Interview: Jesse Matthewson (KEN Mode)

A lot of metal and hardcore bands pay lip service to the idea of perseverance. KEN mode has made it their calling card. After twelve years of tireless touring and three indifferently-received albums, this Winnipeg trio finally broke through to a broader audience with 2011’s Venerable. They received a Juno Award—Canada’s answer to the Grammies—for Venerable in 2012.

We caught up with vocalist and guitarist Jesse Matthewson during his lunch hour to discuss KEN mode’s upcoming album Entrench. He is not daunted by his band’s sudden ascendance to the big leagues. “Maybe I’m just cocky, but I don’t intimidate easily,” he says.

Last time you spoke to Invisible Oranges back in 2011, you mentioned that the band life was taking a toll on you. Since then, you’ve added a permanent bassist, signed to a new label, and won a Juno Award. Have things gotten easier for KEN mode over the last year?

(While eating turkey bacon): I’m living a life of luxury now.

In all seriousness, we have a few more pieces of the puzzle working on our side than we did before, but we feel we have a whole lot more ground we have to cover, and a lot more responsibility to give it our all, because of the successes we’ve had recently.

Aside from the recognition, has KEN mode received any concrete benefits from the Juno? Has anyone asked you to record a jingle for their company? Offered to Learjet you around the world to play swanky parties?

I wish. We’ve had zero hot-tub parties with models since our win. The most concrete benefit we’ve seen from the Juno win was exactly what I thought it would be: our elevated status within the Canadian music industry itself. With this comes much more ease and ammunition when it comes to applying for the variety of funding organizations that we have in Canada.

So you’ve been able to land more government arts grants and things of that sort?

Most definitely. Canada has some really great programs to support the arts, and we felt it would be downright irresponsible if we didn’t try to take advantage of them, given our new position. Organizations like Manitoba Film and Music and FACTOR have contributed to us seeing Entrench through to its full potential.

Have you experienced any backlash because of it? Underground music fans aren’t always kind to bands that receive such mainstream recognition.

I haven’t noticed anyone that liked us previously hating on us all of a sudden because we won some arbitrary award. But when we won, a LOT of Devin Townsend and Anvil fans were hating on us, like we won as a personal vendetta to smite their faves.

That’s mostly good to hear. In the US, DIY ethics warriors will turn on any band that gets a few bucks from Scion to do a tour.

Yeah, I’ve seen things like that. I guess it depends on the scene that you draw your primary audience from. That, and the Junos didn’t give us any money. I wish their sponsors shelled out some cash! TD Bank, open your vault so I can write riffs!

Streams of two new songs, tour dates and more of the interview on the following pages….

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