After more than 20 years since he first worked with the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop, Jason Becker reached out to Duncan to once again talk pickups, and the result is the Jason Becker Perpetual Burn Humbucker.
But to explain how Jason and Duncan got to this point requires a little bit of history, and that history goes something like this: You’ve got your guitar heroes and then you’ve got your real-life heroes. Occasionally you meet someone who is both. Meet Mr. Jason Becker.
Jason was a child prodigy, strumming Bob Dylan tunes before graduating to Clapton, Van Halen, and Yngwie licks. He developed truly jaw-dropping technique at a very young age, but it wasn’t just that he could play fast scales. Jason had the feel, the touch, the vibrato, and the soul that separates good guitarists from great ones. What’s more, he possessed the sense of humor—in both his guitar playing and his life—that inspired everyone around him. Some players just have it, and Jason Becker is one of them.
Watch Jason put on an amazing arpeggio clinic.
After blowing every available mind with his work with fellow shredder Marty Friedman in Cacophony, Jason would release his first solo record, Perpetual Burn, an album that would set a new standard for instrumental shred. The tunes displayed his deep knowledge of classical harmony, rock bombast, and unreal technical skills.
His amazing playing would attract the attention of Gregg Bissonette, who had a little gig with a singer named David Lee Roth. They needed a guitarist who could not only replicate the parts played by Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai, but also bring his own trip to the proceedings. Impossible, right? Apparently not. With no notice at all, Jason recorded an audition tape of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher,” on which he double-tracked EVH’s famous tapped intro. But Jason didn’t just double-track it. He tapped one track and picked all the notes on the other. That bears repeating: He picked all the notes to the intro of “Hot for Teacher.” It made for an astounding, unheard-of display of technique that still managed to possess the all groove and swagger of the original.
Hear Jason’s demo here.
Watch Jason’s mind boggling “Hot for Teacher” intro.
The demo was so impressive that even the eternally humble Becker would tell Guitar Player magazine, “Even before I went to the audition I was pretty sure I had the gig.”
And get the gig he did. The most coveted job in rock guitar was Jason’s, and he set about writing tunes with Dave and getting ready to unleash his amazing brand of guitar playing on the world. It was around that time that Jason contacted the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop to create the multicolored pickups that went into one of his main guitars.
Check out Jason’s work with David Lee Roth.
It was also around that time that, according to his mom Pat, “all the troubles began.”
A nagging pain in Jason’s leg was soon diagnosed as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Right when everything was falling into place, everything fell apart and Jason was given three to five years to live. Although he completed the DLR album A Little Ain’t Enough, he would soon lose the ability to play his beloved instrument. Shortly thereafter, Jason would be unable to walk, talk, or even breathe on his own.
Along the way, though, a funny thing happened. Jason didn’t die. With help from his support network, he got on a diet that could not just sustain him but help him regain weight and get healthier. His dad, Gary, developed a communication system whereby Jason could spell words via eye movements and continue to communicate, despite the fact that he could no longer speak in the conventional sense.
Jason and Gary Becker demonstrate the “eye geometry” that allows Jason to communicate words and musical notes.
Most importantly, Jason never stopped composing music. ALS is a strange disease, in that the muscles fail but the brain keeps on going. And Jason’s brain was chock-full of music like it always was. With the help of his team—and the guitar work of players like Michael Lee Firkins and Joe Satriani—Jason continued to write, record, and release songs.
Michael Lee Firkins realizes Jason Becker’s guitar parts on “End of the Beginning.”
Jason’s fans never forgot about him, and one of them, an aspiring film maker named Jesse Vile, set about documenting Jason’s life up until this point. The result, Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet, is a fascinating look into the world of guitar heroes, ALS survivors, family love, and great music.
Watch the trailer for Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet
Then more and more things started to fall into place for Jason. He was featured on the cover of Guitar Player magazine, a lifelong dream of his, where he was called “the greatest shredder ever.”
Read Jason’s Guitar Player cover story here.
Then Carvin came out with a Jason Becker Signature model, the Carvin JB200C, a beautifully constructed replica of the guitar Jason kissed in the iconic Ross Pelton photo.
Which brings us to the present day, when Jason wanted to follow up on the original pickup designs he conceived with the Duncan Custom Shop so many years ago. With Jason providing the ears and his team of Michael Lee Firkins and Mike Bemesderfer providing the hands, Jason settled upon a pickup that is hotter than a ’59 but not as hot as a JB: the Perpetual Burn Humbucker.
“I always loved Eddie Van Halen’s tone,” says Jason, “with that crunch to make it aggressive and the singing, smooth, violin-type sound for soloing. On my CD, ‘Perpetual Burn,’ I got a tone that was raunchy and ballsy, and I could do a soaring solo without changing pickups. It all came out clear and crisp, too. That’s what we achieved with my new Duncan pickup. I would say the final tone sounds like me, only way better!”
With an Alnico 5 bar magnet and a 12.11k DC resistance, this is a pickup that is as versatile as the guy it was named after. It’s a perfect choice for shred but would also work great for rock, metal, or fusion. Singing leads, ringing clean tones, funky rock rhythms—the Perpetual Burn can not only handle all that, it can handle it with authority, sensitivity, and guts. What more do you want?
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