by Scott Wolfe
Fans of heavy music here in Winnipeg are undoubtedly all over the KEN mode train. But the rest of the world is catching up. In case you weren’t at the station when last it pulled out, Stylus caught up with Jesse Matthewson to see how the band is doing on the road and talk their new record Entrench, which is out now on Season of Mist.
Stylus: Your Juno win last year was huge because it recognized the new and progressive heavier music talent in Canada, while shifting away from old safe picks. Has the win affected you guys at all? Have you noticed new fans and better turnouts at shows because of your win, in either Canada or US?
Jesse Matthewson: The fun part of all of the Juno stuff, was the mainstream media was treating bands like us and Fuck the Facts as “new” bands…both of us have been around for well over a decade [KEN mode will turn 14 in September], it just so happens both of our bands keep getting better with age, while many get worse. We’ve noticed a bump in recognition all over since the win, and it has tied in very well with the release of our new record under a year later. Obviously Canada cares a little more, but it’s been cool regardless.
Stylus: Was Entrench recorded or written differently in anyway compared to Venerable, and was their excess pressure in following up an album that received so much critical acclaim?
JM: Entrench was definitely written and recorded differently, but every album really has its own unique circumstances surrounding it. Entrench was written in much more concise bursts, largely over the course of two, week and a half sessions with our new bassist, Andrew LaCour (who lives in the US). Meanwhile, Venerable was written over the course of two and a half years while working full time jobs when Chad Tremblay was still with us. With Venerable we traveled down to Godcity studios in Salem, MA to track and mix over nine days with Kurt Ballou [Converge, High on Fire, Torche], while for Entrench we flew Matt Bayles [Mastodon, Isis, Pearl Jam] up to Winnipeg and spent almost a month in Private Ear. We were very much entrenched in the making of this album, as it had to be important. If we were going to continue to spill all of our resources into this band, this album had to be the biggest and best thing we’d ever done.
Stylus: Matt Bayles has produced some awesome music (Mastadon, ISIS, etc.). How was it working with him?
JM: Matt’s an intense personality who wants to make the best record possible. We’d heard he had a reputation for being really hard on bands to get the best performance out of them, and that was a major selling point toward us wanting to work with him. In the end, I didn’t think he was particularly tough, but that’s likely because we all had similar expectations. I think we all had fun, despite the grueling process.
Stylus: This is the first album recorded with your current bass player. How did things go in the studio and with writing? Did he bring anything unique or unexpected to the KEN mode equation?
JM: Andrew was the main songwriter in his band Khann, so obviously he brought his own flavour to the KEN mode buffet. It was exciting to see what kind of parts he’d come up with to complement mine, and vice versa. This was the most collaborative album we’ve done since our Reprisal album with our original bassist Darryl Laxdal, and the outcome is very exciting and intense.
Stylus: With the steady bass player for recording and touring, is the vibe on the soon to be released Entrench different than that of Venerable?
JM: Definitely. Leading to the release of Venerable I was terrified as I was frantically training new bassists to tour with us, and make sure everything I’d been working toward didn’t fall flat on its face. With Entrench, we have a stable lineup and can properly tackle every aspect of touring and promotion that we need to to give this album our all!
Stylus: How is the crowd responding to the new material?
JM: The crowd seems to be into the new material, but I think the record needs to be out so people can really absorb it. Our shows are pretty intense, and I think for a lot of people, they kind of just lean back and let it permeate.
Stylus: Has touring with the likes of some pretty well respected and big bands influenced KEN mode in anyway? Whether in the writing or live performance department?
JM: I think us touring with them makes THEM step their game up. KEN mode is a machine that refuses to stop. I’m on a mission to eat all bands up and spit them back out.
Stylus: The new record sounds amazing from what I have heard. Would you say it is your best to date?
JM: Of course! If it wasn’t, I’d be wasting my time!
Catch these Winnipeg boys rocking the Pyramid with Black Tusk, Fight Amp and Today is the Day at the Pyramid Cabaret April 4th!