“I would like to learn how to kill” is the first lyric in “These Tight Jeans,” the focus of a new video from Canadian noise rock and MMA enthusiasts KEN Mode. The video, culled from their latest LP Success, features lead singer/guitarist Jesse Matthewson's obsession with the sport, showing him go toe to toe with an opponent in the squared circle. Check out the video for more, and head below for a few questions with Matthewson on his love for MMA and it's intersection with music.
NOISEY: How did you get into MMA? What was the catalyst?
Jesse Matthewson: I think this answer probably comes in three stages, in terms of my own psychological development into becoming someone who actually practices martial arts. The first stage was as a fan of pro wrestling as a very small child. My brother Shane and I used to pull toques over our faces and pretend to be the WWF (now WWE) tag team Demolition; mercilessly beating the tag team of My Pet Monster and the Cabbage Patch Kid within an inch of their lives. The second stage of said development, I truly believe was when I got into comic books around the age of 10. There was never any bizarre idol worship going on, but a general admiration of the characterization of these warriors and folklore.
Around the time I was beginning high school the first few UFC events had taken place and like many, the whole 'blood sport' angle intrigued my friends and I, and I still remember watching the David vs. Goliath tournament that Don Frye won in a friend's parents' basement. The sport wouldn't actually fully take its hold on me until years later though, after punk rock ruined my life, and university and office work had begun to dull my senses and make me hate my life. The initial Ultimate Fighter Reality show had come out and the UFC's popularity was exploding, and my youngest brother Graeme had told me of an organization in Japan where the best heavyweights in the world were. All it took was a watching a highlight of Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Filipovic and I was an MMA fanatic for life. Shortly thereafter I began training Muay Thai at Canadian Kickboxing and Muay Thai Center (now Canadian Fighting Center - a Roufusport satellite gym) and my life changed forever. I've always kind of felt like MMA is a real, legit sport for comic book and wrestling nerds.
What is your favorite style of martial arts?
I'm partial to Muay Thai. The masterful violence of it all has a certain undeniable beauty. I tend to gravitate toward fighters whose primary martial art is the same, and root for them above all others. When Anderson Silva was on top of the world, it was a very cool time for the development of striking in mixed martial arts, whether you liked him or not, his influence on today's fighters is undeniable.
How do you think your training helps you with your music?
Training has probably had the greatest impact on my breathing while executing long runs of vocal patterns, and just generally improving my on stage endurance. I used to routinely almost black out due to head rushes while performing prior to beginning training, which I never have now. I think the combo of training and doing music help each other in terms of my general core strength and abdominal endurance, which is useful during both activities.
Have you ever sparred with other musicians that have trained in MMA?
I don't get to train on tour as much as I'd like, usually due to time constraints and the fact that every time I do it's sacrificing sleep and overworking my body to the point of getting sick, BUT I have had a few opportunities over the years. I've definitely done some light sparring and BJJ with Morgan (Kill the Client) several times when in Austin, did some pad work with Phil Dubois (ex Revocation) when we were on tour with them, and I've done some sparring with Todd from Propagandhi when he was still training at my gym in Winnipeg, but I've never been crushed by anyone like Eugene yet, despite his contribution to our new record. David from Rosetta and I kept talking about rolling while we were out with them, but it's never materialized as we never have any time when we're in Philadelphia. One of these days he'll trick me into it…one day.
Who is your favorite fighter and why?
Of all time, I'd have to go with the Last Emperor, Fedor Emelianenko. His robotic demeanour, and masterful way he used to break down his opponents strengths was truly an amazing thing to watch - all pre his utilization of the brawling style that he ended his career with.
In terms of newer fighters, I love watching Edson Barbosa, Robbie Lawler, and Anthony Pettis (the Roufusport poster boy). I'm a sucker for people who can pick others apart with their striking, with fantastic finishes.