Year 2003 you visited Oulu at first time, how did you get the idea and what was your first impression?
”It was 20 years ago when I heard about Oulu and the Air Guitar World Championships from some friends in New York who had decided to launch the first US Air Guitar competition. It sounded like a strange sort of arctic rock and roll fantasy. When I arrived in Oulu, it was everything I had imagined and more. It wasn’t long after arriving that Andy McCoy of Hanoi Rocks was drooling on my shoulder over beers and a plate of French fries covered in mayonnaise and I thought… this is a dream come true.“
How many times have you been here in Oulu since?
”I think I’ve been back to Oulu nearly every year since 2003, minus once for a wedding and twice for Covid.”
And you have also hosted the live show for many years – what kind of experience has that been?
”Hosting, or being the “Master of Airemonies” as I like to call it, has been the best experience of my life. The people of Oulu are so warm, on the inside, though can appear quite cold on the outside! And I love seeing the crowds gathered in Rotuaari Square no matter if it’s raining and cold, or just raining…or just cold!”
Now that you have reached 50 years of age, you decided to come again, why?
”When I retired from competition in 2005, I made a vow that if this ridiculous competition were still going on when I turned 50 – a thing I very much did not think would happen – I would dust the rust off my invisible axe, and make one more go at air greatness. If I win, it will be a twenty-year long dream finally come true. If I lose…well, I’m use to it.”
And all these years you have been a air guitar model, legend, and Oulu ambassador – what kind of odd situations have you landed in?
”Thanks to air guitar, I’ve landed in a lot of very strange situations. I’ve seen grown men cry, a woman lose a toe, whiplash, vomit, a lot of “probably the best” pizza, bangovers, hangovers, and most importantly, have made friends with incredible people from all over the world who genuinely believe that playing air guitar and sharing a mutual appreciation for rock n’ roll can make the world a better place. Make air not war, AM I RIGHT, OULU?”
What would your life have been like without AGWC?
”Life without AGWC and competitive air guitar would have been, to paraphrase the poet T.S. Eliot, like the life of a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.”
You’ve never won the competition, but you have written a book, To Air is Human: One Man’s Quest to Become the World’s Greatest Air Guitarist (2006). Did you try to explain that to yourself or to others?
”I find that trying to explain air guitar is like writing about music, and as Elvis Costello once said, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
What do you tell to an person, who doesn’t know anything about Oulu or air quitar?
”I tell them that there is a magical place on Bothnian Bay near the Arctic Circle with floating saunas, air guitar fairies, and the greatest people in the whole world. And every year since 1996, on a Friday night late August, the entire city stands in freezing rain to watch an international coterie of misfits who’ve travelled thousands of miles to play an invisible guitar for 60 seconds in the most ridiculous and yet brilliant competition ever created. They typically respond with, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of.” ”
Do you still live in Yorkshire in the Northern England with your family?
”I do live in Yorkshire in the North of England with my English wife. I just had my second child. My first child, aged 5, has already begun her air guitar training and is fond of Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes and No One Knows by QOTSA.”
”Let’s rock, am I right Oulu?!”