When Chordblossom came into existence, it was always our aim to shine a spotlight on the artists and bands that make up the music scene in Northern Ireland. We’ve been doing it for over ten years now and one of our favourite methods is our Introducing feature.
Put the kettle on, curl up on your sofa and and join us for a quickfire Q&A with some of our favourite new musicians. Who knows, maybe you’ll even discover your new favourite artists.
This iteration of Introducing features the musical talents of MASK who just released their new album ‘Zenith’.
What was the inspiration behind your artist name?
H: We had the same name as a band in Australia and it was turning into a legal affair. I was on the phone with a solicitor at the time and a salesperson held up a rather beautiful, musical MASK in front of my face. I took it as a sign, bought it and named our band MASK there and then.
You can see it hidden in the background in our music videos. Shameless marketing to announce we’re on YouTube and have music videos right there…
You’ve just released an album. How did it come about and what does it mean to you?
H: Yes, it’s called “Zenith” and was named in a moment of reflection. We have hit a real sweet spot or “Zenith state” with our band and the people around us now. It was mostly produced and recorded in Tree Song Studios NI with our long-term collaborator Michael Mormecha and features some heavenly gospel vocals from Kristen Rogers (Nashville). It’s, without doubt, the biggest thing we’ve done.
Craig: The process from start to finish is incredibly fulfilling and now to bring these songs to the stage, and get the feedback from an audience makes us proud of what we have achieved.
Have you any more releases or studio time lined up for later in the year?
Craig: We will follow up this studio record with a “Live In Session” sort of album. We don’t have a name for it yet but it sits at around 20 tracks at the moment.
H: We have this crazy existence at the moment where we have been living/recording together in a huge house in the middle of nowhere in Poland! Just making a complete racket pretty much haha… We got at least an album’s worth of material out of it but there’s no pressure for anything. As I said earlier, we’ve hit a real sweet spot. We get to hang out and do what we love.
Tell us about your song writing process.
H: I write for MASK but we’re both song writers constantly creating. For me, it’s become a complete addiction, at times an endless dance of pain and pleasure. I am looking and listening for songs everywhere. I have no idea where they come from but they usually start from an idea like a ‘turn-of-phrase” or a vision. Then the music, then the lyric. I am really proud of the song-writing on “Zenith”, it’s without boundaries and I feel I have complete freedom to explore.
The opening track “Hunter Becomes The Hunted” is about what it would be like to turn the tables on animal “trophy hunters”, “Luke Lightening” is about a boy in the 1960s who is addicted to getting shocked with electricity, he is neglected, and so he electrocutes and murders his family in the middle of the night. Why? Because he will be put to death by electric chair. Lot’s of dark irony on this record…
Who were your favourite artists/bands growing up? Have your influences changed over time?
Craig: Being from Liverpool it’s hard not to be influenced by the Beatles so for me they are number one but also Oasis were a big one too. They actually made me want to be in a band when I was 14. Not really, I still dig the 60’s and 70’s but if it’s good it’s good. Pop included
H: I was a weird little kid who loved music from the 1950s, Elvis, Little Richard and Buddy Holly. When I picked up a guitar it became all about the Beatles. A mutual love of the Beatles is actually how we met all those years ago. I developed a real love of blues and gospel music. I don’t do any of the religious side of gospel but the music completely kidnaps me.
With the 2023 NI Music Prize approaching, what’s been your favourite album and single released this year?
Amy Montgomery for best single “Change, Change” and her show/band for best live act also… Always been a huge fan of her work and we’re so proud to have collaborated with her over the years.
If you weren’t a musician, what line of work would we find you in?
Craig: I’ve no idea but I’d like to think something creative.
H: Actually, we’ve been friends for 18 years, why don’t we answer for each other on this one??
Craig: You’d be the same as you are now: a NOMAD or a world wonderer – but just without the music…
H: I’d say he’s on the money there. I think Craig would be a painter or sketch artist – he’s great at all that. I’m still waiting for him to paint me like one of his French girls.
If you could collaborate with one artist or band from NI, who would it be and why?
H: The Bonnevilles. We’ve been lucky enough to have Andy play slide blues guitar on a track of ours called “Hurricane”. But I am always emailing, to the point of maybe pestering him to work together. For me, they are the best band in NI.
It is intensely difficult to be successful in the music industry. What does NI need to do to invest in/develop to boost your chances?
H: I think it depends on what you class as being “successful”? Musicians have always and WILL always be trampled on. I wish it wasn’t this way and to any budding musicians, I hope I’m not bursting any bubbles here but historically and collectively it’s a fact. To this end: to expect anything would be obtuse. I think I can speak objectively on this because I only came to music very late in life.
What does success look like for you?
Craig: Being able to record and play live is a success for me. Anything else is a bonus.
H: I have enough famous friends to know that fame can be a poisoned chalice and I have enough rich friends to know that money doesn’t cut it either. For me, it’s about freedom. We are not owned by anyone and have complete freedom and understanding in each other to do what we want when we want to – for e.g. all this winter I will be surfing in Portugal and if I write a few songs along the way then so be it.
You’re going out on tour and can have anything you want on your rider, what would we find on yours?
Craig: Bog roll. Water, corona, a few butties. Simple strokes for simple folks.
H: he does need an alarming amount of bog roll haha… I can officially state that we need nothing! Last week we performed live on the BBC and we ended up rehearsing with borrowed guitars in the Yorkgate shopping centre car park! The Tesco staff on a smoke break seemed to enjoy it. Maybe we’ll become divas in time.
Where and when can we next catch you live?
Craig: I am going on Holiday tomorrow for three weeks! Just getting that in there. When I return, we will make our way to Seelow to play our debut first show in Germany – on September 1st outdoor stage, will be epic.
H: What he said. Germany will be an incredible show. We have a 6 person band with us at present and it’s such a joy to bring the new songs to life. As for shows in NI, we were there last week and got us thinking that we should definitely plan something for the near future.
If you enjoyed this feature and fancy discovering some more new artists, we suggest you jump on over to our archive of Introducing pieces.
If you are a band or musician based in Northern Ireland interested in taking part in our Introducing feature, we recommend submitting new music to us via our Contact page and if we enjoy it, you’ll no doubt hear from us.