“Faces of a Faceless Artist” (Quadnews.net)
Most musicians tend to possess a certain distinct style of playing. Some melt faces with heart-pounding riffs, while others serenade the masses with acoustic melodies. Some of these musicians may also possess a certain persona. This persona may be the tendency to lay paparazzi flat on the concrete, on-stage spandex and big hair, or even a charitably aware citizen. No matter what persona and style a musician may possess, it usually remains pretty solid throughout their career.
Enter Buckethead. Standing at a towering height with long, dark hair coming out from underneath an emotionless white mask and a Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket (sporting an orange “FUNERAL” sticker across the rim), his appearance is already an insane optic festival. What’s even more outlandish is his unusual back story. Buckethead claims to have been raised by chickens and is on a mission to spread the awareness of a chicken holocaust occurring in fast-food joints. On a scale of 1 to confusing, this eerie persona ranks around the level of pre-Rosetta Stone hieroglyphics.
In reality, Buckethead is Brian Carroll; a now renowned guitarist and musician. But you’ll never see him under this name. Almost as enigmatic as his appearance, Buckethead’s playing style has covered all ends of the spectrum. His styles have ranged from resembling experimental, avant-garde, heavy metal, thrash, funk, jazz, electronic, and folk. Quite a resume. Starting out in 1988, Buckethead entered a song into a Guitar Player’s magazine contest. Winning runner-up, he then received recognition from one of the magazine’s editors. His career had reached liftoff.
After a few demos, Buckethead started off in the supergroup Praxis. Featuring prominent bassist and producer, Bill Laswell, this group was but the start of many future collaboration projects. Over the years, the enigmatic musician has collaborated with such artists as Iggy Pop, Bootsy Collins, Les Claypool, Bill Moseley, Viggo Mortinson, and Serj Tankian. Tankian even produced one of Buckethead’s albums, Enter The Chicken, under his label. Released under “Buckethead & Friends,” the album featured various vocal collaborations, including Serj himself. Buckethead has scored various movies (most notably Saw II and Mortal Kombat), commercials, and even created a dark-ambient persona under the anagram “Death Cube K.” Essentially, there are few things this instrumental renaissance man hasn’t dabbled in.
Most recently, Buckethead was brought to the public light in 2000 as the new guitarist for Axl Roses’ new attempt at Guns and Roses. Leaving the band after a few short years in 2004 (yet another 4 years of the bands’ history and still no Chinese Democracy at that point…but that’s another story), Buckethead continued his pattern of steady recording and touring that continues to this day.
On February 5th, 2010 our man of the hour released his 29th studio album, Shadows Between The Sky. To say that I was surprised by the album would not be any different than all of his other works I have previously listened to. Surprise is the name of the game for the man in the bucket. Turning on my stereo expecting to hear a slew of effects and shreds that usually find their way into Buckethead’s unclassifiable tracks, what I heard sounded nothing like what I was bracing myself for. Veering far from his usual distorted sounds, his newest album is a surprisingly soothing and melodic blend of light guitar licks. With sounds resembling that of a smooth jazz ambience crossed with a little folk, this was a set of tracks that I quickly became addicted to.
The title track, along with others such as “Walk on the Moon,” exemplify the relaxed feel of the album pretty early on. The tracks “Inward Journey” and “Chaos of the Unconscious,” give a darker, ambient feel that start to show a bit of Buckethead’s avant-garde composing while incorporating a fast break down or two. “Chaos of the Unconscious,” in particular, is a great show of his elegantly formed solos. His shredding style that is more common in his heavier works makes an appearance in the fast-paced track “Sled Ride.” While I won’t go as far as to say this album presents a brand new sound for the masked musician, it does provide a surprisingly fresh breath into his continuously impressive releases.
Such a versatile musician cannot be accurately categorized by simply one album. Having been nominated into GuitarOne’s “Top 20 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time,” and Guitar World’s “25 All-Time Weirdest Guitarists,” the man obviously has multiple aspects of performance to offer. While I obviously want you to check out this latest album I would like to make one other suggestion. One staple of Buckethead’s music is that it tends to delve deeper into thought and emotion through music alone. I encourage anyone interested in opening their mind to a new dimension of artistry to sample a few of Buckethead’s works. In a market of predictability, introduce yourself to a little insanity.
Published Version: The Quad News 3/28/10