Canadian musician bends time and emotion to present a deeper truth.

As published in Prog Mag

Canadian musician bends time and emotion to present a deeper truth.

ALEX HENRY FOSTER emits a hale and hearty laugh at the observation that he doesn’t do anything that’s less than epic. And with his live sextet, The Long Shadows, behind him – that’s a band that sometimes includes two drummers – delivering readings of songs that can last up to 25 minutes, he knows that this isn’t the time for false modesty.

“There’s a big difference between the studio and the live versions,” he explains. “The biggest challenge – apart from having seven musicians onstage navigating lots of equipment – is to focus on the moment and remain on the edge. We had to unlearn everything we learned in the past about being professional musicians on tour and realise that everything is new every night.”

Raised on an early diet of Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and King Crimson, Montreal native Alex Henry Foster’s tastes then developed to embrace more avant-garde and noise rock influences including Swans, Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth. Already a music veteran thanks to his tenure with alt-rockers Your Favorite Enemies, Foster was forced to re-assess his life after the death of his father from cancer.

Relocating to Tangier in Morocco to recalibrate, Foster soaked up the local environment and confronted his grief by working on the songs that would go on to become his solo debut, Windows In The Sky. The result is an album of sweeping, emotional grandeur that seamlessly blends post-rock with progressive explorations to extend a lineage that includes Mogwai and Steven Wilson.

“This is a solo project,” explains Foster. “But since I wanted to bring a band along, I have a foundation of friends that are really into this thing, while there are others who are coming and going.”

Given the personal nature of the songs, Foster was initially a little hesitant about taking the project on the road. “My biggest worry was, if we’re going live and playing those songs over and over again, would it become a rock’n’roll circus?” he says.

His brave solution was to unshackle the songs from their recorded versions and go with the flow of the emotions. “It needed to be an open-minded interpretation of the songs, based on the moment,” says Foster. “That’s why my role is like that of a maestro and the band have to watch for my signal. It’s very organic and based on the reaction of the crowd. And there are also the technical challenges given the amount of equipment that we use. There are a lot of things going on, so when you put that into improvisation, you have to be really focused on what’s going on.”

He adds: “We can play stellar concerts, but if it’s sterile in terms of the emotions and remains self- centred musically, then for me, that doesn’t make any sense. I need that level of danger and to be on the verge of collapse to know that it’s real.” Alex Henry Foster pauses to allow himself a small chuckle before adding “This is what we are and this is what we do.”

J.N
May 7, 2020

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