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Jonas and the Massive Attraction
Interview by: Valerie Bastien

Valerie: First of all, you are Jonas and The Massive Attraction; can you introduce yourself to us because many of our listeners might no be familiar with your music…

Jonas: Sure, if any body can hear us through the crazy rock roll sound in the atmosphere.  We are Jonas and the Massive Attraction.  I’m Jonas!

Corey:  This is Corey Diabo.

Valerie: What kind of music do you do?

Jonas: We like to think it’s kind of a hybrid of a mix of different influences.

Corey: Massive rock and roll!

Jonas: Yeah, big rock!

Valerie: That’s good. Some of the songs actually remind me of Ian Thornley…

Jonas: Cool!

Corey:  That’s awesome!

Jonas: You know I think everybody kinda get their own taste of it.  It is a melting pot of influences.

Corey:  It is the language of rock. We love those big E and A chords and power chords. 

Jonas: And lots of guitars!

Valerie:  For sure!  Jonas, you have a very beautiful powerful voice so I’m wondering how did you learn to sing?

Jonas:  Thank you!  I started singing when I was a very young kid.  I was in a choir actually when I was in Grade 3.  I was in that choir in 5 years.  When I left that choir after 5 years I joined a band in high school.  That is when I started getting my real feel for rock and roll and playing in clubs and bars to get a sense of what the whole thing was about.

Valerie: How do you maintain your voice?

Jonas:  A lot of warm-ups!  When I was younger I thought I was invincible.  For longevity sake you have to be able to have a little bit of balance and I certainly nurture my voice. Especially when you’re doing long tours like this; lots of dates back to back, lots of talking and interviews during the day.  You really gotta be sure to baby it.  It’s the world smallest instrument: the vocal cords.

Valerie:  So your album Big Slice was released almost 1 ½ year ago.  Taking a step back to look at your work, how do you feel that you have grown between your last album Suite Life?

Jonas:  Big Slice actually only came out at the end of September.  We started working on it about 1 ½ year ago.  We spent about 6 months on it, then a couple of months to keep preparing it for the shows and getting it ready for the radios.

Corey:  Guitar wise, as a guitar player I’m constantly working on gear and playing and advancing that way.  As a tweaker as well getting sounds, on the first record I had a regular vintage Marshall amp with a vintage Les Paul and very simple set up and went in and got a very raw sound which was very appropriate for the album.  We are gravitating with were we are now…  My brother and I are building amps so tone has totally grown into more of a modern rock sound.  So literally I walked into the studio with my rig and I had the sound before walking in.  We simply put the Sure SM7 in front of the speaker and that is the sound we got for the album.  The producer had a very easy job because I had the sound before I went in. 

Jonas: It really was right down the middle on the strip; there was no EQ, the tone coming out of the amp was the tone we used.

Corey:  I used my Telecaster with the same vintage Marshall amp for the cleaner stuff and Tawgs loved it too so and jumped on it and put a couple of parts on for my amp as well. 

Jonas:  It was very collaborative.

Corey: For the song writing, we had a nice batch of new songs that we had worked on.

Jonas:  We wanted to write an album of songs that were solid songs even in their most naked state.  Corey and I have been playing together for 14 years; we wanted to make sure that every song was well founded and thought out and sounded good even just with vocal and guitar so that him and I could strip it and play it…  The two of us…  So that’s how the songs were written…  And then we produced them.  Sometimes I find that the bells and whistles tend to cover up the songs and when you strip it down you actually see that there’s not very much of a song, it’s just production magic…  And there’s nothing wrong with that if you want an album that’s about production but… 

Corey:  It’s a little tricky because writing rock and roll…  If you listen to the radio…  Session musicians will tell you: “I know what’s coming next”!  It’s a lot of work to have material that has different twists and different edges and yet still be pleasant to hear. 

Jonas:  And still be accessible and functional and turn people on without being completely predictable.

Valerie:  What a great answer!  I like that you sing with a lot of conviction.  One of my favorite songs is Seize the Day.  I like the message of resiliency and it resonates with me.  I’d like to know what were the circumstances behind writing that song.

Jonas:  Me personally, I was brought up in a family with lots ups and down; with lots of hardship in general.  I don’t know if mine was exceptional in any way to that extend but certainly inspirational.  My parents were both very hard working people who always got up every morning and went to work and worked their butt off to give my brother and I  what we had and it gave me a very positive outlook on life and a very supportive kind of outlook on my friends’ troubles or even strangers’ troubles.  So a song like that is just recognizing that we all need to seize the day sometimes.

Corey:  Working at low wages always resonated with me because it connects to everybody in the world.  It’s hard to make a living and it can be difficult to stay positive sometimes.

Jonas:  A lot of people get caught up in working every day and they forget why they are working and if they are not enjoying their life at that point their life is passing them by. 

Valerie: I like that!  I also like the following song I’m Not a Hero in which you are able to put yourself in a vulnerable place where you see your weaknesses.  Tell me about a situation where you were able to confront your fears to take up a challenge and be successful at it.

Jonas:  Well I can’t take credit for that.  Ed Rolland of Collective Soul wrote the lyrics on that one with Tawgs Salter and we were lucky enough that Ed let us take that song for our album.  I absolutely loved it.  It’s one of the only couple of songs that we didn’t write for the album because we wanted it to be the majority of our stuff but there were a couple of songs that were undeniable and fit us well.  That said, I think that any musicians will tell you…

Corey:  For me, it’s backing vocals…  I think I’m going to take up the vocal coaching that is so available on your website!

Jonas:  I mean any musicians will tell you that the hurdles and ups and downs of this business are challenging.  Just to be able to wake up every day and say that you play music whether or not you have success and be able to make some kind of a living doing it is enough of a challenge right there. 

Valerie:  Another song that is completely different is What Type O’ Ride Are You which is more of a fun playful sexy song.  Tell us about that song.

Corey:  We had the riff before going out to LA to write over there.  It was Halloween time writing with Simon Wilcox and Aaron Kamin at Aaron’s place.  He had a wonderfully haunting looking LA pad.  We started out, it was a very fast car, Halloween amusement park kinda theme and it was just a heavy fun riff that gradually through production and tweaking became a very funny rock song!

Jonas: We were having fun with it.  Rock and roll, fast cars and sex are kind of synonymous!  It’s a fun jump around, move around, get the crowd going song; have a blast!

Corey:  Forget life and you’re going to rock out for three minutes here!

Valerie: What other song from that album do you enjoy playing the most live?

Jonas:  It’s one of the albums for us where we really enjoy all of the dynamics.  From the up beat ones:  Addiction is a lot of fun to play live.  It’s tight. We try to keep it compressed during the verses but when the chorus comes and opens up it’s a blast to play.

Corey:  It’s nice too, to change it up a little bit because we love to play heavy rock but we like to play more gentler sounding stuff too which is very liberating in certain aspects as well.

Jonas:  You let the set breathe a little bit. 

Valerie:  I think this album shows quite a few facets of your personalities.   Like you’ll have the more sensitive smooth kinda guy and then the more edgy charismatic personality.  Who’s the real you?

Jonas:  I think the answer to that is that it’s all of those things.  I don’t think anybody can be one thing.  I’m certainly not one thing.  From hour to hour I’m something different.  From minute to minute I’m something different.  This really is a band that you hear the different influences and feel different characters of us as individuals in the songs as well and that was fundamentally important to me as we were going on and producing the album to show the different flavors and sensitivities of all the guys working on this project. 

Valerie:  Very good!  As I was researching my questions for this interview I read that you worked on a movie for Gerry Boulet.  I love Gerry Boulet. 

Jonas:  Cool! He is absolutely amazing!

Valerie:  Yeah, I grew up on Offenbach…  Do you want to tell us about that experience?

Jonas:  It was great!  John McGale actually, the character I played is a man that actually exists.  He’s a body of Corey and I.  We’ve known him for years.  We’ve played the same circuit when we were in a blues band.  Corey has played with John several times backing him up on guitar.  When I got the offer to go in and participate in the movie, especially as an Anglo artist in Quebec it was fun for me to play another Anglo artist in Quebec who walked a similar path as I had just many years previous.   In general it was fun to get out there and use my acting abilities too.    I’ve always loved acting…  I did some theater school when I was younger.  It was a good little start.  It was an easy role I mean…  My first role in a movie, to go and play and English rock star in Quebec

Corey:  We are so excited to see it too because I haven’t seen it yet and knowing that Jonas being a best friend and John being a good friend for many years…  I’m really anxious to see this.  And it is an amazing story too.  It’s about a band that really worked hard and got some serious success.        

Valerie: I’d love to see that…  I hope they are going to play it here in Toronto

Jonas:  Me too!

Valerie:  You mentioned earlier that you’re from Montreal.  People in the US might not know that Quebec has a very strong French population.  You’re doing really really well in Quebec even though you’re singing in English.  You’re not very well known in the rest of Canada so what is your plan to expand?

Jonas: This album is where we started…  Big Slice the single has had great success.  We landed the number top 10 spot in the charts for several months and we’ve been staying there.  It’s been great!

Corey: This has always been the goal.  We’ve been trying for many years.  It’s the famous 9 year overnight success which we haven’t reached.  It takes a long time.  If any body else wants to make a living playing music you have to be willing to climb those hurdles because they will be there. 

Jonas: Absolutely but this album is showing great promise as far as getting across and breaking down some boundaries that we found with other past albums.  There is also a lot of support from Calgary and coming out of Ontario right now.  This tour is helping us a lot a swell.  Interviews like yours give us more exposure online and open up the gate to our demographics and other communities.  That’s fantastic!

Valerie Bastien is a vocal coach, teacher, musician and freelance journalist.
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