In the world of eclectic guitarists, Buckethead stands out.
With his face hidden by a hockey mask and long dark hair cascading out of a KFC bucket perched on his head, and using guitars shaped like human torsos and other visages of the macabre, he is not easily missed. And, yes the man born Brian Carroll can actually play the guitar too, having spent time with assorted out-of-the-mainstream acts like Praxis, Cobra Strike, Giant Robot and El Stew, as well as enduring a short, but turbulent two-year stretch with Guns N' Roses (a topic he avoided in our interview). He's primarily recorded instrumental records, but with in 2005 (when this interview took place), he released Enter The Chicken, his first to feature vocals (not his).
Buckethead claims to have been raised by chickens and thus would only agree to an email interview--maybe the bucket makes his words unintelligible, maybe he only clucks--"communicated" via-email through his trusty hand puppet Herbie.
Up on the Sun: Ozzy Osbourne wanted to recruit you for Ozzfest one summer but he couldn't get past the bucket and the mask and gave up. Does it bother you when people seem to be hung up on the physical appearance of your alter-ego or do you expect it?
Buckethead: You know, he used to work at a slaughterhouse. I really like him a lot and I liked meeting him. I guess if things are meant to be then they happen.
Did the decision of the KFC bucket come about because you happened to be eating chicken when you came up with the idea, or is there something deeper behind it? There seems to be a fascination with chickens.
I feel I can help bring them back to life.
If you have such a deep empathy for chickens, why do you continue to wear the KFC bucket? That seems a touch ironic.
Well the bucket is a tomb for dead chickens.
You're known primarily for your guitar playing and until 2005's Enter The Chicken, everything was instrumental (as are the bulk since). So, why add voices? Is it like Chicken Kung Fu?
It is the year of the rooster. There are many [guest] vocalists. Usually I play with no vocal cords. It was fun to hear people sing on songs I helped write.
Do you have any aspirations, professional, musical or otherwise that you have yet to pursue?
Well, building Bucketheadland [a theme park] still is the most time consuming and inspirational thing I have got going. Building the rides and making the music for them. Looking after the chickens and maintaining the skunk farm. That takes up most of the time. Just keep building it up.
A lot of your fascinations, like Disneyland, horror movies, and your alter-ego were formulated when you were young. Is there anything else you were fixated on at a young age that you haven't gotten to work into your persona and career?
Holding my head in my hands while it looks like my head has been cut off. I finally got to do that recently. Being that you obviously enjoy being a mysterious, anonymous figure in the music community and appear to be fairly reclusive, was it difficult working with Axl Rose, someone who seems to be fairly over the top and in love with the spotlight (at least in some twisted way)?
Did you get frustrated with the fact that you were a member of Guns 'n' Roses for four years and nothing really ever came of it besides a few concerts?
Again, no answer.
You've collaborated with a wide variety of people over the years that range from funk-master Bootsy Collins to Primus' Les Claypool. Who was your favorite person to work with and why?
I have been very lucky. Les was one of my heroes when I was younger and he helped me a lot. It has been great working on music with him. I love working with Bill Laswell. He is a tremendous man and thinker. I love working with Viggo Mortenson we have a great time and it is very inspiring to be with him. I love Bootsy. He is definitely someone who really understands me. He has looked out for me for years and spotted things coming a mile away. I am very lucky.
If you could choose anyone to work with dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Michael Jackson. I would like to see how he works, how he writes, what inspires him.
Do you think that by having such an out-of-the-box alter-ego, and being able to back it up by being such a virtuoso on the guitar, you maybe have paved the way for other hopeful musicians that are camera shy?
I don't know. I think if someone has something in them and they feel strongly they should try to find an outlet for it. Sometimes if you keep that stuff in you can go bats. I hope it would help.
Buckethead is scheduled to perform Saturday, August 11, at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe.