Enter the Enigma – Buckethead
Man or chicken man? 2005
Separating fact from mythos in regards to supermelodic guitar virtuoso Buckethead is a daunting task, as part of his popular appeal lies in the legend and mystery surrounding this be-bucketed musician. Extremely shy of interviews, he’s only consented to speak to journalists on a handful of occasions, and several of these were conducted through the agent of a disembodied head named, “Herbie.” The bulk of Bucket-lore is to be found in Mr. ‘Head’s own website, named for the perpetually-under-construction theme park that he runs: www.bucketheadland.com, and on sites run by friends and rabid fans.
Rumors abound. Some say that he’s a robot or an android. Some say that he’s an alien, with a taste for human flesh. Some say that he was raised by chickens in a coop, and that the spirits of slain hens and roosters are channeled through the KFC bucket that the guitarist wears—that without it, he is helpless. Some say that he’s actually shredmaster Paul Gilbert under the white no-theater mask that he wears. Some say that he’s a tall man with unusually long fingers and big toes.
The truth is, Buckethead is a towering long-fingered, big-toed guitar madman who was raised in a chicken coop from a young age, and plays some of the most exhilarating, breakneck-speedy, emotional and technically flawless guitar on the planet.
Hailing from “near Disneyland” in Southern California, Buckethead’s most recent claims to fame are his having played in the ill-fated second coming of Guns ‘N Roses, and joining Primus for several performances, a result of his longtime friendship and collaborations with drummer, Brain. Both associations led to a greater exposure of the cult-favorite musician to a much broader audience.
His recent CD release, Enter The Chicken (he’s a devoted Bruce Lee fan and martial arts practitioner), is his most accessible to date, and promises to thrust the masked guitar wiz into a wider spotlight. Produced by System of a Down’s Serj Tankian, Enter The Chicken is a musical theme park ride, with each track taking the listener through an entirely different door. Unlike instrumental jaunts of yore, his latest recording features a total of eleven separate vocalists from a variety of backgrounds.
Tankian lends his voice and co-writing skills to cuts like the pummeling “We Are One” and the haunting “Coma,” where he’s joined by Iranian-born, India-raised Azam Ali of Vas. Efrem Schultz of Death By Stereo appears on “Botnus,” rapper/actor/author/activist Saul Williams provides the poetic throb to “Three Fingers” (which appears on the slasher flick “SAW II’s” soundtrack), and Ethiopian singer Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw and Maura Davis of Denali weave entrancing harmonies through “Running From The Light.” Former band mate and vocalist for the Deli Creeps (an early Buckethead project that reportedly caused Faith No More’s Mike Patton to comment, “They’re so good, it pisses me off!”) co-wrote and sings on “The Hand,” joined by operatic soprano Ani Maldjian.
Tankian co-wrote and sings a duet with Shana Halligan on the wistful-yet-driving “Waiting Hare.” Rounding out the lineup are Dirk Rogers and Keith Aazmi, vocalist and guitarist, respectively, of Bad Acid Trip, who give a proper grindcore performance in the withering, nightmarish, semi-comedic “Funbus.” Shades of Johnny Lydon? Interestingly, Rogers is a special effects makeup artist by trade.
Enter The Chicken ends with the soaring majesty and electric power of the 6-½ minute long “Nottingham Lace.” The tune is available as a free download offering on Buckethead’s website, so look for it. Load it into your iPod and play it while driving on a winding mountain road at daybreak.
His latest offering finds Buckethead at the height of his powers. While some will continue to hold up Monsters and Robots as his best work, with its guest appearances by Brain, Les Claypool, and P-Funk bassist extraordinaire Bootsy Collins, and sickos will continue to embrace the output of Bucket’s ongoing “Cornbugs” project with horror film actor Bill Mosely (“Chop Top” in “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2”, “Otis” in “The Devil’s Rejects” and “House of 1,000 Corpses), critics will probably hold this disc up as his entry into the “mainstream.”
Buckethead’s in no immediate danger of being pigeonholed, though. He’s always kept musical associations that span a surprising spread of genres. He’s played with Guns ‘N Roses, Primus, Cobra Strike, and Praxis, and has worked with Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell of Parliament Funkadelic, Windham Hill artist William Ackerman, Tony Furtado, Actor/Wielder of the Broken Sword Made Whole Viggo Mortensen, and Jonas Hellborg, among others.
A huge fan of film, particularly horror and sci-fi flicks, Buckethead’s music has appeared on soundtracks like Johnny Mnemonic, Mortal Combat 1 &2, Beverly Hills Ninja, and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.