'I find it strange that real guitar is taken more seriously'

Gabi Matzeu aka the Hoxton Creeper, current UK Champion, defends the art of air guitar

Learn to play like a pro with our two-part guide to playing the guitar for beginners and up, free with the Guardian and Observer this weekend

People might mock air guitar but it's a good training ground for guitarists; it teaches you to have fun on stage and be confident when you perform. In fact, I find it strange that real guitar is taken more seriously than the air variety because you could be a fantastic guitarist and yet a rubbish air guitarist. Most guitarists barely move on stage, or can be really nervous and hide behind their instrument, but playing air guitar makes you realise how important it is to use the whole stage. When you play in the Air Guitar Championships there are a thousand people watching and to give a successful performance you have to have courage. Air guitar is also an excellent opportunity to let go enjoy the music which is why so many teenagers do it - they hear a great rock track or a song they like and start strumming air guitar in their bedroom.

Air guitar is often seen as comical because many of the performers are all about cliche and gimmickry - ripping their shirts or wearing huge wigs. My trademark is that I play the scales and chords for real. I am classically trained at the guitar (and I play piano) but the reason I play air guitar is because it allows me the freedom to jump around, really go for it and just have fun. In this country and in the USA they value technical ability, but in Finland where they hold the World Air Guitar Championships, the judges seem more concerned with the competitors' costumes, which is a shame because air guitar is about how well you know the song and your passion for performing.

I have been playing air guitar since I was a child, and then in 2006 my girlfriend heard about the UK Air Guitar Championships and entered me. I won that year and again in 2007. As a result of my success Gumtree sponsored me to launch the first official UK air band called Air-o-smith. We played our debut gig last year at Guilty Pleasures in Camden. At the championships you can do anything - air acoustic guitar, air banjo or even air mandolin - so long as you fill the 60-second slot. The crowd love it when you start sitting down playing a twee acoustic song and then break out into a huge rock song on electric guitar, going for it, jumping in the air and thrashing the strings. You need to practice to get the timing right and work out the best moves. There is a very fine line between looking really stupid and doing something really great.


Interview by Carlene Thomas-Bailey

The GuardianTramp

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