In an age where nearly everyone's an open book online, keeping an identity under wraps is a statement—and a challenge.
MASTER BOOT RECORD, the name in front of a manic mix of symphonic metal crunch and quirky chiptune blips, has racked up hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify. And MBR did it without its creator ever having to reveal his name or face.
Tagging himself as "100% Synthesized, 100% Dehumanized," MASTER BOOT RECORD has a brilliant visual aesthetic of computer code and retro floppies, and sounds like Matrix coming to life on a dusty Apple IIe to cover Opeth. But, as its creator tells us, the decision to express himself this way wasn't merely artistic, and comes with its own unique set of advantages. On the strength of that mysterious image and those hyperactive riffs, MBR has been welcomed into the family of esteemed label Metal Blade, which will put out an album in 2020. We talked to MBR about performing behind a shroud.
Spotify for Artists: Why did you decide to be "anonymous"?
MASTER BOOT RECORD: First off let's say it clear: Being anonymous is a myth and is literally impossible. To really believe in the possibility of staying anonymous is just naive. My decision [comes] simply from the fact I wanted people to focus on my music rather than my persona. In one of the project[s] I had before, there was a huge focus on the band image and my persona, since I was also the singer/guitarist. People would just see the surface, and other[s] would just get pushed away by the strong band image. With MBR, since it's also instrumental and entirely synthesized and "dehumanized," I thought it would just make sense. There's lots of people who know who I am, but I just don't promote it publicly.
Do you think the fact that you have created a mystique has resulted in MBR getting more attention?
I'd rather say that this helped people be objective about my music. From my experience… the more people know your personal sphere, the less they give you credit, or even care. Especially other artists. There's a huge amount of my best friends that don't even check my music. It's probably a sort of psychological mechanism. Sometimes, especially when you are doing good, they are kind of trying to let your stuff down because they know you personally and maybe don't like the fact you are doing good. Sometimes there isn't even malice in that, it seems more like an automatic thing. So many times some other musicians wrote me stuff like, "Is it you MBR? For real?" Like they don't believe you could be doing music they actually like.
Never get to know your idols, they say. And that's entirely true. That is why I have entirely stopped [checking] personal profiles of the people that [create] art I like because often you just lose interest in them for stupid reasons. Maybe just 'cause you don't agree with [what] you see them saying, or they just don't meet your expectations. So in a way, yes, being anonymous—or rather, not promoting publicly my persona—helped me to get my stuff taken more seriously.
What are the specific challenges of keeping your identity a secret?
In my case there's no challenge. I don't really care if people discover who I am. Also, sometimes [it] could be fun for people to find it out by themselves. It's really easy; it takes a few Google searches anyway. But what happens is that, when they do it, they already start… having a different view on your material. Even if some people know who I am inside the MBR bubble of influence and reach, there will always be billions more that still do not even know my project and, when landing on my page, won't find any info about my persona. So to try keeping up with making yourself anonymous is as easy as just not saying it publicly because most people will have to do their own research… and I can certify to you, the vast majority of them don't even care or have time for that.
What are the disadvantages of an artist staying anonymous?
I can't particularly find any disadvantage if not that of [not] being personally credited for something. But unless you have a big ego that requires this, I don't see a problem. To be honest, I don't really care if I get personally recognized or associated directly for what I do or not. All I care is to see people like what I do, and that's what really count[s]. I don't even put credits or descriptions on my albums. Just my crypto-puzzles, and you even gotta decrypt them. That kind of explain[s] it all about how I see it.
What advice do you have for an artist hoping to remain a mystery?
Give up and don't be ridiculous. If you really believe you can manage to do that you are being immature and know nothing about the modern world. But still, you can decide to stop promoting your personal information, which is only good for you in the end. I don't go bothering people on the street to show me their picture and that of their family and to ask what they think. So the same should [be true for] people online. The internet is not a joke. It's not a game. It's as real as the physical world and is much more invasive.
—Christopher R. Weingarten