In heavy metal, there's nothing better than an extremely talented guitarist. When a musician truly knows how to work some magic with that instrument it demands to be revered and acknowledged.
But there's a trade-off for said talent: Creative people are often labeled as "weird" by their peers from a young age. Some of them even are weird. But only a few of them are this weird.
Why's that? First off, people who grow up loving heavy metal are often ostracized. Maybe it's because everyone else in elementary school was mmm-bopping around to Hanson while you were head banging to Hammerfall, or possibly in high school you experimented with the goth look while the popular kids were scared of Marilyn Manson. Either way, being shunned gives you lots of time to memorize that killer guitar solo from Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher."
It's funny, because many musical geniuses admit to not being socially awkward: Think Jimi Hendrix, Slash, Keith Richards and Jimmy Page. Back in the day, strapping on an electric guitar and cranking up an amp turned people off, not on--you were labeled as a rebel, a burn-out, or, as my grandmother likes to call it, "a damn hippie." It's true enough in the sense that 90 percent of talented guitarists end up living with their parents until they are 40, waiting for that "big break."
But for that small percentage who do happen to move on to bigger and better things, their defining uniqueness only intensifies. After all, besides the singer, guitarists are often a major part of the song writing process, constantly inventing new riffs and reinventing old ones, learning new styles, and challenging their talent to grow. So in heavy metal today, we have lots of interesting, jaw-droppingly awesome guitarists.
There are enough lists of the best guitarists in heavy metal, so let's give a nod to some of the most eccentric and weirdest, who truly let their freak flags fly. Not those dictated by popular trends or marketing teams, but whose unique personalities is an extension of their guitars just as much as the guitar is an extension of them.
5. Syd Barrett
Pink Floyd's original mastermind, songwriter, lead vocalist, and lead guitarist, Syd Barrett did what he wanted, when he wanted. The fact that he was regularly experimenting with LSD didn't help much. He wasn't just inventive and unorthodox in his technique and style--my favorite is the slide with echo units to make that spacey sound--he was also known for some pretty crazy antics.
His madness was more of an implosion, that brewed gradually while he was in Pink Floyd, after he left in 1970, and during his two solo albums, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett. He was an extremist lyricist, with trancey riffs and intense, offbeat strumming--much like his personality. He once locked his girlfriend in a bedroom for days with nothing to eat but crackers, he reportedly styled his hair with Brylcreem and crushed Mandrax tablets, and he would go days without speaking. He slipped into schizophrenia and dementia, and pretty much dropped off the face of the planet before finally passing away in 2006.
While I've never been a big fan of Buckethead, there's no question that the reclusive, robotic guitarist is quite eccentric. While shredding his brand of art rock, jazz, heavy metal and hip-hop, he's never seen without a white mask or a fried-chicken bucket on his head--the latter of which helps him reign in the spirits of all slain and martyred chickens, without which he is powerless.
He is an innovative player, incredible shredder, and primarily plays solo--even though he's played on stage with everyone from Iggy Pop to Bill Moseley. He has an obsession with Disneyland (he's visited hundreds of times) and claims he's jammed with the Haunted Mansion house band.
He even wants to build his own surreal theme park, Bucketheadland.
Read More: Buckethead on His Time in Guns 'N' Roses: "No Answer."
3. Roky Erickson Many people may not have heard of Roky Erickson, but he's been a massive influence in psychedelic rock and metal. In 1965, he founded and played guitar for the 13th Floor Elevators, widely considered as the world's first psychedelic band. He claimed to be from Mars, and his lyrical content included aliens, demons and reincarnation.
Erickson also regularly used LSD, mescaline and marijuana, using sometimes all at once four or five times a day. In 1968, he began speaking gibberish at a show; diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, he stayed at a psychiatric hospital in Houston where he received electroconvulsive therapy. Busted for pot in 1969, he tried to beat the rap by pleading insanity.
After being sent to a state hospital and attempting escape several times, he had a three-year incarceration (complete with Thorazine and shock treatments) in Texas' Rusk State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he recorded six tracks from the 1999 Erickson collection Never Say Goodbye. In 1982 he claimed a martian inhabited his body, but eventually returned to music, even playing on stage with Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top and the Black Angels.
2. Ace Frehley
There's not much to be said about founding KISS member Ace Frehley that people don't know--I mean, the man's drive is to party hard, play guitar, and be a "spaceman." Like the man himself, former Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley's playing remains maddeningly unpredictable--some days he can sound like a guitar God, and others sound like he has no interest in playing at all.
In 1978, Ace put out a coked-out self-titled LP that illustrated his "life is one big joke" philosophy. KISS influenced a wide range of heavy metal bands and guitarists, and in a 2009 interview with Rock N Roll Experience Magazine, Ace stated, "I'm an Anomaly, I'm an un-schooled musician, I don't know how to read music, but I'm one of the most famous guitar players in the world, so go figure."
The Norwegian Mayhem guitarist known for all things terrifying was also known for some incredible riffs up until he wasmurdered by his bandmate Varg Vikernes in 1993
. The founder and central figure in the early Norwegian black metal movement, he was all about concocting explosives, promoting the evil image of black metal around the world, and presiding over pagan rituals and orgies in the basement of Hell, his Oslo record store.
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When Mayhem's singer, Dead, killed himself with a shotgun in their home, Euronymous found him and rearranged the scene before taking photos that were later used for the band's album cover, Dawn of Black Hearts. Using the suicide to foster Mayhem's evil image, he claimed that he collected the brain matter and made a stew out of it. His band mates deny that is true, but did say that they all created necklaces out of the skull fragments.
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