Talking With Air Guitar Master Bjorn Turoque

For the past six years, Dan Crane, aka "Bjorn Turoque" has been the preeminent ambassador for the world of air guitar. He retired from competition in the Air Guitar World Championships in 2005 and made a lateral move to being the touring roadshow nightly MC - or the "Master of Air-emonies," as he calls himself.

The world of competitive air guitar actually goes back to the early '80s in Sweden, when a few metal fans began performing in front of folks, and the phenomenon soon reached the States in the '90s. The first AGWC was held in Finland in 1996, and soon the tour hit the United States in bars and concert venues.

In his former life, Turoque was a software designer named Dan Crane. He wasn't a total rock novice, as he was the bassist for two French-rock bands based in New York City, Nous Non Plus and the late Les Sans Culottes. In 2003 he wowed the AGWC and dominated the tour for two years before retiring to his current position.

A featured performer this year will be the nautically-inclined William Ocean, who has been stunning and thrilling air-guitar audiences with a metal version of Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On." Houston has been a veritable hotbed of airness, as local auteur Jacob Calle has made the rounds on the tour for the past two years now. Last year on the Houston date, he broke his leg jumping off stage.

We spoke with Turoque while he was on the bus with the rest of the touring shows featured performers.

Rocks Off: So far on this year's tour, what's been the best city for air guitar?

Bjorn Turoque: Definitely Washington, D.C. We went into a double-overtime air-off. The crowd was great there.

RO: Are certain towns heavier on certain bands or genres as far as air guitar goes?

BT: I was hoping for more regionalism. When we were in Nashville, I was hoping to hear some country, some pedal steel, lap steel. But I guess they didn't have the balls. I remember in Texas seeing more Southern-fried rock, some Molly Hatchet, Skynyrd.

RO: More ZZ Top in these parts?

BT: Oh yeah, we have definitely seen them. To me, the most important thing is that you play the music that speaks to you. You are not going to sell your performance if you aren't a fan. If you aren't a fan of Metallica, and you play a Metallica song, we'll know.

RO: Have you noticed any newer songs getting more play?

BT: You definitely see more Guitar Hero songs. Now people that weren't familiar with those classic rock tunes are more familiar with that body of work. But generally it runs about the same. You see your metal, hair metal, death metal, Christian Metal, Jewish Metal.

RO: What are your favorite air tunes?

BT: I have a list in the back of my book, stuff like "Kickstart My Heart" by Motley Crue, "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead. Some songs have been become air-guitar clichés. You have seen incredible performances of them, and you to dig deeper now.

That's why this guy William Ocean in New York who did the metal cover of "My Heart Will Go On" was something I hadn't seen before and it was spectacular. It's all about the element of surprise. Taking the audience where they haven't been before.

RO: What's been the worst performance this year so far?

BT: We saw some bad ones last night. We took some wild cards last night in Nashville. One girl, it was clear she just gotten off work from the strip club. We didn't see the air guitar, but we saw the air pole. That was bad, but fun to watch. One guy looked startling like the dude from Silence of the Lambs, the one that tucked his genitals...

I think he was doing a reference to that movie, except that he had a huge dildo in his spandex. Someone came out and gave him air head after his performance. It was terrible but entertaining. That's the majesty of these competitions.

RO: Does alcohol help or hurt performances?

BT: It's been discussed at length in late-night philosophical conversations among air guitarists. Where is the right place to be in regards to your inebriation? I think there is a three-beer or drink rule, depending on your body mass index.

But you wanna be loose, but not stumbling. Because then you can't focus. You can't move fast enough. You tend to forget what you are doing. Then you are sloppy and lazy. It's like sex. You wanna be excited and lubed up - but not so wasted that you can't navigate, you know what I mean?

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Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty