Henrik Flyman of Evil Masquerade
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Trine at Dark Minstrel Music for the help to get this interview done.
Thanks to Dark Minstrel Music for the promo pictures of the band.
Promo pictures taken by: Thomas Trane
Additional live pictures taken by: Anders Sandvall
Once again it was time for me and Metal-Rules.com to hook up with the guitar-wizard, songwriting-genius, mastermind and bandleader Henrik Flyman in Evil Masquerade. If you haven’t checked out the bands brand new sixth album THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX then be sure to do so because the disc is jammed with some really edgy traditional heavy metal/neo-classical songs. Personally I think that Evil Masquerade is one of the best metal acts around at the moment, and if you’re interested in getting to know Henrik Flyman, the band, his vision, the break up with former lead singer Apollo Papathansio, the entrance of the new Swedish singer Tobias Jansson (Saffire), and also this year the band celebrates 10 years as a band, then check out the interview. If you want to read more about Henrik Flyman and Evil Masquerade take a look at the past interviews that are featured here in metal-rules.com.
Hi Henrik, nice to talk to you again. Are you ready for another round with metal-rules.com?
I agree, it’s a nice tradition we have going here. I’m ready so fire away.
First of all I have to congratulate you and the band for what I think is an amazing new album – THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX which is brilliant.
Thank you very much. It’s always very nice to hear.
How long did it take for you and the band to write and record THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX?
It’s a difficult question to answer because I also write other music in between and keep active touring. An estimate would be somewhere between 8-12 months to complete the new album. Most time was of course spent on writing. The recordings and mix were done pretty fast.
Besides you, was anyone else involved in the song writing?
No, it was just the old self.
Did you write many songs for the album and were there any songs that didn’t make it on the final edition of the album?
I haven’t added them together. A fair guess would be about thirty songs and one third of them were used.
The band performed the song “Bad News” at a party at the beginning of 2013. Were the songs for the album ready and finished back then?
Not all of them, and it was also a bit too early to tell which songs we were going to use of the ones that were already written. At this gig we just felt like trying out something new. It worked out great so we decided to keep the song for the album.
What have the band been up to in between the release of PENTAGRAM from 2012 and the release of THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX?
Some live action, lots of interviews, songwriting and getting a new singer aboard. Personally I have also been out on a world tour with Lacrimosa and done some recordings with them as well. Furthermore I have spent time developing the Dark Minstrel Music model to fit Evil Masquerade even better.
Do you think that the band have gone through any musical changes if you compare THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX with PENTAGRAM? If so in what way?
No big changes, even though they don’t sound too much alike. We always strive to improve and develop but the core idea is still the same as it always was. I’d say that ‘The Digital Crucifix’ is more colorful than ‘Pentagram’, but that’s nothing new for Evil Masquerade. Some of the early albums were almost extreme. I think the songwriting became considerably more accurate around the ‘Pentagram’ album and the same goes for the arrangements. We haven’t used nearly as many channels per song on these last two albums compared to in the earlier days. I’m a better producer and songwriter today. The band is definitely also more experienced these days. All this put together of course make up for a different sound even though we come with the same intentions.
Personally, I think that the music sounds more straight up metal with more 70-80’s influences in the veins of DIO or Black Sabbath. Is that something that you can agree with me on or am I totally out of line? 🙂
Yes, we refined those influences quite a bit on the previous album and we continue down the same road on this one.
How come you named the album THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX? What’s the idea behind the title?
It’s aimed towards the digital era we live in and the hordes of people that follow the development in an almost religious fanatic way.
Who’s done the cover art-work and do you think it reflects the music and the essence of the album?
It’s a collaboration between the band and the Danish artist David Troest. I think the cover visualizes the music to perfection. It’s without a doubt our best cover till today.
There are a lot of YouTube outtakes from when you are working in the studio. What do the fans think of the recordings and seeing the band in action in the studio?
I can only guess and hope they like it. I don’t know how much response we have gotten actually. That’s something I will evaluate when I get some more time on my hands. Certain is that if people appreciate it, we will try to do more in the future.
Drummer Dennis Buhl wrote on his Facebook that he thought the new material was really technical and complicated to play. Are the new songs more technically challenging than the songs on previous albums?
I never think of music like that. Maybe some tunes are and some are not? I don’t know.
Do you send out demos with songs for the rest of the members to learn on their own or do you all gather in the studio rehearsing?
I always record and prepare full arrangements for everyone. But then we meet for rehearsals and some arrangements might change a little bit. There is no fixed formula here.
Tobias Jansson is the new singer in the band, has his arrival to the band changed or affected your way of writing songs?
Not really. We chose him because he fits the Evil Masquerade style very well. In retrospect it’s safe to say that he added some extra occasional aggressiveness to a few parts. This happened in the studio and was not present on my demos. Tobias has a background in more extreme metal and it came to good use.
Have any of the other members been part of any additional arrangements?
Everyone has contributed in one way or another.
The song “Like Voodoo” was released as single and as video before the album came out. What did the fans think of the song?
As usual a few were a little surprised. Most old fans seemed to dig it and we gained a whole lot of new supporters. It seems like this is how Evil Masquerade functions on an album to album basis.
EVIL MASQUERADE – Like Voodoo Video
What can you tell us about the video? What’s it about and where was it shot?
It’s about a lonely guy that spends a night out trying to find some friends without much success. The short story would be that it ends worse than it started. It was filmed on different locations in Copenhagen.
I know that bass player Thor Jeppesen was directing the video. How was it to take orders from him? 🙂
Very easy. Someone needs to have the final say or it would be a very slow and chaotic process. In Evil Masquerade we always strive to have very well defined roles. Thor was the best man for the job, so of course he should be in charge.
Is the single only possible to purchase as download or is it available in stores?
The days of printed singles are long gone. The people have spoken.
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs on the album as well?
Yes, we are discussing it but I’m not sure how it goes. Let’s see.
I’m curious about the lyrics to the song “The Extra Mile” who is the song about?
It’s about a groupie we met a few times last year in Europe. She was at the autumn of her career and very determined to get close to the band, so she infiltrated a promoter company just to be able to say she represented us and had to hang around. It was immediately clear that she knew nothing about her job. I kept my face during the few days we were stuck with her and when it all was over, I asked to have her removed from everything that concerned Evil Masquerade. Somehow she found out about this and became an even bigger pain in the ass. In fact she pissed me off so much that I was about to hire a couple of guys to have her put out of her misery. Fortunately for her I was voted down by the band. However, I needed to do something so I did the second best and wrote this song as my response to her provocations. I deliberately made the music very different so that I had to answer this question in as many interviews as possible. I speak to thousands, she does not. And if she continues to bring me trouble I will stop being discrete. There’s no business like show business.
Just as on the previous albums are there also an instrumental track featured on THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX in “The Hangover”. Why do you always incorporate an instrumental song?
I don’t always do that. There are no rules.
I attended the release party for the album that was held at the Copenhagen club High Voltage. What did you think of the party? I thought you and the band did a great job and I was really amazed by Jansson!
It was a nice and intimate party. I had a great time with the band and it was a lot of fun performing several new songs for the first time.
How do you think the fans responded on the new songs and the new singer?
Usually when you play new songs for the first time you don’t get as much appreciation as when you play old classics. But this was actually nothing like that. The new material immediately felt like classic stuff. I was taken by surprise. I mean, no one had heard the new tracks before. Tobias was definitely appreciated.
The reviews I read about the album has all been great and it must be nice to be reading such positive things about the new album. Do you and the band care about what critics have to say about your work?
Yes, I care if the reviewer comes with an open mind and the judgment isn’t clouded by economical interests. Occasionally we are reviewed by people who only like death metal and by publications that are sponsored by companies with conflicting agendas. I don’t care about what they have to say. It’s just polluted air. But it’s always interesting to hear what fans of the band think.
Does the native media treat you different than foreign press? I mean in the way they write about the band and the album?
I guess you mean Danish media? Denmark doesn’t have much serious metal media. The only serious press I can come to think of is Metalized Magazine and they seem to like Evil Masquerade. I just heard that THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX got a solid 9/10. There are a few other printed media and bunch of small ezines as well but they basically just write about their friends. We don’t spend our time kissing ass so we are pretty ignored around here. We get much more attention from foreign press.
Are you happy with the outcome THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX or do you feel you should have done anything in a different way?
The few things I maybe should have done differently are so insignificant that no one would notice anyway. I’m very pleased with the outcome.
Studio, production and mixing
As always, you produced the album on your own. Isn’t it hard to stay objective when you do everything on your own?
No, I don’t think so.
How does it work when you begin to record an album, do you have everything and every element ready in your head before you begin the procedure?
I have a clear idea about the full arrangements and individual expressions before we start the final recordings. But I always try my best to keep an open mind if a better way of doing something is presented.
The only thing that wasn’t recorded in your own studio Digital Bitch was the drums which was recorded in Media Sound this time. Why was the drums recorded in another studio?
Because it’s a much better studio for drums.
Where is your studio located?
In Copenhagen very close to Media Sound.
You have once again joined forces with Tommy Hansen who mixed and mastered the album. How was it to work with him again?
It’s like a second home. I have done five Evil Masquerade albums together with Tommy, plus a few other projects. We keep developing what was started a decade ago and I enjoy working with him.
Were you or any of the other members part of the mixing or mastering?
I was there as usual and so was Dennis.
Do you think that you’re going to work more with Hansen in the future?
I see no reason why not.
Was the departure of former singer Apollo Papathanasio expected and why did he quit the band?
I saw it coming. We were drifting in two different directions so I suggested we should take a break.
Are you friends with Papathanasio today? Are you in touch with him?
Yes we are still good friends and he called me on the phone just last week.
It can be a bit tricky to change lead singer in a band, especially if the singer have been a part of the band for a long time like Papathanasio. What did the fans think of his departure?
I think everyone took it very well. Of course it’s sad to see a band member go, but on the other hand we had the pleasure to introduce Tobias who brought exactly what we needed then and there. And since there was no big drama and we are all still friends, I think it’s also easier for the fans to appreciate the good that came with the change.
What was the last show that singer Papathanasio did with you guys?
Good question. I think it was a show in Holland last year.
Was Jansson the obvious choice for Evil Masquerade? Were there any other names besides Jansson that circled in your head as the new singer for EM?
Tobias was my first choice and since he accepted there was no need to look further.
Did Jansson do an audition for the band or you just handpicked him?
He was handpicked. I knew he could do it.
Jansson is also member in Saffire, do you see any problems with him being a part of two different acts?
He has always been available when we needed him.
Besides Jansson is the line-up the same as on PENTAGRAM. Do you feel comfortable with the current line-up?
We have a really solid team since a few years back. Both musically and socially.
It’s the second album keyboard player Meinild appears on with Evil Masquerade, how is it to work with him again? EM is now a five piece act instead of a four piece act, does that change the atmosphere in the band?
The sound is more or less the same but the dynamics within the band has improved a lot. I have always aimed for stability, but never to the extent of quality. If something doesn’t work and can’t be fixed, change is inevitable. I hope for the current lineup to continue for many years to come.
When we spoke last time you said that Buhl also played with the band SIC, are any of the other members parts of any other acts besides Evil Masquerade?
I’m not sure if SIC still exists. Tobias sings with Saffire from his hometown and I also play with Lacrimosa.
Do you have any contact with any former members like Henrik Brockmann or Kasper Gram for example?
I’m still in touch with Kasper. In fact, both he and Dennis played on a production I did for Dark Minstrel Music a few years back. It was a single with the Swedish singer Martin Häggström.
Label and management
PENTAGRAM was released by your own label Dark Minstrel Music. Do you have any numbers on how many copies that PENTAGRAM sold?
Not in front of me. Certain is that we show better results than our previous labels did. But it’s nothing like the old days in the 90’s. We’re doing our very best to maintain a high standard both musically and on the business side. I guess that’s why we’re still doing pretty alright in these difficult times. People know that we are here to stay and that we really believe in what we are doing.
Has Dark Minstrel Music grown a lot since the beginning of the label?
Definitely. We are met with respect in both the US and EU after only a couple of years on the field. This is something we have achieved through hard work and dedication.
You haven’t signed with any other artists or acts besides Evil Masquerade and Martin Häggström. Do you have any plans sign with other acts in the near future?
No. We don’t want to end up like many other labels that focus on quantity instead of doing the absolute best job they can for the artists they already have.
Dark Minstrel Music handles production, publishing and representation. How many people are employed?
Our company structure is unorthodox. Depending on time of year and work-load, we have one or two on full time plus a couple more helping out when needed.
Are you glad that you formed Dark Minstrel Music? Has the label made it easier for you to work and release your music? I imagine that you are more in control of your music?
It was essential for the whole thing to make sense anymore. It’s extremely hard to find the dedication I believe we deserve. I couldn’t ignore that fact anymore. Today I know that the label really cares about Evil Masquerade all year round. Not just 3-4 weeks in connection to an album release as in the old days. It’s also easier for us to invest in the band since 90-100% of the results don’t vanish into thin air
How come you named the label Dark Minstrel Music?
It is inspired by the song ‘The Dark Minstrel Plays’ by Evil Masquerade.
Is it possible to purchase any of your older albums today or are they out of print?
Everything is available through Evil Masquerade’s webshop and will always be so. There are also other channels, but our webshop is both easy to find and easy to remember. Just go to the official website.
Any plans on releasing THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX or any of the older albums on vinyl?
It has been discussed. It’s likely to happen if more people start asking for it. We would do it for our fans, not just because it would be fun for ourselves.
Last time we talked you said that there were quite an interest for the band in USA, are you going to try to conquer the US market with THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX?
Conquer is a big word. You need to play other kinds of music to conquer the US. Evil Masquerade will never be that kind of a mainstream band. But fortunately there seems to be a pretty decent demand for what we do as well.
And what about Asia, any plans on taking the band there?
We are of course not opposed to the idea. But today Japan seem to suffer severely from the big changes in the music industry and we have to aim our resources to where we get the best results. There are other parts in Asia that are more important, but Asia isn’t top-priority these days. We are of course available in Japan and we don’t ignore the fans over there but I don’t see Evil Masquerade going there within the next couple of years.
Is it possible to download any of your albums legally? If so where?
It’s easier than ever. There are a number of shops that sell legal downloads. A few easy ones to remember are of course iTunes and Amazon. If you are ever in doubt whether it’s a legal page or not, just look for Dark Minstrel Music as the record label.
Does Dark Minstrel Music also take care of booking shows and so on?
You can always contact Dark Minstrel Music and we take it from there. We’re really accessible and everything is handled very professionally.
I saw that THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX was sold out at the end of May. How long does it take to print a second edition of the album?
It’s already back on the shelves.
How did it feel to see that the album was sold out? 🙂
That was pretty cool and very unexpected.
Your previous album PENTAGRAM went really well amongst fans and media, was that anything you had expected?
It’s very hard to expect anything these days. Everything changes so fast and you can only guess what’s next. The good thing is that we seem to have a pretty good idea about where the winds are blowing. ‘Pentagram’ was a really interesting experience because of many reasons. It was not just a new album by Evil Masquerade, it was also the first on our own company. Furthermore we made a deliberate change in direction. We put a lot of thought into the ‘Pentagram’ release, so naturally we assumed our strategy to be sound. Therefore the success didn’t come as a total surprise. That being said, of course it was a fantastic feeling to be so well-received.
“A Silhouette” was the first single and video out from PENTAGRAM. What did media and fans think of the video?
Judging from YouTube response I’d say people gave it thumbs up.
EVIL MASQUERADE – A Silhouette Video
Do you think it’s fun to make videos or is it only a necessary evil?
I’m not a video guy. I don’t see pictures the same way I hear sounds. To me it’s a necessary evil.
Today there aren’t any TV-shows that airs music videos like back in the old days. Videos today are shown on YouTube and other internet forums, what do you think about that? Wasn’t it better back in the 80s-90s?
It was easier to reach a whole continent that didn’t know about you in the old days. If the VJ decided that they wanted to play a video, suddenly you reached millions. I remember back in 1992 when MTV decided to air a video with my first band Moahni Moahna. Suddenly everyone that was into metal knew about us. In those days everyone watched ‘The Headbanger’s Ball’ every Sunday evening. Now it’s very different, but I prefer today. It’s a more fair game. Without the old gatekeepers there’s no doubt that a band such as Evil Masquerade has a much better chance to reach the people.
What do you think of PENTAGRAM if you look back on the album today?
I still like it as much as when it was released.
What did the American and Asian market think of PENTAGRAM?
The Asian market wasn’t too excited since it was very straight forward. The US marked embraced us with open arms. Never before had I done so many radio interviews and the music was heavily featured on numerous networks,
Past present and future
The band performed at Rock Of Ages Festival in the Netherlands and at Rock Café and R-Mine Metal Fest in Belgium last year. How was that?
It was cool because of several reasons. Most important was that we broke into new live territory. Secondly, it was some great parties.
How come the band does so few live shows?
In the old days it was difficult because of the labels’ poor promotion. Our name was simply not hot enough for the festival posters. This has changed for the much better with Dark Minstrel Music.
Would you like to perform more live than you have done?
We are already doing that and we do our best to keep it going.
Live, the band played a cover of the Ozzy song “Mr.Crowley” why that song? Is Ozzy Osbourne a favorite within the band?
It just felt like a fun spontaneous thing to do. Ozzy is cool, but not a sacred band cow.
The band was supposed to open for Gus G/Mary Friedman in Malmo and Gothenburg but that was canceled, what happened?
Gus and Marty canceled their shows in the last minute. Not much we could do about that since we were just opening for them. I never looked more into that.
Besides Dokkem Open Air in The Netherlands an the single show at Namo in Sweden do you have any other live shows scheduled for the summer?
Not this summer. But we have a few other things coming up.
Are there any plans on heading out on a proper European tour anytime soon?
A longer tour is not likely to happen this year, but there will be more shows.
Where in the world does the band has its biggest fanbase?
Hard to tell, depending on how you measure fanbase. Is it record sales, streams, most represented nationality on Facebook, or the official website, where fan mails come from, radio airplay, etc? Depending on how you measure it could be USA, mid-Europe, Brazil, Mexico, Russia or China.
I read on Wikipedia that your album THIRD ACT went really well in America back in 2007 when you re-released it, why didn’t you head over and performed live?
Evil Masquerade celebrates 10 years as a band 2014, could you ever imagine to still be in the industry today when you first started out with this band?
Yes, I was certain about that. Evil Masquerade is the band I’m going to be playing in.
Are you happy with what you have achieved in your career so far and what do you see if you look back on the musical journey of Evil Masquerade?
I would be very spoiled if I didn’t appreciate my career throughout the last 20 years. It has brought my music to people in every corner of the world. It has allowed for me to tour the world a number of times and I have been to places most people will never visit. I have met lots of nice people and made some good friends. And the best is still yet to come. So yes, I feel like I’m on the right track.
Are there any plans on doing something special for the fans now that Evil Masquerade turns 10 like a dvd and a live cd or something like that?
We are discussing some different ideas. It is a special year and something will happen.
Which one of the older Evil Masquerade albums are your personal favorite?
It depends on day and mood. My number one is ‘The Digital Crucifix’. Second place could be ‘Pentagram’.
How’s the metal scene in Denmark doing at the moment? Are there many clubs and venues to play in of you are a metal band?
There’s no real metal scene in Denmark. The few great Danish bands that are active keep busy abroad.
Where is Evil Masquerade biggest, in Denmark or in your native country Sweden?
I don’t know. We have mostly been active elsewhere.
Both you and Jansson are Swedish but the rest of the band consists of Danish musicians, do you consider Evil Masquerade as a Swedish or Danish act?
The first 8 years I wanted to call us a Danish band, but I’m leaning more towards Swedish now. Our style is much more Swedish and it feels like I have more common with Swedish musicians even though I’ve been in Denmark for 14 years. I like Denmark for many reasons, music not being one of them.
I rank Evil Masquerade as one of the top names in the Scandinavian metal scene and think you’re a musical genius and guitar wizard, how does it feel to be an idol for so many fans around the world?
I never think like that. I only do this because I love music. To be appreciated by people makes it easier to survive – and for this I am very grateful. But the whole idol thing couldn’t mean less to me.
The band got a really nice website, who runs it?
Dark Minstrel Music.
There are a bunch of fan-pages on Facebook to the band from all around the world, how does that feel and are you in touch with the fans on Facebook?
They make it possible and meaningful for us to continue releasing music. It’s of course a great feeling. I try my best to be available and answer questions as long as they are about the music.
I see that you have a lot of fan pages from South America almost one in every country, are you big there?
We’re growing steadily and I often hear from the Latin American fans. It’s an important part of the world for Evil Masquerade.
What’s the most common question you get from fans?
When are you coming to my country?
Have you already began to work on material to the next album?
I always write, so yes.
What are the plans for Evil Masquerade during the rest of 2014?
More gigs, writing music, rehearse and keep spreading the word about ‘The Digital Crucifix’.
What are the plans for Henrik Flyman during the rest of the year?
What I just said, and a Russian tour with Lacrimosa. I will also continue working with Dark Minstrel Music – plus that we have a few other really interesting Evil Masquerade related projects on the drawing table.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy THE DIGITAL CRUCIFIX?
The number one reason should be; because you like what we do. You can always check out the music first on Spotify or YouTube. When you buy our music, not only do you support the band and allow for us to release more albums, you also show us that our work is appreciated. Some people tend to think that it doesn’t make any significant difference whether they buy music from a band or not. This is why we started Dark Minstrel Music. You can rest assure that every legit purchase benefits Evil Masquerade. We control the whole production chain. If you buy ‘The Digital Crucifix’ on Amazon, Ginza, our web shop, CD Universe, iTunes, etc, we will be the first to know. So, as you can see, every album sale counts and is equally important.
What do you have to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Evil Masquerade yet?
If you live a stressful life and just want music to be something in the background while you’re keeping busy with other stuff, then we aren’t what you are looking for. But if you are genuinely interested in music and tired of the usual cup of tea I suggest you check out the band.
That’s all for now Henrik 🙂 thanks a lot for taking the time making the interview with metal-rules.com and me. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and I hope that you take the band to Sweden and play some time soon.
Any time Anders. Next Swedish show is Timrå on August 30. We will do our best to book some additional Swedish dates. Until then.
More info about bandleader/guitarist Henrik Flyman