Friday, 12 October 2012


In the first in what I hope to be a series of interviews, Massassination will interview some of the movers and shakers in the modern Mas fraternity to gain some insight on the background of the designers, their creative thought processes and what influences their themes and concepts.
Aaron Schneider: Photo; Jeff Mayers
For the first interview, Massassination went to the Maracas St Joseph Studio (The SEVEN Workshop) of Aaron Schneider the designer of the new band Generations Carnival that held their media launch on the 6:10:2012 at the little Carib theatre of their 2013 presentation ‘Lifting of the 7 veils, which has so far attracted a lot of positive attention and reviews from those who love mas, both in Trinidad and abroad.
It’s ironic that Aaron in 2007 got a Massassination’s first ‘5 star rating’ for the 2008 band know thyself , while the band did not make it too the streets of Port of Spain I still say on paper it was a winner and a classic. Fast forward to 2012 and Aaron Schneider is again producing mas that can easily change the balance of whatever category ‘lifting of the 7 veils’ is entered in.

Mas Assassin: ‘So Aaron, tell me a little about your past’:

Aaron Schneider: “I came from Paramin so I have been bending wire since I was 6 or 7, so that’s where my carnival involvement began, but my first real involvement was actually in London in 1997-98 when I worked in the Oval house theatre (South connections) with Ali Pretty and Ray Mahabir, it was a lot of batik work, I worked with them for 3 years then I returned home... I worked with Poison, Wayne Berkley, Trevor Wallace, a little work with Minshall so I've been in the industry a long time.
Wrath sketches at the studio.
As a designer the last band I designed was ‘ROME’ the last Band of the year title that Trini Revellers won, then they made the decision to go bikini after that me and Wayne Berkley, but that was after his stroke so I mostly designed Rome...The Drawings are sitting in the National Library with my signature and I can't even get to see them. After that was Oracle as you know that did not work out but I remained in the industry doing bead and bikini stuff, and at the start of this year  I decided this year come poverty or whatever I was not doing it any more ...I was unfulfilled ...and the universe gave me a chance and the good people at Veltronics (Veltronics limited authorised dealer for BOSE) said we like your designs let’s try it out...and that’s how the lifting of the 7 veils came about.”

M.A: What’s your theme for Carnival 2013?

AS:  "The theme is the lifting of the 7 veils, an exploration of the 7 deadly sins, I wanted a theme that reminded you of carnival then, we used to have these basic themes and then they used to explore it that’s what I wanted to do. I did not want to go to heavy  because I believe people need to be slowly re introduced to mas, it has to be a process and this is step one of that process, using materials that they know, then juxtapose with elements they may not like wire etc and hopefully they will come.  So you find your sin, buy the costume wear it for 2 days and hopefully a cleansing would take place."

M.A: What influenced the look of L7V?
Wrath prototype at Seven workshop.
AS: “The owners wanted a commercial band so that influenced the look ...there are a lot of feathers so it’s a pretty band...there are some paintings on the internet that represented the 7 deadly sins  ...I also thought we should somehow incorporate elements of mas so the Bookman’s wings influenced envy’s wings, the jab jab’s wings influenced lusts wings the Dame Lorine influenced the skirt there are elements from mas so people that know it will recognise it and say but hey! Those are bookman wings... so the influence is the pretty mas of now, with elements of then”, so basic form and structure goes back to tradition but making it more contemporary."

M.A: What size is the band?

Aaron setting up a prototype of Greed
AS: "We're looking at 500 costumes we are not making more than 500 costumes. We not trying to be 3000 people we're hoping for a medium category."

M.A: Are you going to have Kings and Queens?

 AS: “Not this year this year we're going to have 7 individuals the 7 deadly sins.” 

M.A: What did you learn from your Oracle experience?

A.S: “ wow...when I did the Oracle I learned, the spirit of carnival was escaping our grasp, two that quite contradictory to what everyone said about beads and bikinis that that is all people want , I learned that was not the truth, because people responded to the designs, I learned most of all there was a desire and need to see work people want to see something that excites them and moves them ...and I held that in my heart until I got the chance to do it again and hopefully people can look at it and say I like that it got no gems but I can see myself in it, and that’s most important to me, not to win band of the year...but to make a difference to the minds that are coming in now...and what’s exciting is this band has a strong response from the university students,  they are the upcoming generations that are saying yes! That is what I want to play mas in.

 We live in the age of the internet now people are seeing Alexander McQueen, all these amazing things happening and they want to be part of that world movement as far as art and design is concerned. So the U.W.I based  generation seeing this can see the art in the design and are excited about it, so if all goes well we will have the older generation who knew Minshall and Berkley  and this new generation who are learning about them, and if that can happen the band is a success.

Sloth: Photo by Jeff Mayers
I had to do Oracle and learn the lessons from Oracle so I can come back now and be better prepared and the Oracle is coming through in this band, designs that were sitting in me for years came out and I said to myself, that’s the Oracle, it still wants to speak ...and the message here is important and the same as the Oracle, look at yourself and think of what you can do to make this a better society...let’s examine ourselves and see what we can do better. That’s what the lifting of the veils is about its identifying your sins, identifying your  issues, celebrating it in full revelry for 2 day and when ash Wednesday comes, throw it off ...get rid of it...lift your veil and let’s move forward .”

M.A: Describe the band for me. Tell me about the sections, take me through the band:
Vanity male: Photo J.R
AS: SLOTH:  “I used shades of blue I wanted sloth to feel like a lazy dream, a crinkled untidy slow movement, so it’s very wispy and soft and’s probably going to be one of the more commercial sections because it has the fan shape of feathers and that sought of thing..."
Envy: Photo Jeff Mayers.
VANITY:  "The second section is vanity she is purple and gold the man has more feathers than the woman, (at the media launch I was asked how come there are so many feathers on the man, feathers are more for women, I said all the feathers you see for carnival is male birds they coming from cock feathers not hen..Vanity is feathers satin ribbons, loops, indulgent..."

ENVY: "The third section is envy, green, sharp, pretty but aggressive a lot of textures alot of layers with a bright yellow gold..."
Greed at the media launch.
GREED: "White and Gold, Right now I think greed is carnivals sin all of us want money first we drive fast and everybody on the avenue, we have become a very greedy society and that is why the greed section is white and gold ...greed has changed its face greed was like a miser an evil character ...greed has changed now, greed is sophisticated now... very pretty greed says give me money and we will save Haiti buy this product and we will give part proceeds ...why give part proceeds why not all proceeds?  Greed is now good ...and I wanted to use the dove of peace but I thought the church might take issue with it...we have to do something about our greed we may not realise it now but we  are now reaping the rewards of a greedy society...greed is close to my heart."
Wrath: at media launch. Photo JR.

WRATH: "black there are 3 costumes to wrath to represent the 3 types of anger that I find we have nowadays the whole county vex, we bad drive, you getting cuss, can I get a 2 piece and fries? WE HAVE NO MORE WINGS! DIS HOUR YOU COME FOR FRIES?  That is how we communicate and we have a general anger ... then we have a passive anger which is a male costume, people now communication you always have to figure out if that person trying to give you a ‘pong dey’...we don't communicate with eyes any more ...we communicate with cliché and innuendo, and that kind of thing and then there is the wing costume the generic open anger I trying to layer the costumes without making the mas too heavy."

LUST: "is sex, lust is my representation of you want sex let’s do sex, a black bikini bottom, with a little red slash like she dye her vagina hair red , you want sexy, let’s go for it and examine it and see if there is really so much to it, let’s see if it’s enough to cover the whole of carnival, let’s do lust a visitation of the jab jab, ...and modernise the shape and the form a little bit, so once again keep it commercial and see if they wear the costume. A lot of people say the red vagina hair will be an issue ...but if you can hang a few plastic beads why not some felt..."

GLUTTONY: "Textures mixed of all the sections a well organised ...but too much material  the approach is to make it look like the masquerader  got the costume and added more to it, the most feathered  costume but still naked.
Greed, Envy, Vanity, Sloth: male costumes that the media launch. Photo: Jeff Mayers.

We have to break out of this uniformed mentality, carnival has become uniformed and militant, fighting a war they don't even realise their fighting every band every bead and bikini, is killing Vieira, killing Berkley, killing Minshall killing the essence of what got it to that point ...Indian mas can't cross the stage because tribe is on the stage ...hopefully step by step we will get back to where we should be...or where it might serve us better as a nation today.
My life is carnival and I honestly believe I was put here to do carnival I am happiest when I'm doing it.”

M.A: Who in mas has had the biggest influence on you and your work?

AS: 'Peter Minshall and Wayne Berkley, Berkley taught me things that is important on the business aspect of have to be commercial people must be able to, on one level before you establish your band, understand what you're trying to communicate, and so right now my mas is more inspired by my time with Berkley than my time with Minshall and it’s simply because people need to understand it, and when they understand it then I can afford to get a little deep...but for now I want them to understand'.

M.A:  Are there any young designers of note that you have seen coming up?

AS: 'There are tons...if the tethers were taken off...they can do some amazing work... I know if you take the tethers of these guys and let them go wild ...we are such a talented people I think once we take of the tethers they will come out.'

M.A: Where would you like to see yourself in 5 years time?

AS: '5 years from now I would like to have this band up and running but more importantly I want to make the steps so I can be a big part in the change of carnival 5 years from now I want to see the first stages of carnival being where it should be...I will like to die knowing I had a part to play in bringing carnival back to us.'

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