I heard Cacophony around ’87 or ’88. The Shrapnel record label that catered to all these shred bands was located in Cotati, Ca. (I’ve been to Mike Varney’s house. He had a room full of VHS tapes of dudes burning; guitarists, drummers, etc. He also had all the pre CFH Pantera albums on vinyl. Pretty cool!!) Sinister Sam also recorded two demos at Prairie Sun Studios, where all Shrapnel bands recorded. I’ll save that story for another time. Actually wait, there is no story. We recorded two demos out of Prairie Sun and Mooka (studio owner) was awesome.
So yeah, I heard Speed Metal Symphony and HATED it. But I also hated Metallica in the beginning as well. My friend Rod used to bag on the lyrics to Desert Island: I want to spend my life at the beach!! I was fine with that. Hell, I want to spend MY life at the beach; Gold Coast, to be exact. Australia’s Florida. Read on!!
The OTHER terrifying guitar duo in Metal. Paul and Bruce were the LA guys, Jason and Marty were the SF guys. My old singer used to take guitar lessons off Marty in SF. And a buddy of mine, John Ortiz, took lessons off Jason.
I hated Cacophony until I heard the solo to Desert Island. And then, in true John Sanders fashion, I shat my pants. I really dug the first dirty solo just after the little harmonized bit. The part just after the floyd warble-cricket noise is just INSANE!! I had no idea which guy played it. So in my mind, I thought it was Marty. There was no internet, so I basically just took a guess, “Yep, the guy with the curly hair looks more metal and older, he played it. I’ll go see them play live and stand right in front of him, like the 19 year old jack ass that I am. Hand on chin (when my arms are not crossed, mind you), mentally taking notes on every move, scale, power chord, etc. Because “I’m a guitarist and this is what I DO.” That’s what we all did.
So we find out that Cacophony are playing at The Stone in San Francisco, and a few of us go up. The band comes on and I immediately high tail it to Marty’s side. They play Desert Island, I’m standing right in front of Marty, and to my utter shock, Jason’s playing the first solo!! So there I am, scrambling to get to Jason’s side. Ha ha ha!! The second Stone gig I saw them at they had just come back from a tour of Japan. In between songs I’m trying to talk to Jason about the Japanese tour!! “So, how was it, man?” I’m sure there was a strong urge on his part to kick me in my teeth. Glad he didn’t.
I think I’ve seen Cacophony three times; twice at The Stone, once at The Omni in Oakland. Loved it. Saw Jason do the yo-yo thing right in front of my face. Ahh, the joys of living in California!! My only complaint with Cacophony was their rhythm section. I wanted all bad asses like Racer X and got something a little more comparable to Faster Pussycat. Not a nice thing to say, I know, but I was also a teenager and wanted fucking shred from every motherfucker in the group, dig? I wanted to see Dean Castronovo or Atma Anur and got clowned. I’ve relaxed a touch now. Not by much though.
What I love about Jason. Pretty much everything. The songs and solos off the two Cacophony albums are thee shit. Perpetual Burn is a fucking masterpiece. Live, his stage presence was pretty tough. You can’t just stand there, people. The crowd can stand there packed together. Give them their money’s worth (not to mention you have fuckloads of room up onstage) and shake dat ass. I also tripped out on how tall Jason was when I saw him after one of the gigs. He’s like 6’2″ or 6’3″.
I got all my sweep ideas off Jason and Bruce Bouillet. I bought that Jason Becker VHS tape which features the clinic where he shows the Serrana Arpeggios, and I took notes. That totally opened my mind to new ideas, which I’m grateful for.
I called that Jason would get the Roth gig. That was pure common sense. Anyone who saw Cacophony play would have easily made the connection. There was no other choice than Jason. He, at that time, was the best guitarist in the world hands down. I fully believe that. He was the Guthrie of the late 80’s. Here, check out Jason’s 4 track demo of the Roth stuff
His shit swaggers!! He’s the only guy I love doing the blues/shred thing. Him and Kotzen.
I saw him at NAMM one year, he was on crutches, I remember asking what happened. I think he said he fell or some shit. I had a pic of that somewhere. He was talking to Atma Anur at the time, so I didn’t stick around and bailed pretty quick-like. Let fellow band dudes catch up.
When I heard the news about Jason and ALS, I knew there was no God and the world was truly fucked. I’ve cried about it a few times. Even now he inspires. Matter of fact, he’s written more songs with his eyes than I’ve fucking written with a guitar in my lap! So there’s no excuse. You wanna do something, do it. Jason Becker is the shining example of that. Even his body won’t get in the way of what his mind wants to do. And it gets done. I’m sure there are down times, but you just keep going. Great message from a fuckin’ rad dude.
Jason, you are thee shit!! Your playing inspires people, you continue to inspire!
Interested in what Jason’s doing these days? Go HERE
What I love about Marty. Lots. All the exotic stuff. Bending from a note out of key to a note in key. Make the ears fire right up, ha ha!! The cool phrasing, so many cool ideas. I love the shred more on Perpetual Burn, but I love Marty’s songwriting. I feel he’s the more metal of the two as far as riffs go. That last riff in Anvils is thee shit!! I love the Megadeth / Marty years. Great solos, so good that you’d want to play them live note for note. Hitting a high G on Holy Wars? Get the fuck outta here! The perfect Yin to Jason’s Yang, for sure.
Both inspire and leave great legacies for us to dig right into and go, “Yeah, these dudes are the fuckin’ REAL DEAL..”
Tell me that isn’t the raddest hair!! I’d grow that business to my ass!!