Buckethead’s Artistic Madness
Brian Patrick Carroll, known as Buckethead, is one of the most prolific guitarists of our age. With over 250 studio albums, his artistic output is immense and encompasses a variety of formats, including videography and painting. Collaborations with other artists add 70 albums more, which vary in genre from funk, rock, and metal to progressive, avant-garde, and film scores. He was even a member of Guns N’ Roses 2000–2004 and formed the experimental group Colonel Claypool’s Bucket of Bernie Brains with Primus bass player extraordinaire Les Claypool.
The journey to Buckethead is a simple one. It begins with a kid in suburban California, who, inspired by his favorite musicians—AC/DC, Ozzy Osbourne, and Randy Rhoads, to name a few—starts learning guitar. He studies music theory. He takes lessons. He’s quiet, shy, and works his ass off, and he becomes really, really good.
As for the bucket, it was inspired by the 1988 horror film Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. After the showing, he went out and bought Myers-like mask before heading to a chicken joint for a bucketful. Inspiration struck, as he told Guitar Player magazine in 1996. “I was eating it, and I put the mask on and then the bucket on my head. I went to the mirror. I just said, ‘Buckethead. That’s Buckethead right there.’”
Where do you begin with Buckethead’s music? Just jump in, but remember, each album is an entirely instrumental ride through Buckethead-land. His large turnout of solo albums includes 233 “pikes,” which are like micro-albums, or short rides on his artistic roller coaster. Some are gritty and feel like heavy metal, while others are calming and melodic. Pike 65 – Hold Me Forever, for example, is named in honor of his late mother and has a driving and forceful rhythm with heavy effects.
“I was eating it, and I put the mask on and then the bucket on my head. I went to the mirror. I just said, ‘Buckethead. That’s Buckethead right there.’”
His full length albums are just as varied. Buckethead’s second solo album, Giant Robot, offers a sampling of all the sounds: funk, metal riffs, and ballads. Population Override is a bluesy album and one of his more chilled out. His 2002 studio release, Electric Tears, is melodic and calming full-length album with a Spanish vibe. Fans of metal should start with The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell, which is loud and fast from start to finish. Simply stated, whatever you’ve got an itch for, there’s a Buckethead album to scratch it.
To say he is an innovative guitar player fails to render the true scope of his work. Although the quantity of work is beyond impressive, Buckethead’s genius is most revealed in the originality and quality, with chord clusters and eight-finger solos unlike most other artists we’ve seen, and as long as he’s alive, it seems he’ll continue to churn out high-quality music.