In The Flesh
If you are going for that phlegm-drenched evil, burns victim, ax murderer vibe this season, take a look at Nader Sadek's masks. Nader was born in Egypt and now lives and works in New York, where he makes a tonne of masks for Attila Csihar—singer of Mayhem and Sunn O)))—and anyone else who wants to terrify their audience. Nader also writes and performs his own music, stages spectacular live performances, designs t-shirts, creates a multitude of non-mask-related art pieces, and has had a hand in plenty of set design work. He's a pretty prolific dude, so I had a chat with him about some of his work.
VICE: Hey, Nader. So, why'd you first start making masks.
Nader Sadek: Well, I grew up in Egypt and over the years things became increasingly conservative, leading eventually to most women being veiled, which had been unusual when I was growing up. Most women wore a hijab, which covered their hair, but during the mid-90s, a lot of women began wearing niqabs, so they're now completely veiled. Obviously, Egypt isn't all veiled women, by any means, but it has become massively popular, which says a lot about our culture. My parents are Christian, so I'd see the nuns wearing a type of veil too, it wasn't necessarily a Muslim thing, but it said a lot about the Egyptian condition.
What, the covering of the face?
Yeah, you know, why do we need to cover ourselves? Why do we hide from each other? Why do we not trust each other? Obviously, there's something about masks that's very deceptive. Is it a reflection of our inner selves or is it what we wish to become? I was always intrigued by the mystery that a veil or a mask presented, because even if it's intended to be a cover it presents a new duality.
Steve Tucker of Morbid Angel wearing one of Nader's masks in the video for "Sulffer (In the Flesh)".
So how did you go from thinking about all that to making masks for metal musicians? It seems like quite a jump.
Well, I moved to NYC from Cairo and continued a project that I'd started in Egypt called Faceless. When I was in Egypt, I had the full metal look—long, thick hair that covered my face, a big goatee, black Deicide shirts, etc—and it intimidated the locals to the point that walking around some areas of the city wasn't that safe, because I was labeled as a Satan worshiper. When I moved to New York, I wanted to experiment with provoking the same reaction out of New Yorkers, so I dressed up as a woman wearing a niqab, walked around Times Square and Herald Square, and went to women's clothing stores like Victoria's Secret. The clerks in the stores had no idea how to approach me. There was a lot of awkwardness.
Still, though, no masks yet.
Ha ha, no. But I'd made a series of drawings based on my experiences, which is what drew me to the idea of masks, image, and self-projection.
There we go.
I later met Attila Csihar, singer of Mayhem and Sunn O))), among others, and we talked a lot. Initially, I was interested in making molds of people's faces to keep as a souvenir of meeting them, in a way.
Wow, deep. Whose faces did you mold?
At this point I'd made molds of most of my friends, my mother, and some of my relatives. Then, Steve Tucker, former Morbid Angel frontman, Trym, Emperor's drummer, and Stephen O'Malley of Sunn O))), which is how I met Attila. We talked a lot about masks and I offered to make him something, but he wasn't too sure about it because he didn't want something that resembled that Halloween, Slipknot-type mask, or anything too recognizable. In comparison, my masks are kind of abstract and emotional, so I made him one and when he played a show with it, he got really excited and immediately asked me to make ten more, so that's how it started.
Cool. A lot of your masks look super-demonic and some look almost like flesh peeling away from the face, why's that?
I'm not sure, I just let the chemicals do what they do—it's sort of cathartic. I am always thinking of the person so, naturally, it often comes out as some sort of interpretation of them. A good example of that is where I made a mask of Attila's own face for him and he then covered it in the typical black metal corpse paint that you see everyone in every black metal bands wearing nowadays. I think that was a genius move on his part because it really confused people more. I'd made it look a bit damaged and scarred, so when he added the paint it really emphasized those scars and the audience was unable to tell whether he was wearing a mask or not.
That sounds suitably evil. Have you ever made any happy masks?
Ha ha, I don't know anyone who's happy and no one happy has ever asked me to make one. Although, I made a mask for Andrew WK—who's all about partying—and he wanted an ultra-realistic mask of his face with like, the exact same stubble, birthmark and stuff, to the point that I had to insert each individual hair on his chin. Conceptually, I thought it was a great idea because it was for a video for a song called "I'm A Vagabond", the lyrics of which suggest that people will never be able to figure him out. So, him wearing a mask of himself was a perfect way to bring that across symbolically.
A face mold of Nader's mother from his Paradox Complex project.
Have you ever thought about the sexual side of masks? I spoke to a guy recently who's into female masking, where guys wear latex masks of women's faces to get them off.
No, but that reminds me of an episode of Tales From The Crypt where this woman meets men at Halloween parties, seduces them, and engages in sexual acts with them. Because it's Halloween, the guy thinks she's wearing a mask and tries to rip it off, but it turns out to be her real face, which looks like a Halloween mask. It's pretty dark.
Nader before and after his Faceless project.
I can imagine some of your masks working in a high fashion context. Do you follow fashion or any designers at all?
Yeah. I mean, I get curious sometimes and check it out, or if I see a fashion magazine I'll flip through it. If I see something I like I try to remember the name of the designer so I can research them, but I always forget. I'm more interested in the materials used, especially for, like, women's shoes, because some designers have an extremely high budget so can afford all these seductive materials.
Have you ever contemplated making clothes to match the masks?
Yeah, I've made two suits—one for myself and one for Rune from Mayhem, although I'm not sure he'll ever wear it, as it has to be worn in the correct setting. I usually wear my suit in my own performances. It's a mixture of a military commander's suit and an elegant royalty suit that I cut up and had a tailor stitch back together. It represents a type of imaginary dictator and I only ever wear it with my hair mask, which I use for the main character in my In The Flesh conceptual album/video piece.
Carmen from Ava Inferi.
How important are the masks to you in your own music and performance?
They're very important. They help complete the characters that I'm trying to achieve, in a live setting, as well as in the videos. I think it's very important for each musician to have his image tell a story. You know, I really like that band Portal from Australia. Their sound and appearance is so unique and all the band members wear black stocking-like masks, which completely hide their face. The singer wears a clock necklace and I feel that time is a crucial subject in death metal.
Nice. So, the ultimate mask?
I'd love to make masks out of living tissue—living, breathing, cloned tissue. I eventually want to make sculptures out of cloned human and animal tissue that's fed with nutrients and kept alive. I'd also like to convert machines, such as a car engine, into an engine made of flesh, muscle, and bone, that's being fed the necessary nutrients for the muscles to turn and get the engine started.
That sounds like the most amazing and most disgusting thing ever, all wrapped into one.