Canadian (“that’s it, back to Winnipeg!”) outfit KEN mode have infused metallic hardcore and noise rock into a neat musical melting pot since their formation in 1999. With a new album, ‘Success’ just released, the band is pushing forward on the promo trail, playing shows and continuing to grow the fan base. Killyourstereo.com chatted with Jesse Matthewson about the album, LP mishaps and maintaining longevity.
First off, good work with the new album. Are you actively seeking out responses to it from fans now that it’s out or is it a case of ‘ignorance is bliss’, you’re happy with it and that’s all that matters?
Thank you. I can’t help but scratch the scab sometimes, but, for the most part, we are trying to run on an ‘ignorance is bliss’ approach. I can’t expect every reviewer that gets sent this album to understand where we’re coming from musically and specifically the references and inside jokes going on in the lyrics, coupled with our generally skewed sense of humour; it’s certainly not for everyone.
From a band perspective, once you’ve recorded the music, how involved are you in how the album is eventually marketed?
We were actually quite involved in the marketing of the album. We acted as somewhat of an overall marketing manager for the process, keeping all regional PR agents in the loop with each other, and ultimately having the final say on the direction of promotions and avenues that are taken to promote the record. We have intricate business backgrounds, and it would be ultimately irresponsible of us to ignore this process. The team we worked with on this album were really great, and I feel truly understood where this album needed to go, which was refreshing.
On the topic of promo, I see on your Facebook page you had an unfortunate issue with the Pink pressing of your LP. What happened there?
Evidently, the pressing plant did not press the band exclusive pink copies at the same time as the rest of the pressing, and the entire run of pink had another band pressed on to the B side of the record. We found out after we shipped out all of the pre-orders and people began receiving their LPs…needless to say we were not happy about this.
You’re six albums in now. With each new release and subsequent touring comes more experience. What have been some of the biggest changes you’ve noticed internally in the KEN mode camp?
You obviously learn more and more every time you go out, from preparation, to how to deal with the variety of characters in music scenes all over the world. I think the most important lessons you learn is in how you handle such scenarios, and continue to have to evolve as you age. I’m only just now starting to feel the affect aging has had on me, coming home a lot more sore, certain muscle groups tight as knots…sleeping on floors on thin mats, you bounce back a lot faster when you’re younger, and at nearing 34 years old, the grey hairs and injuries are starting to accumulate. I do know from our touring experience, it gives you a much bigger appreciation for comfort, living within your means, and not taking space, nor relationship chemistry for granted.
I read an interesting article on The Guardian recently, which analysed the darker side of touring and the anxiety that is often attached. You’ve been in the band since the beginning. What’s the secret to maintaining the longevity and essentially keeping your sanity in an occupation that can often be stressful?
I’ve heard of this article, but haven’t had time to read it yet. I think there’s a common knowledge among musicians that tour makes EVERYONE bi-polar, and we all understand this to be true. Lack of sleep, proper nutrition, and the fact that you are literally spending 24/7 with your bandmates and crew; I don’t know any romantic relationships that exist that way; you’d go crazy! You have to know your bandmates, know to avoid things that set people off, and honestly, sometimes a drink or two will take the edge off of things. More than that, and problems can arise, but the past few years, when I’m ready to pop, I’ll have one beer, and the fire burns a little less hot. 25 year old me would be really bummed out by that response, but that is the reality of touring as a 33 year old man.
For a band that started before the social media boom, now that it is so prominent, how important are these online channel to a band like KEN mode these days?
I wish I could give a proper assessment of then vs. now, but the truth of the matter is we really didn’t take touring as seriously in the time before social media came to prominence. We’ve been touring more or less full time since 2010/2011, and in that time it has been paramount in spreading the word on both our band, the upcoming dates, finding promoters, venues, bands to play with, etc. The most unfortunate part of the dependence on social media these days is the monetizing of such feeds, where facebook will limit who can see our posts and when without any financial involvement. We’ve been finding 700/25,000+ followers even see our posts lately, which is embarrassing.
To the uninitiated, what’s Winnipeg like for a band trying to make a living playing metal and rock?
Winnipeg is one of the cheaper places in Canada to live, with the best provincial programs for music artists. We are in the middle of nowhere, so there are tons of obstacles to tackling touring; but I do believe the community is much more supportive than many other cities.
Favourite album of 2015 so far?
The two that have got the most play are probably Conduct’s ‘Fear and Desire’ and We Are Hex ‘Bleach Brigade’ (though that came out late December 2014, so it missed my year end list last year). Two great albums by bands that deserve WAY more attention.
Thanks for the interview Jesse. Appreciate your time.
‘Success’ is out now. You can purchase the album and back catalogue items via Nerve Gas.