Entertainers have been using masks, make-up and costumes since at least as far back as the Greeks. Performers in the 1970s—such as Kiss, Alice Cooper and David Bowie—are all superstars that made theatre a huge part of their careers. Surely these “masks” allowed them a sense of liberation and novelty and may have indeed been a big part of what made them successful. Here is another brief description of a couple more interesting examples.
Daft Punk is an electronic music duo from France. The dynamic duo consists of Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter. Daft Punk, formed in 1993, was influenced by many other artists including The Beach Boys and The Rolling Stones. Their music became big in the late 1990s in France’s house movement.
They met with continued success by incorporating house music with synthpop. In some cases, their work is now “considered essential in the French house scene.” Bangalter explains their current condition:
“We did not choose to become robots. There was an accident in our studio. We were working on our sampler, and at exactly 9:09 a.m. on September 9, 1999, it exploded. When we regained consciousness, we discovered that we had become robots.”
He goes on to say they initially concealed their identities because of “shyness”. However, they also admit that being masked musicians helps them to “avoid compromising their personal lives and to keep the attention focused on the music.”
More recently, Daft Punk made a very rare public appearance at the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. They were there to cheer for the Lotus F1 Team, who supported the performing pair racing in specially-labeled cars emblazoned with the duo's logo.
Deadmau5, a.k.a. Joel Thomas Zimmerman, performs under a name inspired by a (duh) dead mouse that he found in his computer one day. The “tail” soon spread to online chat rooms and soon people were calling him “that dead mouse guy.” Shortly thereafter Zimmerman changed his online moniker to Deadmau5 using the digit to shorten his screen name for the chat room’s guidelines.
Deadmau5 might be a DJ but he dislikes the label feeling that it’s “antiquated and an improper description” of his personal approach to music. Wearing a giant smiling, flashing mouse-head was the Canadian prog-house music producer and performer’s way of further distinguishing himself. Presently based in L.A., he continues to put out a variety of electronic dance music;
His cuts have been used on many compilations including the 2007 In Search of Sunrise 6: Ibiza CD and MixMag's 2008 free CD MixMag Presents: The Hottest New Name In Dance! DEADMAU5 Tech-Trance-Electro-Madness. His work has also been used on Armin van Buuren's A State of Trance radio show. His debut disc, Get Scraped, came out in 2005. More recently it was announced that Deadmau5 will appear at the 2013 “Budweiser Made In America” music festival alongside other artists including Beyoncé, Nine Inch Nails, Phoenix and others.
Originally named GWAARGGGH! Gwar is an American band that focuses on satirical heavy metal music. Formed in 1983, their costumes are inspired by science fiction and horror movies. Their song lyrics are often obscene.
Their performances are often graphic and humorous and focus on politically and obscene lyrics and graphic stage performances, which feature humorous enactments of morally and politically taboo concepts. They also often spray the audience with fluids for added effect. They have released almost 20 albums and operate more as a collective in which the members, often referred to as slaves, work on audio mixing, choreography, costume design and running their record label Slave Pit Records.
They even have their own comic book titled Slave Pit Funnies. Gwar is unique from other masked musicians though in that they have played encores sans make-up and costumes on occasion. More recently the band announced that Brent Purgason, the Cannabis Corpse guitarist, will be replacing Cory Smoot’s character Pustulus Maximus on their thirteenth studio album to be titled Battle Maximus which should have hit stores days before the publication of this piece.
These are but a few more of the masked musicians on the market making music today. Their motives for taking on an alter ego may vary per performer. However, one thing is certain; sometimes being an “unknown” can be a boost to an otherwise negligible musician’s career.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.