Brian Patrick Carroll (born May 13, 1969), known professionally as Buckethead, is an American guitarist and multi-instrumentalist who has worked within a large number of genres of music. He has released 265 studio albums, four special releases and one EP. He has additionally performed on more than 50 additional albums by additional artists. His music spans a large number of diverse areas such as progressive metal, funk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, ambient, and avant-garde music.
Buckethead is famous for wearing a KFC bucket on his head, emblazoned with an orange bumper sticker reading FUNERAL in capital black block letters, and an expressionless plain white mask, which, according to Buckethead, was inspired by his seeing Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. At one point, he changed to a plain white bucket that no longer bore the KFC logo, but subsequently reverted to his trademark KFC bucket. He additionally incorporates nunchaku and robot dancing into his stage performances.
As an instrumentalist, Buckethead has received critical acclaim for his electric guitar playing, and is considered one of today's more innovative guitarists. He has been voted number 8 on a list in GuitarOne magazine of the "Top 10 Fastest Guitar Shredders of All Time" as well as being included in Guitar World's lists of the "25 all-time weirdest guitarists" and the "50 fastest guitarists of all time". He performs primarily as a solo artist, though he has collaborated extensively with a wide variety of high-profile artists such as Bill Laswell, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Iggy Pop, Les Claypool, Serj Tankian, Bill Moseley, Mike Patton, Viggo Mortensen, That 1 Guy, Bassnectar, and was a member of Guns N' Roses from 2000 to 2004. Buckethead has additionally written and performed music for major motion pictures, including: Saw II, Ghosts of Mars, Beverly Hills Ninja, Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Last Action Hero, and contributed lead guitar to the track "Firebird" featured on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie soundtrack.
Carroll was born on May 13, 1969 to Tom and Nancy Carroll and is one of five siblings along with Lynn, Lisa, Lori, and John. He grew up in a Southern California suburb not far from Disneyland. In his youth, he was a shy kid and spent most of his time in his room, which was filled with comic books, games, martial-arts movie memorabilia, and toys. He additionally spent a lot of time at Disneyland.
Brian began playing guitar at the age of 12. He had been quoted as saying, however, that he didn't become serious until a year later when he moved from Huntington Beach, CA to Claremont, CA. His playing began improving by taking private lessons from various teachers at a local music store, Styles Music. His early teachers included Max McGuire, Johnny Fortune, Mark Hammond, Pebber Brown and Paul Gilbert. Buckethead played a tribute to all his early teachers when the Deli Creeps played a show at Styles Music's 25th anniversary. He then began making demo recordings of both his playing as well as his writing styles, which would later be released in 2007-2008.
The Buckethead persona came to be when Carroll saw the 1988 horror movie Halloween 4 and was inspired by the film. He went right out after seeing it and bought a Michael Myers-like white mask. The bucket idea came later that night while eating Kentucky Fried Chicken:
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.' It was just one of those things. After that, I wanted to be that thing all the time.— Buckethead, 1996 Guitar Player Magazine
1988–94: Early solo career and Praxis
In 1988 after leaving the band Class-X, Carroll entered a song called "Brazos" into a Guitar Player magazine contest. It was a runner-up, with editors raving:
An astonishingly skilled guitarist and bassist, he demonstrates post-Paul Gilbert speed and accuracy filtered through quite kinky harmonic sensibilities. His psychotronic, demonic edge is very, quite far removed from the clichés of classical metal and rock. A real talent to watch, additionally known as "Buckethead."
In the same year, the magazine's editor, Jas Obrecht, came to know of Buckethead when Carroll and his parents left a demo recording at the magazine's reception desk for Obrecht. Impressed with this demo, he rushed into the restaurant where Buckethead and his parents were having lunch and encouraged him to make the most of his talent. They soon became friends. In 1989 a song called "Soowee" by Buckethead got honourable mention in another song contest. In 1991, Buckethead moved into Obrecht's basement. The song "Brazos" was eventually released on the 1991 demo tape of his band Deli Creeps, titled "Tribal Rites," and again as bonus material in Buckethead's Secret Recipe DVD in 2006. Luke Sacco was his teacher.
After his first two demo tapes, called Giant Robot and Bucketheadland Blueprints, Buckethead released Bucketheadland on John Zorn's Japanese Avant record label in 1992. Though available only as a pricey import, the record received positive reviews and earned a few attention. At about this time, Buckethead fell into the orbit of prolific bassist/producer Bill Laswell, himself an occasional Zorn collaborator; Buckethead (as a performer, producer, or composer) was introduced to Laswell with the help of Limbomaniacs drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia, who gave Laswell a video of Buckethead playing in his room. Buckethead soon became Laswell's second staple guitar player, besides Nicky Skopelitis.
In 1992, Buckethead, with Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, and Bryan "Brain" Mantia, formed the supergroup Praxis. Their first album, Transmutation (Mutatis Mutandis), released the same year, was well received. The project was Bill Laswell's concept, and has after involved additional guests such as Serj Tankian of System of a Down, among a large number of others. Buckethead participated in every release except the initial 1984 release and Mold (1998).
In 1993, Buckethead auditioned to play for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The band eventually ended up with Arik Marshall. and later Dave Navarro. After a few legal complications with Sony Music Entertainment, Buckethead decided to release his 1994 album Dreamatorium under the name of Death Cube K (an anagram).
Death Cube K is a separate entity that looks like a photographic negative version of Buckethead with a black chrome mask, like Darth Vader. This apparition haunts Buckethead and appears in his nightmares.
Buckethead released a second studio album that year, Giant Robot, which features a large number of guest appearances by artists such as Iggy Pop and Bill Moseley. The name of the album came from the Japanese series Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, of which Buckethead is a fan. He additionally released two additional albums with Praxis, their second and third studio efforts: Sacrifist and Metatron.
1995–99: Collaboration work, movie soundtracks and Praxis
In 1995, Buckethead didn't release any solo albums but collaborated with several artists like Jonas Hellborg and Michael Shrieve (Octave of the Holy Innocents). He additionally contributed to several movie soundtracks, such as Johnny Mnemonic and Mortal Kombat.
Later, in 1996, Buckethead released his solo album The Day of the Robot with the help of English producer DJ Ninj and Laswell, plus another album with Brain and keyboardist Pete Scaturro on the small Japanese label NTT Records, called Giant Robot. Both albums were printed only in small quantities and are collectors' items now. A second demo tape by the Deli Creeps was additionally recorded.
Also in 1996 several Sega Saturn television ads featuring a screaming mask-like face pressing through the blue orb of the Saturn logo was released, with music by Buckethead.
In 1997, Buckethead began working on the album Buckethead Plays Disney, but the album hasn't yet been released. According to his Web page:
This highly anticipated album, once listed in an Avant catalog, has yet to be completed. It is Buckethead's most precious personal project, so he won't record or release it until he knows he's ready.
Further releases were Arcana's second and final studio album Arc of the Testimony and the one-off project Pieces, with Brain. Two live albums by Praxis, called Transmutation Live and Live in Poland (featuring recordings from European concerts) were additionally issued.
Death Cube K released an album that year called Disembodied.
In 1999, Buckethead released his fifth album, a collaboration with Les Claypool from the band Primus, titled Monsters and Robots — currently the best-selling album of his career. This album includes the song "The Ballad of Buckethead," for which his first music video ever was made. Buckethead began three new projects that year. the first being the band Cornbugs, a collaboration with actor Bill Moseley, drummer Pinchface, and later keyboardist Travis Dickerson. An Additional project, Cobra Strike with an album called The thirteenth Scroll, featured Pinchface, Bryan "Brain" Mantia, DJ Disk, and Bill Laswell. Buckethead additionally began a collaboration with actor Viggo Mortensen, whom he first met through a recording project called Myth: Dreams of the World in 1996. Together they released One Man's Meat, One Less Thing to Worry About, and The Other Parade.
2000–04: Guns N' Roses and additional projects
Buckethead achieved a higher public profile as lead guitarist for Guns N' Roses from 2000 to 2004. He recorded the often-delayed album Chinese Democracy with the band and appeared live on stage in 2001 and 2002, including Rock in Rio 3, MTV's Video Music Awards, and parts of the Chinese Democracy Tour.
Despite being a member of GN'R, Buckethead released his sixth studio album, called Somewhere Over the Slaughterhouse in 2001, and additionally his only EP, called KFC Skin Piles. He additionally released two albums with his band Cornbugs, and a third under his 'Death Cube K' pseudonym. In 2000, Buckethead released the second and last album by Cobra Strike, called Cobra Strike II - Y, Y+B, X+Y. He joined two new projects, the first being Thanatopsis, with Dickerson, releasing a self-titled debut album; the additional one with Laswell and Japanese producer Shin Terai, released as Unison.
In 2002, Buckethead released three studio albums: Funnel Weaver, a collection of 49 short tracks, Bermuda Triangle, and finally, Electric Tears, a calming album that's similar to his earlier release, Colma. When Laswell wasn't able to play with Praxis at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts festival, Les Claypool asked to jam with Brain, Bernie Worrell, and Buckethead, forming a new supergroup called Colonel Claypool's Bucket of Bernie Brains. The jamband experiment was successful enough to do a few further live dates.
Later, in 2003, marking the release of his tenth studio album, Buckethead released the sequel of his debut Bucketheadland, simply called Bucketheadland 2. Together with actor Viggo Mortensen, he did Pandemoniumfromamerica, and with Thanatopsis, its second release, called Axiology.
Buckethead's relationship with Guns N' Roses was somewhat erratic in its last year, notwithstanding contractual obligations. According to an interview with Rose, he seemingly 'left' the band in early 2004 without telling anyone, and 'rejoined' in a similar manner in February. "His transient lifestyle has made it impossible for even his closest friends to have nearly any form of communication with him whatsoever." In March 2004 Buckethead left Guns N' Roses. His manager cited Guns' inability to complete an album or tour.
The year 2004 saw the release of three new studio albums: Island of Lost Minds, which was his first tour-only album being later re-released by TDRS Music Population Override, a blues-rock tour de force with Dickerson; and The Cuckoo Clocks of Hell, considered his heaviest effort to date. The latter includes "Spokes for the Wheel of Torment," for which Syd Garon and Eric Henry made a music video based on the famous triptychs by Hieronymus Bosch. Buckethead additionally recorded the final two albums by the Cornbugs, Brain Circus and Donkey Town as well as another release with Viggo Mortensen called Please Tomorrow and a second with Shin Terai, titled Heaven & Hell. C2B3 additionally released their only album, The Big Eyeball in the Sky, and toured it in North America.
In an interview with Revolver, Ozzy Osbourne stated that he had offered to have Buckethead play guitar in his band at Ozzfest, but changed his mind after meeting with him and realising that Buckethead wouldn't remove his costume to be accepted by Ozzy:
2005–06: Buckethead & Friends
In 2005, Buckethead released the album Enter the Chicken through Serj Tankian's record label, Serjical Strike. The album features Tankian himself, Maximum Bob (of the Deli Creeps), Death by Stereo singer Efrem Shulz, Bad Acid Trip and others. It is marked by its leaning toward more traditional song structures while still featuring typical Buckethead guitar skills. "We Are One" was released as a single and additionally appeared on the soundtrack of Masters of Horror. "Three Fingers" was used for the soundtrack of the horror movie Saw II. The final track, "Nottingham Lace," was first made public via his home page and soon became a concert staple and one of his most popular songs. Buckethead additionally released two further solo albums in 2005, Kaleidoscalp and Inbred Mountain — the latter being the first album as a solo artist released on the label TDRS Music. Both albums originally were sold exclusively at concerts and only later got an official release through the label's website.
Buckethead released albums with additional bands that year: with Cornbugs, he released two compilation albums, called Rest Home for Robots and Skeleton Farm. Gorgone's self titled album was released that year' itself based upon recording sessions from the album Population Override that Buckethead released in 2004.
In 2006 the cross-console video game Guitar Hero II was launched, featuring Buckethead's song "Jordan" as an unlockable bonus track. Although the song has been performed live in the past, the video game version is the only known studio recording of the song. When playing it live, Buckethead would almost always simply perform the verse and refrain of "Jordan" before transitioning into the next song. Notwithstanding the Guitar Hero II version contains a special solo created specifically for the game.
Also the same year, Buckethead released two DVDs, titled Young Buckethead Vol. 1 and Young Buckethead Vol. 2, featuring rare footage from 1990 and 1991. The DVD additionally contains three complete Deli Creeps shows, a sound check, backstage footage, and solo footage of just Buckethead. He additionally released the albums The Elephant Man's Alarm Clock and Crime Slunk Scene, both sold on his tours but later sold on the TDRS Music website. The last album has the song "Soothsayer (Dedicated to Aunt Suzie)"; this song (along with "Jordan" and "Nottingham Lace") is one of his most popular songs and is often played live. Buckethead released his final compilation album with the band Cornbugs, called Celebrity Psychos. He additionally released an album with Travis Dickerson, called Chicken Noodles, a move that would see the start of a four-year long collaboration with the keyboardist. Buckethead's band Thanatopsis would additionally release Anatomize that year.
2007–10: Continued solo work and Michael Jackson tribute
In 2007, Buckethead released an unprecedented amount of new material. In February, a box set titled In Search of The, containing 13 albums of original material, was released. It was handcrafted, numbered, and monogrammed by Buckethead and contained over nine hours of music. A regular solo album, called Pepper's Ghost, was released in March. A disc of acoustic improvisations called Acoustic Shards was additionally released, fitting the twentieth studio album that the artist had released so far in his solo career. In midyear, he reissued his demo tape Bucketheadland Blueprints, with two alternative album covers: a special edition with a hand-drawn cover made by him, or a standard edition with the original cover art. In October, he released his final two albums of the year, called Decoding the Tomb of Bansheebot and Cyborg Slunks. The latter again came in both a hand-drawn limited edition and (some weeks later) as a normal CD.
As Death Cube K, Buckethead released two albums in 2007: an album called DCK, limited to 400 hand-numbered copies and released in August; and in December, the 5-CD box set Monolith, which consisted of one unbroken track per CD.
During 2007, Buckethead additionally collaborated and appeared on numerous albums with additional artists. The sequel to Chicken Noodles (a collaboration with Travis Dickerson), simply called Chicken Noodles II, was issued by TDRS in December. A live record by Praxis, titled Tennessee 2004; the third album with Shin Terai, called Lightyears; and another album with drummer Bryan Mantia, called Kevin's Noodle House, were additionally released through the year.
That same year, it was revealed that Buckethead joined a project by the name of Science Faxtion, a band featuring bassist Bootsy Collins and drummer Bryan "Brain" Mantia, with Greg Hampton supplying lead vocals. Their first album, called Living on An Additional Frequency, was delayed several times and was finally released in November 2008.
On January 1, 2008, the band Praxis released the long-awaited album Profanation (Preparation for a Coming Darkness) in Japan. The album had actually been recorded in 2005, but had to be put on hold when the original label went bankrupt. That year Buckethead released From the Coop through the label Avabella (where he released Acoustic Shards), consisting of the demos Buckethead gave to Jas Obrecht back in 1988. This CD additionally included the first ever "official" biography of/by the artist. Later that same year, he announced the release of the album called Albino Slug (a tour-only CD until official release on December of the same year). Along with this album, he appeared on the album The Dragons of Eden, with Dickerson and Mantia, and in collaboration with That 1 Guy as the Frankenstein Brothers, an album called Bolt on Neck was released. That 1 Guy and Buckethead toured together through fall 2008, playing songs from this album.
Buckethead additionally appeared in the documentary American Music: Off the Record, in which he appears only playing. Serj Tankian's label, Serjical Strike, reissued the album Enter the Chicken with an additional song. Furthermore, Buckethead contributed to one track of actor Viggo Mortensen's album At All, and with Travis Dickerson and filmmaker Alix Lambert on the album Running After Deer.
Buckethead appeared with Bootsy Collins in Cincinnati, Ohio, to promote the vote for the United States presidential election, 2008 for the organisation Rock the Vote. He additionally joined Collins on Fallen Soldiers Memorial, an album with proceeds going to the National Fallen Heroes Foundation.
More than four years after his departure from the band Guns N' Roses, Chinese Democracy was made available. Buckethead appears on all but two songs and was given writing credits on "Shackler's Revenge" (which appeared in the popular video game Rock Band 2); "Scraped"; and "Sorry," which features guest singer Sebastian Bach. The album features eleven of Buckethead's guitar solos.
On December 30, 2008, Buckethead released two new tracks via his website to honour the twenty-fourth birthday of basketball player LeBron James. These tracks were later made available on the album, Slaughterhouse on the Prairie, which was released a month later through TDRS Music. In 2009 he released the albums A Real Diamond in the Rough, and Forensic Follies, which was first sold at a few of his tour dates but later released on TDRS. That year he additionally released the track The Homing Beacon, a tribute to Michael Jackson, who had been an early influence on him. The song was later included on his 2012 album Electric Sea.
On April 29, 2010, Buckethead's website was updated with a picture with the message "Greetings from Bucketheadland... Buckethead wants you to know he appreciates your support all these years, it means so much to him. Buckethead is having a few animatronic parts replaced, Slip Disc snuck into the park and caused a few mayhem." The mention of Slip Disc is a reference to a Bucketheadland nemesis found on the Bucketheadland album. Bootsy Collins continued to update his Twitter Web site about Buckethead's condition, stating that he had recently gone into therapy for a few months.
Nevertheless, after return from injury, on July 15, 2010, Buckethead, along with Brain and Melissa Reese, has released the first volume out of three 5-CD box sets called Best Regards. On August 25, 2010, Buckethead announced his 28th studio album titled Spinal Clock, which showcases his banjo skills. In October, two albums in collaboration with Brain were released, the first called Brain as Hamenoodle, and the second instalment of the "Regards" series with Brain and Melissa Reese called, Kind Regards. Eventually, both projects were released on October 13. That month additionally saw a new solo album entitled Captain EO's Voyage first available only on iTunes. It was later announced that a physical edition will be released on December 1. This, along with Buckethead's final Travis Dickerson album were released on November 29.
2010–13: Departure from all bands and projects, and early Pikes
After his 2010 departure from Travis Dickerson's project, Buckethead left Praxis in 2011, the Frankenstein Brothers in 2012, and Brain in 2013. He contributed to two tracks on Lawson Rollins's album Elevation in 2011. He contributed two tracks to Viggo Mortensen's album Acá in 2013; his last work outside of his solo career to date. He additionally departed from his live touring schedule, with his final performance taking place on December 31, 2012. During his absence from touring and additional projects, Buckethead's solo release schedule increased speed dramatically. Throughout 2013 he released a further thirty-one albums, followed by another sixty in 2014.
In May 2010, Buckethead started to release albums under the concept of a kiosk within Buckethead's fictional "abusement" park called "Buckethead Pikes". The albums released within this concept were to resemble a comic book style and be shorter in length than his previous works at around half an hour in length. Under this concept, Buckethead released It's Alive and quickly followed this with a second album entitled Empty Space. With the exception of 2012's Electric Sea, all solo releases after 2011 have been made as part of the Pikes series.
On August 17, Buckethead released the next three instalments of the Pikes series. The first one was the regular edition of the previously "Untitled" album released on 2010 now titled 3 Foot Clearance. The additional two albums were titled Underground Chamber and Look Up There, which became the fourth and fifth instalments of the Pikes series.
The first twelve Pikes of 2013 were originally released as limited edition, untitled albums with hand drawn covers and signed by Buckethead himself. The albums were only recognisable by their designation within the Pikes chronology at the moment of their announcement. Notably, the cover of Pike 13 contains a photograph of Buckethead unmasked; the first such image released to the public. The cover of Pike 13 doesn't feature the common elements of the Pikes series, and is simply a photograph of Buckethead throughout his teenage years, carrying an acoustic guitar and hugging a man assumed to be his father. The release of the picture came at a time when Buckethead's father had been sick for a few months. Buckethead continued released albums throughout the year, breaking the numerical order occasionally. Notably, Pike 34 Pikes was released a few three weeks after Pike 35 Thank you Ohlinger's. The final album of the year Wishes was released on December 24, free of charge for a limited time.
2014–15: 178 Pikes released
During 2014 Buckethead continued releasing albums at an even faster pace. Sixty albums were released throughout the year (a rough average of one every six days). On June 26, the sixty-fifth instalment in the series entitled Hold Me Forever (In memory of my mum Nancy York Carroll) was released to honour the death of Buckethead's mother. The final release of the year took place on December 31, Pike 101 entitled In the Hollow Hills.
Buckethead's release schedule increased in speed again over 2015. One hundred and eighteen albums were released throughout the year (a rough average of one every three days). Pike 119 was initially released as a limited edition CD only but then was additionally released as a download edition on May 9. Pikes 130 and 131 represent a two-part album entitled Down in the Bayou, with part one and two released in reverse order. His 180th release and 150th album in the series, Heaven is your Home (For my Father, Thomas Manley Carroll), was released for free on June 21 (Father's Day) and in dedication to his late father.
That October, Buckethead released one album per day, starting with Pike 176, 31 Days Til Halloween: Visitor From The Mirror. Each subsequent album continued the countdown to Halloween. The ninth album in this countdown series, 22 Days Til Halloween: I Got This Costume From The Sears Catalog, was released as a free digital download. The countdown ended on October 31 with Happy Halloween: Silver Shamrock, and was immediately followed by 365 Days Til Halloween: Smash on November 1, the last album with the countdown format title.
Pike #219 in the series, "Rain Drops on Christmas", was released as a free digital download on December 24 (Christmas Eve). The title track was dedicated to those who lost loved ones. The release of Pike #219 benchmarked the doubling of Buckethead's solo album catalog.
2016–present: More Pikes released and return to touring
On February 17, 2016, Buckethead released Pike #226 in the series marking his 256th studio CD to date (titled in honour of Michael Jordan's birthday). As of July 25, 2016, Buckethead had released 234 Pikes.
Buckethead resumed touring in 2016, which were his first live performances in four years.
Buckethead cites a wide variety of musical influences, including Michael Jackson, Parliament-Funkadelic, Shawn Lane, Michael Schenker, Uli Jon Roth, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Hazel, Randy Rhoads, Larry LaLonde, Mike Patton, James Cutri, Louis Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Jennifer Batten, The Residents, Eddie Van Halen and Angus Young, as well as the a large number of artists he has collaborated with over the years.
In addition to his musical influences, Buckethead cites a diverse range of non-musical influences manifested on several ways out of which dedicated songs to said inspirations have been a staple of Buckethead's discography with particular attention to basketball players like Michael Jordan (song "Jordan"), George Gervin (on "Iceman"), Blake Griffin (on "Crack the Sky"), "Pistol" Pete Maravich (on "The Mark of Davis"), and LeBron James (with four songs dedicated to him). Other influences include martial artist and actor Bruce Lee (on "The Game of Death" song and inspiration behind the use of nunchakus on stage), author H. P. Lovecraft (on the "Lurker at the Threshold" suite), numerous science fiction and horror TV shows and movies including Little House on the Prairie, Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain (on Kaleidoscalp), and Giant Robot (mentioned on several songs, albums, and episodes shown on stage).
Buckethead's bands and projects