“SHINE festival, mysterious cults, and the art of disappearing” – Interview with Scott Masterson of TRILLIANT (Part 3 – final)
Here is part three, the final installment of our secret interview with Scott Masterson of legendary SHINE band, Trilliant.
MTD: Seriously? Like, what happened to lead up to that? How did this thing even come to be?
Masterson: Honestly, I don’t know and I have always wondered exactly what the events were that led up to that. Here we were, just released our fourth album “Ghost Ship”, coming off a fairly successful national tour of the states and a few dates in Europe, and we finally arrived at the camp/festival location in South Africa, tired and jet lagged. The festival was out in a fairly remote place, we had to ride on a bus along miles and miles of this desolate, rutted out and bumpy dirt road. I remember just thinking “wow – where IS this thing?” Like we were doomed. The whole thing was doomed from the beginning really. It really was a terrible idea, and the label was spending all this money to charter planes and buses to transport concert attendees from Johannesburg to the festival site as they arrived. It was insanity and nobody had any idea where all this money was coming from, because we were all still broke and touring our asses off trying to make money to keep things going. I had tried to make contact with Thune and talk some sense into him but he was unavailable, like he had been really inaccessible for the last couple years. It had literally been two years since we had heard from him or seen him at all and we were not alone in wondering what exactly was going on with the label because it seemed to be running on fumes with nobody at the helm driving it. Things were spinning out of control. Having been on tour was the most normal thing about our lives at the time. Things at the compound had been getting weird, one of the other bands, The Dirty Riders, had been on this hellbent destructive kick, one of the houses at the compound where those guys had been staying had been burned down in an accidental fire. Actually I don’t know how accidental it really was in the end, but that was the official story anyways.
So we got to the spot two nights before the festival was supposed to happen and there was this group of folks, they called themselves “The Cloak of something or other” – some Armenian sounding word I can’t recall – and they were the ones who were pretty much running the show, doing security, driving the buses and setting up the stage lights and all that. They showed us to our campsite and got us all hooked up with food and drink in a big militaristic looking tent city. The Dirty Riders had somehow gotten a bunch of motorcycles into the festival and they were riding them around all day and night, nobody could sleep because of all the noise, the constant roaring of the motorbikes was driving me bonkers. And all night long there were people on the stage, testing and ringing out the PA system, and holding these strange ritualistic sounding chanting sessions that would last for hours.
On the last night, night before the festival was supposed to happen, buses full of people started arriving, the whole hillside was dotted with campfires and tents and hippies beating on hand drums – echoing for miles. Then the next afternoon finally came, and the first act to go on the stage were the Cotillion Friars, they were this sort of folksy almost Peter Paul and Mary type group, but there were like 14 members. People crowded around the stage as the music began and we finally got a look at how many people were there, and it was far less than anybody had thought. Honestly, there were only about a thousand, maybe 1500 people total. The organizers who set the whole thing up obviously had anticipated far greater numbers of people, the crowd was dwarfed by the stage and things were looking pretty sad out there.
MTD: Interesting. So, what was the backstage vibe like once the music started?
Masterson: Honestly it was a bit depressing. Everybody was expecting this huge thing that was promised crowds “bigger than Woodstock” and like I said, there was hardly anybody there. More buses full of people kept coming in after the show started, but I’d say at the high point there were maybe 2 or 3 thousand people, if that. The Dirty Riders were still riding their motorcycles around everywhere, right through the middle of the crowd, I heard some people got injured and had to be evacuated from the makeshift medical tent and taken back to the city to get proper medical care. It was truly nuts.
MTD: So when did the whole thing get shut down?
Masterson: It was about 10 pm that night, just after dark. A band we’d never heard before called “Shanty Devils” were taking the stage, setting up when suddenly we heard the sound of helicopters coming toward the area. All these military looking jeeps and armored vehicles started closing in on the festival, shooting tear gas canisters into the crowd and shining these really bright lights on the area from the helicopters which were now circling the area. I wasn’t close to the stage so I couldn’t really make out what was happening, but someone must have started fighting back because I started hearing machine gun fire and I remember thinking “holy shit, we gotta get the fuck outta here, like right now.” I looked at the guys, whose faces went white as ghosts and we ran to one of the buses that was parked nearby and we got in, started it up and just started driving away as fast as we could, away from the festival grounds. At one point we passed by a group of concert attendees who were throwing rocks at the soldier guys, and one of the soldiers just opened fire and mowed them down like it was nothing. Then another soldier came by and immediately torched the bullet riddled bodies with a flame thrower. It was grotesque and we were all terrified for our lives. I mashed my foot down on the accelerator and just kept going until we were far away. Unfortunately that was when we realized that all of our gear was left back on the stage at the festival, but none of us wanted to go back to get it you know?
MTD: Crazy, so what happened next?
Masterson: Well, in a sense, nothing. We got on a plane and flew back to the states, where we were living at that time. Most of us were actually situated in Portland Oregon at the time. Harris had a flat in Los Angeles as well and he sort of moved back and forth as he needed. I had a place outside Portland where I had lived for the last few years. We all flew home, and didn’t really speak with each other for almost a year after we got back. We just needed to rest up and try to make sense of what had just happened to us. We hadn’t heard from anybody else from the label. We tried calling the compound but it said the line was disconnected. We tried getting a hold of Thune, and he also had a place he maintained in Portland, but he never answered his phone, and when we went by his house, it was all empty and for sale. To this day I have no idea what ever happened to that guy, where he disappeared to. I tried looking for him for quite some time but turned up nothing. We even drove down to visit Harris in LA one time, and we swung by the compound in Topanga, only to discover it too was all boarded up and empty with a big for sale sign on it. We called the number on the real estate sign and got a recording. We left a message but never got a call back. We tried looking up the company on the sign and the city records said it had gone bankrupt and closed almost three years previous. Nothing about it made any sense at all. It was one dead end after another.
MTD: Whoa. Where’d everybody go?
Masterson: Yeah, exactly what we were asking ourselves. Shortly after that, we decided we were just going to jam together a bit, music being the only thing that could help us make sense of the world any more. But we were lost, we’d been through and witnessed a horrible tragedy at the festival, our label dried up and disappeared without a trace, everything was gone. All we had was each other at that point, so we figured what the hell, you know? Let’s jam.
MTD: So how did that go?
Masterson: Well, I rented some rehearsal space in this old warehouse in the Pearl District of Portland, and called the guys and we agreed we were going to start jamming again later that week. But the day came when we were supposed to meet and neither Will nor Harris showed up. Again, I tried to phone them but their phones were both disconnected. It was then that I really started to panic, you know? I mean, how fucked up is that? We were brothers, we would never do that sort of thing to each other, leave without talking, no notice, no discussion, nothing. I thought about calling the police, honestly. I really didn’t know what to do. I went home to think about it, just to clear my head you know? I couldn’t think straight, I felt like I was in a really bad dream. It was flat out surreal.
MTD: So did you end up calling the police or anything?
Masterson: Well, I planned on doing that when I got home, but I never made it that far. I was involved in a terrible car accident on the way home, I collided with a large truck in a head-on crash at about 70 mph on I-5. The truck had veered over and crossed the median – it all happened within the blink of an eye. One second I was driving along wondering what the hell happened to my band mates, and the next I was waking up in a hospital bed with a tube in my throat. They told me I had been in a coma for six months.
MTD: Jesus. Unbelievable.
Masterson: I didn’t have any surviving relatives and no real friends to speak of, I was just…alone, you know? There in that hospital. A couple weeks went by and they declared me fit for release. I didn’t have a car so I phoned a cab, who picked me up outside the hospital. I gave him my address and he drove me there in silence. I felt dead inside. When I got back to my flat, I went inside and stared out a window, just sitting there, for what I think was about 3 days. I don’t know, I sort of drifted out and lost track of time and where I was. I was eventually jolted out of it when I received a stern sounding knock on the door in the middle of the night. I opened the door, and there standing on my stoop, was Evelyn Ross, soaking wet from the rain.
MTD: Your first manager?
Masterson: Yes. I was utterly dismayed. Just floored, you know? I hadn’t seen her in almost ten years. She asked if she could come in. I just stared at her for a moment and said “yes, of course” and invited her in. I got her a towel to dry herself off while I fetched us some tea. She seemed distressed, visibly so, like really shook up, you know? She had heard about everything that went on with the festival, and said she was contacted one night by mysterious shadowy figures with their faces hidden behind dark blue hooded cloaks and black burkas, who basically kidnapped her, threw a black bag with a yellow star on it over her head and stuffed her in the back of a van and drove her to a remote place in the English countryside. The kidnappers left her blindfolded the entire time, while they questioned her about what she knew about the festival, and how they were “taking care of the artists” who were involved, and that they had mentioned me specifically by name. They issued her very strong threats that if she tried to contact anybody about it, about their meeting, or if she even said anything at all about SHINE records, the festival, or any of the bands who were involved, that she too would be “taken care of.” They kept her for a while, then loaded her up and dumped her in an alley in the East Side. She said she immediately booked the first flight she could get on and came to see me right away. When she arrived, it was the day I was released from the hospital after the accident. She booked a room for herself in a different hotel for three nights, until she could figure out how to find me. When she finally got my address, she came straight away to warn me that I had to get out. She feared for my life, and for hers. She was nearly hysterical, not to mention she hadn’t even touched her tea. She was gripping my hand very, very hard and pleading with me that I had to leave right away. That I had to get on a plane and not tell anyone where I was going. That I had to “disappear” or these hooded people were going to come after me, and they wouldn’t stop coming until I was dead. Or worse. I had no idea what was worse then death, which seemed pretty bad to me, but those were her words, not mine. She believed the accident I was in was really no accident, that it was orchestrated by these hooded figures who meant me dire harm.
MTD: So what did you do? This must be what prompted you to disappear then?
Masterson: Yeah, I was admittedly quite afraid. So much had gone on in the last year or two that led me to believe that the threat was genuine. I thought I should maybe go to the police, but in the end what do I tell them? I mean come on. They need to protect me from these blue-hooded shadowy figures that wanted to kill me? That they orchestrated the car accident? That they made my friends, record label and band mates all disappear? I mean, really they would think I was off my rocker, you know?
So I just said to hell with it, packed a few things and left. What was there for me anyways? Band mates both disappeared, probably at the behest of some secret cult of killers, record label was gone, had no idea what happened there. I suddenly found myself completely alone in the world. The only person I still knew was alive was Evelyn Ross, because she was standing there in front of me. We decided very quickly that we were going to fly to South America, Peru, actually, and we would travel together because it seemed safer that way. So we booked flights to Lima and two days later we were there. We were both pretty afraid on the flight, that someone would have sabotaged the plane, that someone was on the plane with us, watching and following us. We were both paranoid out of our minds over this whole thing. We stayed in Lima for about a week, and decided to take a trip to Machu Picchu and see some sights to help take our minds off things. We figured we were safe, being out of the states now and nobody really knowing where we were. Little did we know, this secret cult had a presence in Peru as well. They had started setting up in Cuzco, which is where we went first, on our way to make preparations for the hike into the Andes. We were walking through a dark street one night in Cuzco, and we caught a glimpse of some of these blue hooded figures gathering outside an old decaying building on the outer fringes of town. They were gathering, maybe 10 or 15 of them, outside the building, some of them carrying torches. We immediately hid ourselves inside a run down hotel and the next morning we booked another flight out of there.
MTD: Where did you go next?
Masterson: Well, we knew we had to hide. We flew to Morocco, then from there we traveled by vehicle and foot so it was harder to track us. We eventually found what we considered to be a remote and secluded enough area that we could purchase a flat with what cash we had and hole up there for a little while until we figured out what to do for the long term. A little while ended up turning into almost 30 years. Evelyn passed away about 12 years ago. I burned her remains as was her wish, on a pyre I build on our property. Beyond that there isn’t anything else to really tell. I am afraid that’s where the story gets really boring, just an old man hiding in his house, biding his time until he can die. Sometimes I wonder why. Why hide? What difference does it make if I am found at this point? I am old and have lived a miraculous life, life is truly a miracle. But what good is a miracle without someone to share it with? I haven’t been contacted by anyone, and have remained hidden where I am for all this time. I am feeling as though my passing is becoming imminent, as I am getting very old now, and there isn’t much in the way of hope to keep myself going. I have nobody to talk to. I still can’t reveal my location, I hope you understand. I don’t really care so much any more if some death cult finds me and kills me or whatever. But I’d prefer to end my life peacefully at this point. Tell my story to you, and hopefully that is enough to get it out there and someone else can eventually make some sort of sense from it. Or maybe not. Perhaps it is just a mystery for the ages. At least I have said what I needed to say to somebody out there, to me that is what counts. I just really needed to tell somebody.
MTD: Well, we thank you for contacting us and revealing what you have. It certainly has been an interesting story. We still so many questions, but understand that we’ve reached the end of what you are able to tell us. Thanks again for taking the time to reach out and for telling us what you know. May peace be upon you in your final days. You are truly a legend among men.
Masterson: Thank you. Peace to you and yours as well. May the light shine upon you for all your days.