It takes Yngwie Malmsteen–sized balls to always be the bridesmaid of competitive air guitar. A few years ago, Dan Crane quit his job as a software producer, adopted the stage name Björn Türoque — adding the double umlauts “as any metal band worth its weight in cocaine would” — and spent the next three years playing phantom chords in competitions from L.A. to New York to the world championship in Finland. He came in second place nearly every time, but no matter: The Susan Lucci of air guitar has appeared on TV countless times, starred in the documentary Air Guitar Nation and lectured at the Experience Music Project in Seattle. And his mother is friends with a member of Styx. Now, he’s chronicled his life of sex, drugs and (no) rock & roll in To Air Is Human: One Man’s Quest to Become the World’s Greatest Air Guitarist. Björn recently answered some FAQAGs — Frequently Asked Questions about Air Guitar.
Domo arigato, Björn. What are the main criteria for great air guitar?
You’ve got your “airness,” which is the extent to which it becomes an art form and moves beyond imitation. You’ve got technical ability, which just means you know how a guitar functions. And then there’s performance: You have 60 seconds in which to achieve greatness and instantly transform yourself into this rock deity that people are gonna be worshipping and throwing themselves at. It’s what separates the air chaff from the air wheat.
Any preshow rituals?
Drinking is the No. 1 rule. And, within that, the Three Beer rule, which says you have to have a plateau of three beers. Stretching is also really important, a little yoga, some deep breathing. Meditation, obviously. And masturbation, just to get rid of the toxins. It’s kind of in contrast to Raging Bull,when De Niro gets angry when he gets a blowjob before going out into the ring. It’s the reverse in air guitar.
How was it being judged by Tom Morello, and whom would you most like to perform for?
If your head’s in the right place, you are a bigger rock star than the people judging you. Tom Morello? Psshh. Nobody knows who he is. I’m fuckin’ Björn Türoque! But my Mount Rushmore of judges would be Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, Pete Townshend and Nietzsche.
Any favorite moves besides the Windmill?
There’s a move I like to call the Flying Buttress, where you toss the guitar and catch it with the opposite hand and throw it back over. That’s actually the Double Flying Buttress. I have a pick slide, and wah-wah pedal move. A lot of it is in the facial expressions: There’s the Tongue Wag, the Holy Shit Bug-Eyed Wow I Rock I Had No Idea, and the Smell the Armpit (you know, like sniff .?.?. yeah! or sniff .?.?. whoa!).
On a scale of 1 to 10 bongs, how stoned were you when you wrote your book?
I give the writing maybe a one GBL (Gnarly Bong Load). But the editing, I give that like an 8 or 9 GBLs. I think my editor was somewhere in the 7 or 8 range.
Any advice to future air guitarists?
It’s important in these times of global warming to conserve as much air as possible. There’s just obviously not enough to go around.
TO AIR IS HUMAN: ONE MAN’S QUEST TO BECOME THE WORLD’S GREATEST AIR GUITARIST | By BJÖRN TÜROQUE with DAN CRANE | Penguin | 336 pages | $14 softcover