August 9, 2020

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Homegrown metal trio celebrates 20 years

Good Will Social Club hosting KEN Mode for retrospective concert

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/10/2019 (311 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

KEN Mode has had the kind of career most metal bands can only dream of. 

In the past two decades, the Winnipeg-based noise-rock/hardcore/metal trio has released seven full-length records, four of which were Juno-nominated albums and one of them, 2011’s Venerable, won the award for Heavy Metal/Hard Music Album of the Year. They’ve travelled around the world picking up friends, fans and collaborators along the way; the core duo of brothers Jesse and Shane Matthewson have had the opportunity to work with a host of different bassists, as well as famed musician/producer Steve Albini. And they’ve done it all without having to relocate to Toronto, New York or Los Angeles.

September marked the official 20-year anniversary of the band, so Shane and Jesse (and current bassist Skot Hamilton) are planning celebrations that take them to Canada, the U.S. and Europe in 2020. Before that tour gets underway, though, they will play a special hometown show at the Good Will Social Club on Friday, Oct. 4. 

Nostalgia isn’t high on their list of emotions when it comes to their anniversary celebrations — KEN Mode is, after all, still an active band — but both Jesse (vocals, guitar) and Shane (drums) are excited for the retrospective-style show they’ve put together for their Winnipeg fans. 

"We’re having a few of our old bass players come up on stage and play some of the old songs they wrote for us; it’s been weird rehearsing with them because some of them we haven’t played with in over 10 years, so that’s been really cool. And it kind of underlines for us how lucky we’ve been to play with such great musicians, the two of us," Shane says.

"It’s cool getting to play with all those guys again... it’s kind of a trippy time capsule coming to life there," Jesse adds.

Nick Sayers </p><p>KEN Mode, a Winnipeg-based noise-rock band, has released seven full-length albums, which scored them four Juno nominations and one win.</p>

Nick Sayers

KEN Mode, a Winnipeg-based noise-rock band, has released seven full-length albums, which scored them four Juno nominations and one win.

When KEN Mode formed in 1999, Shane and Jesse were still teenagers and in a obviously different phase of life than they are now at 35 and 37 years old, respectively. They’ve become business owners of MKM Management, a firm that offers tax, accounting and grant-writing services with many of their clients coming from the arts sector. Despite that, being part of KEN Mode still serves a similar purpose for them.

"It’s definitely evolved, I think, but the root of it, at least, from the creative catharsis for me is still the same where there’s something in me that needs to get out, and it has to be exorcised through this method and I’m starting to feel that right now because I haven’t really written a proper song in almost two years and something just doesn’t feel right," Jesse says, adding he’s ready to get back into writing mode for a new album after Friday’s show is off their plate.

"But it also serves another purpose at this point; all the touring we’ve done, we established a vast network of contacts that we were able to kind of utilize to form the next stage of our own careers with MKM, we work with a lot of the people we met through our band. And that’s a theme we dwell in, we work with a lot of the bands that we’ve met through being in a band, and now we’re everyone’s accountants and grant writers."

The pair say they don’t often look back and take stock of all they’ve accomplished in the past two decades, but when they do, it’s less of a pat-on-the-back moment and more about recognizing how grateful they are for the experiences, opportunities and successes they’ve logged as part of KEN Mode. 

"We joke about being a Juno Award-winning band, and we were adding it up that this past year — we’re the most nominated heavy metal band in the Juno Awards so far; since they have brought the heavy metal Juno, we’ve been nominated four times. That said, that means we’ve also lost more than anyone else," Shane says with a laugh.

"Every time we go there, we just laugh because it’s weird we get to go to stuff like this... but it’s a uniquely cool opportunity. On one hand, it’s inherently ridiculous, but on the other hand it’s cool you even get to do it, so when I take stock of what we’ve got to do over the last 20 years, it’s less of an accomplishment point of view and more like these are unique experiences that lots of musicians don’t get to do, period.

"So we definitely think we’re very fortunate, because the goal has always been to write cool songs we like, and all the other stuff is icing on the cake."

erin.lebar@freepress.mb.caTwitter: @NireRabel

Erin Lebar

Erin Lebar
Multimedia producer

Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.

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