Excerpt from Alex’s SFCC exclusive blog. Read the full version here
I always had a very particular relationship with my father, to say the least. We rarely got along, nor were we on the same page about most of every possible subject… except for music. You see, I grew up in a “radio always on” type of family – from my mother being into Elvis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, and everything rock n roll, to my father who was into Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, CCR, Neil Young, Bowie, the Stones, Pink Floyd and everything having a blues influence in their sound. My first ever real father-and-son conversation came up when I was around 8 years old and told my parents at dinner that my teacher told us that the most amazing band in the music history was The Monkees and played us one of their albums in class. My father almost choked over his meat pie “WHAT?!? She said WHAT?!?” He looked at me and said: “Ok, come with me…. NOW!!!”
So, in the middle of dinner (I thought I would be punished for whatever reason), a big man took his son to the living room of their tiny little apartment to show him everything he needed to know about life. “The Rolling Stones and the nature of true rock music”. All that, as if I wasn’t a “different” kind of kid already. My father figured it was time for me to musically become a man. The years of innocence were over. No more “mom’s rock n roll fun songs”. It was time to drop the childhood curtain for me to see the world as it is. Some people have a fishing trip story, a first beer moment, an initiation to the reasons why you should like and hate whatever team from whatever sport, an introduction to literature, philosophy, poetry, beaux-art… even faith! But for my father, taking the time to explain what he believed was the most important thing could be summed up into “The Rolling Stones”.
Leaving Iceland in a Jazzy Type of Mood
Note: This Spotify playlist has been written from the Reykjavik airport while I was waiting for my flight back home.
I’m presently at the Reykjavik airport, waiting to board my plane back home after what has been quite a chaotic and nightmarish last Icelandic moment following the cancellation of all flights from my airline… A situation that left the filming crew and I grounded on this magnificent island a little longer than expected.
Regardless of all the confusion, I’m quite blessed to have found a last-minute seat within the complex circumstances, especially as so many people are still stuck here without much – if any at all – answers or affordable alternatives to go back home. It’s a strange type of ending to an adventure that has been nothing short of fantastic and inspiring, but maybe every unique story is ultimately made of similar unbelievable events… If so, that trip has been quite a singular one to say the least!
The Beauty Of Gloom… The Blessing Of Amazing
I’m still laughing at all the comments I received following my 2 last Spotify playlists, especially those stating that I totally misled everyone into believing “Guilty Pleasure” was something a little off that you are listening to discretely, when I filled my playlist with the likes of Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, John Lydon and Siouxsie… as Rebeca wrote to me: “Alex, how can you say guilty pleasure and name Johnny Ramone and David Byrne? You totally acted way cool! But I forgive you for sharing great songs at least!” So thank you all for your compassionate grace… I’ll try to make amends in the upcoming weeks, I promise 😉
This week has been incredibly busy. I left the absolutely wonderful springtime of my Virginia Highlands to get back to Montreal for a short stop where I worked on a very special project for the upcoming Record Store Day and scheduled my next studio sessions with Ben before heading back to the airport once more to go shoot a new video for one of the tracks of my album “Windows in the Sky”. Fun fun times ahead!!!
Therefore, what I love more than anything else about being on a plane is the fact that I can let go into music like nowhere else. No chat, no email, nothing but sounds, noises and words… a whole lot of it all! It’s one of the ultimate pleasures I still allow myself to have in life, and this time, I fell right back into the band of my friend Andrey, SUPERNOVA 1006. It’s an amazing band from St. Petersburg I discovered a few years ago totally randomly when a promoter was trying to get me and Your Favorite Enemies to play in Russia, which we almost did if it wasn’t for me leaving for Tangier… for 2 years!!! So I was looking for a potential Russian band we could tour with, and found SUPERNOVA 1006. And what a discovery! Great music, sharp writers and extraordinary people… I bought their 7” right away!
“My Guilty Pleasure” Part 2
I received so many incredible songs and stories for my weekly Spotify with the theme “My Guilty Pleasure” over the last 2 weeks, from really funny to beautifully deep, may it be from old time friends, people who don’t want to be tagged, people asking me more details on my personal weekly stories, up to people telling me they only like uncool and generic stuff, others sending non-Spotify artists, and all, and all. For me, everyone is welcome to share, however cool or not they think they are or how underground and experimental the music they like is… It’s always about what moves you.
This playlist is not about what Alex thinks is cool music or not… If that was the case it would be quite boring. And who wants to hear playlists assembled of 10, 15, 20 songs of 30-minute songs made of feedback and bad recording? Not that many people, believe me…! My bandmates remind me every single time they pass by the studio: “Alex, let us know when your feedback therapy treatment is over, we’ll join you after…” So again, everyone is welcome to share 😉
For me, receiving song suggestions from all over the world is the indisputable proof that music has that unique and wonderful essence that allows us all not only to express any possible type of feelings but has the power to help us commune with other people like nothing else I have ever been exposed to in my life. So, with all that being said, here’s “My Guilty Pleasure” playlist, part 2.
Feature: Talking Heads
It has been a little more difficult for me to assemble my playlist this week, the reason being I didn’t pay as much attention to music as I usually do, which also explains why I felt a little more down, I guess… But also because March is quite a busy month for me and the other Your Favorite Enemies members. So I hesitated about the band I wanted to feature, I became more self-conscious about what I would share (the being seen as cool part…!) and sent my text to translation (Yes, we do translate posts through real people :)) past my usual deadline… It’s only today, Monday, late afternoon, that it all came naturally, as I was watching the first episode of Iggy Pop’s “Punk” documentary on Epix… And sorry, Iggy, it’s not the Stooges nor the Ramones who came to mind!
In fact, as pretty much everyone I meet, I have a very different vision on what defines the real nature of “punk”, which differences could be exposed by a conversation I had with the promoter of a venue I was playing to with Your Favorite Enemies a few years back during our “Shadows of Dreams to Come” tour…
Promoter: “So, Alex… What’s punk to you? The Pistols, The Clash, The Ramones…?”
Alex: “… Talking Heads.”
Alex: “No, but really…”
Promoter: “AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHA!!! ok, Alex… Honestly!”
Alex: “Talking Heads”
Alex: “Ain’t punk about doing whatever you want regardless of the trend you are involved with?”
Promoter: “TALKING HEADS AIN’T PUNK”
Alex: “The Ramones, The Pistols, The Clash later on… They weren’t following trends, they were being themselves, not the usual copy cats that followed, right?”
Promoter: “You are right… But not Talking Heads, no…!”
Alex: “For me, Mozart, Luther, Da Vinci, Dali, Hemingway, Cash, Burroughs, Public Enemy… all punks”
Promoter: “Not David Byrne… He’s a nerd!”
Alex: “Yes! Sorry to break your heart, but David Byrne is a punk to me”
Promoter: “Ok, ok, go and show me what punk is tonight then…”
“My Guilty Pleasure…” Part 1
Once again, I had the wonderful privilege to receive an incredible amount of suggestions along with the stories associated to most of them, to the point that instead of having a 50+ songs playlist or having to dismiss too many of your suggestions, I decided to make it a 2-part, 2-week Spotify playlist called “Guilty Pleasure – Super Deluxe”. So not only do we have the opportunity to discover or rediscover more of your songs, but it also gives you a little more time to send me your sonic guilty pleasures! 😉
I will always remember the moment I discovered the music of Madness. I was in my favorite record store in downtown Montreal. I had skipped school to attend the gig of one of my favorite local bands who was opening for PIL later that evening. I was in the hardcore music section when I heard that cool music playing. It was something I had never truly heard before, but it was all cool sounds I liked from other bands; brass, upright jazz piano, the upright bass. But all the instruments were played in a different way. I was like: “Wait a second! What’s that kind of music playing?” I was already quite fond of reggae music thanks to Don Letts and Joe Strummer, but that moment would be the beginning of a long love affair with English ska music… Thanks to Madness! 🙂
“I Hate Loving You…” Part 2
Once again, I’ve been truly touched to receive your song suggestions, the stories associated with them all, some of them as emotional as others were funny! Thank you all for turning my weekly @Spotify playlist into something way more interesting and meaningful than a distant assemblage of songs.
Therefore, I decided to answer a question by Zoé from Paris, France: “What was your first heartbreak and what band/artist did you turn to in order to overcome that emotional pain?”
Feature: Nick Drake
I don’t know if the expression “the first cut is the deepest” really means anything regarding emotional pain, but I certainly experienced something that felt like the most devastating sensation of all in my last 2 years of high school. I didn’t see love quite the same way my friends did at the time, I wasn’t really dating, nor was I someone people were eager to be romantically involved with. And I realized quite fast that a guy obsessed by Kant’s perspective and Baudelaire’s work wasn’t really what other people considered cool, not as a potential fun person to go out with at least, especially at 14-15 years old!
This probably explains why my first heartbreak never came from a breakup but from the terrible realization that the person I had strong emotions for during all my high school years would never reciprocate those emotions. And it’s not because my closest friends hadn’t been trying to expose that obvious fact from every possible angles for years… But I was some sort of an idealist and probably secretly believed that poets would always win over the coolest and most popular ones… right?!
“I Hate Loving You…”
This week’s theme for my Spotify playlist couldn’t be more accurate as when I asked my dear and precious Your Favorite Enemies bandmates if they had any song suggestions. They all told me something like: “It will be difficult for you to pick only a few songs for your playlist, as almost all the music you listen to is a long wrist-cutting soundtrack of death itself having an everlasting suicidal heartbreak”. So, as you can see, it’s always inspiring to commune with them, especially on very spiritual matters such as assembling a playlist… Oh, well! I love you nonetheless!
One thing is for sure though, is that I read every single story you attach to the song suggestions you send me, from inspiring let go, stopped abusive cycles, breakups that led to finding very special loved ones, identity crisis turned identity affirmation, cheating tragedies, cheating forgiveness, up to rejoicing moments of relationship toxicity coming to an end… It was really moving, touching and humbling to read it all. Really, thank you again for your trust, you are really generous with me.
Feature: Damien Rice
“In the Name of Love…”
I wrote this as I was on a tiny airplane, my ride from Washington DC to my Virginian Highlands hideout for a few days, before going back to LA. I listened to all the songs you so generously sent me for my weekly Spotify playlist “Digital Noises for Analog Souls”. I’m always very impressed to discover just how diverse in genres the songs are, as I am moved to read the stories you shared with them. I feel even more privileged to discover those little pieces of your history and I am truly thankful for the trust you have in me to expose your hearts as you are doing through those songs. They are even more meaningful to me now… Music is truly about communion.
It was obviously a little difficult for me to ignore the fact that this week’s playlist would be published pretty close to Valentine’s Day. I’m not particularly fond of everything that comes with it, but I decided to play along, to have fun while trying to add a bit of “noiseful” soul to the most commercial of all love celebrations. I hope I won’t ruin your special dinner or put an awkward strangeness to you fuzzy evening music – Which I started having doubts about when Jeff, passing by and hearing the music, asked me: “Oh! You’re doing your weekly playlist! Are you assembling a “bad date gone weird” song list? It sounds Creepy good!”
Me: “WHAT?!? What do you mean?!”
Jeff: “Nothing! The songs sound great. But if it’s about having a romantic dinner or getting into a sweet mood, well… it explains a lot about your social life, brother!”
Me: “What is that supposed to mean?”
Jeff: “Nothing! Keep doing you, buddy! The playlist sounds great!”
Feature: Nouvelle Vague
So, regardless of that obvious “romantic bullying” I’ve been the victim of, here’s nonetheless my artist feature for my 4th “Digital Noises for Analog Souls” playlist, “In the Name of Love…”: the French band Nouvelle Vague. For me, they represent one of the most “let go” and moody type of bands there is. I discovered them about 10 years ago, in a beautifully happy sonic accident.
I’ve been traveling pretty much every day last week, and when I’m on the road like I often am, I’m somehow more careful, if I can say it this way, with the music I choose, more conscious of what I feed myself with, in a way.
In fact, I like to see that state of mind as not only becoming one with the sounds, the words and the atmosphere of a song or an album, but also as an understanding that all those little sonic details and whispering words will set the mood I will be in after. It’s especially true when I’m flying, as I’m more sensitive and emotional, therefore more inclined to fully let go, to completely immerse myself in the music.
This week’s feature on my Spotify playlist “Digital Noises for Analog Souls” is the American artist Ryan Lott and his incredible project Son Lux. I discovered Ryan’s music back in 2009 when a friend offered me their fabulous album “At War with Walls & Mazes” saying: “I hate that band, so it means you will LOVE it. Let me know what you think!” Well… that friend was right, as I remember having only listened to that album for about 2 months nonstop, which completely alienated that friend in the process. He shouldn’t have given me that incredible album in the first place, right? But I am incredibly thankful he did!
I have been really floored and quite inspired to receive SO many song suggestions from you after I introduced you my new “Digital Noises for Analog Souls” Spotify playlist, all personal songs, with a personal meaning to them. I believe that music, along with visual art forms, is the purest of all communal expression as it doesn’t require any far-fetched analysis or overly pompous explanations to feel the emotions they are made of or shared from. So again, thank you for sending me your personal favorites along with a few words explaining why via comments or personal messages with the mention “my fav song, #10, playlist”, or whatever may catch my attention quickly 😉 You guys will always have the #10 spot on every one of my weekly playlists “Digital Noises for Analog Souls”.
This feature will be biased. I knew it even before writing a single word about MONO’s new album “Nowhere Now Here”. First, I’ve been a MONO fan ever since I had the wonderful blessing to hear the album “You Are There” played on a tiny little screen at Tower Records when I first visited Tokyo back in 2007. I wasn’t much a fan of instrumental music at the time, but MONO kind of opened the door to another expressive dimension that would later become a very important part of my personal and artistic expression and would lead me to become a massive fan of Mogwai and Explosions in the Sky to only name these 2 bands. MONO will however always remain my first love.
I have never missed an album release since. But even more, I’ve been able to grow with them, to evolve as they have, to live it all as a fan, which for me is becoming difficult with time… Mainly because I saw behind the entertainment’s “magic secret” curtain and kinda lost my innocence on the magic that I used to find within my favorite artists’ stories, I guess. But some of them, like MONO, remained what I call the epitome of what it means to be creatively honest. After so many albums, so many tours. I know how easily corrupted that honesty can become, for whatever reasons, right or wrong. But still, for me, MONO is some sort of a personal anchor into that fast fading realm of real, of honest.