Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

The men – and women – behind the masks

What is it with pop’s fondness for disguises and subterfuge?

Fri, Apr 26, 2013, 09:55


Call it the anti-social media campaign. While some musicians have employed masks and pseudonyms since man first yielded a guitar or lute in anger, it’s a growing trend of late. If you’re a musician seeking to stand out from the crowd, your best bet may be to keep your face, identity and non-musical life hidden from all.

For some, unmasking these musicians has become a grand bit of sport. SBTRKT’s Aaron Jerome did his level best to hide his nu-jazz and broken beat past behind a tribal mask. The Child Of Lov almost managed to get away with his alter-ego before he was outed as Amsterdam resident Cole Williams.

The mystery over Swedish combo Iamamiwhoami was far more interesting than the music which Jonna Lee and her friends were making. Indeed, Iamamiwhoami scored more attention than any of Lee’s previous releases thanks largely to the who-is-that factor.

Increasingly, anonymity has become a marketing schtick. Hide behind hazy, out-of-focus photos. Keep the info on your website (if you have one) to a minimum. Hint at mysterious stuff behind the scene. Unleash your work on the world and watch a couple of hundred music blogs swoon over you.

The question is, though, if acts would get the same reaction if we knew who they were to begin with. Often, the whole “anonymous” meme seems to get more coverage than the actual music. Often, of course, the music is dodgier than the masks.

However, there are some acts who carry it off with great elan. Last week’s fandango over the new Daft Punk tune “Get Lucky” was accompanied by photos and videos of two men – who may or may not be Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo – sporting glitzy motorcyle helmets. Whatever about the headgear, there was no mistaking the special appeal of the tune.