Earlier this year the Danish band Evil Masquerade released their fourth album called FADE TO BLACK. I got together with bandleader and guitar player Henrik Flyman and a lot has happened in the band since we last talked. This interview is about the new album, the new line up, label and much much more. Here you get all the things you possibly would like to know about the band Evil Masquerade.
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Promo pictures taken by: Thomas Trane
Promo pictures provided from the bands homepage
Hi Henrik, I’m really happy to talk to you again. I think that Evil Masquerade has released a really amazing and exiting new album. Because of that I was simply obligated to talk with you. Are you ready to kick off the interview?
FADE TO BLACK is the name of the brilliant new Evil Masquerade album, how long did it take you to get it ready?
It was actually a pretty lengthy process this time. There were many reasons to this, but two primarily ones. When I set out to write a new album I rarely see a good reason to copy the previous release, and of course I also need to feel that I have topped everything I have done before. This of course made it a bit difficult to immediately come up with something that felt interesting and right. I wrote a lot of music, but large parts didn’t fit “Fade to Black” even though it was really good material. Some of those songs are very likely to show up later on. Another thing that made the songwriting process a long one was that my personal life crashed in many ways and made life pretty hard to enjoy. Several months I was even officially homeless with no place to call my own. It was during this period I wrote the last material for the album and recorded the last bits and pieces. There is a good reason to why this album has taken a darker turn. But at the same time it was because of this album, and thanks to friends of the band and personal close friends, I managed to keep my head above the surface. During the period when I was homeless, I was offered places to stay throughout Europe and the US. Amazing! Evil Masquerade has the best supporters in the world. No doubt about that.
You write all the material and arrange the music etc, but do the rest of the members have any input regarding the material?
I normally play my preproductions for the other guys to get their inputs regarding what songs to include and which ones to put away. But this time I kept very much to myself and made most decisions on my own. Apollo is the one that I have worked most openly with and spent extra time with to play around with the original ideas. I think we have developed a good understanding for one another and how we can achieve the best results in the creative phase. I’m sure we will be able to do more kick ass stuff in the future to come.
I know that the singer Apollo use to write lyrics as well. Has he written any of the new material?
No he hasn’t.
Evil Masquerade has always had some pretty interesting cover art-work on the albums. Who has done the new cover and what do you think of it?
Thanks. I think the new artwork is perfect for the music and production. Who did it? Well… I did… ha ha ha, for my company Gunbarrel Offensive Design.
Does the title FADE TO BLACK have any special meaning to you and the rest of the band?
Yes, as you probably already have understood by now, it is very personal. But at the same time, just like the previous albums, it has a connection to the theatrical side of things. Fade to Black is the term used by light technicians for dimming the lights on a stage to achieve total darkness.
Were there many songs that didn’t make it on to the final edition of the album?
Yes, several full songs and many good ideas. They just weren’t what I was looking for at that particular time.
Was it hard to gather the members to record the album, I know that most of the members live in different places and not even in the same town?
Not really. They are all professionals so it wasn’t such a big deal.
Did the members get demos from you to learn what to play or how did you solve that?
Yes, I always do detailed preproductions of all songs for an album where I play all instruments and sing. I think this is the absolute best way to present my ideas so that the guys get a good over-all view. We have done it like this on all Evil Masquerade albums and it works very well for us.
Did the band rehearse together before they went in the studio?
No we didn’t.
EM has always been a multi-cultural band and you continue on to take in people of various nativity. New members Niemann and Flores are from Sweden and Apollo is Greek/Swedish. You are a Swede but live in Denmark. Do you consider EM being a Danish act?
Ha ha ha… great question. I don’t know, and actually I don’t care. We are what you want us to be. For me it’s just music.
The band usually has several guest musicians but this time you have “only” one guest in Tony Carey (ex- Rainbow) on keyboards on “Lights Out”. Why only one guest appearance this time?
Well, we didn’t need more. I actually asked Richard to play on the song “Diamond Dust”, since he had played on all previous albums, but he was busy with other things at the time and I didn’t want to wait, so I just did it myself.
You are also listed on keyboards, how much keyboards do you play?
I play all keyboards on the album, except for the intro and lead keyboards on “Lights Out”, which are done by Tony. It’s the same situation on previous albums. If no other keyboardist is credited, then I did it.
How did you get in touch with Carey? Did you know him from before?
No I didn’t know him personally before but I of course knew him from playing with Rainbow. Rainbow “Rising” is one of my favorite albums, so Tony is obviously someone I have wanted to include on an album for some time. On “Fade to Black” there was suddenly a perfect opening in the music to include him, so I contacted him and asked if he was interested. And after hearing our previous album “Third Act” he jumped right aboard. It was actually his own idea to add the keyboard intro to the opening track “Lights Out” to give it more of a Rainbow feeling. It’s an honor to have him on the album.
In the booklet there are only single pictures of you and Apollo and only a group pictures on the rest of the members at the back of the book? Why is it so?
To tell you the truth, we got the other’s pictures too late… ha ha ha, so we decided to do it like this. Most important is that they are on the most visible page, which they are.
Have you read any reviews of the album yet? What has the media/press to say about it?
We have only gotten very few reviews yet, because our record company in Europe doesn’t believe in sending out a lot of promos to the press. But the reviews I have seen are really good. There are a few bad ones as well, but those are made by people that listen to mainstream AOR music or thrash/death metal. In other words, something we don’t represent. People that review the genre instead of the album itself are too stupid to take serious, but I bet they do it for free so there’s at least no financial loss for the publisher… ha ha ha.
What have the fans to say about FADE TO BLACK?
This is where it gets really interesting. The almost synonymous reaction among our fans is that this is the absolute best album we have released. Just check out some of the fan pages from all over the world that have popped up on the internet the last year. Those speak a very clear language. Today we have fan pages from the US, Holland, Germany, Japan, France, Spain/South America and a very supportive and creative fanbase. In my opinion that’s without doubt the best review any band can get.
I think you have gone through a smaller musical change on this album and that the neo-classical metal parts have been faded down a bit and more of melodic metal this time. How would you like to describe what music you play on this album?
I’m not very interested in describing music. That’s just personal musical references chained to words that are likely to mislead some people. I’ve noticed that a description that means one thing to me might very well mean something completely different to someone else. Or maybe it’s just that I’m too unaware about what labels to put on music that I’m no good at doing it… ha ha ha probably. But I think it’s much better to use one’s ears and check it online. MySpace is great for that purpose. If I were to describe the music in a somewhat abstract way I would say that it’s a little darker than before, slightly more riff-based and with effective stripped down arrangements.
How do you think that Evil Masquerade has developed music-wise during the four albums you have released so far?
We’ve kept the Evil Masquerade sound without repeating ourselves. Production- and arrangement skills are improved, without losing focus on strong melodies and good performances.
Despite the changes the band has gone through music wise I think you always have managed to keep your own sound. How have you managed to do that?
The source of music is the same. It’s as simple as that.
Which EM album are you most satisfied with?
FADE TO BLACK. It’s the obvious answer since it’s the new one. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done it. But I’m still very happy for the other three as well.
I think that Apollo continues to exceed himself vocally. He has an amazing voice, are you happy with his effort on FADE TO BLACK?
Yes. I think this is the album where he has done his best performance till today’s date. He has done an excellent job and we had a blast during the recordings. I like Apollo a lot.
Your albums are also released in Asia, is EM big in Asia?
Yes we are also released in Asia. And yes, Evil Masquerade is pretty well known in Asia. But compared to Asian music, international music is still a very tiny part of their offerings. This will probably never change as long as people aren’t too familiar with the English language over there.
What are the major differences between European and Asian fans do you think?
Most Asian fans are shorter, with a yellow skin tone and live very far away from us. Besides that there aren’t such big differences. I have several good Asian friends and people around the world are very alike.
Have you been to Asia to promote the band yet?
We have never gotten the opportunity. I know many Japanese fans have asked for us to come, but the record company hasn’t responded to that yet. I’m sure that will change after our next album.
Are there any plans on shooting a video to any of the songs?
We have already shot a video for the song “Desire and Pain” and it’s in postproduction right now. It should be out soon.
Will there be any CDS release from this album?
I guess CDS means single, and then my answer is no. I’m 100 % sure that our record companies couldn’t care less about such things. If it were totally up to me, I would be really interested in releasing a couple of maxi singles from FADE TO BLACK where we could include some cool and odd extra songs that didn’t fit the flow of the actual album.
The people that sings Choir on the album calls themselves The Disease Spreading Egos, who are they?
They are an interesting collection of individuals that are always ready to enter the studio with me at strange hours to sing and do vocal and alcoholic experiments. Due to contracts with other record labels and reasons better left unspoken they prefer to go by any other name than their own.
You have recorded the album in several studios this time, have you attended the recordings in all of the studios?
Yes almost every time. There were a few occasions when it wasn’t possible for me due to personal Force Majeure, but that wasn’t a huge problem since everyone knew exactly what to aim for thanks to the detailed pre productions. Normally I’m always attending every session.
Has it been hard to co-ordinate all of the different recording sessions?
Not at all, I’ve done this so many times by now that it’s nothing new to it. One of the reasons to why so many studios are used is to make it as smooth as possible for the people involved. I think it’s very important that the atmosphere in the studio is as relaxed as possible while recording, so that all focus can be on the performance. Sometimes that is best achieved in different studios. I don’t mind traveling if it improves on the final result. As a producer that’s a very important part of the process: to get the very best out of every musician.
You have produced the album on your own, is it hard to produce you own band? You have produced all of your albums; does it get easier to produce the more you’ve done it?
No, I don’t think it’s hard to produce my own band. In fact I think it’s a time saver since I’m the one with the best overall view of the arrangements and original thoughts. And yes, I think it gets easier. As with everything else in life you tend to do a better job the more experienced you get.
Do you have any plans on producing other artists or bands?
Only if I have the time and the artist is interesting enough. I’m not looking for those kinds of jobs, but if someone asks me and the timing is right… it might happen.
What do you like the most, to write music, play, and produce perform live?
Up until yesterday I would probably have answered to write and produce, but now I think I will have a closer look at live performances.
Tommy Hansen has done mixing and the mastering, you have also worked with him before, why did you return to Tommy again?
I always try to work with the same people as long as it is possible. When people are professional, nice to have around, are motivated, and have enough time to do a great job, I see no reason to why we shouldn’t continue working together. Tommy is all that. I like him a lot.
What do you think is your strongest feature as producer?
I know what I want. I am willing to take the time necessary to get there. I’m open to inputs from others if I can see how that is likely to improve on the final result. Most people I have worked with feel at ease in my company. And I make some mean black coffee that will keep even the most tired musician awake for another day.
Have you been part in the mixing/mastering process?
Yes, every step on the way.
Do you think that you will work with Hansen again?
I am very likely to give Tommy a call again.
The only member left from the previous album is Apollo, why did you take in new members?
There is no bad blood in Evil Masquerade. Dennis didn’t have a lot of time to rehearse the new material at the original time for the recordings of FADE TO BLACK. He was, and is, very busy with the band Hatesphere at the moment. But if we had known about the troubles that would come to interfere with my life, we had probably managed to find a way to fit everything into our schedules anyway since there were many unavoidable delays in the whole album making process. But since we were totally unaware about all that, we both agreed that he would take a little break from the band. He’s still one of my absolute best friends and we hang out as often as possible, so I’m sure we’ll hook up sooner or later again. Thor just didn’t have the time to continue, so we decided to call it a day. He’s also still a very good friend of mine and we see each other on and off when the occasion is given. This was the reason to why we needed some new blood in the band.
Did you know all of the new members from before?
Daniel did an album with me back somewhere around 2000 with a band called ZooL. We have kept in touch since then and he was my first choice when we had an opening behind the drums. Dennis has followed Daniel’s Mind’s Eye throughout the years and thinks he’s a great drummer, so he was happy to see Daniel taking his place when he was busy. Johan is an old band mate with Daniel since the last 15 years, so he was pretty obvious to ask. We actually though about getting Johan on the second ZooL album back then, but then I decided to put that band to sleep before any more albums had a chance to happen.
Are they permanent members now? Niemann and Flores are two very experienced musicians, have you listened to the work they did before they joined forces with you? How come you picked two Swedish musicians to be part of the band instead of two Danish guys which must have been more convenient for you?
The members of Evil Masquerade are always permanent as long as it is possible. I know Daniel’s and Johan’s work in Mind’s Eye. And I also know some of the stuff Johan did with Therion. In fact, I think Therion’s GOTHIC KABBALAH is one of the best albums released on this side of year 2000. I’m also familiar with Johan’s other band Demonoid. Cool brutal stuff. I chose Daniel and Johan because they represent exactly what I look for in a musician. They are very talented; they take what they do seriously, and are nice guys to have around. It’s not that big a deal if they are Danish or Swedish.
Are you and Apollo still friends with Jeppesen and Buhl?
Yes of course.
You are still signed to Escape Music, are you happy with the work the label has put in to the albums and the PR etc?
No, not very.
Do you have any number on how many copies your previous album sold in?
No, I haven’t got any figures on that.
It’s pretty hard to find your albums here in Scandinavia, why is it so do you think?
Well, I guess I just answered that… ha ha ha. And I know that you have had direct contact with our European representatives as well, so you know exactly how bad things can be. Right?
Do you know if your earlier albums are available in stores today?
I think so, but it’s impossible to tell since you can trust no one. But one thing’s for sure; you can always get the complete discography in our web shop on the Official Evil Masquerade site. This shop will soon develop even further to also offer Evil Masquerade related bands. Keep your eyes and ears open.
How many albums have you signed on for at Escape Music?
More than they probably will get.
Did you have a releaseparty for the new album? If so when and where did it take place?
Unfortunately no, I spent so much money on the album that I couldn’t afford anything more at that particular time.
Do you see any difficulties with that Flores, Niemann and Apollo being members in other bands besides EM?
It’s of course not the most practical thing. But at the same time, in this rough music climate, it’s impossible for them to survive in only one band. We just have to do the best out of the situation.
You are collaborating with Scandinavian Metal Agency, how is that going?
It’s going very well. I know SMA personally, so I know I won’t get screwed… ha ha ha.
You haven’t done so many live shows yet and that’s despite the many years in the business, why is it so?
Because I refuse not to pay the musicians and technicians for the job they do. It’s easy to get “jobs”, but harder to get paid that made me kind of lose interest for live shows for many years. But now we are much more established as a band and many know about Evil Masquerade and ask for us to come to their area, so I expect things to change for the better very soon.
Do you co-operate with any booking agency at the moment?
Not yet, but that is something I will look into. We have a kick ass band, 4 great albums and are fairly known by the metal lovers out there. So I’m sure we’ll be able to find a good promoter that is interested in working with us.
When can we expect to see EM on a proper live tour or do some show’s?
Ask our booking agency to come… ha ha ha. If it were just up to me… the answer would be: tomorrow.
If you are going out on a live tour do you think that there’s gonna be problems with getting the other members loose from their other bands?
Not really, it’s all about planning. We’re all used to this since we’ve been in this business for quite some time by now.
Do you think it’s frustrating with not having tour much even though this is your fourth album?
A little, I strongly disagree with our European record company who tells me that playing live is meaningless. I have now followed their advice for some years just to see what comes out of it. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out how stupid opinion that was. I have also strongly disagreed with them about saving a lot on promotional material to the press. I assumed that doing so would result in less awareness about the album release. It turns out I was right and they were wrong… again. And honestly, no rocket science here either. Hmmm… or maybe I should switch career. Can it really be so, that I’m much smarter than most people, and would actually be better off at NASA headquarters…? Nah, I don’t think so. I’m just a heavy metal guitarist that is a great fan of logic, common sense and normal thinking in daily life. Now I have grown tired of listening to stupid advices and will do things differently. So to come back to the question; yes it’s a bit frustrating not to have played that much live, but we will look into what can be done.
It seems that EM has a very loyal fan base worldwide, how does that feel?
Our fanbase is what keeps me motivated to release more albums and want to play live. Regardless of the fans, I would continue to write music just for the fun of it – but I wouldn’t bother releasing albums, doing expensive recordings and work with some of the completely brain dead people that are attracted to this business like flies to a pile of shit. If it weren’t for our fans, and the great support they constantly show us, I wouldn’t be doing this today. That’s for sure.
Are the EM members active on MySpace?
I have a personal page. So do former band mates Dennis and Kasper.
Does EM collaborate with any of the many EM-fansites that are on MySpace?
I know them all personally and do anything I can to help if they want me to. Great guys and girls!
You have a lot for forums to on different lounge what do you think about that?
Our Official Forum is a really great one. I try to hang out there as often as I can. And so do the other members of the Forum as well. This is a great place to make new friends from all over the world and it’s the perfect place to talk about Evil Masquerade, related bands, daily stuff, play games, tell about what really pisses you off, post links to own music, YouTube videos, art, photos and what ever you feel like. New friends are always welcome and this is probably as close to an official Evil Masquerade street team we are today. Take a minute to join if you like and get access to all areas of the Forum. It’s really cool to see how this place keeps growing with more friends – and to get to know them all personally. You’ll find it through our Official Site: www.evilmasquerade.com
Where in the world do you feel you have the biggest fan base?
Probably in the US, but South America, Europe and Japan are also well represented.
What’s the most common question you get by the fans?
”When do you come here and play live?” or “Where can I get your album?”
Are there any plans on releasing a live DVD or a live album?
There have been. But I’m not sure if I want to do it today, since it’s very hard to sell anything these days. The money has to come from somewhere to do it properly. Let’s see what happens.
You did a video to the song “Black Ravens Cry” from the album “Third Act”; did any of the TV-stations pick it up?
Good question. I honestly don’t know. But the internet surely picked it up.
The metal/hardrock scene has exploded in Denmark during the past few years which are great fun to see. How’s the metal/hardrock scene doing in Denmark today?
It’s doing great, but is unfortunately narrowed down to a small acceptance in style. Bands like Hatesphere and other aggressive stuff are doing really well, which of course is great to see. But melodic/progressive music, like ours, isn’t very well received by the media. The fans however seem to like what we do big-time, and in the end that is what really counts. But I think Denmark could benefit a lot from looking more closely to Sweden and learn that it’s nothing wrong with acknowledging everything from death metal, to melodic metal, to pop, to folk music. You don’t lose your cool because of that. I’m sure this is one of the main reasons to why Sweden is still light years ahead of Denmark on an international level. If you are a “trendy” media metal person in Denmark today it seems like you have to think twice before you dare putting Iron Maiden’s POWERSLAVE in the CD player at a party, if sober and before midnight. Fortunately it’s very okay to do so in the late hour and after the right amount of alcohol. Ha ha ha… now I’m probably being deported from Denmark early tomorrow by an angry mob of really cool metal guys for not keeping my mouth shot. Damn, I really liked it here. But fact is; Denmark has a lot more to offer than the world is aware of today. That’s a shame.
Do you have any personal favorites of the new up and coming Danish acts?
Even though I’m as un-trendy as can be, I like Hatesphere with Dennis. But they can’t really be labeled up-and-coming any more since it’s their 5th or 6th album. I think Finn’s Beyond Twilight is really good; unfortunately they aren’t very-up-and-coming since they keep thriving in the underground, but never the less a damn good band well worth buying. And of course, even though I’m a bit partial, I need to mention Erik’s Wuthering Heights, which offers some interesting stuff not represented by many other bands. Check it out.
When can we expect to see the next EM album out in stores?
When “Fade to Black” has sold enough to finance the next production and I have written some new killer tunes.
Give the readers three reasons why they should buy the new EM album?
1. Because you like the music.
2. To make sure that there will be more albums.
3. To show your support for what we use endless days and nights to create.
I have to congratulate you and the band to an amazing new album; I totally love it and think it’s one of the strongest releases so far this year. I wish you the best of luck in the future and I have to ask you if you have any final words of wisdom for the readers and fans.
Thank you very much. This was one of the most interesting interviews I’ve done in a long time. Good research and well thought through questions. Final words of wisdom… hmmm… vitamins are important, karma exists and have no mercy, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a damn good movie with great music, never drink absinthe and play with open fire if you have long hair, if you experience problems with MySpace it’s rarely related to your own computer regardless what Tom says, don’t watch TV if you don’t have to, www.metal-rules.com rules, and again… join us at the Official Evil Masquerade forum and let’s speak more there. CHEERS!
More info about the band
Official Evil Masquerade forum