Rising to the spotlight with a stint fronting post-hardcore heavies Chiodos, BRANDON BOLMER has been fairly quiet since his exit earlier this year. Immersing himself into an electronic solo project that ranges from classical influence to modern dubstep, Bolmer has been pushing out new material every week for the past two-and-a-half months under his new moniker, MASKARADE. Bolmer took some time out of his hectic production schedule to exchange a few emails with AP about where he’s been, what his plan is and how he ended up in love with producing after fronting several rock bands for a decade.
Interview: Matthew Colwell
What has been going on in your life since the split with Chiodos?
BRANDON BOLMER: Since I left, most of my time has been focused on developing Maskarade—that's pretty much all I do. I spend about 80 percent of my life on a computer, writing music and designing artwork. It’s been challenging trying to start a new project by myself, but above all, I'm happy to be making my dreams come to life.
There are days that I feel very frustrated, lost and unsure of how this will all pan out. When you go from touring a lot to a long stretch of no shows and you're at home dying to get back out there, it's hard. I can't wait to play shows again. It's going to take a little bit of time, but I’ll get there. There's no turning back now. There's nothing else I want to do, and I've basically left no other option for myself. I have no back-up plan. It's scary sometimes, but screw it. I’d rather die doing what I love than sacrifice those things to make a living doing something I hate.
How did Maskarade start?
I’ve had the idea of a project like this for years now. Before I left Yesterdays Rising, I attempted to start something called the Art Of Fear that incorporated my love for electronic and classical music. At that time, I was limited because I didn't have all the gear I needed, and I didn't know much about production. I was just having fun experimenting. That project fizzled away, but I knew someday I would build it back up again when I had the tools necessary to do it right.
From the end of Yesterdays Rising to my departure from Chiodos, I continued to work on writing and producing. I learned a lot more over that time and started to develop a direction that combined the things I loved. The moment I got home from the last Chiodos tour, I was really anxious to begin working hard on my solo project. I felt as though the band was in a stale state and nobody seemed to give a shit, but nobody wanted to speak up about it. So after a few months, I quit and put all my thoughts, desires and time into Maskarade. In May, I heard about a remix contest for Warner Bros. artist Kimbra and I love her voice. I wanted to enter, but I needed a name, and I didn't have one yet. I spent all the time working on music and thought that would just come to me. It finally did a week before I debuted the project with my Kimbra remix. Everything just seemed to fall into place that week. It all felt so good, and that's when I knew it was right for me. I always loved the word “masquerade” and it seemed to fit the music style and classical sound, but there were more than enough reasons why it couldn't be used/spelled the original way. I had a list of different spellings, but some of them were already taken, and I didn't want to deal with legal shit. My friend Brennan Gervasi is actually the person that gave it that spelling.
Considering your guitar-heavy projects in the past, the electronic nature of Maskarade may come as a surprise. Have you always been interested in this type of music?
To me, there are three sides to Maskarade’s music. You have the electronic aspect, the symphonic/classical sound and sort-of heavy-rock feel. Although my music doesn't really resemble any of these artists, people like Squarepusher, Aphex Twin, Venetian Snares and Telefon Tel Aviv were some of the first producers/artists that I got into in the early 2000s. Then I discovered artists like SebastiAn, Justice and Boys Noize [who] are huge inspirations, too. The classical elements come from my love for film scores and classical composers like Beethoven. Most people would find it surprising that the majority of my iTunes library consists of soundtracks, scores and classical. The heavy-rock/aggressive sound comes from my history of being in bands. I look at some of my songs like rock songs, especially the way the drums are arranged, and I’ve always been a hip-hop fan, so I think that's where the half time drum beats come into play. Also some influence from modern-day producers in the EDM world because I love that sound too—it's in your face and it's meant to be loud, which is what I always loved about playing in a band. Turn that shit up and play aggressively!
I definitely believe the songs fit into the modern electronic scene. Who are you pulling from for inspiration?
I must say that my biggest inspiration is Pink Floyd. They are gods and my all-time favorite band. They showed me what it was to mix electronic music with rock. It would be a lie if I said Sonny Moore [Skrillex] wasn't a huge inspiration to me, too. It's more about him as a person—not so much his music, although that's great, too. I met and toured with him on the 2004 Warped Tour, and I always loved his energy and passion. His entire journey and story up to this point is very inspirational. Just like any producer, when I started writing my own songs, I was listening to other modern electronic artists and referencing their mixes to improve my own sound design. I never wanted to sound like anybody—that's not fun; that's bullshit. After a short time of doing that, I stopped listening to a lot of electronic music and just created what I liked. It was better that way because it was just me.
Who else contributes to Maskarade?
My friend Neil Denning records all the vocals. He has a history of working with R&B and hip-hop singers, so he knows how to get things really crisp and clean for me. Other than that, I write and edit all my own stuff. Mixing and mastering is all me right now, too, but maybe someday I’ll have someone come in to help with the mastering process. I also have a good friend, Alexvnder Eggebeen, who hangs out at the studio sometimes. He might be filming, taking photos or just throwing ideas my way, but it's nice having a second opinion every now and then—someone on the outside of my brain. I enjoy having friends in the studio because it keeps the energy up and the vibes positive.
Do you have any plans to collaborate with other producers in the future?
I've already done a few vocal features on tracks with Nick Thayer, Child In Disguise (CID) and the Juggernaut. None of them have been released yet, but I definitely can't wait for those tracks to be heard. They're all solid songs and the producers are insanely talented and awesome people. I love collaborating with other producers, and I hope to do it more often. It helps me explore and discover new avenues with my voice. There are a couple co-productions in the works, and I’m hoping to do a lot more vocal features with different artists/producers by the end of the year. I’d really like to feature a female vocalist on one of my tracks. I love female vocals.
The project seems dedicated to the concept of masquerades. How did this come about? What masquerade-type plans do you have for the project?
The Phantom Of The Opera, with Gerard Butler, plays a big role in the concept. I was intrigued by the idea of the phantom and his mask, the mystery, and his struggle. I love the look and feel of the masquerade scene in that movie, too. Very elegant, very ritzy and the decorative masks and costumes have always been appealing to me. It’s dark, but it’s beautiful—like life and all its ups and downs. I wanted to incorporate these ideas. Above all, I imagined the potential of the live show, and how I would essentially want it to be a modern-day masquerade ball. Dancers, art and masks for the crowd—I think it would be fun for people to feel like they're at a real masquerade. Eventually I would love to provide the musical and visual environment for people to feel comfortable and accepted. After all, that's what a masquerade ball was: a place for people to go and feel free, be whoever they want. I would also like to eventually dive into developing some short film type things, combining those visuals with the Maskarade music, and some of the film score-ish music I make.
The visual aspect seems just as important as the music for Maskarade. What about that art form intrigues you, and what vibes are you trying to create?
I’m all about mystery—mystery is key for me. If it's not mysterious, there's nothing else that the viewer needs or wants to know, and that's so boring. I like when people ask me, "What is it?" It has to be just enough so they have an idea but a little piece missing so they are left to wonder.
Every Monday you’ve released something new for the project and called it MASKARADEMONDAY. Does this plan lead up to something?
Yes. Since May 21, it has been 10 weeks straight of releasing something. It has been very stressful doing this, but it also keeps me working and pushing forward. Soon I will be trying new things for Mondays. When I’m spending each week working on a song for the upcoming Monday, it’s difficult to write new stuff and prepare for an EP. So I’m going to change it up a little bit. I definitely want to keep it interesting for people. I want to try some new things like video chats, Q&A sessions, new art prints for sale and video content. I’m just going with the flow and doing what feels good in the present moment, which is making music I love. I do hope to release an EP by the end of the year, though.
What’s the long-term plan for the project?
The long-term goal would be the live show: the Maskarade ball. I see it in my head, and it looks fun as hell. It will take time to get there, though. I’m still just getting started, you know? Definitely more collaborations, more vocal features, more art, more videos and touring will all be involved.
What do you want people to know about what’s going on in your life and music?
I just want people to check out my new release of "Ready (Cinematic Version)” as it’s something a little different from Maskarade. I hope everyone enjoys it, and thanks to all those who have supported me over the years. This is all for you and the love of music and art.
"Music and art—‘til death do us part"