American sculptor/artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens said, “What garlic
is to cooking, insanity is to art.” For
the past 40 years, scientific studies
have found an unusually high rate of
mental illness among highly creative
individuals. Of course, this comes as
no surprise to Premier Guitar readers.
Most of us suspect musicians tend to
fall somewhere between “slightly off,”
“crazy,” and “bat-shit crazy.”
Where you fall on this spectrum
may depend on your latent inhibi-
tion, an unconscious mental process
that works as a filtering device,
constantly screening out sensory
information we do not need. At all
times, our brains are deluged with
data. Latent inhibition dumps the
least important data before it even
becomes available for consideration.
In the October 19, 2003 Toronto
Star, Jay Ingram reported:
What makes latent inhibition interesting is that certain
people have less of it — that is,
they admit more information
into their brains, information
that other brains might deem
unimportant. Two such groups of
humans are schizophrenics and
highly creative individuals.
In layman’s terms, “normal”
minds tend to work with a linear
focus, whereas the crazy and cre-
Though I’ve never met him, Eric
Johnson seems about as sane as
musicians get. He’s good looking,
articulate, well dressed, intelligent,
looks like he bathes regularly, and
isn’t dogged by public scandals or
embarrassing arrests—clearly not
a nut-job. He’s a brilliant, creative
player who seems like the perfect
example of creative/non-crazy.
“Johnson’s pedalboard looks like it was built
by a homeless guy off his meds . . . he only
uses eight or nine pedals, but his pedalboard
is made out of a sheet of plywood big enough
to make a skate ramp.”
ative minds tend to ponder data
from far-left field. I’m not saying
we are collectively a bunch of Sylvia
Plaths and Vincent van Goghs, but
upon honest assessment, most of
us would be hard pressed to make
a convincing argument that musicians are not a tad bonkers.
Spotting the obvious nuts is easy.
But let’s examine some “normal”
musicians—take, say, Eric Johnson.
could want, yet he chooses Radio
Shack cables! Speaking of Radio
Shack, how about the cheap, old
power-strip? That’s got to be noisy,
with no real surge protection, no
power regulation—just a clunky
line of short-prone outlets.
It’s such a strange paradox that a
genius player like Eric Johnson, so
precise and perfect, has such a slop-py-looking rig. Perhaps, like many
• Ozzy Osbourne – Bat-eating nut-job
• Michael Jackson – Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs
• Sly Stone – Funked up and crazy in the head
• Jerry Lee Lewis – Nuttier than squirrel shit
• Rick James – Freakier than a super freak
• Ted Nugent – Loin cloths . . . crossbows . . .
Motor City madman indeed
Music’s Leading Loonies There are countless
examples of wacky musicians, but some of our more notable freakos
And then there’s Axl Rose, Iggy Pop, Keith Moon, George Clinton, Little
Richard, Chuck Berry, Sid Vicious, Jim Morrison, Peter Green . . . let’s face
it—we’ll never run out of rockers off their rockers.
of us, he switches pedals around so
often that he’s given up on making it look orderly. Or maybe his
approach is one part science, one
part superstition: the setup ritual
and weird gear serves as his talisman, his own strange mojo bag
that gives him his magic powers. It
works because he thinks it works.
That’s not an uncommon thought
process with musicians. Take Lenny
Kravitz as another example.
Kravitz—who you may have seen
on TNT’s 2010-2011 NBA promo
spots—is a model Rock Star citizen.
No public impropriety, an amicable
split with the incredibly beautiful
Lisa Bonet, nothing odd. We expect
Lenny to be a bit funky, but when it
comes to recording, esse es loco. The
guy has spent much of his career
recording though an old analog API
board and onto a 3M 16-track tape
machine just so he can bump it
back and forth to lose clarity . . . er,
I mean to give it “vintage warmth,”
then he dumps it to Pro Tools.
Effectively, Lenny goes to great
trouble and expense to have all the
disadvantages of tape, while simultaneously enjoying the expense and
disadvantage of digital recording. I’m
guessing this is a dog-whistle-type
approach—something that Lenny
hears but that the rest of the world
wouldn’t even notice.
I have many faults in my system,
too. Decency prevents me from
writing about most of them, but
my current semi-innocuous glitch is
my obsession with owning a 1950s
Les Paul. I made the mistake of
test-driving one two months ago.
It sounded terrible, had a broken
neck, bad re-fin, played like an old
truck, and would require a second
mortgage on my house. Yet, awake
or asleep, I’m constantly imagining
myself owning this heinous, incred-
ibly expensive guitar. I’ve slept in
hour increments the last four days
because I’m obsessively searching
Craigslist and eBay for the nonex-
istent, affordable ’50s-era LP. What
makes this even more odd is that
I’m a Tele man.
JOHN BOHLINGER is
a Nashville-based guitar-
ist who works primarily in
TV and has recorded and
toured with over 30 major-
label artists. His songs
and playing can be heard
in major motion pictures, on major-label
releases, and in literally hundreds of television
drops. Visit him at youtube.com/user/john-
bohlinger or facebook.com/johnbohlinger.