A Session with Joel Massinon

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Joel Massinon at Marcus Reichenbach's apartment studio recording Noko's album "It Comes, It's Calm, It's Gone," released on October 25th, 2014. (Photo: Facebook).

Joel Massinon is a 24-year old up-and-coming artist and producer in the Montreal music industry. He has played with a number of musicians across Canada in a number of different roles. After graduating from Concordia University in 2013 with an undergraduate degree, he has recently graduated from RAC (Recording Arts Canada). Joel is currently based out of Montreal working on his career as a musician and a producer with his band Noko.

On Friday night, Joel and I sat down at his house with a case of beer and a couple guitars, and he answered some of my questions about this exciting new direction in his career.

Which facet of the music industry do you enjoy more, producing or playing?

Definitely playing. The reason I got into the producing side of it was because it's a little more of a foundation to support the playing. Plus, if you understand the way consoles and what type of microphone sounds good, you have the know-how to make your kit sound great.

How long would you say that you have been seriously playing music now?

I remember asking my parents for a drum kit when I was in grade two and every single year following. I finally got one in the sixth grade, but wouldn't say I really took it seriously until my first band in the ninth grade. That's when I'd practice every day.

At which point in your music career have you felt most proud of yourself? What would you say is your biggest accomplishment to date?

It's cool to hit milestones. I remember my very first show was opening for Les Respectables (I had no idea who they were at the time, but my teacher told me they were the Beatles of Quebec) in front of about 150 people, which was unreal. And I remember thinking, "if I get to do this again, it'll be the greatest thing ever." Then when you start recording and hearing yourself back, you think, "oh no, this is the coolest thing ever." But I'd have to say producing Noko's album was the highlight. Not only was I playing on it, but I got to mix and master it with one of my best friends.

The cover for Noko's ten-track debut album, "It Comes, It's Calm, It's Gone" (Photo: bandcamp)

Where did your love for the technical side of music come from?

It kind of came from a default... In my first few bands, we always wanted to hear what it sounded like from an outsider's perspective. So I took it upon myself to get an H2 recording device to do some amateur recordings and my love for it grew. It's really satisfying to have control over something like how your band's going to sound. Not having control, on the other hand, can be really frustrating since your ideas aren't fully being realized.

Your first degree here at Concordia University in Montreal was not music related, what pushed you to pursue music as a career rather than just a hobby?

I always knew I wanted to be in the music industry, but it's a pretty fucking scary business. Not only because you have to make contacts like crazy, but because you're living from random job to random job. While doing my other degree it always seemed like a far away dream to actually be in the music industry but thankfully Montreal has provided me with some really cool, down to earth people who pushed me to do what I feel I'm supposed to be doing.

What are some difficulties you've faced with your music so far? What do you think is the biggest challenge of getting established in the music scene as a musician, or in the industry as a producer / mixer?

The biggest challenge is definitely getting your name out there. You can tell people you've mixed this and that but at the end of the day it's the people who own studios who are gonna get the biggest clientele. I recently met up with the people at breakglass studios and they offered me a situation where I could bring in bands to record for a lower price since I'm a newcomer. So right now, I'm trying to focus on getting my site up and business cards made so that when I meet bands at shows I can give them something tangible and professional for them to take me seriously as a producer/mixer.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What would be your ideal situation, having success from the music side or from the technical side? What would you say are the key differences between the two?

In an ideal world, I'd love music to be my main source of income. A friend of mine once told me he had to create music to fulfill his ego, whereas he had noticed with me I had to be a part of music simply because I loved it so much. Whether I'm a musician or behind the console, I'd love to be doing both aspects for the rest of my life.

Have you always considered yourself a musical person? What instrument would you like to learn, or what projects would you like to work on in the future?

I haven't always been musical. When I was young I loved sports (still do) but realized quickly that I didn't truly have it in me. I vividly remember listening to The Clash's London Calling and wanting really badly to learn all the drum parts. I always wanted a drum kit just to beat the shit out of it, but there was something about the way Topper Headon played that convinced me this is what I was supposed to be doing. If I could choose another instrument it would definitely be the piano (still a percussion at heart).

What is a day in the life of mixing, producing, recording, or in general trying to book a show, have band practice, etc?

Band practice is by far the best day of the week. I typically try and record a couple days a week, even if I know it's not going anywhere. I always want to keep learning and often times I'll go back to old shit I've recorded just to fix it and apply new knowledge.

Which styles of music are your favourite to play / work with? Which artists would you like / could you see yourself working with in the future?

Electric. I've spent so much time doing acoustic stuff (which is always fun to stay authentic) but there's something about making an electric album sound big and full.

From where do you draw inspiration?

This is gonna sound completely cliché, but from my friends and peers. It's always super easy to look at a band like Grizzly Bear or Radiohead and say, "holy shit, how did they create this/produce this," but when you see some of your very best friends create something beautiful and inspiring, it pushes you.

Joel's band Noko put out their debut album entitled "It Comes, It's Calm, It's Gone" on October 25th. It is available on Noko's Bandcamp for free listening or five-dollar download. You can see Joel playing with Noko at their next show on November 27th, 10pm at Barfly; it will their final show before heading back into the studio to record their second album for release sometime in the new year.

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Great interview! Seems like a really humble guy!

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