and Marty Friedman. Jimi had incredible funk and soul, and I absolutely loved “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” and “Axis: Bold as Love.” I was very inspired by these in my songs “Angel Eyes” and “Becker-Ola.”

Eddie was definitely my biggest rhythm influence. Everything from the first six Van Halen albums just blew me away. His rhythm parts were cooler than anyone else’s solos. I learned every Van Halen song and relearned them when I got in David Lee Roth’s band. I used a lot of what I got from Eddie on the Roth album and on my Raspberry Jams release. I remember Eddie telling me that he thought of himself as mainly a rhythm guitarist. I say he is also the greatest lead guitarist.

When I first started jamming with Marty, he got me into the really heavy, chunky rhythms that were all over our two Cacophony albums as well as some of Perpetual Burn. I didn’t really listen to much heavy stuff, so I got all of that from Marty. I remember when Marty first got in Megadeth, he said he wanted me to come over to teach him some of the Van Halen-ish rhythms that Megadeth were doing. Of course, by the time I got to his place, he had figured it all out.

I feel extremely lucky that I was into all kinds of music, even hip-hop. If I had been at all closed-minded, I don’t think I could still make great music in my situation. I think most readers of Guitar Player and my fans get that!

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 awardwinning documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet.