In the world of competitive air guitar, there are few more renowned figures than Dan Crane -- aka Björn Türoque. Described in the Village Voice as the "Dan Marino" of air guitar (highly talented, but unable to win the big one), Crane has chronicled his adventures in competitive air guitar in his book "To Air Is Human." Like most people, he started "playing" air guitar on an alcohol-fueled whim, but that whim ended up taking the New York-based musician (he plays "there" guitar as well) all the way to Oulu, Finland, to compete in the Air Guitar World Championships. But more than that, air guitar led Crane to discover some deeper truths about both himself and the meaning of art. Seriously.
What was it about competitive air guitar that fulfilled you in a way that playing in real bands didn't?
When most people think about the air guitar, they think it's a ridiculous kind of activity. But what I found was that I was able to channel a lot of things that I was seeking playing with a band, and not just in terms of having an excited audience or whatever, but more in terms of having that feeling that any kind of artist or musician gets when they connect with an audience. That to me is really what art is kind of about. You make a piece of art and it somehow makes an emotional connection with an audience. I was as surprised as anyone to find that that was actually possible in this kind of hilarious and ridiculous medium. There were times after a competition when people would come up to me and say, "That was the greatest rock concert I've ever seen." Even though the guitars are invisible, that kind of magic can be achieved.
Would you say there was a particular moment when your attitude toward air guitar crystallized?
It was definitely in Finland (at the world championships). I forgot about winning and losing and who's the best and anything like that, and I was hugging all these people and I really felt like, OK, it's 2003, we've just started bombing Iraq and here are people from around the world coming together to share in this fantasy and hilarity. That was kind of the Olympian moment. I was hugging this giant Finnish guy who was built like a truck. He took me in his arms and gave me a big bear hug and I could see a tear in his eye -- he was overwhelmed by the emotion of it all. That was when I thought this was something bigger than just a silly little thing we were doing.
What practice tips do you have for an air-guitar dabbler like myself?
Forget everything you know. Take off all your clothes in your living room, have a beer or the alcohol of your choice, and find the song from when you were a teenager that just struck you and made you say, "This is what I wanna be when I grow up." Then turn it up as loud as you can and just go for it. Find that inner airness and connection to the music and let it flow out of you.
-- David Marchese