What is it about music producers wearing masks onstage that makes their onstage presence and persona more enigmatic? Not only does this add to the experience, but also, at times, leaves the DJ’s6 identity anonymous, keeping the focus on the music.
From Claptone to Black Tiger Sex Machine, we take a look at some of the masked mavericks in electronic music and what they said about wearing a face covering.
German high-tech minimal phenomenon and founder of music label Fckng Serious, Boris Brejcha is regularly seen armed with his staple Venetian-style Joker mask and squeaky duck giveaways. Not always a clown-esque face cover, Brejcha initially sported a Rio Carnival-styled mask for his debut performance in Brazil in 2006. In a 2018 interview with Xceed, Boris stated, “My very first gig in my life was in Brazil. I was thinking I had to do something different because there was a lot of DJs around. I was thinking about the Carnival in Rio, the masks… and then I decided to buy one of these masks and use it to play.”
He has since transitioned to a more comfortable face mask, which he wears for nearly the whole of his sets, before revealing his face. Speaking of this unmasking, the German DJ had shared, “Starting with the mask makes people go crazy. Removing it later is even better. When I take it off, new energy, vibe, and atmosphere are breathed. It’s like a re-start of energy in my show.”
You May Also Like: Boris Brejcha Releases Christmas Mix 2022
Another German on our list, Berlin-based DJ and producer Claus Kleeberger, best known as Claptone, is one of the biggest names in house and tech house music. Taking on festival stages the world over and known for his immersive and mystical The Masquerade showcase, Claptone is seen wrapped in all black, sporting his famed top hat, white gloves, and signature plague doctor-style/bird beak-long golden mask.
Talking about the mask in an interview with Haute Living in 2019, Claptone stated, “I never take it off, so for me, it’s a part of myself. I don’t really reflect on that. People can’t see my private life, which makes my life easier. The thing that limits my creativity is lack of time. It felt natural to wear the mask and was at one point a part of me. It wasn’t a conscious decision that it would give me more freedom. It just happened out of different circumstances.”
The Bloody Beetroots
The Bloody Beetroots (TBB) is a musically fierce electro-punk house, dance-punk, dubstep, drum & bass project of Italian musician Bob Cornelius Rifo. Launching all the way in 2006, the music producer has released music in collaboration with the likes of Paul McCartney, Dennis Lyxzén, Steve Aoki, Teddy Killerz, and ZHU. Fans of Marvel Comics will effortlessly recognize TBB as the musician who wears the anti-hero Venom mask. When performing as a live act, the entire ensemble wears these masks.
When quizzed about the mask, Rifo mentioned to the media outlet Insomniac in 2015, “I was trying to use the mask as a catalyst to get people involved with my music.” He added, “I decided to use the mask, first of all, because I’m from Venice, and we have a strong culture of masks. The power of iconography is crazy because one second you can be recognizable and drive people to your world.”
Smashing the Aussie dance scene in 2014 with his self-titled four-track EP, Golden Features has been making waves as a dance DJ and producer. Golden Features concerts highlight strong visual elements that complement the live music. Dabbling in deep house, house, and dance beats, DJ Tom Stell from Sydney, better known as Golden Features, adopts a gold face mask on stage as part of his act.
On picking up the distinctive golden face mask for the first time, Stell told Acclaim Magazine, “Basically what happened was when I was doing all the press shots, I wanted a picture to put on the profile pages of everything but I couldn’t afford to get a photo of myself taken. So initially, there was a galaxy in place of the face and I thought it was too dark and you couldn’t really distinguish it.”
“So I replaced it with the gold color and then all of a sudden, before shows, everyone was talking about ‘Oh, I hope he wears the mask’ and stuff and I didn’t see it as a mask, it was just a design thing. But I got it made after the thought because it was like ‘Oh shit, that’s actually what that could be’ so we went to a prop designer and gave him that picture and said ‘We basically want this.’”
James Hazell, aka FuntCase, is an English dubstep and drum & bass producer/DJ from Bournemouth. Initially, he was under the moniker of DJ Dose before dropping his drum & bass and dubstep productions as FuntCase. In addition to his signature cap, Hazell appears onstage outfitted with a white full-head mask with eye and mouth openings.
FuntCase dived into the chronology of the mask he wears with the EDM Tunes, explaining, “The mask was also an accident. The first ever FuntCase show I played, I wasn’t wearing a mask at all, I wasn’t planning on it anyway. And the night before I played my first ever Funt Case show, I was doing graffiti for a big festival, and it was dress-up.”
“I was dressed up as a robot from Dr. Who and I had the whole suit and the mask after that, the next day, I must have removed everything from my suit apart from the helmet, which is now what the mask is. And my friends who were in my bag just before I was about to go on stage told me in a dare to wear it and I wore it, just for fun, and it stuck.”
He also communicated to EDM Maniac in 2021 that he is on the second variation of his mask, which took a decade to evolve, and that he hopes to change it more frequently than that to keep it fresh.
Venezuelan DJ, remixer, and multi-instrumentalist Zardonic is known for his genre-bending mixes, which lash out high-energy drum & bass, fast-paced fierce heavy metal, dubstep, and darkstep themes. Federico Álvarez, better known as Zardonic, began his career as a teenager and rose to prominence as a remixer for extreme metal bands, even working on metal band Impaled’s ‘Gutless,’ death metal band The Berzerker’s ‘Caught In The Crossfire,’ and the black metal band Gorgoroth’s ‘Procreating Satan.’
Onstage, Zardonic is seen wearing a white facemask and attached headgear, which has evolved through time. It has black slits for the eyes, nose, and mouth area and has an eerie resemblance to the Image Comics antihero Spawn.
Talking about the mask, Zardonic told Chaos Control, “The origin of the mask started as a marketing strategy and ended up becoming something else. It’s based off a logo based off my face. The logo went through several phases of evolution until it became the mask in 2012, and then the mask evolved too. And it still does.”
Álvarez went on to add, “The mask IS the performance. There’s no way I wouldn’t wear it. If anything, I take it off during the end of the sets sometimes if it gets too hot in there or if I just want to show the people that behind the performance, there’s a human being like everyone else.”
Angerfist is famously seen attired with a hoodie and trademark face mask, which resembles an ice hockey goalkeeper mask or, more accurately, the infamous Jason mask from the horror film franchise ‘Friday the 13th.’ Angerfist’s music surges between hardcore techno, hardstyle, distorted kick drums, hard dance, and fast-paced highly intense drum & bass. He racked up the number one position on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs 2022 and was one of the first hardstyle DJs to do so.
In an exchange with Klubikon, Angerfist spoke about wearing the mask onstage. He said, “Back when I started, I was a 100% producer and not a performer. I never really wanted to perform at first and was more of a studio freak. But I understood that I wanted to bring the music to clubs and events anyway and chose a way to stay low-key and at the same time have an aggressive and hard image to go with it.”
“The first priority was a dark vibe, and the mask and hoodie were the perfect way to do this. It looks good and allows me to stay somewhat anonymous. Now it’s 15 years later and I love performing just as much as making music, but the mask and hoodie was probably one of the best choices I ever made.”
UK’s hip-hop, drum & bass, dubstep, and house staple Matthew Carter, best known under the stage name Jaguar Skills, has been tearing up venues, dominating radio stations, and festivals worldwide since the early 2000s. Onstage, Jaguar Skills is seen dressed in all black, with a black balaclava which leaves only an opening for the eyes. To maintain his anonymity, he wears a ninja-style mask in several of his interviews and even employs a voice modifier mic when speaking.
In an interview with Skiddle, when asked about the mask, Jaguar Skills voiced, “Well, I was DJing for years without one but my logo was this ninja. I didn’t really think you were supposed to look like your logo. But then I did this gig for Radio 1 and they were like, ‘Hey man, are you gonna wear your mask?’ I was like, ‘I don’t wear a mask’ then they said, “But your logo’s a ninja, I thought you wore a mask, we thought you’d wear a mask. They kept suggesting that I just try it. So, I put a mask on and DJ’d, it was a bit weird. Then I did another gig and I thought I’ll throw this mask on. And then it was like, ‘Well, I’ll just leave the mask on and really invest in the character.'”
In one of his most revealing interviews yet, aired on May 17, 2023, on the 1 More Thing Podcast podcast, Jaguar Skills went in-depth about his music, early influences, and career sans a voice modifier.
Black Tiger Sex Machine
An entry from Canada in our list, electronic trio Black Tiger Sex Machine (BTSM) are recognized for their dynamic electro tunes, sci-fi, cyberpunk, and aggressive shards of heavy bass and dubstep. Formed in 2011, the group consists of musicians Patrick Barry, Marc-André Chagnon, and Julien Maranda. Along with an immersive audio-visual showcase, each member wears an illuminated black tiger-shaped helmet, complete with ears on top during their live set.
Speaking about the helmets, BTSM informed Relentless Beats, “We always had ideas of doing weird stuff, even before we chose the BTSM name. The helmet idea has to be attributed to Julien, who was just throwing ideas at Gab (the helmet designer) when they met at a party; Julien was interested by Gab’s industrial design studies. After a few drinks, the decision was made that night and Gab was polishing off the final products 8 weeks later.”
The helmets have more functionality than just a prop, as music producer Julien Maranda disclosed to EDM Identity. “They have a system that works with an antenna, that works with a DMX system, and we’re sending the actual BPM to the helmets. So we can sync the movement of the lights with the rhythm of the track.”
Japanese electronic sensation TOKYO MACHINE has been shelling out beats of electro house, bass house, and chip music since bursting onto the scene in 2016. Since dropping the high-octane single ‘Party,’ TOKYO MACHINE has gone on to produce soundtracks for a number of video games and helm shows the world over with his powerful, heavy basslines. TOKYO MACHINE’s identity remains anonymous. He covers his face with sunglasses and a face mask which have a zig-zag pattern sketched across them both. He is signed to the independent electronic record label Monstecat Records.