In Conversation with . . . Mak
Volume 21 Issue 22 2013-06-14
Mak, an alternative band from Montreal, has shown a startling ability to craft and arrange thoughtful, moving songs that draw on a wide range of musical genres, including jazz, rock, and experimental music. They’ve just released their self-titled debut album to rave reviews. Recently the band’s vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist Jason MacCormack took the time to answer some of Wanda Waterman’s questions about songwriting, creative discipline, and how he first fell in love with music.
Jason MacCormack is the son of an immigrant and a Québécois. His immigrant mother worked as a barmaid, his dad as a DJ. “I grew up in the ghetto of Montreal,” he says, “Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. I was bullied and loved skateboarding. Music was not part of my life until the age of 15.”
But a penchant for music was quickly sparked: “I wrote a song for a play at school and that was it, I was hooked,” he says. “I embraced the spotlight at all secondary school shows; then I went to music school, where I recruited my band (and learned stuff). School is a great thing, but I’m mostly self-taught.”
What was Jason’s most moving musical experience? “I was playing a show last year in Montreal and that night I felt so shitty about the girlfriend I had at the time and the fight I’d had with my dad a few hours before. In the last song of our set I started to cry while singing. From the start, you’re already nude on a stage. That night I couldn’t have been closer or more exposed to the audience. That kind of intimacy doesn’t happen often.”
“The band is composed of very talented and dedicated individuals. That also helps in creating a constructive vibe when we work on the songs,” Jason says.
The discipline is essential: “Music doesn’t appear like magic. It’s days and nights of hard work. I believe anyone can do anything if they have the will for it.”
However, the band may sometimes err on the side of being overly disciplined, forgetting that they had originally embraced music for the sheer pleasure of hearing and creating it.
“It becomes a task more than a hobby,” Jason says. “When it comes to working on songs on my computer, I can spend from eight to ten hours straight recording and staring at that screen, which is a good and a bad thing. I do it until my body screams OUCH!”
The band draws from an array of sources for inspiration. The song “Stone”—a mesmerizing ditty I have on continuous play in iTunes—was inspired, he says, by mushroom trip in the woods of the Mont-Royal Park in Montreal. Other sources include listening to stimulating music, including the works of Radiohead, Feist, Beck, and newcomer Ray Lamontagne.
“I either start with the music or a sentence that sounds strong to my heart and build up from there,” Jason says. “Depending on the song and the direction I want it to take, I work on it from there with the band or alone.”
Has the creative life changed him? “Maybe, in the sense that I’m just doing that right now, but I’ve always been really passionate about one thing or another at any given time,” he says.
The name Mak is a play on Jason’s last name. “I don’t feel like exposing myself as a solo artist,” he confesses, “but it’s very important for me to be known as a composer. That band name makes it pretty obvious. And it’s a lot of fun to play as a band.”
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