we are asking a few UBER air guitar champions their thoughts on the subject.
This episode brings you Justin Howard aka "Nordic Thunder", 2012 World Air Guitar Champion, 2011 US Air Guitar National Champion as well as Chicago's Regional Champion in 2006, 2008, 2010 AND 2011.
If there was an intergalactic competition where the winner
could rule the universe, this legend would probably ultimately win that too.
"Nordic Thunder" aka "Knee-Man, Master Of The Universe",
it just seems inevitable.
"Nordic Thunder", the name and persona came forth from a prophetic dream of a friend, some would say this person was a magical shaman who imbued you with the ultimate spirit of rock & friendship. Since that time you have been competing and mostly winning in some form or another in US Air Guitar competitions since 2006 ultimately earning the WORLD title in 2012. You have suffered injuries such as a meniscus tear and a ruptured disc in your back AND your bare feet and knees have suffered greatly from treacherous knee slides across skid resistant stages. It seems that you put a LOT of time, heart, soul and effort into this art/sport, can you tell us why?
Oh man, I really have to have some self restraint when answering these questions. There really isn't a simple answer to this question and I could talk extensively about "why"…however, I'll do my best to cut to the chase! When I first started competing in air guitar it was because I wanted to win. I wanted to be a champion at doing something completely ridiculous. I would be lying if I said I had zero competitive spirit living deep inside of me, but the more I became involved with the air guitar community over the years, winning wasn't the only "thing" I had my eyes on. Air guitar has led me to some amazing places and allowed me to do things I never dreamt possible. I've managed to find something in my life that allows me to express myself in a way I'm unable to on a day to day basis. It's given me a voice that people actually listen to. The competition side of things is great, but it's the events leading up to a show, during a show and after the show that allow me to be ME. Air guitar and the ideology that lies at the core of the sport have led me to discovering my life's purpose. It's given me opportunities to speak completely open and honest with people without feeling the need to put up any sort of guard. This is an incredibly freeing feeling and this feeling is ONE reason I am drawn to competitive air guitar.
In 2011 when you won the US National Championship you got to appear on "Lopez Tonight" and be interviewed by George Lopez as well as fashion guru and one of the stars of "Project Runway" Tim Gunn. The NEXT year, shortly after you won the WORLD title you were featured in a huge ad campaign for Dr. Pepper, you have been a T-shirt/Guitar model for Threadless in 2013... One could say that air guitar has taken you places that you might not have dreamed to venture before, that being said, when you were a child what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a kid I wanted to be a garbage collector. This is honestly the first job I can remember thinking it would be cool to have. The idea of riding on the back of a truck digging through peoples trash and keeping the cool stuff they were tossing just seemed really fun to me. I also wanted to be a mechanic, a rancher, a chef, a film maker, a radio DJ, an archaeologist, a wild land fire fighter, a professional rodeo clown, a teacher, a photographer, a stunt man…I've wanted to be a LOT of things! I still do!
There are people that are less than enthusiastic about air guitar, some are even maliciously as well as gleefully hateful in regards to the men and women that would participate in such a thing. How do you respond to an attitude like that?
To be completely honest, I really could care less. I don't know when it was, but I feel like I hit a point during my air guitar career where I stopped giving a fuck what anyone said. This is also another lesson taught by air guitar that has bled over into my day to day living. If you're able to honestly 100% truthfully stop caring what other people think of you, the better off you'll be. If anything, I find some sort of satisfaction doing something that someone hates so much. Something that causes absolutely no harm to ANYONE or ANYTHING. There is also a part of me though that feels a bit of something towards those people. I don't know if I feel sorry for them, but I am a bit bummed by the fact the people who comment negatively towards air guitar feel the need to spew there negativeness into the world to begin with. The reason being is that it makes me think they are bummed about something in their own lives. It makes me bummed that they don't have their version of an "air guitar".
Let's face it, Finland LOVES you. What do you love about Finland and what would you say to convince someone that they need to go to Oulu in August to witness or be a part of the World Air Guitar Championships?
I love that in Finland it is totally socially acceptable to stare at people. Like, in an elevator or on an escalator, you can just stare. I love how beautiful the people are. I love the smell of tar and the taste salmiakki. I love that when I am there I feel a magnetic pull to the ground. Like, I physically feel a connection to the ground. I love the way the language sounds. I love the pizza culture. I love the drunks. I love that it's dark all winter and light all summer. I love that there's an island in the Baltic sea that is covered in moss, lingonberries and blueberries. I love that there's a man in Oulu who uses music therapy to connect with children who suffer from mental disabilities. I love so much about Finland. I whole heartedly feel that the people who inhabit Finland are on a level of brain waves that the rest of the planet is not. Like, they're in touch with some alien stuff. Yes that sounds crazy. Yes I am being serious. I have very strong feelings about Finland and expressing them in words is quite difficult. You really just have to go and experience Finland for yourself. Oh yeah, Finland is also host the air guitar world championships. This motto I've been preaching for years of "if we all acted the way air guitarists do towards each other, the world would be a better place." I mean these words and this became so incredibly apparent when traveling to Oulu for the first time to compete in the AGWC. I could go on about the week long event (yes, the AGWC takes place over a week. It's not just one night of competing) but I wouldn't even scratch the surface. It's difficult to put in words the impact of hanging out naked in the woods with a man from Russia and another from Bulgaria has on you. The AGWC is a week long summer camp that revolves around bettering the world. Strangers from all over the globe gathering together to project positivity in the world. If EVERYONE spent more time trying to be good people and the world's leaders took note on how the world's air guitarists treated one another...we'd be set! It's that simple and it's that difficult at the same time. So if you're thinking of going, just go. I would even suggest to someone to go if they weren't even an air guitar fan to begin with. There's something very real that happens in the midst of all the fake guitar playing.
Your other half Chelsie Jangord aka Cannonball Mavin is also a kick ass air guitarist in her own right, who in character quite honestly frightens me. Do you coach each other?
Before a competition, the only person who sees my routine is Chelsie. She's seen so many shows she's got an idea of what works and what doesn't. She's also extremely brutally honest with me when it comes to critiquing my routine, which I love. Once I have her stamp of approval I know i'm ready for the stage. On the flip side, I've tried coaching her. It doesn't work. I don't think it's more one person's fault than the other, but we can't get our brains to jive with one another when it comes to me coaching her. I'll edit her tracks for her and offer any constructive criticism when I'm asked, but I don't "coach" her per-say. Her routines and character all come from her twisted warped mind and are all totally her own.
What is your favorite thing about air guitar and do you prefer competing or performing?
I touched on this a bit earlier, but my favorite thing about air guitar is the freedom and opportunities to explore life it has given me. Performing and competing are great in their own right. Getting in front of people and acting like an idiot is FUN. It's a rush! So there's that too…but the overall appreciation for life and human beings that air guitar has shown me are why I love air guitar so much.
If you had three words to sum up your life in air guitar thus far, what would those words be?
Enlightening. Adventurous. Fun.