The electronic genre is gaining more diversity with newcomers extending the genre. For example, Young Paris has already added African drumbeats and rap to the game. Montreal-born musician Mas Ysa (birthname Thomas Arsenault) is adding rock-style screaming vocals to the mix. His haunting sound and lyrics gives you that feeling that you just want to dance and then reflect. Born to a Quebecois father and Ecuadorian mother, his ballads at times reflect the angst of growing up Catholic. Being a nomad, Mas has lived in Sao Paulo (Brazil), Vancouver, Oberlin (Ohio), Brooklyn and Woodstock (New York). His crisscrossing the globe is responsible for his crisscrossing of genres, adding North American alternative to Brazilian rave and techno. His music can only be likened to a very deep, electronic John Mayer. He released his first full-length album Seraph in the summer of this year (I particularly liked the songs Margarita, Arrows, and the duet I Have Some) and he is now touring Canada (see HERE for details ). I had a chance to e-sit down with him for a telephone interview.
Adam Shaw (AS): I would like to start by thanking you for sharing your time with me and Montreal Rampage.
Mas Ysa (MY): No problem.
AS: Mas Ysa is such a beautiful name. What’s the story behind it?
MY: I’ve probably answered that four or five different ways in the press and I’m just going to keep it a secret if it’s not known.
AS: Mysterious, I like that.
MY: Not really mysterious, I just answer that question all the time.
Author’s note: I’ve perused his other interviews and he always avoids the question. It may be a touchy subject, but I think it’s just to be a little more mysterious.
AS: A lot of your music is self-reflective and introspective. How do you think this might help your listeners?
MY: Well, I dunno. I guess there’s a certain degree of the more specific you get, the more universal, maybe. The response is, I don’t know how my songs being personal helps anybody, even me. But, it’s cool if other people listen to it.
AS: Do you think that people might…. when they’re searching for something and they don’t know exactly what it is and they listen to your music and say – hey, that guy is going through the same things I’m going through… Do you think that’s what it is?
MY: Sure. I think that happens with all music, lyrical or not lyrical. You end up grafting your own unconscious on anything. Like, even if it’s raining or not and you’re bummed out. I don’t think it’s specific to lyrics or my music or music at all.
AS: What inspires you the most to make music?
MY: Trying to avoid the day job.
AS: Yeah, I can relate to that.
AS: I saw the video on youtube for Margarita. And it seems like it is about someone very special that left too early. Is that right?
MY: The song Margarita is named after my mother who’s on the cover of all my records.
AS: Awesome. I kinda got that wrong, but I understand what it’s all about now.
MY: Well, that’s funny because I don’t necessarily understand what it’s all about. I don’t feel like I set out to help anybody or necessarily convey a specific set of values. I end up making it because it feels good.
AS: Your music certainly crosses genres. How would you classify your own music?
MY: Well, that’s definitely your job and not my job, so I don’t bother.
MY: I think with all things, the practice comes before the theory. If I was going to classify it, then I would be probably limiting myself as to what I would or wouldn’t be open to making. So, I don’t do that.
AS: That’s definitely a great answer.
AS: You’re going to be playing La Vitrola on Friday night. How do you feel about coming back home to Montreal after such a long time?
MY: Well, Montreal is a funny place for me to play because the first time I ever played there was easily, easily… in my entire career, not only as Mas Ysa, but before that… the first show I ever played in Montreal is easily the worst show I’ve ever played in my life. I’ve only ever played one other show in Montreal with a band called Hundred Waters. I always look forward to going and playing a very connected and open-hearted set in Montreal because it is my place of birth. And, I’m constantly trying to repair the damage I did to whoever came to see me the first time. .
AS: Well, we’re happy to have you back.
MY: Thank you.
AS: How is your new home, Woodstock, NY compared to Montreal?
MY: I haven’t lived in Montreal since I was young. So, I don’t really compare anything to Montreal. I don’t really have a sense of what it’s like to live there as an adult. And I no longer live in Woodstock, either.
MY: Right now, I’m just kinda floating around. It couldn’t be anything more different. It was the U.S. It was in the woods. I had no neighbours and it was different. I’m between places right now. So, I don’t know where I’m going to move.
AS: I guess this is a great segue into my next question: You’ve lived in so many different cities. Which ones did you vibe with most?
MY: I like New York and Sao Paulo the most. But Sao Paulo was in high school – so, everything was new and wonderful. And I had a really great experience feeling all that. You know, being in that drastically different culture from North America — that was just amazing. As far as cities go, New York is the best city there is, but at the same time I don’t necessarily want to go back to it right now. I don’t really care for cities to begin with. I like living in the woods. For me, it doesn’t matter so much what’s going on in the city, but rather what kind of environment my day-to-day is.
AS: So, whatever you’re vibing with, you want to have the same atmosphere surrounding you?
MY: Well, you tour and stuff and you end up in cities and clubs all the time. So, I don’t thirst for a city so much. But, I’m in Toronto right now and I’m really liking it a lot. I really like it. Maybe, I’ll end up here. Maybe, I’ll end up in Montreal. I dunno.
AS: Who is the woman in the duets on Seraph and is she going to be at La Vitrola with you?
MY: If I could only afford her. No, her name is Nicole Miglis. She’s from a band called Hundred Waters. She’s not going to be there. I have played some shows with her and her band. But, it’s not really that feasible to just fly her out.
AS: Anything else you would like to share with our readers before the concert?
MY: No, just come…
AS: Thank you Mas. It was my pleasure in chatting with you. Can’t wait to see you in Montreal.
MY: Thank you. Bye.
Mas Ysa plays La Vitrola (4602 St-Laurent) with Saxsyndrum on Friday, October 9th. Doors open at 8:00pm. $12/$15.