KEN Mode: The Best Metal Band in all the Land

This particular blog post was originally designed to be a congratulatory stamp for Winnipeg “elitist-asshole metallic noise rock with touches of post-metal, hardcore, sludge and doom” band, KEN Mode as they very deservedly came out on top in the category of Best Metal Album of the Year at last weekend’s Juno awards. To the most of you reading this in America, please know that this does not mean KEN Mode’s Venerable album got Ellen Page pregnant or some such. The Junos are the Canadian equivalent of your Grammy awards. And this year was the first year there was a category dedicated to metal and judging by what happened compared to when the Grammy’s had a metal category for the first time, it’s quite obvious us Canadians knew what the fuck is up from the off. I mean, if fucking BTO – as much as I love ‘em – had taken home the honours, well that would have just been ridiculously untimely and embarrassing. Same goes if Anvil had won, because they haven’t written a song since 1982 that could be considered anything but approaching terrible, their faultless dedication to the rock aside. Though that movie was pretty awesome, whether you’re a fan or not.
Anyway, how this has come to be a little more than congrats KEN Mode (and further congrats to the other nominees in the category: Fuck the Facts’ Die Miserable, Devin Townsend’s Deconstruction, Cauldron’s Burning Fortune and Anvil’s Juggernaut of Justice) is that I somehow ended up at the Juno’s gala dinner and awards presentation show last Saturday night in our nation’s capital of Ottawa. As well, there was a bit of confrontational drama played out online in the day or two before the ceremony and who doesn’t love a recap of dumb internet drama between musicians?

So, as the story goes, at a reception fete for all the nominees the previous night, members of KEN Mode were hanging around, chatting with other members of the bands nominated. A to-remain-unnamed member of KEN Mode (with the last name of Matthewson) approached a to-remain-unnamed member of Anvil (the one wearing the fanny pack), saying something like, “Hey, nice to meet you. I’m in KEN Mode, I guess we’re each other’s competition in the metal category.” The member of Anvil responded with, “We don’t have any competition” before essentially putting his nose in the air, spinning on his heel and walking away like Metal on Metal was released last week and not 30 years ago. As things usually are these days, the incident was recounted and posted on the interhole and the comments flew like spit and bullets at a 1890s poker tournament in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

So, by the time I got the Ottawa on Saturday afternoon, there was already some contention hanging in the air, but we all just chalked it up to…well, we don’t know what we chalked it up to. We had basically forgotten all about it because by the time a posse of us made it into the Ottawa Convention Center, we were all pretty speechless at what the fuck we just walked into. Granted, this was a celebration of Canadian music and the biggest party the Canucklehead music industry throws itself and, as you might imagine, the likes of me, my friends and the sorts of bands you’re more apt to read about in the pages of Decibel, happened to be the outsiders. I can’t imagine very many of the few thousand invitees and attendees to this spread have ever gone to a show in someone’s basement, had a food donation or $5 as their show admission or bought a band’s t-shirt for less than $45. Believe when I’m saying that “our” way of doing/experiencing/relating to music isn’t superior or inferior than “their” way of doing/experiencing/relating to music. It’s just very different and the divide between what the jerks who create/read/get featured in a magazine like Decibel and the jerks who don’t never seemed so friggin’ massive until you see it live and in person. Tuxedos, red (well, green) carpet photo ops, evening gowns, uber-schmoozing, the shortest of skirts, the highest of heels and the most spackled on of make-up jobs and here’s my buddy wearing a Sacrifice Japanese tour hoodie and texting his wife who’s at home with their kids.

There was food too! The menu was a bunch of fine dining type stuff that I have neither heard of, could probably pronounce accurately, pick out of a buffet if I had a week to or would even think about preparing if I was looking to try something different. Seriously, some people around me seemed to know what “Inniskillin Cabernet Franc Reduction” was. I sure as hell didn’t. The meal was the sort where presentation was more important that anything and the portions wouldn’t fill an anorexic. The foodies in Hate Eternal might appreciate this sort of thing, but at the same time, Rutan would have to scarf down eight servings of the stuff just to put a smile on his mug. However, every single one of you would have appreciated the non-stop flow of free beverages, alcoholic or otherwise.

So, the Saturday award show basically consisted of all the categories that weren’t going to make it to the main event: the live national broadcast the following night, hosted by William Shatner and taking place at the same hockey arena the Ottawa Senators eke their existence out of. Other Saturday handouts included Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year, Francophone Album of the Year, Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral Performance and Children’s Album of the Year. The Metal category was first of the 41 awards to be handed out that night. Picture it: we’re sitting at a banquet table with a bunch of gussied up industry types – I’m wearing a long sleeve Carcass tour shirt from 1991 and a Melt-Banana hoodie – all of whom make ten times the money I do on the back of a bunch of Canadian artists I have hardly heard of by name, let alone via their art, which, hey, is great work if you can get it and you’re into it. Anyway, my point is that none of these people knew jack shit about the first category of the evening as evidenced by the hootin’ ‘n’ hollerin’ for Anvil when their mugs and Juggernaut of Justice was splayed up on the giant video screens around the room as part of the “And the nominees are…” list-off and the sniggers and chuckles that followed the announcement that a band called Fuck the Facts was in contention. When KEN Mode was announced as victors, everything seemed proper, as a hard working band who tour like urban nomads and put out an absolutely killer album got recognised for their nose-to-the-grindstone ethic, awesome music and general talent. You could have said that for most, if not all of the nominees, though it was an awesome relief that the sentimental favourite didn’t win simply because they were the sentimental favourite.

After sucking down the meal, we’d had enough, plus KEN Mode and Cauldron were playing at a venue in town. So, we stupidly passed on the dessert plate which included Macintosh Apple Cheesecake – you gotta hand it to the fine dining set, they know how to make a dessert – bolted, met up and hung out in a place more suited to our element. That, however, didn’t stop the good natured barbs from flowing about rock star-ism, jacked-up guarantees, new gear a’ comin’, and this little captioned photographic gem:

Congrats you motherfuckers. See you on the road.