An interview with Jamie Matechuk

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Powers vocalist and charismatic local musician, Jamie Matechuk. Read his thoughts below on the band's upcoming (this October!) EP, songwriting, and Tim Hortons, amongst other things.

What have you been up to in the last two weeks? What's in store for the rest of August?
We played a show on a boat two weeks ago, which fulfilled a dream all of us had. One guy was 6'4 and started jumping around and literally rocked the boat from side to side. The problem was that the keys kept shifting around on Odie and Les, and things fell over. But it was all in good fun.

The rest of August? We're working hard on getting our EP done. We're doing it all ourselves, and while empowering, it's also pretty exhausting. But we're happy things are moving along.

We're playing a show tonight in the East End with our roommate Digits, and it's being put on by our good friend from Foxfire/Gay Neil Rankin. So that'll be great. The people make the show.

Being a relatively new name on the scene, what's a) the most eccentric venue you've played in? b) the best turnout you've had? c) somewhere you'd like to play?
While we're a "new" name, we've been playing together for years. So we've played in some great places, the boat (as in that real boat we played in) ranks up there, the show at OZ studios was great because we had a friend of ours doing improv'd light. We want to play more shows in strange locales, for sure.

With Powers so far we've been very lucky with turnout. Our NXNE show stands out, it was just a blast from start to finish.

We'd love to play in everyone's houses, warehouses, under bridges, on Cherry Beach. Anywhere outside the traditional bar setup really.

"Second Summer", was spontaneously written one day on a piano. Do many of TGID/Powers's songs start out improvised, or is there a more calculated approach to songwriting that you usually take?
Songwriting for me is intensely personal, calculated and messy at the same time. It's not architecture for me, but some people I've worked with (digits for example) are extremely precise and calculated while writing and it really works. Writing a song never happens in one day, even when it does. Second Summer, all of the elements of it, came in pieces, then it all came out on the piano.

Over time I've come to think that each song has a core element to it, it's raw nature and then you can produce it (play it) in a million different ways, but in the end it's the core of it that makes it good or bad. So while you found the timbaland synth sample annoying, for me I was/am completely enamoured by that kind of repetition. But in the end, that's an element outside of the core of the song, so I hope it didn't turn you off the song completely. But these production elements, these samples and textures, I'm so interested in these and how they can add colour to a song. It's all I want to do when I get home.

When did you know you wanted to be a musician?
When I was four I have a memory of standing in a hockey net with a tennis racquet listening to the Beach Boys and pretending I was holding a guitar. My cousin said, "John Lennon is better than Brian Wilson." Music made me spin in circles and jump and feel things I didn't know the name of. However, I didn't play a real instrument until I was 23 years old. It was that same cousin, Brad, who bugged me about it, and in the end my roommate Phil got me to play bass in his cover band in the Falls.

I was playing music long before I played music.

Where would you most likely be right now if you hadn't followed through?
If I hadn't followed through with music I'd be exactly where I am now.

Your favourite percussion instrument?
My favourite percussion instrument is Kevin Corlis. Can someone please call him the best drummer in the city already?

Kevin Corlis; photo by Jim DeLuca
Your favourite cultural/ethnic/folk instrument?
The uke, all the way.

The last concert you attended?
I saw Jeff Mangum at the church at Bloor and Spadina. It was absolutely unbelievable. When he sang his face contorted into something not human, his mouth and his lungs have to be too large for his body. It was fitting that I saw him in a church because his songs are quite sacred to me, as they are to a lot of people. I hope he writes new ones.

I actually went to Amsterdam to the Anne Frank Museum and told the clerk in the gift shop that they should be selling In the Aeroplane over the Sea, and he had no idea what it was. I hope he actually listened to it.

photo by Michelle Cortese
Any particular pet peeves about playing live (set up, hospitality, etc.) you'd like to share?
I think every musician has a million pet peeves. Patch cords suck, despite their life-time warranty. The sound on the stage never matches the sound out to the crowd, you never know what it sounds like. We're always told to load-in early, and most of the time we get there and no one's even there yet. We've run into a few complete asshole promoters, I could go on...

But, all of these pet peeves are outweighed by the upsides. Playing live is one of the best feelings I've ever experienced. By and large the people in the music communities across the country are amazing, giving people. And the more you play the more you can minimize these little problems that pop up.

Are you a Starbucks or Timmies person?
Starbucks for espresso, Timmies for coffee and sourcream glazed donuts. Tim Hortons is featured lyrically in one of our songs, if that means anything.

Thank you, Jamie, for the refreshingly thorough answers! I do wish that more busy people had the time and everyone else made more of an effort, not only towards the work they care to do, but the subjects they care about. He went on:
I read your Aug 14 blog post about the truth behind music bloggers, and I found it really interesting.

I do disagree with one thing though, you said, "I'm interested in hearing what you thought was so bad about an album I thought was so good."

I think that negative reviews have no place in our society anymore. I don't want to spend time hearing what someone hates, only what they LOVE. That way I might find something I love in return.

As a musician, it's heart-breaking to spend years on a song, to think about it and literally put your life into it, and then to have a blogger write three sentences about it, calling it obnoxious. Now I'm not saying the song might not be obnoxious to someone, but it's the flippancy that's hurtful.

Music means a lot to me. That's part of the reason why I make it. Music has, literally, changed my life. The intentions of most musicians is this. What is the intention of a bad review?

In the future I believe everyone will be their own musician, and no one will review anything.