Interview w / Steffany Johnston – Vocalist Masqued
Houston Texas now has to its credit a progressive metal band that owns my Top 10 Progressive Metal Albums Of 2017 with Masqued -The Light In The Dark. Coming off a year where the area has damaged on a wide scale to Hurricane Harvey the band Masqued puts out a very positive and uplifting progressive metal album that seems to be lacking in the genre at times. Well this is not the case if Masqued’s lead vocalist Steffany Johnston has something to do with it. Trained at the University Of Houston in Voice and Music and expressing her lyrical ideas with a lifetime of experience at her back Steffany Johnston brings a level of positive enlightenment in the bands debut album The Light In The Dark.
She recently gave Power Of Prog some precious time with the interview you will read below. Bands like Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation and Delain are on notice that another band with a powerful minstrel are on the way up.
First of all Steffany it is great to have you here at Power of Prog. Welcome !
1) This is one of the more obvious questions, what or who influenced your journey into music and how young were you when that had taken hold of you?
It always did. As far back as I could remember, I always knew what I was going to do since I was 4. The first song I remember writing was when I was 6 years old. I always wrote songs. When I got a little older they would come to me in my sleep and in the middle of taking test, when I would write papers, when I would watch t.v., when I would eat, when I was driving. I can’t tell you how many times I had to pull over to write, record or notate my song ideas. I remember being late for things because an incredible song idea would appear as I am getting ready to leave for some event. It was a blessing and a curse all rolled into one lol. I also started playing piano when I was 6 and continued throughout the years and still do today aside of the band, and at the age of 12 I started playing the guitar. I would lock myself away in my room chunking away at rhythms and lifting metal guitar solos. When I was 18 I got a bass and bought some recording gear and would be late for dinner due to writing and recording original songs. I knew that one day I would form a band when I was old enough. I remember running an add in the paper when I was 14 years old, looking for other musicians to start a band with. When I turned 20 I started making a living playing bass guitar and singing locally and internationally. I have performed in numerous bands through out the years and am now grateful to have my place as the vocalist of Masqued.
2. Are you formally trained in music and if so where did you begin your study?
Yes, I have a Vocal Performance/Music degree from the University of Houston. Studying vocal performance, orchestration, arranging and opera. I would perform with the orchestra and with many famous conductors one of them being world renknown Robert Shaw.
I remember driving to school listening to Jazz and fusion then staying at the university all day practicing classical music with the chorus and opera then heading off to practice or to gigs with my rock band. I was like “where do I really fit in? I liked it all and wanted to do it all, I remember feeling so different from most of the people I knew.
3. Do you have any influences outside music that influences any instrumental or lyrical passages in your music?
I believe everything I have encountered over the years has embedded itself in some way in my state of being and comes out to play in my writing. I see a lot of injustice all around and it affects me deeply. Its hard to keep silent when I can demand better for myself and others, to fight for a noble cause or to see the hurting and to bring them a sense of hope. We are all human and are in this mad house together.
4. Your debut album The Light In The Dark is loaded with a lot of very positive and uplifting music, this is something that is becoming lost in the metal or progressive metal communities. Where do you get your lyrical inspirations from?
I feel that there is so much darkness and chaos in the world that it is important to present the trials and then provide a solution, a way of resolve. Music is so powerful, it can give you the will power and strength to get up out of bed after suffering spells of hopelessness from a loss, an injury or failure, sparking new life into you that inspires you to live on. Music also has the power to curse you, to sentence you further into despair when your already down, sometimes so much so that you lose the will to live. You have to be careful with words…there is so much power in what you allow into your mind on a daily basis via words/lyrics and what you speak out into existence. Our themes lyrically are those of liberation, speaking out against hate crimes, fighting for our freedom, finding hope and the strength to live when you have lost the will. We are not going to just lay down and die. Its all powerful stuff. I have heard numerous testimonies of people finding solace in our music. It makes me feel like this is what its truly about, being a bright light in a very dark tunnel, hence the album title “light in the dark.” Life can be brutal.
5. What band or who would be a dream for you to open up for, co headline with for a live show?
Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Nightwish, Within Temptation and so many more.
6. If you had any concept album in you what or who would it be about ?
That is a fantastic question Robert and requires more thought on my end. Perhaps our third release will be a concept album. You have sparked my interest
7. I noticed that Light In The Dark as a album are pretty much straight away rock and metal tracks with hardly a hint of anything like a ballad, was that intentional or just how the album came to it creation?
Haha! Yeah, it just kind of happened that way. However, we have been working on a new collection of songs and yes, there are some brooding ballads. We are all really enjoying and are excited about this stuff.
8. Where did the name Masqued come from?
Choosing a band name was most difficult lol. It is kind of a blur, though I do remember one of my band mates throwing that name out there and it took off in my mind. I found the name rather intriguing with an element of theatrics and mystery. I really like the name and am glad we all agreed.
9) Out of all the music festivals that seem to come back around in Europe and the USA every spring and summer, what would be your dream festival to appear on?
Gosh there are so many…hmmm…I would say any of the Prog Power festivals would be great and definitely Wacken Open Air Festival would be stellar along with Chicago Open Air. To have a prime time spot would be the dream of dreams.
10. What are plans for Masqued by way of touring and performing in 2018? Are you booked for any shows yet?
Absolutely! We have some great shows in the processed of being solidified and will be making announcements soon though I can say the Female Metal Event in the Netherlands is one of our stops. Sooo exciting! Is there any ideas brewing for a follow up to your debut album? Yes, we definitely have a second album cooking right now. I am loving the new stuff, it just keeps getting better and better. So exciting, more great Masqued music IS in the works!!
11) When most bands with both a female and male vocalist are going with the more harsh growls ‘Beauty & Beast’ style vocal, you are your male counterpart Shane DuBose have chosen to go against the grain as it is and remain with clean vocal styles. Was this always the goal of Masqued or did it just happen this way through the evolution of the band?
We admire a great growl and scream but I think we do what is most natural to us. Who knows what will evolve in the future, anything is possible. I can say that we pride ourselves on such a melodic construct and rich harmonies. There is a lot going on in our music, a ton of musicality is what you will find from each Masqued member.
12. The final question, do you have any parting words for your existing fan base or any future fan base that takes interest in Masqued?
First of all I want to thank you all for your love for music and keeping the scene alive. We thank all of our existing fans for your unfailing love and support of us and we Masqued, are looking forward to reaching out and connecting to all of you new fans out there, all over the world. Where ever you are in your journey of life we hope to share it with you through this music; the human experience is very real and can reach great states of joy and punishing sorrows. In all the laughter and tears, we can travel this road, through music that bands us all together. We love to hear from you, messages us anytime, You can connect with us via