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Medford, Massachusetts, United States

Medford, Massachusetts, United States
Band Rock Alternative


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"Consumer Index: January 2010"

What the Connoisseur staff is obsessing over this month. (Trust us. You'll like this stuff.)

Chris Mascara (the real-life model for Rock Band's lead-singer avatars) has a new album out. It's titled FOUNTAIN OF TEARS, but the crunching tunes make us fist-pump, not cry.
$9.99, - Boston Magazine

"Fabulously Bent Garage Prog"


Next Friday will see the release of Fountain of Tears, the latest full-length installment of fabulously bent garage prog from Boston's own MASCARA. Chris Mascara tells us that Fountain pays track-by-track tribute to a host of trailblazing iconoclasts and tragic heroes, from murdered poet Federico Garcia Lorca to undersung soul singer Jackie Wilson. The latter is honored here with "B261" (the number a reference to his anonymous grave marker), and it's no "Lonely Teardrops" - "B261" is a charging beast of trantrum-esque vocals, barreling drums, and temperamental guitars caught up in beastly tunings. Maybe it's just because it's Kramer on the boards, but the whole thing whisks us back to simpler times in indie rock, when all we craved was controlled confusion - of which there'll be plenty at Mascara's Middle East release party next Friday, January 29, with Ho-Ag, Super 400, and Do Not Fosake Me, Oh My Darling. If you can't make it, class up your iPod and grab "B261" at You can also hear it this week on New England Product, our local rock throwdown, Sunday nights from 11pm to midnight on WFNX 101.7 FM. - Boston Phoenix

"The Closest Thing Boston Has To A Supergroup"

Mascara might be the closest thing Boston has to a local rock Supergroup. Chris Mascara is the lead-singer avatar for the Rock Band games, and is doing work with Blue Man Group this year. He’s recruited two of the best and most recognizable musicians in town to help out on his original material, Bo Barringer of MEandJOANCOLLINS, and Matt Graber, one of Sarah Rabdau’s Self-Employed Assassins. Should be a great show, it’ll be the CD Release for the new album Fountain of Tears, as well as a tour kickoff. Also playing are Ho-Ag, Super 400, and Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling. - Playground Boston

"Part romantic, part bluesman, part punker, part madman"

MASCARA - cover article
by Rick Dumont

Chris Mascara is a real man of genius when it comes to the arts. He’s a student of the psychology of music, a writer of deeply introspective themed rhythmic tapestries, an amazingly talented actor and, oh yeah, he’s also a very accomplished musician and singer.

It is that music, complied into a new album, Fountain of Tears, that will be released in January with a celebratory show at the Middle East upstairs on the 29th.

“It’s a nice combination of my back catalog and new,” Mascara said during a recent interview.

“But there’s no way to spot what’s old or new,” chimed in bassist Bo Barringer, who is also known throughout the scene for his creative mastery with the Me & Joan Collins band.

For the last three years the two, along with drummer Matt Graber, who also smashes the hi-hat as a Self-Employed Assassin in Sarah Rabdau’s talented backing gang, make up Mascara, are a power trio that immerses themselves into the very core of the human psyche while softening and tearing open the mind to enlighten and usher a whole new realm of thoughts into their listeners.

Fountain, it should be noted, got its title thanks to Federico Garcia Lorca, a Spanish poet and playwright of provocative and risky poems and plays, and also closeted homosexual who was executed in 1936 in a place called Ainadamar, an Arabic word meaning fountain of tears. Ainadamar is also a song on the album.

“I’m deeply moved by iconoclastic, trailblazing tragic artists from the past,” Mascara said. The entire album is a series of vignettes and homages to many artists whose lives were tragically cut short and other stories that simply tell tales of disturbed humans. Like the tragic life of singer Jackie Wilson, known by many as “Mr. Excitement.” The song “B261” is so named for the number on the grave marker that was once Wilson’s only symbol noting where he was laid to rest after his death in 1984. Wilson had lingered in a coma for nine years after suffering a heart attack on stage performing in 1975. He died a relative pauper, thus the grave marker, but Mascara said in the years following his death a proper headstone was erected by fans and music people. Wilson was a pioneer and would call himself the “black Elvis Presley,” while Presley would refer to himself as the “white Jackie Wilson,” Mascara said.

In order to bring the messages and stories to life, Mascara needed some musicians to help. Three years ago he found them. They had been friends for nearly a decade having played together and shared stages along the way, including a stint where both Graber and Mascara sat in with Barringer’s Joan Collins band for a bit a few years back. But it was ostensibly Graber’s return from a two-year life excursion in Tel Aviv that brought him into the fold and completed the triangle.

“I am blessed to have both these guys playing with me,” Mascara said. “They’re my editorial board.”

Mascara writes his songs like others might keep a journal. They are expressions of his feelings, experiences and analysis of what it is to be human, a “daydream journal” if you will.

He brings the material to the guys and they “gang banged it,” arranged it into what ultimately wound up on the album. “There’s a great synergy between the three of us that is just beautiful,” Mascara said.

“We’ve definitely got a good thing going,” Graber said when it comes to playing off each other in the creation of the music.

Part sensitive deeply philosophical romantic, part bluesman, part punk rocker and part madman, Mascara’s writings depict an insight that comes out unlike many of his contemporaries like is heard on the album’s opener “Dragonflies.” In it Mascara pays homage to one of his dear friends, Mary Anne.

“I have tender feelings for this person,” Mascara said. “And I wanted to delve into a deeper plan” to fully explore and express those feelings for her.

Combined with that sensitivity is the backdrop of sound that is far larger, thicker, and more articulate than what might seem possible from a three-piece band.

Also on the album is a song that evolved from Mascara’s very deep and personal struggle with bipolarism several years ago. “Listerine” is a metaphor for what substances many who share in that battle use to try and take the edge off the madness that roils within the mind.

In the song he faces his scars, his demons peering deep into the abyss and exposing himself and the experience for all to sense. Anyone who has ever dealt with the illness will certainly hear the pain and anguish within the heartfelt confession.

Musically, the band added touches of dissonance to “create additional tension,” Mascara said. “It’s the appropriate backdrop.”

Mascara nearly lost it all when preparing for a role onstage as Christ in the Tuft’s University production of Jesus Christ Superstar in the mid ’90s. He described basically torturing himself by not eating or sleeping, among other things until he wound up at McLean Hospital for a month, which also happened to be the place where another of his heroes, Sylvia Plath received treatment.

“I really wanted to become Jesus Christ,” Mascara said. Instead of being able to perform the role, Mascara’s breakdown forced him to miss out, but he did face the demon and began treatment. But he the opportunity to “be” Christ resurrected itself in 2000 when Boston Rock Opera’s traditional Christ, Gary Cherone, decided he wanted to play Judas instead.

“An amazing dream realized,” Mascara said of the fortuitous occurrence.

Though he doesn’t want to be thought of as someone who suffers, that was so 15 years ago, Mascara doesn’t shy away from pouring out his feelings in song or on stage forcing the listener to feel and understand the mind.

“If you confuse people’s expectation it will trigger more synapses to pop in a listener’s head,” Mascara said.

Another of the songs, “High School” is based upon Mascara’s perceptions of his real father’s life growing up in Brooklyn. Mascara was adopted and wrote a song that is as powerful and dark as life on the streets of the Big Apple can be in reality, yet used a minimalist mindset and still paint a vivid word picture.

The song is short, or at least was until Barringer got hold of it. “He wanted to add a “Day in the Life” style of ending,” Mascara said. So what was once a two minute blast of the mind expanded and morphed into a seven minute gurgling primal scream for understanding, thanks to Barringer’s idea for a near never ending cacophony of reverb and Tesla-like static extending out into the blackness of space.

But unlike the Beatles’ coda to “Day in the Life,” the guys urged Mascara to free form over the manic sound. For effect, Mascara said he chugged a quart of milk to get that “guttural thing going on” and went off, improving a series of poetic and maddening bursts of mental anguish that the Effervescing Elephant Syd Barrett would have enjoyed. “Once we got started tracking it, it turned into molten lava,” Mascara said.

Creatively the guys are just getting started to truly tap the resources of Mascara’s mind and their own inner musical madness together. They will continue to play in their other incarnations, including Mascara’s appearances with Ad Frank & the Fast Easy Women, where he plays keys alongside Rabdau.

Will one day the three play a show bringing together the extended family of artists intertwined into one pulsating, sensuous, and ripping glory? Only time will tell.
- The Noise

"Digitized, hospitalized, crucified, and resurrected"

N.E. Performer Spotlight
by C.D. Di Guardia

Christopher Mascara has, in a way, spent his entire life in the spotlight. At 11, he was featured in the Del Ray New Journal in a story celebrating “the boy with the golden ear,” a local prodigy who played the organ hours on end. “I want to get on a Little League team,” reported young master Mascara, “But the organ comes first.”

As a decade passed, the boy grew up and came to Boston from his native Florida to study religion at Tufts University. He mixed his interest in theology with a new interest — musical theater. The “boy with the golden ear” became the Savior, in the form of Jesus in the Tufts production of Jesus Christ Superstar. Around 10 years later, this person was banned from TT the Bear’s for dropping trou on stage.

Fast forward to this recent Christmas. Countless families welcomed him into their living rooms in the form of the dancing spritely video game character “Male Lead Vocalist” in the hit game Rock Band.

“They just liked my moves,” says Mascara, who spent two eight-hour workdays in a motion capture studio, clad in naught but a spandex motion-capture suit adorned with little golf ball-sized motion sensors.

While Mascara has gone through a series of line-ups, he admits that he prefers the trio format — currently including Bo Barringer (bass and vocals) and Matt Graber (drums) — above all others. “There are less places to hide,” he grins. All three members of the group are veritable veterans of the local rock scene — Barringer has been seen most lately fronting Me & Joan Collins, in which Mascara sits in on keyboards. Graber has taken the drum seat for early acts such as Zipper Girl and Gulliver Foyle. He is probably “the quiet one” of the group, although anyone would seem reserved sitting near the flamboyant Mascara.

“This is the best we’ve ever sounded,” says Mascara, who has been making music under his own name since the beginning. “I mean, we’ve got a good name,” he exclaims. “It kind of fits the style of the band, sort of a glammy prog,” he says, shaking off the initial revulsion that can come at the mention of either word. Mascara’s music is as exuberant as the man himself, full of well-practiced flourishes. Having been making noise in the local scene for over 10 years, Mascara has learned more than a few lessons along the way.

He seems comfortable, but always looks for what’s next, and what’s next right now is the current lineup’s first studio album. Mascara, an old hand at the recording game, has an innovative production method that newer bands may not be able to fathom.

“I don’t listen to it outside of the studio before it’s done. No rough mixes, nothing,” he explains. “I’ve done the thing where you take it home and listen to it over and over,” he explains, with a hand motion of something spinning endlessly — yet tailing down. “It’s better to come at it fresh,” says Mascara, who says his most recent release Spell hints at the content of the new record, “But it’s going to be a little bit harder.”

Another thing this band is doing that is outside of the norm is playing out aggressively during their studio time. In an era where most bands shut down the live show and concentrate on the studio work, Mascara is seemingly onstage every weekend. “I like it,” says drummer Graber, “Otherwise I’m done recording in a few days, then I’d just have to sit around.”

“Just sitting around” are words that do not appear to be in Mascara the band’s vernacular. Christopher Mascara the man has been in the spotlight for almost thirty years now, and he does not seem at all ready to relinquish it just yet. He has been digitized, hospitalized, crucified and resurrected. “I’ve learned a lot, that’s for sure,” says the effervescent veteran. “Just keep on working. Bigger and better.” - Performer Magazine

"Chris Mascara comes back from the brink"

Playing with poetry
Mascara find inspiration in the classics (cover story)


Mascara's debut album, Cellar Door , was a psychic time bomb, meticulously assembled and tightly wound, at its most harrowing and sonically edgy drawing inspiration from singer/guitarist Chris Mascara's own personality meltdown and recovery. Five year later, the group's new Spell is an outright explosion: short at five songs, but full of terse, rippling energy and still wrapped, in part, by Mascara's need to explore who he is both in words and in sound. It's a loud, quick jolt — but more playful than Cellar Door as well, with its recording of a creaking gas-meter dial providing a coda for “Time Is a Lie” and the tune “Percy's Revenge” poking at issues of identity with a schoolboy's rhyme and a guitar chiming dark as the bells of Purgatory.

There's also a sense of theatricality spiking out of the mix's bold vocal melodies, pounding rhythms, and braying guitar flourishes. Which isn't surprising given Mascara's background in musical theater, which includes playing the lead role in Boston Rock Opera's 2000 production of Jesus Christ Superstar . But his now-supercharged singing is foremost among the new disc's broader gestures, which announce that when Mascara the band take the stage this Friday at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, after an extended break, there will be new turns in the works.

“ Jesus Christ Superstar was a big boost to me — a learning experience as a vocalist,” Mascara says when we meet at his Medford home. “I was singing next to [Extreme's] Gary Cherone, who played Judas, and that was pretty intimidating. But it was inspiring, too. You have to have your shit together when you're working with someone of that caliber.

“Also, when we were working on Cellar Door , everybody involved in the studio band was present while I was recording, and there was a lot of nit-picking. A lot of guitar overdubs I had in mind got nixed, and dirtier tones, and vocally there might have been a little erring on the side of accuracy rather than feeling. People were on top of me about pitch and pronunciation, and that can wring the spirit out of it.

“With Spell, we spent months just working on the vocal sound: different microphones, different compressors, different settings. After working on the songs with just the rough vocal tracks, I went home and wrote out the vocal melodies and made sure they were nailed, so by the time I recorded the final performances I was just interpreting and emoting. If the song called for a more intimate kind of performance, I sat on the floor and relaxed. So on Spell there may be a couple of vocal parts that are a little hairy, but what they give in pitch they take in spirit and conviction. It's a matter of singing my tail off in front of the band for years before our break, doing my vocal exercises every morning, and listening to a lot of soul like Jackie Wilson and Chris Cornell for inspiration.”

Numbers like “Frostbite” and “Time Is a Lie” chew on issues of personality and place, but none so much as the disc's closer, “Percy's Revenge,” with its oddball chorus of “This is how I spell my name out/C-H-R-I-S-T-O-P-H-E M-A-S-C-A.” That misspelling of Mascara's name appeared in a school yearbook when he was a kid, but the song's bloodlines of heritage and emotion run a lot deeper.

“I enjoy reading biographies of artists, filmmakers, poets. I read a book about Lord Byron and the legacy of his friend and fellow poet Percy Shelley. There was that night when they all got together on laudanum and Mary Shelley invented the story Frankenstein , so there are those elements of their literary legacy in the book. But I was fascinated by the idea that Shelley was so crazy one night he took a skiff out into a raging storm at sea and that's how he died. They had a burial and pyre for him on the beach, and legend has it one of his friends took his heart and saved it in a box, saying, ‘This is the purest thing.' So there's a line in ‘Percy's Revenge' where I sing, ‘Take my heart/May it stand for something other than what I am.'

“It's asking what's the purity of my heart and soul versus the identity I've been given, which I am a little hung up on because I was adopted. I don't take heritage and identity and family for granted. For me, that's really a raw song.”

He's equally inquisitive about the nature of guitar sounds and their emotional effect. To that end, the four gleaming hollow-bodied six-strings waiting on stands nearby like obedient servants as we speak are all in different tunings: standard for the ripping leads, and then Mascara's own tunings constructed around open strings that hit various unisons, fifths, and octaves when plucked together. They produce combinations of notes that grind, create uneasiness, or soothe — all at the whim of a player who developed his extensive grasp of harmony, rhythm, and melody as a child organ prodigy. Two — a Gretsch and a Gibson — are recent acquisitions that have already inspired Mascara to write a batch of songs for the full-length he plans to start recording in spring.

“The combination of my unique tunings with the open, breathy sound of the archtop guitars is my signature as a player. I love the feeling of discovery, and that's part of my effort to sound like nobody else. Eddie Van Halen sounds like himself; same with Jorma Kaukonen. If you're gonna be a lead guitar player, you've got to do something that really expresses what you're about.

“Each of my tunings have a specific body of songs they go with, and they've inspired me to write, so I really love and value them. But that doesn't mean I won't twist a peg on a headstock tomorrow and find another tuning — and maybe, then, another group of songs that I've just gotta write.”

MASCARA + BINARY SYSTEM + RAMONA SILVER + ADAM GLASSEYE | Lizard Lounge, 1667 Mass Ave, Cambridge | Jan 20 | 617.547.EAST - Boston Phoenix

"Hub rocker Mascara is headbanger of choice"

Hub rocker Mascara is headbanger of choice
(cover story)

by David Wildman

Chris Mascara was once best known locally for playing the Son of God in “Jesus Christ Superstar.” Now, thanks to Cambridge-based video-game developer Harmonix, millions the world over are enjoying his portrayal of another cultural icon: the lead singer in the “Rock Band” video game.

Mascara, along with another local rocker, guitarist Bryn Bennett of the band Bang Camaro, auditioned for the chance to do “motion capture” work for the groundbreaking game. They were flown to the gymnasium-sized New York soundstage of Curious Pictures, wore spandex suits covered with marble-sized silver balls and ran through every rock move known to man in front of an audience of motion-capture cameras. “It was really fascinating,” said Mascara, 39. “They would play music at a certain tempo and ask me to do any of three gradations of stage energy, either standing still or ambulatory. And we would do this to three different styles of music. It was a lot of fun, but it was a marathon.”

A longtime fixture on the local rock scene, Mascara was urged to try out for the role by fellow “Superstar” alum Peter Moore, who has done work for Harmonix and sings with both Count Zero and Blue Man Group. The game developers were looking for performers to portray styles from punk to heavy metal. Mascara was able to ace them all.

“At our auditions, Chris had a grab bag of props,” said Ryan Lesser, Harmonix art director. “As we ripped through all of the tryout songs (by Metallica, AC/DC, Queen, Bowie) he would take 10 seconds to do a quick change and come back as a totally different persona. It was pretty impressive.”

Bang Camaro’s Bennett, a Harmonix employee whose band’s music is featured in the video game, auditioned to play one of the guitarist characters. He was decidedly a little less comfortable in the situation than Mascara.

“It’s two guys in a room playing AC/DC and they’re saying ‘Head-band more! Do this! Do that!,’” said Bennett. “I never get stage fright, but that was terrifying.”

But Bennett enjoyed himself at the shoot, dancing around with a cheap guitar and gamely trying to move like Angus Young when called upon. But ultimately, he said it felt “horribly un-rock’n’roll.”

For Mascara, the chance to strut his stuff for an audience of thousands – and eventually millions – of gamers, was nothing less than a dream come true.

“Maybe I’ve spent too much of my adolescence practicing my moves in front of a mirror,” he said, “but for me it was a treat being able to use my performance skills that I’ve honed since I was a kid – and get paid as a professional for it. This is the most rad thing I could hope to do, short of striking a chord with my own music.”
- Boston Herald

"Losing his religion"

Names & Faces
By Michael Saunders and Jim Sullivan

Chris Mascara has the title role in Boston Rock Opera's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar," running tonight through Saturday at the Mass. College of Art’s Tower Auditorium. But it's not the first time Mascara 32, has attempted the role. In 1989, when he was a comparative religion major at Tufts University, Mascara was tapped to play Jesus in a college production of the show and freaked, ending up in McLean Hospital for three weeks.

"I had my rock 'n' roll band at the time, the Void," Mascara says, "but had yet to make a foray onto stage in college. I was thrilled [to get the role] but at the same time, I had to make this some kind of spiritual quest, an opportunity to delve into the mystical side of the religious experience. I thought I had to purify, cleanse, and purge." He fasted and lost 20 pounds, meditated, did yoga, put himself through sleep deprivation, and finally was over taken by paranoia 'It was a psychotic breakdown," he says. He had become "not Christ-like, but weird. I wigged out." He withdrew from the play.

Approached by BRO to play Jesus this year, Mascara says, "I didn't know if I wanted to open that door. But once I did, I said I'm going to conquer this dragon once and for all. Now, I feel great on stage. When I'm home, I do have moments of fear, but not that I'm going to lose my mind. I'm an adult now."

- Boston Globe

"A vocal powerhouse as Jesus"

Boston Rock Opera's resurrected "Superstar" is mostly a heavenly delight


In cream-colored crewneck-sweater and khakis, the title character in the Boston Rock Opera production of Jesus Christ Superstar merits a note in the playbill reading, "deity's clothes provided by the Gap." (Can't you see the ad campaign: "Everyone in a crown of thorns!")

Yet it's just that homogeneity of appearance in this modern dress production that drives home the theme of an ordinary man rising to extraordinary heights in Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's 30-year-old rock opera.

A vocal powerhouse as Jesus, Chris Mascara is, like many of the BRO players, a true rock musician, and he brought a sparkly charisma to his role Thursday night at the Tower Auditorium. That charm is essential to the occasionally hokey show's format, the inevitable result of mashing together two disparate genres and mandating that all dialogue be sung.

Jesus Christ Superstar chronicles the last seven days of Jesus' life. The show's big story and even bigger music lends itself to a style of overacting from which director John Whiteside kept the BRO players from succumbing. While some in the scrappy cast were clearly more accomplished than others—with varying degrees of rigidity—hamminess never exceeded a level inescapable in a Lloyd Webber world.

Mascara was the picture of stillness and economy of movement early on, making his eventual explosion at God during "Gethsemane" much more dramatic.

Former Extreme/Van Halen lead singer Gary Cherone's Judas was as jittery as Jesus was calm. It's easy to see why Cherone, after playing the title role in two previous BRO productions, would want to switch parts. With his conflicting emotions, melodramatic songs and spectral reemergence—in silver leather pants, fronting a choir of angels clad in negligees and platform shoes—Judas is a much more fun part. And Cherone imbued his relationship with Jesus with an interesting undercurrent of romantic tension. The same can be said for Valerie Forgione's graceful Mary Magdalene.

On a spare stage outfitted with scaffolding--behind which an excellent seven-piece band played—the ensemble was likewise strong with several players deserving of kudos, notably Peter Moore's excellent Floyd-ian portrayal of Pilate and Pat McGrath's hilariously hedonistic King Herod. - Boston Herald

"Not like other kids on the block"

On The Rise
by David Wildman

Chris Mascara has a strange name (and yes, it is real), but the name doesn't even scratch the surface of how unusual this 31 year old guitarist/singer/songwriter really is.

At age 8, he taught himself to play classical organ and began performing at churches and on the radio. By his mid-teens, he was teaching himself Kiss songs on the guitar. In 1995, he played sitar in the Boston Rock Opera production of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band"; the following year he was a cast member in that company's production of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and, was understudy to Gary Cherone (now the lead singer of Van Halen) as Jesus.

His true weirdness, however, comes out in the dark, twisted words and expansive avant-pop of songs like "Electrode," "Carnival," and "Cellar Door" on his band Mascara's debut CD.

"I was taking a course called the Literature of Chaos at Tufts, and I had a nervous breakdown and ended up at McLean Mental Hospital," says Mascara. "l wrote 'Carnival' about the way the other patients there helped me cope more than the staff did."

He also wrote "Electrode" about shock therapy and dedicated it to the poet Sylvia Plath, who had once been incarcerated at McLean, although Mascara, who was in the hospital for about a month, was not himself subjected to such treatments.

Singing in a dramatic style and creating opuses that veer from heavy Led Zeppelin riffing to spaced-out Frank Zappa-esque experimentation within a four-bar phrase, Mascara has a musical style that doesn't fit into any comfortable niche.

"I'm not like the kids that grew up around here and were into the Ramones when they were in their teens," says Mascara "But I'm not, ashamed that I grew up on classic rock, either."

His wildcat howls can bring to mind the randiness of Robert Plant, and occasionally echo the bombast of "Jesus Christ Superstar." And Iyrics such as "He takes bong hits too long with Victor the Wild Boy, but nouns do not represent reality' (from the song "Cellar Door" off the CD of the same name) show a literary bent not usually found in rock music. He even quotes Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges in one song.

Live, the heady lyrical concepts tend to dissolve into the clatter and bluster of the music. In a recent show at Kirkland Cafe, the audience was sparse, but Mascara nevertheless flung his guitar dramatically around the stage and cut loose with confident singing while a sturdy bassist and equally sturdy drummer, both of whom Mascara pays as his backing band, kept the spirited and complex arrangements moving along smoothly.

"Sometimes we'll be playing at some club on a Wednesday night and on the surface it can seem like such a drag, like we're cursed, but I think we're blessed," he says. "How many people get to experience being on a stage in front of people, and on top of that performing something you've gotten really good at, and maybe even speaking your mind or your heart about something? That's a blessing." - Boston Sunday Globe

"The kind of music that shakes things up"

Up & Coming Weekly / Zwire!
Fayetteville, North Carolina

Music Scene
By: Brian Dukes

I can't remember the last time I wrote a review of a Boston band. Heck, I can't remember the last time I wrote anything about Boston ... at all.

Well, that's about to change.

It's with a salute to the best gender-bending traditions of Franz Ferdinand and Freddie Mercury that you'll find the music of Mascara. Their latest release, a six-track EP entitled Spell, is out to generate buzz about their next upcoming full-length. And if the desired effect is to produce curiosity, then the Mascara has run its proper course.

Some will listen to Spell and hear "weird;" some will listen and hear "avant garde genius." The truth probably lies somewhere between those two points; but make no mistake - Mascara is unique and exactly the kind of music that shakes things up every so often. And that's a good thing. Think Radiohead in drag or what would happen if Frank Zappa had a love child with Robert Plant.

Lead vocalist and frontman Chris Mascara (yes, that's his real name) has great pipes and a great sense of showmanship as a singer (and, yes, you can hear that on a CD). Mascara the man, as well as the band, is unafraid to try different, off-kilter rhythms or to experiment with musical elements. Spell is not your straightforward release. It's musical and theatrical insanity.

And while that may not be everyone's cup of tea, it's a necessary counterpoint to the musical "norm." - Up & Coming Weekly / Zwire!

"One of the area's most dynamic performers"

Best Of The Batch: Mascara, Spell
By Matthew S. Robinson

Chris Mascara is one of the area's most dynamic performers. From Boston Rock Opera to his own variety shows at venues all over the Boston area, he is constantly exploring and flexing his creative capabilities. On his latest EP, Spell , Mascara combines flavors of The Beatles, David Bowie, Queen, and OhMyGod with his own musical and spiritual proclivities, sharp production sense, and plain and simple great rock.

Opening with the heavy sweeps of “Great Divide,” Mascara invites listeners to join him and his band mates (bassist Chris Girard and drummer Rikki Bates) in a leap of faith. Tumbling through the torqued fun house bounce of “Frostbite,” Mascara then hooks into the temporal bonds of existence in the plaintive ballad “Time is a Lie.”

After a brief “pressure conversion,” the band lets loose, thankfully secure in the driving knowledge that there is “No Afterlife.” Before signing off, Mascara signs his musical name on the heavily dotted lines of “Percy's Revenge,” a violent exploration of self that puts a poetic period on the album's multifaceted mystical message. - MusicDish

"Compelling CD fueled by hell-fire guitar"

Cellars by Starlight
by Ted Drozdowski

Another compelling local CD fueled by hell-fire guitar is Mascara's debut, Cellar Door (Mascara Records). This four-piece are led by guitarist/singer Chris Mascara. And by Chris's gut emotions. From the opening scream of Tim Kelly's lap steel guitar on "Carnival" to the menacing tritone chords that hang beneath the verses of "Sweet Anne" to the droning deadpan string strikes and prickly leads that emerge everywhere, guitars touch the raw nerves of Mascara songs. Which are very raw. The sanatorium chaos of "Carnival" is based on Chris Mascara's own post-breakdown stay at McLean Hospital. The mix of melody and fury in "Electrode" plumbs the numbing effect of shock therapy. "JesusSatan" picks at the scabby edges of human nature and the conflicts of religious dogma and morality. And all the time the guitars of Mascara and Kelly do their thing, covering turf that ranges from the grinding distortion of the Velvet Underground to the angular wailing of Pere Ubu and Gang of Four.

"I came up through the ranks as a supporting player, a lead guitar in somebody else's band," says Mascara, whose credits include Nineteen, Box Car Betty, his own Rootlock, and the pit band for Boston Rock Opera (where in addition he understudied Gary Cherone as the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar). "Also, when I was a young kid, I studied classical organ, so I play chords that only a classical organist would love. A lot of the weirdness in question comes from the altered tunings I use. I enjoy making up a song where I'm relying on my ears and not muscle memory or rock formula."

To that end, Chris has developed his own variations on open tunings, and he douses his sound with effects like vintage phase shifters and an Electric Mistress. "A lot of the songs on Cellar Door were among the first bunch of songs I wrote about eight years ago, but when it came time to record, of the 100 or so I've got in my repertoire we felt like those really hung together nicely because of their confessional nature." - Boston Phoenix


CELLAR DOOR (2000, Mascara Records) - full length
SPELL (2006, Mr. Fibuli's Records) - EP
FOUNTAIN OF TEARS (Mr. Fibuli's Records) - full length, release date: January 2010



You have probably seen Chris Mascara perform, though you may not know it. Throughout 2007-08 he modeled moves for all lead singer avatars in blockbuster games ROCK BAND and ROCK BAND 2. Singling him out for his dynamic presence, Game creators Harmonix shuttled him to New York to perform marathon motion-capture sessions in the “spandex suit of lights.”

This year, BLUE MAN GROUP drafted Mascara (yes, his real last name) for grooming as lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist in the “How To Be a Megastar” international touring band, recognizing his chops as a tailored fit for their imaginative rock spectacle.

To collaborate on his original material, Mascara recruited A-list Boston rockers, bassist Bo Barringer (MEandJOANCOLLINS) and drummer Matt Graber (Sarah Rabdau) in 2007. The band enjoys an esprit de corps from past work together in Me&JoanCollins, Boston Rock Opera, Caged Heat, and Make Lisa Rich. Recorded by David Minehan (The Neighborhoods) & David Westner at Woolly Mammoth, the newest release Fountain of Tears is mixed by ShimmyDisc mastermind KRAMER, legendary for his work with Bongwater, Galaxie 500, Ween, Low, Urge Overkill, Butthole Surfers. After discovering MASCARA on MySpace, the Rolling Stone Producer-of-the-Year was so wowed he insisted on working on their new album.

A child prodigy on classical organ, Mascara came to Boston to study religion. Then, cast as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, the role stirred an inner conflict between his love of Rock and need for a spiritual quest; mixing sleep deprivation, fasting and meditation ultimately landed him in McLean Psychiatric Hospital.

Upon his release Mascara formed a band and unveiled the album Cellar Door in 2000 to critical acclaim and airplay on 150 radio stations. With demons conquered, he nailed a second chance to play Jesus in Boston Rock Opera’s Jesus Christ Superstar costarring with Gary Cherone (Extreme, Van Halen). Mascara lent his talents to more BRO productions (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Aqualung), worked with other local acts (Ad Frank, Emily Grogan), and performed ragas with his wife in their project Sitar Tabla Power.

In 2003 Mascara showcased an eclectic biweekly variety show, Scara’s Night Out at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA. It included local rock stalwarts, Celtic dulcimer, Portuguese hip-hop, burlesque dancers, Charlie Chaplin-esque skits, multimedia comedy, poetry, belly dancing; and even drew The Wu Tang Clan out for the theatrical madness.

2006 welcomed the EP release Spell, which brought organ, piano and samples to the fore, versus the exotic sitar, bowed double bass and dobro that characterized Cellar Door. Feted with a sold-out release show, Spell debuted at 14 on CMJ's Most Added Records, charted on 200 radio stations, and garnered feature articles.

Exploring heady themes through raw avant-ballads and angular garage-punk, MASCARA’s newest release pays tribute to tragic artists, 1930’s Spanish poet-iconoclast Lorca (who inspired the album’s title) on "Ainadamar" and 1960’s soul icon Jackie Wilson on "B261." Out this January with a regional tour, Fountain of Tears brandishes the power-trio’s longstanding rapport, which anchors Chris Mascara’s innovative guitar tunings and propels his expansive vision.