Windhammer, the Mighty Air Guitarist

By Brian McManus
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Apr. 13, 2010

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Photo by Michael alan goldberg

The announcement of the winner at Thursday night’s US Air Guitar Championships at Johnny Brenda’s was met with a mix of cheers and boos. The winner: High Drator, so dubbed because he was a street team worker for the event’s sponsor, Vitamin Water. (Get it? Hydrator.) The association had some in the crowd pulling their best Hamlet. There’s something rotten in US Air Guitar!

Or is there? Because, truth be told, High Drator certainly had some goods. He was athletic, accenting his best air-guitar moves with back spins and break-dance fits just this shy of physically impossible. Problem is, he clearly had never held a guitar in his life, and thus his Air technique left a lot (read: A LOT) to be desired. Some left wondering if runner-up Dream Crusher had been robbed by a sponsor shill.

All of this could’ve been avoided, of course, if Philly’s Lord of Air, Windhammer, had been allowed to compete. Only, Windhammer had just won in Boston, where he now lives and works as a developer for Guitar Hero (true story), and was thus ineligible. In Boston, he received perfect scores. In Philly, contestants were lucky to not see the judges draw a tiny dick accompanied with a pair of hairy balls to represent their score. Needless to say, Windhammer would’ve mopped the floor with High Drator’s ass.

We’ve kept up with the US Air Guitar thing for a while at our music blog, Make Major Moves, where writer Michael Alan Goldberg caught up with Windhammer (who we predict will be going to World Air finals in Finland) about technique, talent and intimidation.

What goes through your mind when you’re up there onstage?

It’s not so much thinking as it is instinct. You have sort of a planned routine, and I dunno how other people do it but I don’t tend to stick totally to that planned routine. Generally I stick to it, but this air-guitar thing, it’s essentially the music talking through you in this weird way, and as pretentious as that sounds, that’s pretty much what it is. And so I think when I’m up there I’m not so much thinking about it as letting the music do what it does to me.

Wow. Do you ever analyze tape—you know, the way pro athletes look at game film—to hone your technique?

Well, I’ve watched videos of my performances last year. It’s definitely good to look at that kind of stuff to get a sense of the space you occupy on the stage and how you use the stage and your body language and everything else. You have to be really self-aware, and it’s easier to do that when you’re able to step outside yourself and look at yourself on video or whatever. So yeah, I do a little bit of that. I don’t analyze it too much. There are little things I notice that I’ll be like, maybe I’ll try to avoid that, but I don’t … I’m not like hyper-critical of it.

When did you first realize you had this special talent for air guitar?

It’s something I’ve been doing as long as I’ve been a rock ’n’ roll fan, so for most of my life. I think anyone that’s a big rock ’n’ roll fan does it, or something like it, as a way to respond to the music.

Was there a definitive moment when you realized this was your calling?

If there was, it was probably in the late ’80s when I was in junior high and the whole hair-metal thing was at its peak. I think that’s when I really started getting interested in this stuff. And also that was around the first time I had any regular exposure to MTV, and so just the whole image went along with it and the mythos to it and the mystique and the posturing, all that stuff. If there’s somewhere where air guitar began for me, it was with that stuff. The music is one thing, but the image that goes with it is an extra element that I hadn’t thought about too much prior to that.

Were there any air guitarists you looked up to as idols or heroes?

No. Actually, the funny story is that I knew there were air-guitar competitions but I didn’t know exactly how it was all organized or what the deal was until I saw the documentary Air Guitar Nation , and that came out in 2007. And when I saw it, I was watching it with [girlfriend] Leah, and I turned to her and I was like, “Man, these guys are so lame!” And I think she initially thought that I was making fun of the behavior, as people are wont to do, but after that I was like, “No, I could do this so much better than these guys,” and that’s when her face kinda fell. She realized that I had greater aspirations than merely to ridicule. That’s not to say that I look down on other people who play air guitar—I was only half-joking when I said that the people in the movie were lame—but I did think I could do it at least as well as these guys. So I decided to keep an eye out for next year, if it would come to Philly, and it did.

What have you learned about yourself through Windhammer?

That posturing goes a long way. Seriously, like, one of the judges at the national finals [in 2008] gave me a higher score than he was going to, merely—so he says—because he was afraid I would beat the shit out of him after the show.

So fear and intimidation are part of your tactics?

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