GETTING MORE TALE #453: What is Your Front-Person Style?
There are two types of people in this world: those that can make music, and those that cannot.
After many years of trying, I have to admit it, that I fall into the latter category. I can’t make music. I tried. I can make some noise and scream, but you wouldn’t pay money to see me in concert. Instead I’ve focused my energy on two things: writing about music, and playing air-music.
Air guitar (and to a lesser degree, air bass) is timeless, and I’ll wager that anyone with arms has done it.
Harder to fake, but much more rewarding due to the physical exertion, is a good air drum session. It’s easy to fake an air guitar mistake, but it’s harder to cover up when you’re on air drums.
It’s arguable that even more popular than these activities is lip-syncing to your tunes. But why stop there? After all, singing the song is only part of a vocalist’s job. The other part is entertaining the crowd, otherwise known as fronting the band. Think about it: Is Ozzy Osbourne successful because of his singing, or is it the fact that he is generally listed as one of the top most entertaining frontmen in rock? Same with W. Axl Rose. Part of the allure of Guns N’ Roses is seeing what kind of mood Axl will be in that night. What will he say? What will he do?
I’ll admit that when I’m alone in the house, blasting the tunes, it’s fun to play frontman and pretend I’m in charge of the best air band of all time. It’s even more fun to do this in the back yard; that’s just an “FYI” for those brave enough. While I’ve never consciously set out to copy a singer, I’ve noticed that my personal style as “air frontman” has been influenced by many of the greats, Mr. Rose included.
Once Guns N’ Roses hit the big time for real, they were touring massive stadiums, indoor and out. Their stage was phenomenally huge, and Axl would run from one side all the way to the other, usually while trying to sing! Duff, he’d just walk it. Not Axl. Many of these stage runs would end with him jumping off a riser. Not to be outdone in this regard is Brian Vollmer from Helix. Starting from their club daze, he used to somersault from the stage onto tables. When I saw him in Kitchener in ’87, during one song he climbed up onto the mezzanines, ran across the entire balcony, and then climbed back down the other side of the stage. I’ve seen Helix a hella-lot, and Vollmer still has no problem jumping on tables. He’s an awesome machine of a frontman, and he taught me that there are no boundaries between audience and band. Looking up to guys like these, when I have the space, as air frontman I like to run and jump too! I can’t do it like I used to in my teens, but I still do it.
Another frontman that heavily influenced my personal style was Paul Stanley of Kiss. Sometimes, depending on the song, it just feels right to play air rhythm guitar too. When performing to a song that felt this way, Paul Stanley became my model. Nobody can dance with a guitar like Paul. Much like Axl, Paul (especially in the 80’s when he wasn’t wearing platforms) was known to run and jump all over the stage. I will sometimes catch myself doing a specific spin that I saw Paul do in the “Thrills in the Night” video.
When not wielding my air-axe, I tend to need something to do with my hands! Who was the master of fronting a band with his hands and voice alone? Why, that would have to be Ronnie James Dio himself. I don’t tend to go for clichés like the devil horns; I make up my own gestures. However there is no denying that Ronnie James Dio is my number one air frontman inspiration when it comes to my hands. There are none better than Dio. There never will be.
These four guys undoubtedly had the most impact on me as an air frontman, but there is one more who cannot be ignored, and that is Mike Patton. My buddy Peter recorded a Faith No More performance from Saturday Night Live, and Patton was climbing up the scaffolding. I’d never seen a weirder performer in a rock band. What a bizarre, yet cool, image. So, if the song called for it, I’d throw in some Patton weirdness. Lurching across the stage, or flailing wildly, or even just standing stock-still, Mike Patton taught me a few extra bonus moves for my bag of tricks.
I don’t know how to dance. I have no dance moves whatsoever. I’m the Seth Rogen of dancing. All I have is the “dice thing”; that’s all I got. But when it comes to rocking the house as the best damn air singer around, I’ll take on all comers!