Interview: Subterranean Masquerade Are Back with ‘The Great Bazaar’

Israeli progressive rockers Subterranean Masquerade are finally back with a brand new album after many years of silence. The Great Bazaar is just the kind of offering that we’d expect from them, along with a new clean vocalist in the form of Green Carnation’s Kjetil Nordhus. This rather bombastic piece captures everything I like about the band and more. Pick up your copy of The Great Bazaar right now from Taklit Music.

Let’s start out with the very beginnings of your act. How did you all get together and what made you decide to play such a different form of music than other bands were playing at the time? Who came up with the decision to add the death metal elements, which are still a rarity these days in the progressive rock scene.

Subterranean Masquerade has existed for over fifteen years now. It was always a mixture of gothic progressive rock influenced metal with clean and death metal growls mixed together. I usually write the music and lyrics and was picking up musicians who wrote the kind of music that I enjoyed or had some kind of connection to. Most of the musicians that played on Suspended Animation Dreams are ones I picked up after a show in a local venue or bar and asked them to get in the studio, some of them with no previous practice at all. With the new album however, it’s much different because this time we are more a band instead of a studio project and I think you can hear it throughout the album. Although it’s a more elaborate album, the arrangement seems to fall in place naturally and we actually got the chance to sit down and rework arrangements whenever it wasn’t quite there.

Your new vocalist is Kjetil Nordhus of Green Carnation/Tristania fame, replacing longtime frontman and Novembers Doom vocalist, Paul Kuhr. How did this occur exactly, as I remember Paul being featured on your last EP, Home.

Kjetil Nordhus is not actually replacing Paul Kuhr, we just added him as a clean vocal vocalist, while Paul is still doing the growls. I’ve been a fan of Kjetil’s work since I did PR for Green Carnation’s Light Of Day, Day Of Darkness in the USA. His music has been the soundtrack of my last fifteen years or so and it’s unbelievable to have him as a part of Subterranean Masquerade. In the old days, when you wanted to chat with a band or musician you had to send a letter asking to send back your stamps. But now with the world available at the click of a button it’s much easier to communicate with people and this is how I got the contact with Kjetil. We made the album and eventually I asked him if he would be interested in being a part of it.

There’s a much different style on your brand new album, The Great Bazaar. Your earlier works were more focused in the realms of traditional progressive rock, but this one sounds like more bombastic and it seems to be filled with world music, particularly Arabic.

I guess there are more Arabic influences this time, although we had some in of those in Suspended Animation Dreams ten years ago. I guess you could say this album is more bombastic and it is more varied and textured for sure. These Arabic influences come from the place I live in. We are working from Israel and this is the music that we hear on the radio and TV. Not that I enjoy much of these things but I guess it’s still a part of my DNA

Though I can’t discern all of the lyrics here, I have a feeling that some of the topics on this album may be related to the current wars in Afghanistan, and previous wars in Iraq. Was that a focus, or am I missing the point?

Not at all man, we are not talking about wars in general nor politics or trying to deliver this agenda or another. The lyrics reflect personal conflicts that I think each of us have. It is the “war” between the good responsible side and the one that pushes you to make a decision that you will often regret shortly after.

Tell me a little about the writing and recording process for the album. Was this work in progress at the same time as Home or immediately after? Also, where was the album recorded was the atmosphere like during those sessions?

Home was originally planned to be a part of The Great Bazaar. We had some of the tracks ready when we recorded it and the reason I decided to release a 7″ was to give the fans something worth waiting for. I recorded most of the album in a local studio that I work as an engineer for as well as my own studio. I love making albums in the studio, it is where the magic happens and I usually mix that with a good amount of whiskey, so it turns out funny and creative.

Tell me a little about your major influences in the band. What are some of the albums that you would consider your favorite of all time and reason for getting into music?

I’m a huge Pink Floyd fan so you can say that almost everything they did is mandatory for me, so are early seventies and eighties progressive bands such as Camel, as well as traditional Rock N’ Roll acts like Blue Oyster Cult. When it comes to extreme music, I love Enslaved, Green Carnation and Katatonia. I could live on a deserted island with that list alone.

Orphaned Land’s Kobi Farhi is featured on the album for closer “Father And Son.” How did this collaboration occur? What are your thoughts on Orphaned Land?

I have known Kobi for many years. He used to be my boss when he had this distribution/record label in Israel many years ago and we have remained friends ever since. This is actually the third time he has guested on any of my tracks and I hope that he will be able to do it on every album that I record. I think Orphaned Land are a bunch of super talented musicians and great people. They make amazing music in my book.

Being progressive rockers, what are your thoughts on the latest Opeth album, Pale Communion. Have you heard it?

I’m actually listening to it as I’m answering this interview… strange. (Smiles) (Note: We didn’t plan that, it just sort of miraculously happened.) I absolutely love this album and I hated Heritage. I think this is such a superior album with great song writing and arrangements. I do miss those times where they played death metal but this is also great and as long as they keep on making music I’m happy.

What do you do for hobbies outside of music? What sorts of careers do you have outside of music?

I am a recording studio engineer and a PA engineer. I spend most of my nights and days on stages making odd noises to balance a PA system and taking care of musicians. I love my work and spend most of my savings on buying expensive analog gear.

It’s been a long time since the release of your Temporary Psychotic State EP and your debut, Suspended Animation Dreams. Is there a chance that we could see these records re-released?

For sure! I’m planning a special vinyl re-issue with lots of unseen photos and other bonus material.

Finally, will we be able to see you live? If so, when and where?

Yes, we are practicing for an album release show right now and will be able to travel and play to every place where there is an audience who wants to hear us. This is going to be an amazing live set with tracks spanning throughout our career. I hope we will get to hang out and drink a beer when we come to your area!

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