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In Words: Mastermind

- Bill Berends - August 2000 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Mastermind band - promotion photo 2001
InsideOut Music

Bill Berends (by email) - August 2000

I have to confess that I didn't knew the band Mastermind when InsideOut Music sent me the CD, but I was blown away and soon surfed the web to get more informations about the band! I was happy when I got the chance to do an interview by email with Bill Berends and here we go!

Why do you named the band Mastermind?

A close friend thought it up some years ago, calling me "the mastermind" and it stuck.

How would you describes your music?

Thoughtful, accomplished, aggressive, evolving, high intensity rock music with a progressive-fusion core. Or as our recent live album title so eloquently puts it; "Prog, Fusion, Metal, Leather, & Sweat". For a marketing sound bite the term "progressive metal" works, although we aren't a proper metal band by current measure I don't think. The music of Mastermind has always been fairly unique which has been a bit of a problem over the years, sorting out what "scene" we are identified with.... Is it progressive? Metal? Fusion? All of the above? None of the above? The answer is of course "yes!&qout;

Why you named your album Angels Of The Apocalypse?

It seemed appropriate for the times and the music.

Who came up with the idea for the artwork?

I came up with the concept, then I described it in some detail to Thomas Ewerhard who did a fantastic job of interpreting my ideas. Thomas is retained by InsideOut and has done some remarkable covers for them I think.

Please tell a something about the lyrics! (If possible, coz the promo is a cardlet.)

I think it might actually be easier to just print the lyrics than to describe them! But I will give it a go... Each track is a sort of personal reflection on what one might think about if it were indeed the end of the world. It's not a religious apocalypse so much as a personal one. I don't think the lyrics are pessimistic, in fact The End of the World has sort of an upbeat feel to it, a "new world hoedown" if you will, the old must die for the new to live... what did you accomplish in this life? The other titles touch on war, money, love, religion, and overall I think it is reflective of the things we do in our lifetime.

The album is in the stores for a while now. The CD reviews I saw, been pretty good. How was the reaction in general? Any reactions from fans?

The reviews have been great and general reaction has been very positive. The fans have been very supportive for the most part and I think we are reaching a wider audience. Look at the "reviews" page on the Mastermind website for some examples of what people are saying.

How was working with a new singer, with Lisa Bouchelle?

Having Lisa sing allows me to concentrate more on just guitar which I prefer, and writing with her in mind gave me some new freedom to try different things we might not be able to do with male voice, especially mine! *laughs* But I don't consider Lisa a permanent part of Mastermind and may work with other vocalists in the future, however she was the voice I had in mind for the Angels... concept and think it worked out well.

In the past you toured in the States and Japan, as far as I know. Are any concerts planned or a tour? Any shows in Europe?

We have played a few shows recently in the States; opening for Transatlantic and playing Powermad 2000 for example. At heart Mastermind is a real live band. But unfortunately we have not been playing live as much as I would like to for various reasons... Economic and so on. However we are working on some changes now that hopefully will allow us to play live on a more consistent basis. With luck that means we will make it to Europe again sooner or later.

Which bands influenced you?

Everything I've ever heard has had some influence on me, even if that influence is to say 'I never want to do that!' *laugh* But my stronger positive influences include Mahavishnu, ELP, possibly Metallica and some more modern bands... None I would really mention by name I don't suppose, but more general stylistic movements. There aren't many new bands that really excite me and spend more time enjoying older albums than new ones. Classical music and jazz-rock fusion has also had tremendous influence on me over the years.

You're albums show a large variety and different influences. How does the fans cope with the musical changes?

The ones who understand our musical vision can see where we're coming from easily... I mean if all I was concerned about was making "product" we would make the same album over and over again like far too many bands do, especially some of the newer bands (or maybe AC/DC *laugh!*). But if all I cared about was making product (money) I would be programming spreadsheets, not making music! Of course it's nice to make some money too, but that's not the primary motivation, and for the most part the fans seem to appreciate our evolution. Plus it keeps them guessing what we might do next!

The last album Excelsior! was an instrumental one. How was the reaction for that one? Do you think about recording an instrumental album again?

The reaction was very positive, and yes, I might like to do that again. For what it's worth I think Excelsior! is my personal favorite Mastermind album.

On some albums you worked with Jens Johansson (Stratovarius) as a guest musician. Who is playing his parts live?

Last year in 1999 we did a short tour with Mickey Simmonds (Fish, Camel) playing keyboards which was a lot of fun (and documented by our recent live album), however for the occasional domestic show we perform without a keyboard. My guitar synthesizer easily covers most of the parts and we select a set that doesn't emphasize keyboard parts. The primary thing I miss in that case is another soloist to bounce ideas off of, not just keyboard sounds which I can cover myself. However one day we hope to get Jens out live with us which he is willing to do, but as you know Stratovarius has been very busy this year last, so maybe when they take a break he will be available.

Have you already started working on new material? Do the fans have to be prepared for major changes?

I have a lot of new material written... The thing I am working on now is what sort of direction do I want to take it in and exactly who (other than myself and Rich) will we ask to perform on the recording. There will be some surprises I think, but overall I hope to take the various elements we have used over the years and fuse them together into a somewhat recognizable sound. We shall see, I don't exactly know yet. Everything sounds the same to me these days and I don't want to make another record until I am sure I have something to say.

How is the situation for you in the States? Many bands have problems in the States, coz the radio / TV and print media don't support this music.

The situation in the States sucks just as much, if not more, than anywhere else. However just due to the large size of the market you can sell a few albums no matter what the style, but don't expect major media support. For example Stratovarius or even Helloween who do fairly well in Europe and Japan can't even play in the USA. And as for being a fairly new band (or let's say "product"), you better not have anyone in the band older than 24 years old or the media won't touch you. Once again it's all about money, image, and marketing, not music.

How do you got in touch with InsideOut Music?

I studied the marketplace and saw they were a very promising company. I wanted to be involved with them, so I pursued them until they finally gave in and signed us.

I visited your homepage can be found at and it gives a lot of information about the band history. Very funny. Do you support this homepage?

Yes, I do it myself... A hobby of sorts. I listen to music and write HTML, it can be very relaxing, however sometimes it can be hard to keep up to date with all the other things I have to do. Plus sometimes I just don't want to sit down at the computer! I spend far too much time at the computer it seems.

Do you got a lot of mail? Do you have the time to answer your mails personally or do the webmaster answer the faq?

I get far more email than I can handle! Of course I read everything I get from fans pertaining to the band, and appreciate when people take the time to write, but I can't possibly answer it all. If I did I would never get anything else done.

When you started in 1988 progressive metal wasn't very popular. But it seems that you found mates who share the same vision. Is this what you dreamt of?

I am not sure how to answer this... As far as I am concerned the 80's sucked completely. I know there were a few good bands, but overall the whole "feel" of the 80's was greed and conformity and MTV. So the thing that I dreamt of was to be able to make creative interesting music for its own sake, and we actually took our roots from the music of the late 60's and early 70's. Once the era of Ronald Reagan had passed things seemed slightly more open and creative, and the boom in progressive music and new metal seems to support than theory.

If you could choose a band to tour with, which one you would choose?

Whomever would bring the largest most receptive audience of course!! Perhaps Iron Maiden or Deep Purple. On a smaller scale maybe Dream Theater or Fates Warning would be cool.

Thanks for your interest in Mastermind!

I hope this interview make your interested in Mastermind. As I mentioned, I got to listen to the band with their latest release and I'm now discover the older stuff. For the future we all can expect some more interesting stuff from Bill and his friends. I hope that one day I can see them live and that I can talk to Bill personally and probably go more into details...... Thanks Bill!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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