Sunday, September 8, 2013

Not Dead Yet

I just finished watching the documentary Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet. Becker was the guitarist for Eighties classical shredders Cacophony  - the "other" guitarist, the one who didn't get famous by joining Megadeth. For metal guys who subscribed to guitar magazines and practiced scales everyday, Cacophony's Speed Metal Symphony was a high water mark for widdly widdly WAHHHH! You don't need me to tell you it was big in Japan.

Shortly after Cacophony called it quits and he secured a gig with David Lee Roth's solo band, Becker was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease (also known by the unwieldy name Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS). He thereafter lost the ability to play guitar, to walk, and eventually to speak. The one-time virtuoso guitarist can now barely move. The irony is black, humorless, and soul-crushing.

However, Becker never lost his desire to create music, which he still does via a computer and a custom-made apparatus (and no small amount of help from his father). He is the Stephen Hawking of shred guitarists. And if you thought his condition would affect the pomp and bombast of his compositions, think again:

Watching the documentary made me feel bad: not just for Becker (though, how could you not) but for my own ennui and apathy. For the second time in as many months, I've been reminded that being able to write and record music is a privilege and a gift. I don't have anywhere near the virtuoso talent that Becker displayed at his 80's peak; my guitar playing can be charitably described as primitive. But I do have two hands that do what I want them to (most of the time), and are only held back by my own laziness.

Five song demo by the end of this year. That is a promise, to myself if no one else.