Masquerage have just released their fifth studio album, called Hangman’s Revelations. Hopefully will this album get the attention the band truly deserves. PowerMetal.no had a talk with vocalist and one of the founders, Kimmo Perämäki, about fame and fortune, recording processes, and the story of Masquerage.
Masquerage debuted in 2007 with the album Work-Holic-Fool. What do you remember from that album and the recording session?
Kimmo: The whole [recording] process lasted over two years, I think, and that is way too long. We started recording the album in 2004 and it was finished in 2006. So, when it was ready I wasn’t satisfied at all with the product anymore; it had all the great ingredients and elements, but … It was our first album and the production teams first album as well, and I think that both sides failed a bit with the final result. But, the guys working in the studio was way to busy with other projects at the same time, so we rarely had any days in the studio.
But I still think that most of the songs on the album are great, and we still play songs from that album live. And to be fair: the producers did a great job with the arrangements. The songs turned out great, but the recording and mixing didn’t. But, we are very grateful to the producing team anyway; they kind of helped us to find ourselves and our sound, and to become the band we are now.
Somehow the demo versions of the songs from the first album have more of the «magic» feeling that we had when we made the songs. I’m not sure why, but after making the real album the feeling was, to our surprise, a bit emtpty.
Has that made you change the approach regarding how you prepare before entering the studio?
Kimmo: I’ve noticed that if you record demos too well, very often the first magic feeling won’t make it to the final recording. Nowadays, I try to avoid, as best I can, making great demos before recording the album. I think the first touch is too important to loose, and that is what happens when you’re making better and better demos. Now I make mainly very simple demos; just song structures, vocal melodies and the most important riffs.
In the past I could sit forever with the demos. My head literally exploded because of all the drum machines and shit. I rather leave the rest of the fun to our rehearsal room, where we all can bring our own ideas to the songs. And after the songs are okay, Marko [Ylä-Häkkinen, drums] writes the lyrics according to the melodies I’ve done.
What’s the story behind the album Breaking The Masks from 2016, that contains several tracks from the debut album?
Kimmo: Breaking The Mask was something we did just for fun when Ossi [Raiski, bass] joined the band in late 2014. First we recorded some tracks from the debut album the way we wanted the debut to sound like, in a more modern way. Initially it wasn’t intended to be published, it was all, as I said, just for fun. But, after Stormspell Record asked us to publish it, we didn’t have anything against it. The sound on the album is a mix between a studio and live record, and it was a great interlude before our first real album with the new lineup and it was great fun recording it. It also has a few cover songs as well, like Stormwitch’s «Rats In The Attic» and Thin Lizzy’s «Cold Sweat»; great bands from the past…
Let’s go back to the beginning and the year 1998. At that time, and the following years, the power metal scene was gaining new followers with bands like HammerFall, Edguy, Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody and so on. What was the idea behind Masquerage back then? Where you supposed to be a part of the «new» power metal scene?
Kimmo: We really didn’t think that much about it back then. It was mostly about having fun; to play the music we enjoyed playing. But, yeah; most of the «new» and active power metal bands that’s still around were born in the 90’s.
In my opinion, the 90’s were the best and most important era for power metal. Now it’s not so easy anymore to gain the recognition many deserves.
Since the beginning in 1998 Masquerage has released five albums. But maybe you haven’t gotten the recognition you deserve, compared to your fellow countrymen in Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius. Why is that, you believe?
Kimmo: One of the reasons is definitely luck, and I’m pretty sure the second reason is that we love the way we do things, maybe to much, that it has become our worst enemy. We may have lost some chances by saying «no» to certain people.
But, at least we have lived at healthy – mentally speaking, and a pretty long career already, without end in sight. Just, probably, without the recognition you mentioned. At least we love every single note we’ve thrown out!
It took some years until you released the debut album, and until then you released several demos. How would you describe those years, and how would you describe Masquerage back then? What was the «idea» behind those releases, so to say?
Kimmo: We were faster, more aggressive and maybe a bit more progressive band in the beginning. When I joined Celesty in early 2000, Masquerage’s music started automatically to drift away from the power metal genre. Maybe there already was enough speed in Celesty, haha! But I personally think the small change was good. We replaced some of the speed with melodies and «unexpected» things. We are still generally categorized as a power metal band, but I think that we, in least a decade, have proven to be more than that.
Since the debut in 2007 you have released another three albums: how has Masquerage progressed during those albums?
Kimmo: We don’t have any limits anymore; we write the music we like and that is fun to play. We just don’t want to categorize our music too tightly anymore, simple as that.
There was one year between the first two albums, but then it was four years between the following albums. What was happening in the Masquerage-camp back then?
Kimmo: Backstabber  was a farce in every way. We as a band liked the album; it turned out as raw as we wanted it to be. At that time it felt great to record a very unpolished «live» feeling kind of album, but the feedback wasn’t great. Many people said that the album was «unfinished». It wasn’t! The whole album was purposely made to sound like that!
In this era of overproduced albums, raw productions sounds like an amateur mistake. Of course, if your band is big and famous you are «allowed» to record whatever you want, but for a smaller band it is considered to be a mistake if it doesn’t sound like the mainstream bands. Back then we were tired of polished records, but that was then.
Besides all that we paid for a promoter who screwed up the rest of our chances; money gone and nothing gained. Then some personal things happened which made us take a short break. And after the break our bass player Mikael Kontolampi [2000-2015] left the group. Fortunately, we found our new bass player, Ossi, soon after.
And now you are back with your fifth album, congratulations! How does that feel?
Kimmo: Too great!
What are the status within the band now? Are the lineup settled and everything is in Place?
Kimmo: The lineup is as settled as it can be. And the status is that we are very active, a lot of «office» stuff on the table, like a second music video.
What can you tell me about the new album?
Kimmo: First I’d like to say the same worn out old comment that everyone is saying: this is our best album! It’s more produced and polished than our previous, but it’s still a very natural rock feeling kind of metal album.
I think there is something for everyone. It’s produced in a way that you don’t have to be a metalhead to enjoy it. It is surprising at times, and not the type of record where you remember everything after one listening. It needs several rounds, and personally I have always loved albums which contains a bit more to chew on.
Review: Masquerage – Hangman’s Revelations
How has the songwriting and recording been like? Has everything gone smoot and as planned?
Kimmo: Oh yeah, it went very smoot – again! I did the song structures and melodies a bit here and there, and recorded very raw versions on my computer before I took them to our rehearsal room.
What do you hope that this album will do for the band? Do you feel that this is the album that will make the Masquerage name be heard?
Kimmo: I hope people will like it as much as we do, and I hope that this record gets more attention than our previous records.
For thos who haven’t heard Masquerage before, how would you describe the music, and particularly the new album?
Kimmo: Masquerage is some kind of melodic metal band with power metal elements. We would probably og good for fans of Iron Maiden, Magnum, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Edguy, Savatage, and Euro/Scandinavian melodic power metal in general.
What are the plans after the album is released?
Kimmo: Rehearsals, rehearsals and rehearsals. We have this weird and one of a kind universal album release party-idea on the table which is locked to January 5th. More about this later.
And of course gigs. Should probably try to get some promoter/manager to handle those for us, haha! To say it out loud: it is a lot easier to make music than to arrange gigs nowadays. 15 years ago it was the opposite…