Wednesday 3 April 2019

***KEN MODE exclusive interview***

GenresPunk / Rock / Hardcore / Post-Hardcore / Metal / Noise Thrash / Grunge / Stoner Rock / Experimental
Related artistsHide Your Daughters.
CountryWinnipeg, Manitoba CANADA
Years Active1999-present
Song: "This Is A Love Test"
Album: "Loved"
Year: 2018
For fans ofThe Armed, Jesuit, Jesus LizardThe CatalystSwarm Of The LotusThese Arms Are Snakes, Converge, Coalesce, Knut, Botch, The Love And Terror Cult, Cassilis, Mastadon, I Am A Curse, Melvins and Narrows.
Label(s): Self Released / New Damage Records / Escape Artist Records / Arctodus Records / No List Records / Init Records / Profound Lore Records / Throatruiner Records / Season Of Mist / Reptilian Records / Decibel Flexi Series
This post's artist is from the December 2018 Mix. This is track #10.
You can download: the new April 2019 Mix#4 here.

Happy 20th birthday KEN MODE. Started way back in 1999 in Winnipeg, Manitoba smack dab in the middle of Canada, two brothers Jesse and Shane are the founding members and still play in the band today alongside current bassist Skot Hamilton. I first heard the band back in 2013 and did a three-part video interview which you can check out here. Two years later my local band The World That Summer played our first show in Hamilton alongside KEN MODE and I witnessed them lay waste a second time. The band is touring now in support of 'Loved' which made a shit-ton of Best Of 2018 lists, obviously. I was lucky enough to chat with the band again, this time via email, and our interview is posted below. After that there is a lengthy discography review and then a plethora of links. Enjoy!

An Interview

If Ken Mode was a person, what personality traits would you give them?
Dark, quirky, ridiculous sense of humour; hard working and stubborn to a self-deprecating fault; loyal; assertive; entirely too self aware.

Do you have many influences? After speaking with you in 2014 and seeing you progress to now I feel like Ken Mode is the biggest influence on Ken Mode. Does that sound accurate?
We have many influences for how we got to this point, but there is definitely an element of truth to your becomes this feedback loop that has blurred over the last 20 years of being a band. There are elements of bands like the Melvins, Dazzling Killmen, Today is the Day, Unsane, Drive Like Jehu, and others that are so ground up and blended that it's evident in the DNA of who we are as musical identities, but it's kind of ridiculous to play the "my influences are X, Y, Z, and P" game now, as we approach our 20th anniversary of being a band.

Did the misalignment with some fans after the release of "Success" drive the writing process for 'Loved'?
It may have indirectly. A sense of misunderstanding driving a general frustration? We ultimately have always been doing what we want with our art, and 'Loved' was no exception. Some people treated this record like us getting back to our heaviness or something, but that was not our goal with it. We're just trying to write something that makes us feel something. Maybe taking a step away from touring and being regular homebodies made us furious/depressed. Maybe not being constantly on the go forced us to pay attention to the constant barrage of the anxiety inducing 24 hour news culture we're a part of and made us feel bad, and it's now being reflected in the music we're writing.

How did the saxophone part come about in "This Is A Love Test"? That's my favourite song on the record.
The sax parts in that song I actually wrote on guitar beforehand. We knew we wanted the sax to play on it, but were having trouble focusing ourselves. The parts played on 'The Illusion Of Dignity' and 'No Gentle Art' Kathryn Kerr came up with the runs and free-style solos - but 'This Is A Love Test' was me. We felt it required some more structure, so I put something together.

The huge section from 1:34 onwards in "Not Soulmates" is another favourite of mine. Do you remember who initially wrote that and did everyone shit themselves upon hearing it at practice?
I wrote that riff before the other ones in the song and when we started putting together the first half of the song, we knew it had to end with that. There was no coming back from the breakdown - it's one of those burn everything to the ground type parts.

I know the art influenced the writing on the record, but did you give the artist Randy Ortiz any direction beforehand? Or you just saw a rough draft and said something along the lines of, "Oh my dear god, that is amazing. I want that."
None. He came up with the piece completely independently of the band, and actually sold the original before we really had a chance to get serious about writing the album. It was one of those things that he put the finished piece up on his instagram and everyone went "Guhhhhhhh"...I knew immediately that we needed to use it as the cover for what we were working on next.

If people were to take away one thing from listening to 'Loved', what do you hope that would be?
Our goal was to do something to cause a degree of discomfort for the listener. That would be the one takeaway we'd hope for, and we've noticed a fair number of people felt exactly what we intended them to feel - which we're not sure if it's a good thing. Too many people seemed to relate to this record. More than we've ever had before...and that's not really a healthy thing, ha!

Ken Mode doesn't really seem to do splits. Is that a conscious decision? What are your thoughts on bands releasing splits vs. solo records?
We just always end up focusing on writing actual full length records all the time. We did one split 7" with the Atlas Moth back in 2015 with a song we recorded originally during the 'Success' sessions, which we had four extra tracks from - the other three went on the Nerve 7" EP. Splits can be a fun way to expose yourself to another band's fans, but generally, in 2019, I feel like they're mostly a novelty to sell on the merch table, or some excuse to do a release with a super limited run. I guess it all depends on how you choose to approach it - ala how we've been seeing more collab records over the last few years; though I suppose most of those are involving the Body, haha.

Do you have any tours planned for 2019?
We've got one plotted for May/June - just a short one - and another we're talking about for Sept for a festival we need to get to and from. We aren't making a point of doing many dates, as we hit most of our primary markets in 2018 when the record came out, and frankly, we bit off too much too fast. We can't/don't want to road dog it the way we used to, so we're handling this album more at our own pace.

What were your favourite releases of 2018?
2018 actually didn't have a ton of music that interested me much, which was disappointing. I'm not sure whether it's the nature of the tunnel vision I get when we make a record, or if it was just an off year for what I was looking for. I enjoyed Imperial Triumphant, Birds In Row, Hide, Tomb Mold, The Lions Daughter, Craft, Nightmarer, Hot Snakes, Great Falls, Convulsing, Cloud Nothings, and Author & Punisher. But nothing hooked me like my favourite records of the previous couple years, unfortunately.

Now on to the extensive discography review!

Their 2003 is 'Mongrel', a 9-song venture through some very interesting and uncomfortable noise-rock/hardcore. First and foremost the vocals are perhaps most noticeable for a fan who first listened about a decade after this release...I'm talking about me. The instrumentals definitely hit classic KEN MODE and do so in the opening track "Words Not to Say to the Queen" from three minutes to the close should do it. "Tent Caterpillar" definitely gives me These Arms Are Snakes vibes at times and is probably my pick for best song on here while "Greeting Bedlam" has a bit of Swarm Of The Lotus going on. And that's just the first three songs! The rest of the album is pretty crushing and most in line with the third track. Honestly, looking back at this as a debut, it is stellar work with a sound that the band has continued to hone and refine over time, as it is just too good to abandon.

Their debut's followup came three years later in 2006 in the form of 'Reprisal' and from pretty much here on out KEN MODE sounds like straight-up, savage, feral KEN MODE. By the time you hit 2:20 in opener "The Hammer Party" you'll be leveled like a fucking pancake and at least be a bit more prepared for the next 10 songs that streamroll over whoever dares attempt the full 50 minutes. "I Simply Am Not There" is an excellent track with guitar riffery that is sure to catch your attention from the get-go before "Seul" crushes you like the puny mortal you are. "Hibernation Has Never Been a Better Option" is another stellar track that is chaotic, dancey and awkward but it might be closer/utter nightmare "Ahriman" that takes the cake here...of death. Wow, what a sophomore LP.

Next up is 2008's 'Mennonite', another logical step in the mathier, chaotic and angular side of things, as first look "Extending Common Courtesy Throughout the Evening" has definite similarities to Knut, Swarm Of The Lotus and Botch. I'm also a big fan of "Messenger of Teeth" as it revolves around a bouncy, bassy and playful instrumental intro before venturing into jarring, spoken word verses, and finally settling into that intro groove plus vocals. There's a lot more experimentation on this record, as the previous track shows, but you can find more boundary tests on "The Pioneer", parts of "Summary of Comfort" and "The Dear John Letter Crew". As per KEN MODE records, this one includes a near-10-minute opus, this time being closer titled "The Goat", which is a hideous, drawling beast with an eerie acoustic outro.

By the time 'Venerable' came out in 2011 Canada was already well aware of the power and intensity of KEN MODE, and they won a Juno for best Metal/Hard Album in 2012. Opener "Book of Muscle" is a terrifying opener, not unlike Mastadon, and plays like an army invading a city while the second track has Jesse showing off them ax skills with poignant and quirky guitars that are buried under darkness come chorus time. "Flight of the Echo Hawk" is a sensational post-rock/post-hardcore/post-metal instrumental track that would make Pelican proud. Closer "Mako Shark" is another track of note, as it chugs along with the best of'em.

My introduction to the band came through their 2013, dare I say, masterpiece 'Entrench'. Perhaps the most mathy and heavy record KEN MODE has dabbled in, this 11 tracks are phenomenal and got me very, very obsessed with the Canadian band. In fact, the first ever OMSB video interview was with KEN MODE on the 'Entrench' tour when they visited Hamilton. Five years later I rewatched the three videos and found them to be much more tolerable than expected (the quality of my interview, not the band). Check them out as well as a bunch of killer live videos here. There's also quite a few music videos for this record, all of which are worth checking out but the slow-motion ridiculousness of "Romeo Must Never Know" is like an eye orgasm. "Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick" is an excellent song that I wish had a music video, as the drums are ballistic and rush the song forward to the point of lightspeed. There is a music video for "The Terror Pulse" which is another fantastic eye-catcher with a bass and drum rhythm that'll haunt you for days. "Secret Vasectomy" boasts another sick video but is also tied for one of the best two songs on the record, as it snarls its way through vicious, rabid punk, hardcore and metal. "Figure Your Life Out" is probably my favourite of the bunch, laying waste through some seriously righteous bass and terrifying vocal work, and I love the groove of "Why Don't You Just Quit", especially the final half.

KEN MODE's 2015 endeavor 'Success' sounds, in retrospect, like the band moving forward on their lone path, but leaving behind fans who have trouble picturing Mr. KEN as a malleable, experimental entity. It's an excellent record that definitely is different in approach and style, but is obviously KEN MODE. Opener "Blessed" is fucking dirty and focuses on driving rhythms over playful guitars and massive breakdowns. The vocals are different here, as Jesse shouts and yells a lot more than screams and snarls, creating a very uncomfortable aura. There's also a music video for this that follows the slo-mo style of "Romeo Must Never Know". "These Tight Jeans" combines the new vocal delivery and mixes it with faster/playful KEN MODE instrumentals and sassy guest vocals, thus creating a pretty sick tune that is more likely to bridge the style gap to the previous and subsequent albums. In general this is a quirky, fun and much more punk rock affair that I expect fans to appreciate more with time.

From 2015 till 2017 KEN MODE actually did some non-LP releases including two solo 7"s and a split 7". I am quite sure that the 'split w/The Atlas Moth' and the 'Nerve' 7" house 'Success' b-sides and 'Fractures in Adults' was the first single from the following year's LP, but don't quote me on all that. They also were featured on two tribute comps, one for Unsane and the other for Helmet.

So that takes us to 2018 'Loved' LP, a remarkable full length that has the band taking a very dark and disturbing journey that fits so well with the grotesque art by Randy Ortiz that as a package it seems like the most complete KEN MODE release to date. Opener "He Doesn't Feel Pain Like He Should" sounds exceptionally angry and the music video is in the same vein as "The Terror Pulse". I found it apparent quickly that the band's driving force with this record to be anger, as the sounds of 'Success' had already been uncovered and the band continued their evolution. The conclusion of "The Illusion of Dignity" has some amazing shrieking and the music video for "Feathers & Lips" as well as the song are crushing. "Not Soulmates" is an excellent track with a breakdown that'll compromise the integrity of your home. There's a part at 1:46 when everything cuts out save the guitar, then everyone jumps back into the breakdown causing me to smirk every time. Another stellar tune is "This Is A Love Test" which boasts excellent saxophone work and spoken word vocals with a creepy, crawly bass riff and building drums that explode during the first chorus at 1:20. I imagine seeing this song long would be a fucking riot. Closer "No Gentle Art" is a hideous 8-minute nightmare that ends with what sounds like a complete mental breakdown.



2003 - Mongrel cdLP (stream/buy here)

2006 - Reprisal cd/12"LP (stream/buy here)

2008 - Mennonite cassette/cd/3x7"/12"LP (stream/buy here)

2011 - Venerable cassette/cd/12"LP (stream/buy here)

2013 - Entrench cd/2x12"LP (stream/buy here)

2015 - Success cd/12"LP (stream/buy here)
2015 - The Atlas Moth split 7"EP (stream/buy here)

2016 - Nerve 7"EP (stream/buy here)
2016 - Meantime Redux compilation aka Helmet Tribute 2x12"LP (stream here)

2017 - Shattered, Flattered & Covered compilation aka Unsane Tribute 2xcd/2x12"LP (stream here)
2017 - Fractures in Adults 7"flexi

2018 - Loved cd/12"LP (stream/buy here)


(2018) KEN MODE - "This Is A Love Test" (from 'Loved')

(2018) KEN MODE - "He Doesn't Feel Pain Like He Should" (from 'Loved') official music video

(2018) KEN MODE - "Not Soulmates" (from 'Loved')

(2016) KEN MODE - "Let's Get Divorced" (from 'Nerve')

(2016) KEN MODE - "Turned Out" (from 'Meantime Redux')

(2015) KEN MODE - "Absolutely Not" (from 'The Atlas Moth' split) official music video

(2015) KEN MODE - "Failing at Fun Since 1981" (from 'Success') official music video

(2015) KEN MODE - "These Tight Jeans" (from 'Success') official music video

(2013) KEN MODE - "Secret Vasectomy" (from 'Entrench') official music video

(2013) KEN MODE - "The Terror Pulse" (from 'Entrench') official music video

(2013) KEN MODE - "Figure Your Life Out" (from 'Entrench') live video

(2011) KEN MODE - "Book of Muscle" (from 'Venerable')

(2011) KEN MODE - "Mako Shark" (from 'Venerable')

(2008) KEN MODE - "Extending Common Courtesy Throughout the Evening" (from 'Mennonite') official music video

(2008) KEN MODE - "Messenger of Teeth" (from 'Mennonite')

(2006) KEN MODE - "I Simply Am Not There" (from 'Reprisal')

(2006) KEN MODE - "The Hammer Party" (from 'Reprisal')

(2003) KEN MODE - "When the Car Crashes" (from 'Mongrel')


KEN MODE additional links

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