Behind the Mask (feat. UZ)

Artists wear masks for several reasons. 

Some feel the mystique adds to their performance. Some enjoy embodying an extraterrestrial presence. Some think that it gives a way to escape from the pressures of playing live, providing anonymity in a room where thousands of people are looking directly at you. 

For many, the mask becomes synonymous with the brand. No one thinks about Daft Punk without picturing the cyborg helmets.

The Parisian dance-duo exploded onto the scene in the mid-90s, with their debut album Homework. The pair started taking over the European dance scene, gaining particular recognition for their bizarre, albeit incredible aesthetic choice. Fun fact: Dr Imogen Lines of Brisbane Hospital recently gave Daft Punk’s masks an 8/10 protective safety rating. Talk about multi-purpose.

On the flip side, some artists use marks as a way to be purposely confronting. Slipknot exploded onto the metal scene with their unique brand of horror-inspired music, looking like a cast of extras for Resident Evil. 

Deadmau5 ended up wearing the mouse helmet by chance. Before the project started, he was really into 3D animation and modelling. After creating the mouse helmet, he superimposed it on a friend of his and sent him the picture. 

Said friend told him how striking it was, and made him swear if he ever did a live musical project, he would wear it. It kept lingering at the back of his mind, and when the time came, the art direction of his live set could only head one way.

Pop superstar Marshmello took it a step further. Not only does he only perform and conduct press with the mask, he doesn’t use his real voice. Any time anyone has ever heard him ‘talk’, it’s sounded like the teenage son of C3PO. 

No, really. See for yourself.

While wearing a mask is the common theme between all of these artists, the reasons behind it vary hugely. So we thought we’d get some firsthand insight.

While we can’t speak to everyone on their choices, we did catch up with our good friend UZ (via the internet), and asked him about his reasons and experiences.

What does wearing a mask serve for you as a performer and general artist identity?

Before I started the UZ project, I wanted to stop playing live shows because it was too much pressure for me. I am a World Champion DJ and I like things to be perfect, so the performance side was getting too stressful and I wasn’t enjoying the fun side of the show. 

Also when I performed, every single person was staring at me and it was incredibly destabilizing. When I started the UZ project, I decided to wear a mask and it helped me a lot, I could “hide” behind the mask. People didn’t know who I was and nobody was judging me so I could enjoy playing shows again.

Do you feel like the anonymity of wearing a mask while performing gives you a sense of confidence, freedom, or something else entirely?

Being behind a mask is a weird feeling, but it gives you that kind confidence and freedom that I personally don’t have. It feels like you are literally behind a screen and the fans don’t see your ‘private side’. 

I am a really introverted person and the only chance I get to express myself is through music and performance. Wearing the mask allows me to keep the focus on my artistry and leave the personal hidden. It is perfect for me because it allows me to really concentrate on my craft, express myself and protect myself at the same time.

What are the biggest positives you’ve experienced from wearing one for your career?

The biggest positive is obviously to protect myself from all the weird things that can happen when you are touring the world. I had people stalking me on the internet and wanting by all means to catch me without the mask but so far they all failed. 

As I explained earlier I am an introverted and quiet individual, I like to be alone and do my thing so wearing the mask has allowed me to not have my face on the internet for the past 10 years now (which is very difficult even for anyone) so that’s definitely a plus for me. 

I’m not doing music to be famous or recognizable in the street. For the fun side, it allowed me to go to parties with people and fans without them knowing it was me.