Henrik Flyman band leader/guitarist - Evil Masquerade
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Trine at DARK MINSTEL MUSIC for the help and for the promo pictures of Evil Masquerade taken by: Thomas Trane
Single pictures of Henrik Flyman are from his own homepage and taken by: Thomas Trane
Additional live pictures are from the archives of: Anders Sandvall
The Danish/Swedish act Evil Masquerade released their fifth album earlier this year titled PENTAGRAM. The album is in my opinion one of the best albums of 2012 so of course was an interview with band leader/guitarist Henrik Flyman perfectly in order. This time around we spoke about PENTAGRAM, about the bands history with various labels through the years as well as past and present band members. If you're into some good old fashioned hard rock make sure to check out Evil Masquerade I promise you won't be disappointed.
Hi Henrik. It's nice to talk with you again. Are you ready to take on yet another interview with metal-rules.com?
The brand new album with your band Evil Masquerade is called PENTAGRAM and was released at the beginning of the summer. How long did it take to write and record PENTAGRAM? On Wikipedia it says that you started to work on the album back in 2010 is that correct?
It's getting harder and harder to tell whenever the writing process for a specific album starts since I write most of the time when I'm not doing something else. I'd say I started even before 2010, but didn't find the right path to follow until around 2010. The most time consuming part while writing a new album is usually to figure out in which direction to go. Once that is settled it usually comes pretty easy.
I've also read that the album was recorded back in 2011 - is that right? If so what took so long to release it?
Actually I think most of it was recorded already 2010. It was mixed early 2011. The reason for the late release was that I didn't feel like releasing it through our old channels. I spent the time to break free from all old contracts. I felt that this album was far too good to go to waste.
I know that it's you who writes the material but do the other members any say when it comes to the material?
I try to keep them up-to-date on works in progress whenever they are around my place. It's very helpful to hear what they have to say. Sometimes they convince me to keep a song that I wasn't sure about - and other times it becomes obvious that a particular song maybe wasn't as good as I originally thought.
Did you write any song that you felt didn't fit the atmosphere on the album? If so were there many songs that didn't make it on to the final edition of PENTAGRAM?
Tons of them. I wrote a whole bunch of songs that didn't end up on the album. As usual. Some of them went in the trash and others I save for potential future use. I have no count on how many songs that didn't end up on Pentagram.
What have Evil Masquerade been up to in between the release of the last album FADE TO BLACK that came 2009 and the release of PENTAGRAM?
A few shows, writing music, getting old members back to the band, finding a permanent keyboard player, rehearsing, recording, a couple of band related projects and becoming totally independent from traditional record labels. And personally I have moved to a new home and rebuilt my studio... actually I'm still tweaking the studio and will soon be ready. I've also been around the world a couple of times touring with the German band Lacrimosa.
Do you feel that the band has developed music-wise if you compare FADE TO BLACK and PENTAGRAM?
The biggest change is the material which is more direct and down to the core of what made hard rock and metal great. We always try to find new ways of expressing ourselves. Whether we will continue down this path in the future, or a different one, is for the stars to decide. I'm sure we have developed as musicians. Anything else would be strange since we keep active and always push ourselves to do our utter best.
Do you think that the old hardcore fans are going to appreciate PENTAGRAM?
Usually fans of this kind of music are both open-minded and conservative at the same time. It's always the same. The older an album gets, the more respected it becomes. Our first albums seem to have gained almost cult status in some parts of the world. And I have a feeling that this new album will be facing a similar destiny in a few years. But already now it seems to be one of our more popular albums. And it's for sure the album that has picked up most new fans. Even though it hasn't been out for a very long time. So yes, I predict a great and long life for the 'Pentagram' album since both old and new fans seem to like it.
Where do you find inspiration to write music and lyrics to Evil Masquerade?
Who knows? By living the life I live, meeting the people I meet and playing with the people I play... I guess. And for sure, by being awake when other people sleep
How come you chose to name the album PENTAGRAM? Does the title have any special meaning to you and the band?
Besides the very obvious reason that it's our fifth album, it also goes very well with the musical direction. Both lyrically and musically it's very much down to earth and stripped from everything that isn't absolute necessary for the songs to be effective. To me it's a very spiritualistic album in many aspects. It's built on the cornerstones of what's important and necessary. Very similar to a pentagram.
Who has done the cover art-work to the album and what do you think of it?
I did it. It goes hand in hand with the music. It's dark and not a lot of fancy stuff going on.
Instead of having guests on keyboards you have taken in a solid member in Artur Meinild, how come you wanted to do that on this disc?
We always wanted a permanent keyboarder but could never find someone that fit the band both musically and personally. Until now.
When Evil Masquerade first began your music was described as theatrical metal - how do you feel about that label today and how would you like to describe what kind of music the band plays today?
People are free to call us whatever they want. Theatrical is fine with me. After all, this band is like a chameleon that changes appearance to fit the mood we're in. The Pentagram costume is just a different one. But even in this unpretentious appearance we are very theatrical in the way we express our music, so I guess the old description still fits. But I would just call it hard rock, or music.
The first single out from PENTAGRAM was “A Silhouette” what is that song about?
A about being betrayed by someone you trusted and the emotional numbness that comes with it. It also slightly touches the power of Karma. Heavy issues neatly wrapped up in a groovy rock'n'roll package.
Have you shot videos to any of the songs? If so which songs and are there plans to shoot any more videos?
Yes, we shot a video for 'A Silhouette'. There will be no more videos from this album.
You released a show reel that featured five samplers from PENTAGRAM on YouTube - how was the response from fans and media on that?
Over-all, people seemed positively surprised to get a fully animated video presentation of the new album. Strangely enough only a handful commented on the masturbating religious girl in the beginning of the video. Lots of people have already watched it - and I guess even more people are curious to see it now because of what I just said.
You held two release parties for the album. Why two and how were the parties?
You are right that we did two shows in connection to the album release. One in Sweden and one in Denmark. But I would only call the Danish show for a release party. It was very intimate with free drinks and us playing a full show on just the backline equipment, almost like an open rehearsal. No big PA or stage effects. It seems like people had a great time and many were talking about this gig for quite some time. It was a lot of fun - and lots of alcohol.
What did the fans on those shows think of the new songs?
The new material was very appreciated. The songs almost played themselves and everything felt really good.
I attended the party in Copenhagen and thought you and the band did a great job and that the new songs sounded really interesting.
I appreciate you saying so. And yes, It was a great night.
Have you read any reviews in the press regarding PENTAGRAM? Do you care about what the critics write about the band?
Yes, I care what critics write as long as they review the music and not the genre. The few bad reviews we get when we release a new album are from guys that exclusively like either Christian rock, death metal or hardcore. But that's perfectly fine. We don't make music for narrow-minded people. I've read a whole bunch of reviews of the new album and they seem to be as good as always. Favorite tracks depend on who reviews the album, but most songs have been mentioned as favorites in the reviews I have seen.
Most bands think that their latest album is their best work, is that what you think of the album PENTAGRAM?
In many ways it is the best album. But then again, all albums are different and it depends on the mood of the day. I'm very happy for all our previous albums as well.
So you are happy with the outcome of the new album?
The guys in the band kick ass, the songs are really good, the arrangements works great both on the recording and live, the production is the most heavy we've done and the artwork fits the music perfectly. So yes, I'm very pleased with how it turned out.
Do you have any personal favorite track amongst the songs on PENTAGRAM? If so which one(s)?
They are all favorites. Even with the knife on my throat I still couldn't pick just a few and still be honest about it. Sorry.
Where was the album recorded? Which studios have you used this time?
Most of it was recorded in my own Digital Bitch. Drums were tracked in Jailhouse Studios and vocals in Studio Landgren 5:1.
Why have you chosen to record in several studios and what part was recorded first of all?
They are all great studios. The main reason was because of convenience. Bass was the first instrument to be recorded.
You have produced the disc and how is it to produce your own band? Is it hard to stay objective on things?
It's easy because I have good knowledge about what the composer had in mind. And the fact that I have already recorded the complete album as a pre-production before the final recordings take place makes the whole process even smoother. By doing so I have already found an approach that works for all instruments and vocals. So instead of focusing on comprehensive production issues we can focus on other stuff such as expression and individual playing styles to make it as alive and natural sounding as possible. It's a challenge to stay 100% objective at times, but I'm a good listener and know when to ask for a second opinion if I feel uncertain about something. It's very nice to have several of the same people around since so many years because I know who to trust.
What does the rest of the band think of having you as a producer :)?
It's something that came very natural by itself even though it was never discussed. But I have a good feeling that everyone are happy for how we do things. We have a mutual respect for everyone's well-defined roles in Evil Masquerade. I guess this is also the secret to why we never have any big fights or egos clashing like other bands seem to struggle with. We drink beer and enjoy ourselves instead in our spare time.
What do you think is your strongest feature as a producer?
Besides also being a multi-instrumentalist and composer, I think my biggest advantage is a clear vision and that the musicians feels motivated and engaged to do their absolute best performance when we are working together in the studio. I think that a good producer needs to be able to make the performer's comfort a main priority. That's probably the reason why I often feel completely drained from energy after a full production. I usually need a week or so to come back to my normal self. But it's always worth it. The albums will live forever.
Who did the mix/mastering?
Tommy Hansen in Jailhouse Studios just like as on the previous four. Our debut was the only album he didn't do.
What makes Hansen so special that you continue to work with him and do you think you're going to work more with him in the future?
We enjoy each other's company and I respect him tremendously both as musician, engineer and technician. It's seven years since we first started working together and it's always a pleasure to do a new album with him. Great guy. We might very well work together again.
Have you produced any other acts besides Evil Masquerade?
Moahni Moahna, ZooL, the charity single “Let's Unite In Rock” that I did together with a bunch of great musicians for Metal For Cancer, and just recently I produced a single for my old friend Martin who sang in Moahni Moahna and ZooL. It was released earlier this week. Check it out.
Do you think you have a future only as a producer?
You mean for others? I'm not sure I have the time. Maybe, if a really interesting artist asks me.
What's the pros and cons with producing your own material?
The pros would be full control and the cons that you're limited to the same brain's creativity and objectivity in both the writing and producing process.
Two members of the past line-up has once again joined forces with the band. Why did Dennis Buhl on drums and Thor Jeppesen on bass chose to return to Evil Masquerade again?
Personally I always felt they were in the band, but unfortunate circumstances prevented them from playing on the 'Fade to Black' album. The good thing that came out of it was that I could hook up with my old friend Daniel Flores that played drums with me in ZooL. And I also got the opportunity to finally play with Johan Niemann who was discussed to join us in ZooL on our second album that was never recorded before the band was put to sleep.
When we were about to record the 'Pentagram' album other circumstances made the switch back to the previous lineup come very natural. The personal reasons that forced Dennis and Thor to step aside had been sorted out. I can understand if it looks a little bit confusing from the outside, but the band just benefit from it – and so did the fans since they got another album from Evil Masquerade. We have several highlights on the 'Fade to Black' album that will be permanent parts of the setlist for many years to come when we play live.
How did Meinild end up in the band? Did you knew him from before?
We had a mutual friend in Thor who had mentioned him to me before. Unfortunately I must have only listened with half an ear. But we finally met, had a talk about our expectations and played a few songs together in the rehearsing room. And that was it. We fit well together on every level and we couldn't be happier.
Is the current line-up a solid one?
Are you friends with bassist Niemann and drummer Flores that played on the previous album?
Yes, but we're all very busy with our own stuff and live in different countries so it's not like we're hanging out down the local pub. But I look forward to do it when it happens.
Do you see and feel any problems with the changing line-up the band have gone through?
No not really. We have always sounded very much like Evil Masquerade and delivered the goods. The current members have many years with the band and I hope for that to continue. We also hang out besides playing music together. I'm really happy that some of my closest friends are actually in the band.
Singer Papathanasio is also involved in other bands besides Evil Masquerade do you feel any troubles with that?
Not in the past.
Is any of the other members currently involved in any other acts/projects besides Evil Masquerade?
Dennis plays drums with the band SIC from the Faroe Islands, but that doesn't take much of his time.
FADE TO BLACK was released by Escape Music but you are no longer signed to them. Why did you go separate ways?
They had very poor economy, didn't follow our contracts and were very rude to me at several occasions.
What do you think of your first label Frontiers Music and the following Escape Music when you look back on your time with them?
Frontiers had economy but knew nothing about what we were doing at the time. I think we were their first band that wasn't AOR oriented. I guess they just signed the band because of the lineup and then the music came as a shock. They have broaden their repertoire a little bit today. Escape Music is dead to me.
Who own the legal rights to your older albums today?
Are you happy with the sales of your previous albums?
No. But judging from what other artists are selling, I guess we should be happy.
Tell the readers about your own label Dark Minstrel Music and why you chose to form your own label?
It was the only sane thing to do to be able to continue releasing the music I love and be happy about it. I need a stable platform that support any decision I make. I also need a company that works actively for the music all year long. Not just three weeks in connection to a release date. Now the whole discography is back to where it belongs. I have terminated every contract I ever put my name on and we're free to do exactly what we want. Wonderful.
There are still a few old labels that illegally put out our previous albums through underground channels to distributors, but we are tirelessly hunting them down and dragging them out of the dark. Dark Minstrel Music has been around since early 2012, which isn't even a year, but today we have already achieved better results than several of the more established labels managed to do in 8 years. That's a nice confirmation that the decision to go independent was the right one.
Are Evil Masquerade the only band on the label yet? Are there plans on signing any other acts to the label in the future?
We are the only band today. The first release we did was the charity single 'Let's Unite in Rock' with an all-star cast for Metal For Cancer. And, as I said, we just released the single 'Sad Eyes' with Martin. We might sign some additional act in the future, but it will most likely be from someone in the family so to say. We have no intention to expand the artist rooster the way other companies do.
PENTAGRAM is available in Scandinavia but is it out in the rest of the world as well?
Pentagram is available world wide.
Is Evil Masquerade going to try to conquer the Asian and the North American market in the near future?
Dark Minstrel Music are working actively on the US market since several months and Evil Masquerade is on rotation on a large number of radio shows. The interest is growing every day. Therefore we haven't had much time to focus on Asia yet. If this trend continues we will probably need more people at the office soon.
Is it possible to purchase your albums anywhere else on the internet besides on your website?
You can get them in most traditional stores such as Amazon, Ginza, CD Universe, iTunes and a whole bunch of other shops as well. It's very easy to get a copy of our music on CD or as MP3. Or if you just want to check us out you can go to Spotify or some other streaming service. Evil Masquerade is everywhere.
Are there any plans on releasing more singles from the album?
I don't think so.
For how long have you been playing guitar? And which guitarist has been your biggest source of inspiration?
I've had a guitar for 25+ years, even though I haven't practiced very actively. Almost since the beginning I saw the guitar as a great tool for songwriting. The most practice I get is when I write something I can't play and have to learn it. I never had a guitar hero whose techniques and tricks I tried to copy. A few guitarists I enjoy to listen to would include Ritchie Blackmore, Brian May, Angus Young, Tony Iommi, John Fogerty and Mark Knopfler.
Can you play any other instruments besides guitar?
Bass, keyboard and vocals are the ones I find most useful. I also pick up new instruments pretty fast if I need them for a recording and have no one around to play it. I have cheated on a number of instruments such as flute, banjo, various percussion, violin and what have you. It's a lot of fun even though my skills are extremely limited.
What was the first band you joined and what was the first album or EP you recorded?
My first professional band was Moahni Moahna. I founded that band together with Tommy Rehn, who today plays in Corroded, and we released a mini CD back in 1992 that was titled 'Face the Light'. My debut album was 'Temple of Life' from 1994 with the same band. Both are still available in original printing from the official Evil Masquerade web shop, which is to be found through our official page.
What do you think about your days in Moahni Moahna and Zool today?
Very educational and I'm proud of what we accomplished. You can still recognize the sound from those bands in what I'm doing today with Evil Masquerade.
You joined Wuthering Heights back in 2002 how was your time with them?
I recorded those albums more as a favor to my friend Erik Ravn. I laid down a bunch of guitars, helped with recordings of bagpipe, flutes and violin. I also did the audition recordings of their second singer Nils Patrik Johansson that got him his first recording jobs with both Wuthering Heights and Richard Andersson's Space Odyssey. My relation to the band today is that I occasionally drink whiskey with Erik.
Have you always had a wish of forming your own band?
That's what I have always done since the beginning in the garage days. Wuthering Heights and Lacrimosa are the only two exceptions.
It has now been 2 years since the legendary Ronnie James Dio passed away, has he been any inspiration to you and do you remember what you were doing when you got the news of his passing away?
His way of writing song melodies and phrasing lines and words have been very influential for sure. He had a huge impact on the whole genre. It was a sad day when he died. I was at the studio.
Which Dio album is your favorite one (both bands as well as solo material)?
It's hard to say. I don't have just one specific album that are above the rest. Probably one of the Rainbow albums, or the Black Sabbath albums, or his early solo albums.
Last year you were involved in Metal For Cancer - what is that? Tell us all about it, it's an important organization I think.
Yes it's an important organization. It was founded by Richard Ofsoski from Australia and the idea is very simple; to raise money for cancer research with heavy metal. I wrote and produced the song 'Let's Unite in Rock' for an all-star cast with a whole bunch of well-known names from bands such as Sonata Arctica, Therion, TNT, Krux, Megadeth, Fate and many others. And of course several guys from Evil Masquerade. Everyone contributed for free to raise money to stop cancer. You can find the full list of musicians and singers on the Dark Minstrel Music page in the charity section. The price to buy the song is cheaper than a cup of coffee and everything goes to cancer research. So here's a good chance for everyone to show that you care.
Is the single only available as download or is it possible to buy in stores?
It's available as MP3. That's the most popular way of listening to music since many years. But even if you are a CD person I strongly suggest you get a copy anyway. You can see it as a very small donation to an important project – and as a 'thank you' gift you get the song 'Let's Unite in Rock' on MP3.
Besides Evil Masquerade you are now also a part of the band Lacrimosa how did you end up with them and where do you find the time to do everything? You sure are a busy man!
I got a phone call from Germany back in 2009 when they were two months away from heading out on the 'Sehnsucht' world tour. They had lost one of their guitarists and couldn't find a good replacement. I had the time and needed some new inputs in my life so the timing was perfect. I actually just returned home from the European part of the third world tour I'm doing with them. It's no problem to play in both bands since I schedule Evil Masquerade's activities myself. I'm a full-time musician so I need to stay busy.
Are you a solid member in Lacrimosa?
Lacrimosa is a duo. But I'm a steady member as a touring musician with them.
When you write songs what do you prefer to write about?
Whatever feels right at the time. I have no rules.
What comes first when you write – the music or the lyrics?
Almost always the music.
Evil Masquerade has got a really great website. Do you think it's important to stay active on the various kinds of social forums that are on the net today?
Thanks. I also like it a lot. I think it's important to have a strong presence online since that's where most people are these days. However, I think the quality of the social medias are pretty low, and sinking. Information and privacy get lost on their platforms and it seems to blunt people's intellect to uncritically swallow what gets served after it is filtered. A zombification of the masses if you wish. This doesn't go very well with what Evil Masquerade stands for. Therefore we have our focus set on the official page.
The band has got a lot of fans sites on Facebook put together from fans all across the world. How does it feel to see that your music have got impact on people worldwide?
It's of course very flattering and a fine proof that we are doing something right. And it's really cool to see how it's growing day by day. Our fans are very loyal.
Does the band co-operate with any of the fansites?
Some of them are in touch on a frequent basis. We try to support them the best we can.
Do you get a lot of mail from fans? What’s the most common question they ask?
It depends on what the band is up to at the moment. On a normal week we get anything between a few to maybe twenty mails. It's about all sorts of things. But the most common question is when we are coming to their country and city.
It seems like the song 'Black Ravens Cry' is a hit amongst the fans, was that expected?
As strange as it might sound, not at all. I almost didn't put it on the album. Fortunately I was convinced by everyone that I was wrong.
Are you happy with what you have achieved in your career so far?
Many artists and bands thinks that the music industry is about to be history soon with all the new technological possibilities that comes. How has the industry changed since you first started out and what do you think the future have in store for the business?
It's not going to be history. It's just another chapter. We will always need someone to do administrative work, promotion, distribution and set up tours. I can understand that this is difficult for people to understand that are not working with music themselves. But it is the blunt truth. Not all artists are also skilled professionals when it comes to all these bits. And hopefully they don't even have the time to do it. After all, they are artists and not office people. Artists should keep busy with writing music, rehearsing, doing interviews, recording music, do videos and tour. That's more than plenty. Unfortunately there were a lot of people that thought it was okay to get everything for free just because there were little risk of getting punished for steeling. What they didn't understand was that the punishment came in a different way. It has now become very hard for new original bands, that doesn't fit commercial radio, to survive and we get fewer unique quality offerings since not many artists can afford to develop something that isn't supported by the major labels. This has created a hole that is today being filled by stuff like Korean Gangnam and Swedish Sean Banan. It's a golden era for those kinds of artists. Another result we see today is record labels, music studios, distributors, record shops, technicians, etc going bankrupt and people start losing their jobs. And of course this will continue to spread throughout society since the music industry is very important and indirectly employs large parts of the population. Even though a lot of people don't want to admit it – music has an economical value and is very important to many. But it's impossible to produce quality products for free. Sadly enough, laws are not respected without fear of punishment. The industry has also done severe mistakes this new millennium and several record labels are now facing the consequences. The worst mistake they did was to prove themselves dispensable by doing very little for their artists.
They signed twice as many bands, to compensate for the lack of sales, and saved on promotion in hope that the existing fans would buy the albums anyway. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that most bands were disappointed with the poor promotion and had to have full-time jobs on the side since living off their music was almost impossible. Which of course meant that they didn't have much time to spend on their music since they now had other jobs. And less time spent, naturally leads to lower quality or an ocean of time between the releases. They get dropped by the label, fans lose interest and the label sign the next band. But a good thing that has come out of all this is that more people have started to realize how much they like original artists with a unique sound and that they need to support those artists to get more music. Another good thing we see is new artist-controlled record labels, just like in the 70's. And the good thing with artist-controlled labels is that quality and long-term goals become much more important than quick-fix solutions. That's exactly how we do it on Dark Minstrel Music. And with great success.
Are there any plans on going on tour or do shows in Scandinavia or Europe in the near future?
Actually yes. I can guarantee that Evil Masquerade will do more shows 2013 than we have done any other year.
Why have the band played so few shows?
It was a matter of poor economy and no tour support from the labels. We enjoy playing live and look forward to 2013.
What can we expect from a live show with Evil Masquerade?
You get a good dynamic gig from a band that really enjoy what they are doing. You also get something unique every time. We often do alternative arrangements and additional bits and pieces to give the audience something special just for them to hear.
Is there something you regret that you did or did not do in the bands history so far?
No. I like to see it as “live and learn”. It's of course easier to have hindsight than foresight but I prefer to let past experiences be applied on future doings instead of feeling regret.
Is Evil Masquerade big in Denmark now? Where in the world has the band got its biggest fanbase?
Our kind of music isn't big in Denmark. At least not among the rock club owners. They seem to prefer thrash, hardcore and growling vocals which have very little to do with the music we play. But there's a quite big audience for the melodic stuff here even though they don't get the chance to hear it very often. I'd say most melodic metal lovers in Denmark know about Evil Masquerade. Our biggest fanbase is probably in the US or possibly in South America. In our early career we were biggest in Japan.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven't discovered Evil Masquerade yet?
Come on already.
From what I have read on your website have the work with new material already began, is that correct? When can we expect the next album to be finished?
Yes I have started writing. Right now I'm very open for the music to decide where we are going. Our sixth album will be finished when the collection of songs is very good.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy PENTAGRAM?
Because they like the music. Because they want to show their support for what we do. Because they want to secure more albums from Evil Masquerade.
Well, that was all for this time. Thanks a lot for taking the time to make this interview with me and metal-rules.com. I wish you all the best in the future and hope to see you and the band live on stage soon again.
Thanks to you too. We will play in both Denmark and Sweden 2013 so you should be able to catch us. I look forward to see you and have a couple of beers.