MASON MELLE THE MILLION DOLLAR MAN
Mason Melle is a Winnipeg-based musician.
Interview by Rebeccah Love
How would you describe your childhood?
Pretty rural, both parents grew up on farms but eventually moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan before I was born. We had a lot of time out at family farms, and we lived on the edge of town with fields right behind us. Lots of time and space.
What creative activities did you engage in when you were a kid?
I played piano when I was a little kid, and saxophone in school. I fell away from them when I started learning guitar. I liked creative writing pretty early on too.
How did you develop an interest in music?
Both my parents had a strong appreciation for all kinds of music, and my dad played guitar. He would play and show me chords and basic stuff.
What was your relationship with music like as a teenager?
It's all I really thought about. I had my music buddies at school and we played in different bands. We had a small music store and we'd buy all the punk/metal albums that came through and trade them around. I'd mail away for stuff we didn't get to record labels, and get my older friends to drive me to Regina or Saskatoon to shows on the regular (1 or 4 hour drive). My dad taught my uncle to play bass and my brother started playing drums, so we played a lot of good stuff at home too.
Who were you listening to?
Lots of rap, but then I started to dig in more to punk rock and metal. Too many bands to list, but I stayed pretty exclusive to those genres until I started listening to guys like Bob Dylan and Neil Young. That opened up a whole other channel.
You've mentioned that you've played different genres of music but always come back to rock and roll. What genres have you explored? And what is it about rock and roll that always draws you back?
I started out playing in punk bands with friends, and mostly country at home with the fam. When I moved to Winnipeg I eventually met some classical musicians who wanted to start a bluegrass band. We made an album and I learned a lot about music from them. I think what I liked about rock and roll was how diverse you could make the sound. It doesn't have to scream in your face or prove anything, but it has some kind of low key creeping badass aspect that I love.
You've played music with Corb Lund's Grant Siemens and The Weakerthans' recording engineer Shawn Dealey....What are your thoughts on the Winnipeg music scene?
I think the Winnipeg music scene is amazing. There is so much talent here. You could throw a rock and hit an amazing guitar player. For the size of the city there is a very wide range of music styles and genres. Once you kind of get in and start meeting people it can be very collaborative. People just want to play, and I've been lucky to play in different projects with all types of players.
Can you tell me more about the rundown, empty bar where you met many of your collaborators?
There is a bar called the Sherbrook Inn across the street from us. It's a pretty derelict place. It has a hotel upstairs that serves as a halfway house for people who just got out of jail, but some people live there too. I've seen some rough stuff go down there. It's a huge room thats normally pretty empty, with the exception of a few patrons playing vlts. I always liked it because it was empty. If you played there and got a few friends out, you kind of ran the mood there for the night. My friend and I thought it would be the perfect place to have a weekly gig. We served as the "house band" and would have other musicians come in and out whenever they dropped by. There were occasional crowds, but it was mostly playing to 10 people and pissed off vlt heads. We did that for about a year, and it went a long way in my musical development.
You play a lot of music with your brother, Ethan Melle. What's it like, making music with family?
Ethan is a great musician. He started with drums and picked up guitar and bass. He has a great sense of the small things that can make a song great. I've always been a bit of a perfectionist, and I was not always the easiest to play with, being 6 years older than him. I've watched old videos of him drumming at shows when he was 12 and think now "man he was pretty good". We argue a lot during the rehearsal process, but the end result always comes together. He says I'm not allowed to look at him anymore if he screws up while we're playing. Ha.
Can you tell me a little bit about the music you've been making in the past couple years? What do you see yourself exploring?
I've been mostly writing songs on my guitar in a country or rock n roll style. Usually pretty simple structure, but I generally have a pretty strong idea of instrumentation and drum parts. For the next one, I want to play around with percussion a bit more and maybe some big backup vocals. I'm never really that tied to what the end result has to sound like. I think it's more about having the right people participating when you record and seeing what happens.
What is your favourite instrument?
Guitar. I always thought they were really cool.
What non-musical art forms do you turn to for inspiration?
I really like writing, reading, and looking at paintings.
What do you like most about being a musician? Why is music important? What music are you listening to right now?
There's a feeling I get from playing music that I don't from anything else. When everyone in the band is tapped into the same feeling, it's really special. I think it's important because it can be difficult to find that magic in life. Right now I'm listening to a bunch of instrumental music. Lots of 70s jazz from around the world. I've also been on a pretty big soul kick.
How has COVID affected your music?
It's definitely taken a bite out of the live performance aspect. I had a little tour lined up to promote the EP but we had to cancel that. It sucks ha. But everybody is feeling that. We had recorded live 360° video before things shutdown, so it was good to be able to put that out, and maybe we'll do a livestream thing too. One positive is that it has given a lot of time to work on new stuff, and that's exciting. Hopefully it gets figured out soon.
What are you looking forward to?
Getting back into a studio and trying out new songs, and playing as many shows as I can!
Follow Mason Melle on Instagram @masonmelle.
Find his music on spotify, youtube and bandcamp