Rees’ Pieces: KEN mode Returns to Windsor!
My first live show in Windsor featuring an out-of-town band was KEN mode (wsg Cellos) at the Coach & Horses, and boy, was I blown away. Almost literally. It was my first time hearing their music and it left me slightly deaf, and wanting more. On Sunday, July 31st, they make their triumphant return to Windsor and the Coach & Horses (156 Chatham St. West, basement level), with confirmed special guests Repetitions. Here is my interview with Jesse Matthewson, guitarist, vocalist, and more for KEN mode: the heaviest sound out of Winnipeg.
Rees: Tell us about the name KEN mode. I heard that KEN stands for “Kill Everyone Now,” but is there a story behind it?
Jesse: The name KEN mode comes from a quote by Henry Rollins in his book ‘Get In The Van: On the road with Black Flag’: “After many practices, we were ready and a tour was booked. 1984 was a great year. We played all over and all the time. We had the fiercest attitude on earth. We had been in the practice place for months. Our first record in a couple years, the My War album was out and we wanted to kill everyone. The shows were great. Kill Everyone Now was the agenda. KEN mode all the time. It was good to be out on the road again with an album out and an excuse to live.”
Rees: What kind of equipment do you use to give you such a heavy quality to your sound as a three-piece band?
Jesse: I have used two amplifiers, sometimes three, for the past seven years, which helps fill out our sound as a three piece. My current rig is a Mesa dual rectifier and Orange rockerverb 100 bi-amp with three 4×12” speaker cabinets, while our bass players use a Marshall VBA400 through an 8×10. It makes for a pretty massive sound that we’re quite happy with. Guitar wise, I use a Gibson Les Paul Custom, plus an American made Fender Telecaster with the original single coil pickups, while our bassist uses a Fender Aerodyne. Since we’ve been changing bassists so much, sometimes we’ve had people use Fender Precision basses and Gibson shortscale SG basses.
Rees: Looking at your tour schedule for the month of July and August, KEN mode has really been getting around! What would be your advice for bands from Windsor who may be thinking of touring?
Jesse: We’ve been on tour for about half of the year so far in support of our new album ‘Venerable’, so yes, we’ve been around! In terms of what kind of advice I can offer, try touring regionally to start: get in touch with bands in the cities near you, make friends, do weekend trips and expand from there. Windsor is in a much better position being so close to cities like Toronto, Chicago, Columbus, even New York City and Boston, which are ALL rather far away from a city like Winnipeg. It’s easy to hit markets like these without having to make a BIG production out of it.
Rees: How has starting out in Winnipeg affected the music you play? What is the local hardcore scene like up there?
Jesse: When we first formed this band back when I was 17, with Shane 15, we were on a mission to make genuinely heavy and noisy music because we felt the noise rock scene in our hometown had died over the past few years. Winnipeg is about seven hours north of Minneapolis, Minnesota which is undoubtedly noise rock city USA thanks to labels like Amphetamine Reptile Records, so I believe it must have had an influence on what was going on up here. We grew up listening to bands like Kittens, Meatrack, and Stagmummer, and we started up right around the time that all of these bands died out…we needed to fill a void. Unfortunately for everyone else, unlike our predecessors, we never threw in the towel. We’ve never particularly felt any kinship with the hardcore scene in Winnipeg because we’ve always been way too left of center for their sensibilities. We came from the same age group as bands like Figure Four and Comeback Kid, which is really the last semblance of a hardcore scene I even knew in Winnipeg. The only band I really am even familiar with anymore from Winnipeg hardcore is Withdrawal.
Rees: If all three of you were trapped on a desert island and could only bring one thing each with you, what would you all bring, and why?
Jesse: A helicopter. So we have something to fly off the island with.
Shane: A helicopter pilot. So we have someone to fly the helicopter off the island.
Andrew: Beer. To celebrate getting off the island.
Rees: Having seen KEN mode live just once, I would describe it as aggressive, loud, and edgy. Would people use different words after seeing you for the second time?
Jesse: Maybe angry, sticky and mucousy. I guess it depends on the songs we’re playing and whether or not they like them!
Rees: In what way has touring changed each of you? Have you formed a lot of great memories on the road?
Jesse: I feel like I’m less tolerant of unprofessionalism, and a little worried that I’m never going to be happy doing anything. Music is one of those things that sort of makes you happy sometimes, yet you just can’t stop…because stopping is even worse. Obviously we make a lot of memories on the road, it would be impossible not to. We get to see and experience things that a lot of people simply won’t get the opportunity to. I’ve slept on floors all over the world and been paid (sometimes) to be there!
Rees: Everyone has a “bad habit”. What are yours?
Jesse: Cynicism and sugar. I like jelly beans too much, and probably hate people more than the average person should. Jelly beans > people.
Rees: KEN mode has gone through a lot of bassists. Are bassists harder to come by, or do they just have a tendency to wander?
Jesse: We end up going through phases where we utilize the help of friends to get us through patches where we have no bassist; and the more obligations we make, the more friends we have to reach out to to accomplish them. We’ve really only had two bassists for any substantial amount of time, but in the past few years, due to our touring schedules we’ve been seen with four different people. 2011 alone will see us playing with at least four different bassists. It’s not easy to deal with, but we get by.
Rees: “Extending Common Courtesy Throughout the Evening” has its own music video. Was that KEN mode’s first music video? Does it take longer to make a video than professionally record audio?
Jesse: Yes, “Extending…” is our first and only video so far. We were supposed to have at least one more by now, but some balls have been dropped, and we’ve been on tour the majority of the time since our latest album, “Venerable”, came out. Videos production schedules are entirely up to the person doing them. They don’t need to take as long as recording a full length, but sometimes they do.
Rees: Looking at all of KEN mode’s accomplishments, all of the great bands you’ve had a chance to play alongside, the traveling, etc., which of these accomplishments stand out the most?
Jesse: Playing Hellfest 2011 in Clisson, France was a pretty unique experience for us, being flown out for one festival and playing alongside bands like Converge, the Melvins, Kyuss, Electric Wizard, and even Ozzy Osbourne, Judas Priest and Iggy & The Stooges. We were in the middle of a US tour, came up to Windsor in the middle of it, flew to France, then came back and rejoined the US tour. An intense four days that I will undoubtedly never forget.
Rees: What do you do for fun when you are between shows and don’t have to travel, or when you are waiting in an unfamiliar city before playing a show?
Jesse: This year, since we are doing music full time, I’ll sometimes practice Muay Thai kickboxing, or head to the Whiteshell Provincial Park and just chill out in nature. We’ve been on tour so much this year that the bulk of our time is spent in a van rushing to get to a city, then sitting and waiting around for shows to start. We like to find internet cafés as much as we can while on tour so we can attend to our various internet responsibilities like me dealing with booking the next tour, or writing interviews…or reading up on mixed martial arts news!
Rees: What’s the next stop on the KEN mode tour after Windsor?
Jesse: After Windsor we are up to London, ON, then Kitchener, Hamilton, Toronto, Ottawa, then onward to Quebec and the Maritimes!
Rees: Please share with us your website(s), and how people can check out KEN mode’s music.
Rees: Are you excited to return to Windsor?
Jesse: Of course! We have family in Windsor, so we always love visiting!