Music Monday: Mike Masse
I was at a birthday party for a friend a few years back, enjoying the evening, when all of a sudden, his brother Mike Masse took the stage, and an all too familiar chord started playing.
Turns out my friend’s brother is not only a wildly talented musician, he also does a pretty damn good Third Eye Blind cover...
Nic Sams: What inspired you to cover “God of Wine” by Third Eye Blind?
Mike Masse: I got turned on to the song by my brother, Mark, who is a big 3EB fan. He had recommended I cover it, so it was always on my radar. I loved the song, and understood immediately why he was such a fan. I actually ended up learning it and performing it as a surprise for him for his 40th birthday party. I later recorded it for my YouTube channel, where I do acoustic classic rock covers.
NS: Was there anything musically, that you found fascinating about the song?
MM: The guitar part is just beautifully hypnotic and dynamic. The song evolves into this huge wall of sound that “permeates" your ears and soul. It’s that intensity in the arrangement, both from the vocals and the band, that I found so compelling. I’m not sure if the lyrics were meant to be taken at face value or if it’s more allegorical, but I always interpreted them fairly literally—recounting the struggles of addiction, compounded by two partners in a relationship that are co-dependent in their struggles and bringing out the worst in each other. It’s sung from the vantage point of a person who says “can we get clean again?” and then later, “I can’t get clean again”—he oscillates between the “we” and “I” of addiction, as if he’s not strong enough to do it alone, and he’s not strong enough to leave the destructive relationship. “You let me down, I said it” is that moment where he gets up the courage to confront his partner, almost not believing he was finally able to say it out loud. And then turns around and blames his partner for his own weakness—“now I’m going down, and you’re not even around.” The song ends with a description of the emptiness that addiction leaves you with: “a sadness I can’t erase, all alone on your face.” The addict is always left searching for something no one can ever give them.
Before becoming a full-time musician a few years ago, I worked as a public defender for 13 years, so to me the lyrics were an accurate reflection of how people’s success with battling addiction is often directly correlated to the company they keep. I saw it play out time and again in the saddest situations—people would get clean, and then return to their old circles and old relationships, only to relapse and fall farther than they thought they’d ever want to go. People can lift each other up or drag each other down. We have to decide for ourselves whether we’ll surround ourselves with positive or negative influences, and what kind of influences we’ll be on others.
NS: What changes did you make to the song while recording?
MM: My approach to acoustic covers is always to change as little as possible. Instead, I try to cram as much of the original as I can into one vocal and guitar arrangement. E.g., as the song picks up, you’ll hear me trying to emulate the guitar part along with the drum rhythm all at once, in order to maintain the feel and intensity of the original. I cover songs I love, generally, so I usually don’t feel the need to tamper with what’s nearly perfect to begin with. I try to remain faithful to the energy and emotion of the original above all else. But my own style still seeps through, regardless. I guess you could say I take these songs and put them through the “Mike Masse” acoustic filter. And hopefully they come out largely intact. I like to think that if people like the original, they’ll like my cover. That’s not always true, but that’s the mission, anyway.
People have commented over the years that Stephan’s vocal style has “unique timing” what’s your take on this?
MM: This song is pretty straightforward rhythmically, in terms of the vocals, at least in this case. And I’m thankful for that, since I’m pulling double duty, playing the guitar part and singing at the same time. If the rhythms were more disparate, it would have been much harder to pull off a solo acoustic cover.
NS: What else do you want to add?
MM: It was an honor to cover this epic song. I’d be curious to know if 3EB have ever heard it. If so, I hope they liked it. And to you, dear readers, I hope you enjoyed my cover. [Insert shameless plug] Please check out my YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/mikemasse. I’ve posted over 150 covers, mostly acoustic. I’ve got over 180,000 subscribers and nearly 60 million channel views so far, so come check it out!