This Sunday Chuckle comes courtesy of one of my neighbours in this building. I think he’s the annoying guy who lets his dog run loose in leashed areas, but I’m not sure. You can be the judge if his joke is chuckle-worthy.
I was taking out my garbage last weekend, and I was wearing my mask because legally in Ontario, masks are mandatory inside common areas of condos. I exited the building on my way to the dumpster and I passed by the neighbour guy.
The neighbour raised his hands in the air like he was being robbed, looked at me and said, “Take the keys, you can have the car!”
I looked back at him puzzled and said “I’m sorry?”
“Because you’re the Masked Man!” he said, pointing out my mask and hat.
If you have been watching my videos or live streams, I’ve occasionally shown off my new masks. Now, I don’t wanna get into the whole “issue” of masks. I just want to talk about masks in terms of music, marketing, and keeping businesses alive in 2020. No matter your political affiliation (I consider myself unaffiliated and flexible enough to change who I support), then if you are reading this then I think we can all agree on three things:
We love music.
We want businesses to survive in this difficult year.
We need to do things that make us happy, especially now.
I’ve been saying for months: every band, brand, and icon needs to put out branded masks, pronto! Many of us are going to need masks for at least the next six months. I have five Kiss masks currently. I don’t know how long these things last, especially if you wash them as frequently as you have to, so I assume we’ll all need replacement masks in a little while too. It makes sense to put out your own branded mask right now. I love that I can put on a Kiss mask and go out and do my shopping. It’s like wearing a T-shirt. In 2020, the mask is the new T-shirt. Especially in winter time when, in Canada, we will be wearing heavy jackets on our backs like a tortoise shell. T-shirt weather is far behind us. Bonus: though they fog up my glasses, the mask does keep my nose warm in the morning chill.
To Kraft Dinner: I would love to buy a mask from you that has your delicious cheesy noodles on my face!
To the estate of Frank Zappa: I’m looking for a mask with his trademark moustache and beard. Does such a thing exist?
Dear ZZ Top: You know exactly what I want! One of those longer “goiter” masks with your beards!
And local clubs, restaurants and businesses: I would love to be able to buy a mask with your logo or website address on it. We need to support each other in this time, I firmly believe, and that starts at home with our venues and clubs.
Sceptics might ask me, “Will any of that actually make the life-or-death difference for a business?” I don’t know. I didn’t study business or economics in school. I just know that I am (somewhat) in a position to help (a little bit), and…I have to try.
I practice what I preach and have thrown a bone or two to some local businesses and music venues. I’m not saying this to show off what a super guy I’m am, I’m saying this so I can lead by example. I’m not wealthy though, and what works best for me is if I can buy some merchandise. That way I get something I need while helping somebody else out. I would rather buy official than knockoff. I need more masks, and if there are enough cool ones, I could even give some as gifts to certain family members.
For the next six to twelve months (who knows?), masks are going to be in our lives. Like it or lump it, I suppose they say. Maybe I’ve just been more successful trying to have a positive attitude in 2020, but I’ve been able to…have fun?…with masks. We gotta support each other to get through this damn pandemic, and to play on the words of my man Jon Bon Jovi: I’ll Be There For You! These five words I swear to you. If you sell, I’ll buy a mask from you. I’ll mask up for you!
The Masked Singer, you say? Never seen the show; not interested. What about real artists who wear, or have worn, masks? Not makeup, but an actual physical face covering? Since masks are everywhere today, and sometimes required depending on where you go, let’s have a look at some artists who were already ahead of the (flattening) curve.
#5: Crimson Glory
Before Slipknot, Mushroomhead, and before Ghost, Crimson Glory were the most famous masked metal band. Often compared to Queensryche (but more ambitious), Crimson Glory were fronted by singer Midnight. He wore a half-mask so he could sing, while the rest of the band kept their faces fully covered. At first, anyway. The masks were toned down on the second album and eventually dropped. But when their debut appeared in ’86, they looked like nobody else. That they are forgotten is unfair — they don’t even appear on Wikipedia’s “masked musicians” list!
At best, Brian Carroll is a recluse. He’s rarely been photographed without his plain white mask and a chicken bucket on his head (though you can find pictures of a young unmasked Carroll online). According to Bucket, the mask was inspired by Michael Myers in Halloween 4. It is highly likely that the anonymity of a mask allows Buckethead to loosen up and perform live. In all probability, the mask helps him get into his creative headspace. It’s not too much of a stretch to say that without the mask there could be no Buckethead.
#3: Nash the Slash
Nash was very early in the mask game, having started wearing bandages in 1979, the same year the Residents started wearing giant eyeball helmets. The Slash, or Jeff Plewman, passed away in 2014. He was best known as a founding member of FM, playing electric violin and mandolin. His 1980 solo cover of “Dead Man’s Curve” had a music video featuring that bandage mask, and trademark top hat. It was one of the weirdest videos of its time.
I considered Gwar for this position, but then I remembered: Gwar don’t wear masks. They are aliens that crash landed in Antarctica. No, seriously, this position should belong to Gwar except that I don’t really consider them a masked band. What they have done takes the idea of “masks” and puts them in an entirely unique category. Gwar might be the top “costumed” band, but speaking strictly of masks, this spot goes to Slipknot. Mushroomhead may have come first, but there is no question that Slipknot commercialised their image much more successfully. They expanded upon the masks with matching numbered jumpsuits. They became iconic. Just as one can easily recognize Gene Simmons as a member of Kiss, Shawn “Clown” Crahan simply cannot be mistaken for some guy in Pearl Jam. When you see Slipknot, you know Slipknot. And only they can take the credit for that.
#1: Kathryn Ladano
Biased? Yeah, so what! This is where I defend my choice.
All of the above artists are brilliant and that cannot be disputed. But how many of them incorporate the mask with the music? Perhaps only Buckethead uses the mask to get into a specific headspace to create. Kathryn Ladano’s newest album, also called Masked, explores this. Masks and blindfolds were worn in the studio while music was improvised and captured for the album. The mask becomes part of the audible art, which you cannot say about Slipknot or Crimson Glory. Maybe I’m biased, or maybe I’m one of a few people who knows how critical masks were to the creation of this music. Without the masks, some of this music wouldn’t even exist. For that reason, Kathryn Ladano is our topped masked artist. Nobody else incorporated the mask with the music like she did.
Hey! Where’s Daft Punk? Where’s Deadmau5? Not on this list, that’s where! Neither are Ghost, Thunderstick, the Residents or a number of other groups who wear physical facial coverings. Narrowing down is the hardest part of any list, but I hope you enjoyed this one anyway. Check out some Crimson Glory or Nash the Slash and tell us who you think the greatest masked artists are.
Uncle Meat likes to (teasingly) call me “Bum Face” during my live streams. However the fact is I am now a Shit Face. Look at this mask that Mrs. LeBrain bought for me. Typical, eh? I can’t get no respect!