Pop Culture With A Metal Filter. Take a look at the world of pop culture through the eyes of heavy metal fans. Music, movies, comics, video games, TV shows, fashion, drinks, sports, toys, etc.

Metal Life exclusive interview with ‘Nordic Thunder’, world air guitar champion


Justin ‘Nordic Thunder’ Howard
April 2013

So just who is this ‘Nordic Thunder’ dude you ask? Here’s a little background from an interview Dr Pepper conducted with him after was selected for a Dr Pepper commercial:


1. We’ve all done air guitar, but how did you get involved in air guitar competition?

‘Nordic Thunder’: It’s refreshing to hear someone actually say we’ve all done air guitar, because it’s true. Not many are willing to admit it though, and even fewer have the guts to get up on stage and do it in front of thousands of people. I became involved with competitive air guitar in 2006 after recovering from an air guitar-related injury that required knee surgery. I told myself, “I’m going to enter this competition and win!” That year I won the Chicago regional and I’ve been competing every since. I’ve got four Chicago titles under my belt, one U.S. title and I’m the current World Champion. Representing all the airheads around the world is quite an honor.


2. You actually play the guitar as well. How does that help with your performances?

‘Nordic Thunder’: It helps me a lot, but in ways that one might not think it would. Most people think that because I can play the guitar that when I am playing the air guitar, my notes all match up perfectly on the neck of the air guitar. That’s not always the case. For example, if a guitar player is playing a ripping solo and all the notes that are being played happen to be in one specific part of the neck of the guitar, visually it may not be that stimulating. It might sound rad, but it might look a little boring. So what I do is try to play every note I hear, but not necessarily always in the correct spot. I will use the entire neck of the air guitar and exaggerate my movements to make it more visually stunning. I think the biggest advantage transitioning from guitar to air guitar though is that I know how an actual guitar feels. It forces my brain to imagine I am actually holding something; something with weight. When I place my air guitar around my neck, I feel the weight of it. When I am playing notes up and down the neck of the guitar I am aware that the neck of the guitar doesn’t bend like rubber, so my air guitar should also have this same quality. I hate rubber necking!


3. What would your dream performance be and where?

‘Nordic Thunder’: I’ve actually never been asked this question. The answer is easy though. It would be on the bow of a Viking ship parked in a fjord somewhere in Scandinavia during a thunderstorm…duh.

Dr Pepper presents Justin “Nordic Thunder” Howard. 2012 Air Guitar World Champion.


4. How does it feel to be famous enough for Dr Pepper to feature you?

‘Nordic Thunder’: First of all, I don’t consider myself famous. Not even in the least. I’m a longhaired, bearded smelly dude who runs around half naked playing an air guitar. However, it is very flattering that Dr Pepper deemed me worthy enough to be in one of their commercials. Especially seeing that they enjoyed something that I have been doing for years, and would still be doing even if Dr Pepper hadn’t came along and swooped me up. I think the coolest thing that’s happened since its aired though is seeing how stoked people are on it; from my friends and family to the neighbors on my block. Any time someone says, “Hey dude, I saw you in that Dr Pepper commercial!” I get stoked. The funny part is that when people say this to me they are excited themselves, but what they don’t realize is that I am more excited about the fact that THEY are excited. It’s cool because then we can share this excitement together, and in turn it feels like they are a part of it too.


5. So you are living the life of a rock star without making any noise, what’s is next for you?

‘Nordic Thunder’: I’ve had two dreams in my life, and I have been lucky enough to achieve both of them. The first was to move to Chicago and go to film school. The second was to become an Air Guitar World Champion. I never dreamt though that by achieving my dream of becoming a world champion air guitarist, it would deliver me to what I believe is my life’s purpose. And that purpose is to interact with human beings, to share happiness with them and to encourage them to achieve their own dreams. No matter how big or small or ridiculous sounding their dreams may be, I want to encourage people to do whatever it takes to achieve them. This mindset has led me to what I want to do with my life and the ways I want to implement these ideas. I want to open a youth center in one of Chicago’s high-risk neighborhoods. The kind of neighborhood that you only hear about on the news when something bad happens. I want to go into one of these neighborhoods and open a youth center that radiates positive energy, encourages positive thinking and does everything in its power to help lift people to their fullest potential. To help people’s dreams become realities. Whether that dream is to go to culinary school, or learn how to shoot photographs, or to become a World Champion Air Guitarist. Creating a place where young people can go and explore their creative sides in an entirely safe judgmental free zone and give them opportunities they may not have otherwise been given because they’ve been overlooked. That’s what I want to do!


6. You have achieved success in something that a lot of people don’t understand, do you feel that misunderstandings are the cause of most of the world’s problems?

‘Nordic Thunder’: I absolutely think that misunderstandings can be the causes of many problems, whether they are between two people or between two countries. What’s incredible about air guitar though, is at its core it breaks down these misunderstandings and focuses on the promotion of world peace. After all, you can’t hold a gun if you’re holding an air guitar. During the Air Guitar World Championships that take place in Oulu, Finland every year, roughly 20 countries from all over the world get together to play air guitar. Each representative of his or her country forgets their home country’s political agendas and gathers with one another to focus on world peace through having harmless fun and sharing happiness with one another. Air guitar acts as a bridge between countries, and it’s a beautiful thing. Air guitarists are the most genuine real human beings on the planet, and it is my belief that if the rest of the world acted the way these ambassadors of air do towards one another, the world would be a better place.


7. Any plans to maybe for a full Air Band? Maybe get a drummer, bassist and “vocalist.”

‘Nordic Thunder’: The world’s greatest air band resides in Paris, France and is fronted by former two-time Air Guitar World Champion, Gunther Love. These guys put on killer live shows and travel the world playing in sold out arenas. I’m not even kidding. So if this air band I speak of, which goes by the name, “Airnadette” has room for a 7th member…I’d pack my bags and move to Paris in a heartbeat.


Leave a Reply