Thursday, August 23, 2007
What you want, AA gets. These interwebs are pretty amazing, and when I posted the previous Air Guitar Championships piece it somehow tubed all the way to the desktop of one Mr. Shred Nugent. The whole tournament fascinated me, so I asked Shred a few questions about rockin' the AG, and here are his answers.
Awful Announing: Explain the allure of the Air Guitar Championships. Why did you decide to enter locally?
Shred Nugent: The allure, huh? I’ve been air guitaring all my life, and playing guitar for almost as long. In college, we even had air BAND contests – sad to say, I had to audition for it… When people would ask if I was any good on the “there” guitar (as Bjorn Turoque calls it), I would answer yes, but I’m the best AIR guitarist in the world!!! Later, when I heard about the Championships, I knew I had to enter and see just how good I really am. Also, it seems like it was meant to be – you see, my wife’s hometown happens to be Oulu, Finland – home of the World Championships. Getting a free flight home and a chance to air guitar for my family in Europe would be icing on the cake!
So, entering locally, to me almost seems like going to a series of hometowns – I was born in Queens, NY. Unfortunately, I was only able to do 2 of 3 hometowns this time. We had just returned from Finland a few weeks ago, so I won’t get to enter the “Dark Horse” competition in Oulu the night before the Championships – where you can earn a spot on the big stage. Next year, we’ll time our visit to see the whole festivities!
AA: Shred Nugent destroyed every other contestant's nickname. Where did the moniker come from?
SN: Thanks for digging the nickname! It comes from Ted Nugent, of course. In my high school days, my favorite air guitar jam was to the live version of “Wang Dang Sweet Poontang” off of the “Double Live Gonzo” album. That was the song I did for my first competition in SF in 2006 – didn’t win. The only bummer is that William Ocean actually used the studio version this year when he took the US crown! But I’m not bitter, not bitter, not bitter, not bitter… I’ll have to take my song back some day :)
AA: How exactly is an Air Guitar contest judged?
SN: An Air Guitar contest is judged much like figure skating – on a 4.0-6.0 scale. Taken into account are: technical merit – the believability of your playing, and “Airness” – that unquantifiable something when one transcends mimicking playing guitar, and raising it to an art form. What I’ve found so far is that the judging is INCREDIBLY subjective. Being a guitar player isn’t necessarily an advantage, and you can never second-guess what that particular group is looking for. It adds the highest level of surprise I think. It also drives the crowds crazy, often times flipping off the judges – the SF crowd is a prime example of that.
The US I think looks at it much differently than Europe however. In my opinion, the US gets a little caught up in the “Big Show” aspect, and not as much into the purity of just representing air guitar. I’m a little old school that way I guess, but I grew up with Classic Rock, in which playing air guitar just made its way out of you. Nowadays, it’s being raised to a performance art in some ways. I guess that’s the cool flipside of its evolution. I also used to use a tennis racket – which nowadays would be an illegal prop – so there ya go! Oh, and I should add that the sixty second time frame is quite a challenge. Most of us end up editing the music to fit what we want to accomplish, whereas in the past it was just freeform for as long as you want.
AA: I heard through the grapevine that Andrew WK was a judge at one of these events. Is that true? Who were the judges at the Finals?
SN: I believe AWK was at last year’s NYC contest, but I’m not sure about that. This year at the Championships, we had:
This year's US Finals were judged by Jason Jones of The Daily Show, Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live, best-selling author Malcolm Gladwell and ACLU lawyer Ben Wizner.
(You can get more info from – usairguitar.com)
AA: What's the atmosphere like at one of these events during the qualifying rounds compared to the Big Stage?
SN: The atmosphere is the greatest, at both levels of competition. We’re competing, but the sprit of the competition’s beginnings is that if everyone is holding an air guitar, they can’t hold a gun. The idea of Wolrd Peace is prevalent, and really carries over to the backstage. We’re all in it together, and you’ve got to really love playing air guitar to get up onstage in front of people to do it. We were put up in the same hotel, and I’ll never forget the feeling of walking into the lobby and meeting the others – we’d only seen pictures of each other on the website, and studied each other’s move from YouTube clips before meeting. To actually recognize your face and call you by your stage name was hilarious! Seeing my parents meet my competition’s parents was even cooler! I’ve got nothing but love for all of the others…
AA: Is getting completely trashed beforehand a prerequisite or just an option?
SN: Getting trashed is a big, big DIS-advantage! It’s been said that three is the magic number – three drinks – no more, no less. You wanna get loose, but you need your wits about you. Sixty seconds goes really FAST, and you need to pull out every move you can.
AA: How did competing in the U.S. Air Guitar Finals change your life?
SN: How has this changed my life? Great question. I think I’ll be answering that one for years to come, kind of like a ripple effect. The biggest way it’s changed my life is that I feel somewhat vindicated for all my silliness. I’ve lived like this all my life, balancing my artistic life with my day to day life. I’ve always believed you can have both, and have a great time in the process. To see just how MANY people across the world feel the same way, and come out to see us do it live is exhilarating! Getting to talk to people and laugh just brings a huge smile to my face; especially thinking about being flown across the country, put up in a hotel room, backstage passes, FREE BEER – all just to play AIR guitar on a big stage to a sell out crowd! It’s absolutely amazing, and I can’t wait to do it again…
KB AKA Shred Nugent
\m/ >_< \m/
Thanks Shred! Here's his performance....you tell me how this didn't win.....
I was also told by the USAG Committee that I'd more than likely receive "credentials" for next year's contest. Who's coming with me???
For Those About To Rock....Fire! (Awful Announcing)