Marty Friedman Describes What It’s Like to Work with Jason Becker Nowadays
Marty Friedman and Jason Becker have been working together since the formation of Cacophony in 1986 — as 24 and 17 year olds, respectively — a bond that never weakened despite Becker’s diagnosis with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), which eventually left him not only unable to play guitar, but rendered him completely immobilized.
Becker, against all odds, has continued making music, using artificial intelligence that measures his eye movements to communicate, and most recently released Triumphant Hearts in 2017. Friedman, who appeared on a pair of songs on that album, recently elaborated on what the process of working with Becker was like given the physical roadblocks for communication.
Speaking to Ultimate Guitar, Marty explained:
“I love working with Jason in any way possible. We’ve done a couple of collaborations. We co-wrote a song for my ‘Inferno’ album [titled ‘Horrors’].
“It’s actually not that different from working with someone who is not in a situation like Jason. Once he’s got the music done, he’ll send me some data, like, ‘Here’s where I want you to play, and I’ll send something back.’
“And it’s really not unusual. Of course, Jason and I go back very deeply and we both know what each other is capable of, so I really make sure I have him be brutally honest and strict with me about what he wants from me.
“In my experience working with guests, the reason I want that guest is because I want that guest’s flavor in my music. I don’t want to have to tell them exactly what to do and have them do it.
“That being said, oftentimes, I’m very decided on exactly what it is that I want them to play. I’ll tell them what I want them to play, but I want them to have their sound. Sometimes you have to be specific.
“So that’s what I had Jason do with me. Bless his heart, he gave me the most delicious moment on the album to play on – playing the main theme of the title track, on a key modulation.
“I was telling you about the hidden melodies before, when you’re playing a song with a strong melody, like ‘Triumphant Heart,’ the most delicious melody is the last one, so for me to come in and be able to play the melody at the end, he couldn’t have given me a better spot.
“So I gave him a couple of takes to choose from and I forgot if he had me change anything or not. But I played for him. I played the way he wanted me to play it. He just gave me the best spot on the album.
“Then I did some stuff on the song ‘Valley of Fire’ where everybody played together, and there were so many wonderful performances on that. I have no idea how Jason edited the damn thing.
“But Guthrie Govan did a solo on that song and to me, that was the peak of that song. Everyone did so well and then Guthrie came in there and just hit a grand slam. It just killed me. I loved it.”
Marty Friedman will give Tokyo Jukebox 3 its North American release via The Players Club / Mascot Label Group on April 16 (pre-orders). The record is the third in a series that began with Tokyo Jukebox in 2009, and then Tokyo Jukebox 2 following in 2011.