Marty Friedman discussed the early stages of his career, focusing on the period between 1986 and 1989 when he was in a band called Cacophony with fellow guitar great Jason Becker.
“[Jason]’s my complete inspiration to wake up every morning. He’s just the ultimate guy – not just a guitarist, not just a musician, just the ultimate guy and role model.
“But when I first met him, I didn’t want anything to do with the guy.
“I was planing to do my own solo record. I was planing to make the quintessential debut solo album of my career. I was about 80% done with it, writing the demos and preparing to go to the studio.
“And all of the sudden Mike Varney from Shrapnel Records says, ‘Dude, you’ve gotta check out this 16-year-old guitar player, he’s really good.’ I’m like ‘Whatever.’ [Laughs] ‘Whatever, great! Let me hear it.’
“So he sends me a tape of this guy and I’m like, ‘Yeah, he’s pretty good.’ And that was the end of it, I thought. And then Mike says, ‘Why don’t you get together with this guy? Just to see what he’s all about.’
“I was totally busy in my own thing, I couldn’t have possibly cared less about another guitar player. Plus, Varney’s always playing me every single guitar player he’d ever heard over the phone.
“I was kind of humoring Varney because I just wanted to make sure that my record went off without a hitch. I really didn’t want to know about any other guitar player at all. I just wanted to make sure my record got done, and Varney was holding the key to that, as I was like borderline homeless at the time so I didn’t want a ruffle.
“I’m like, ‘Alright, send the guy over to my house.’ So Jason comes to my house, my apartment in downtown San Francisco. And the second he walks in, I just fell in love with this guy. Just absolutely the nicest guy you’ve ever met. Like, totally non-guitar player-ish.
“He comes in and we have like little practice amps, and we’re jamming in my apartment. And he’s really, really, really good! You know, he still had not developed the musicality that he eventually would develop, but he was so incredibly dexterous and so quick to pick up on things.
“We would do this little jams and I would show him things that I was working on and he could get it under his fingers kind of the right way. My stuff is far from orthodox, even then it was really, really unorthodox, and to see a guy comprehend it and get it under his fingers that quickly, it just like sent bells off in my brain.
“I’m like, ‘If I’m ever gonna play my stuff live this is gonna be the guy who is gonna do it with me.’
“Because I was always into multi-layering guitar tracks, and harmonizing, and counterpoint, and all kinds of stuff that was really hard to pull off live unless you have another really solid guitarist. Solid in my case meaning who can relate to some pretty unorthodox things.
“And Jason was just picking up on it left and right, and his personality was just so sweet! I really just had a change of thought.
“I was so dedicated to making my solo record, but when I started hanging with Jason I was like, ‘You know, we could do this together, we could do this live, and if anybody I would want to do it with it would be this guy.’
“So I scrapped my solo record and I had found places to put Jason in on the first Cacophony record. I found little things that he did on his demo, a couple of things I really liked, and we drew from those things and I gave him some spots to show his playing off.
“He learned all of my stuff that I done previous to that to make the record. So he did a lot of recording on the record. But to be honest, he didn’t really come to his own until after that record.
“Because now he had an album under his belt and he started writing like wildfire and really developed his own musical sense a lot more directly after that, and on his first solo record and on the second Cacophony record.
“I just fell in love with the guy form day one and nothing has changed since.”