Note: This piece first appeared in Australian Guitar #128. Subscribe to our print edition here!
It’s not every day that a routine band interview turns into a meeting with a mythical interdimensional being who happens to play the guitar. Australian Guitar checks out this strangest of musical offerings. Words by Alex Wilson.
The Bakmaster, resplendent in glory as he is, is a creature of great imagination with a penchant for a pithy quote. “These days, musicians say less is more,” he clacks his beak gently. “But for me, more is more. I want music to be big, ambitious and all‑encompassing.”
And who is this Bakmaster? Ask him and he’ll tell you: “Grand observer, guide and oracle to the BaK universe. An interdimensional being hailing from Baklandia – the universe between universes, the space between spaces, the time between time and the void between existence and oblivion.”
BaK, then, is the vehicle for the Bakmaster’s musical output. It’s not so much a band (BaK has never performed live) but more an artistic concept. True to his role as a guide, BaK is a means for the multiverse to be captured artistically.
“It’s complete entertainment,” intones the Bakmaster. “Richard Wagner had a concept called Gesamtkunstwerk – it describes the bringing together of the musical, the visual and the conceptual into one complete artistic package.”
Accordingly, BaK’s latest musical output is more than just the EP, Flower. It also includes a comic book detailing the quest of the Orchid Hunter to find the rare BaK Orchid (and his encounter with the Bakmaster along the way). On top of this, Flower is accompanied by several artistic video clips that bring the listener more deeply into this intriguing multiverse.
To the average music fan, the songs on Flower can best be described using the Bakmaster’s favoured genre tag: ethno-prog. While claiming no particular influence, the Bakmaster’s guitar stylings are reminiscent of both John Petrucci of Dream Theater and Adam Jones of Tool. Compositionally, his songs walk a tightrope between progressive metal’s aggression and the scope of modern movie soundtracks. Orchestral and world music elements are as important in the sound of BaK as crunchy riffs.
In terms of guitars used for the recordings, the Bakmaster has quite a collection – this is less than surprising, of course, considering he’s a being capable of transcending time and space. He speaks fondly of limited edition models by Suhr and Caparison, as well as two Jerry Jones sitars.
The Bakmaster has also taught himself to play the ba lama, sometimes called a saz. “It’s a Turkish stringed instrument,” the Bakmaster explains. “There are seven strings divided into courses of two, two and three. It can be tuned in various ways and takes different names according to its region and size. It’s like the lute or the oud, but has a much longer neck with movable microtonal frets.”
The Bakmaster has many more releases (he calls them ‘BaKpacks’) recorded, ready to go after Flower has spent some time in the world. At the moment, he’s most comfortable in the studio, working long hours with a mysterious German audio engineer, flown in from his home country to an undisclosed location to work with the Bakmaster.
Live performance hasn’t been on the agenda for the Bakmaster thus far. Given the complex nature of the music and the all-consuming nature of his amibition to represent Baklandia faithfully, the regular pub gig is just not going to cut it.
“I know this must sound odd to you, but if we’re going to play live, the first show will need to be a stadium show,” he says. “I’ve put too much into composing and writing this music and nurturing this world to have it be performed in a small location by a handful of people and a laptop. If and when we take it live, it’s going to need to involve lots of people and the right visual presentation to take you into that world.”