Alex Henry Foster: “This album was liberating for me”

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As published in Guitar World

Read the original article here

We caught up with the frontman of Your Favorite Enemies to discuss his esoteric debut solo album, Windows in the Sky

Following the death of his father from cancer in 2016, Alex Henry Foster placed his main project, Canadian cult rockers Your Favourite Enemies on hiatus, and left for Tangier, Morocco. By the time he returned to Canada, he and his former bandmates had recorded his first solo album, a cathartic mix of post-rock and noise-rock that’s a far cry from anything the band had done before.

Your Favourite Enemies have toured all over the world, but they’re still best known in their native Canada for their well-executed, punchy alt-rock. In their later work, they incorporated more shoegaze and post-rock elements, as well as a closer attention to sound design and layering in their production. Even so, the tracks and their presentation had a calculated slickness and a sheen that’s been all but abandoned for Alex’s new project.

Guitar World caught up with Alex and brothers Sef and Ben Lemelin on their European tour in support of Windows in the Sky, which found them supporting legendary US noise-rockers …And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead.

First of all, why Tangier, and how did the album come together there?

“I went there with only the intention to write. After that, what was supposed to be two months kind of isolation became like, well, ultimately became two years. When everything looked like I was settling there, I was talking to Ben [Lemelin]… and then slowly we started to get into a place that we had transformed into a home studio.”

“So we had Pro Tools, but otherwise quite minimal stuff, so we had to be more creative, rather than rely on the gadgets and everything that we have in our regular studio, which is a church that we turned into a professional studio.”

“It’s a state-of-the-art studio, so we were always in a place that I was relying on the things I needed to record, and [I wanted] to make sure that it was only about the honesty of the moment, because I wanted the record to be about the emergency of emotion.”

So was it recorded mostly live there then? There wasn’t a thought of finishing it back in Canada?

“I wasn’t trusting myself to go back in the studio after and redo everything.”

What kind of gear did you have with you? An acoustic and an electric, presumably…

“I had a bit more tools than just an acoustic guitar. We all had different levels of minimal. For me it was very important, because a lot of things were recorded live, in a live setting, and I didn’t want to go back and do overdubs, like we used to do with my previous band, Your Favourite Enemies.”

“Because we had the studio it was a never-ending process of [dealing with] all the little details, all the little things. You get to the point of working on things so long that you have to go back to the first one because at the end of the process it doesn’t feel the same.”

How did the writing process work, and how did you go about recording?

“Because the record was very personal and intimate, I wanted the record to go from one track to another [smoothly], so I worked on the songs in the same order that they are on the record. It was more of an emotional journey… I wasn’t looking at this as some kind of an ‘art statement’ – it was really about capturing the essence of the moment.”

Yet the album is very layered. You’ve already said that overdubs were a thing you tried to minimize or eliminate, so how did you go about that?

“That was the biggest challenge, I guess, because coming from a band with a lot of heavy guitars and really direct kind of approach, I had to trust instinct, rather than trying to find these riffs before going on. It was really about finding a balance between all the little tiny elements, basically kind of like when you have a canvas, and then you need to put all the colors in there. Then you’re able to have a kind of perspective.”

“As we were going through, some colors were more vivid, and then slowly you’re able to see all the different textures around. That’s very instinctive, so as much as possible as I was going like through the process, I was able to add different guitars, different tones, different amps – even though I didn’t have a lot of material, I was able to rely on what I wanted to hear, rather than just making some kind of a sonic statement.”

Other than the location and your equipment, were there any other things different about your influences on this record?

“I went back to all my influences, way back to the things that really got me into music, which was things like Branca, Sonic Youth, old-time Swans, all these bands that are more into textures and using those instruments as tools to carry emotions rather than trying to find a cool riff.”

Was there any specific gear you leaned on heavily?

“A couple different guitars, that was the main thing, that was the fundamental. I had a few Jazzmasters, [and] a tenor Eastwood four string so I was able to add different textures. What I was looking for wasn’t really about what others did, it was about finding the balance between all those instruments.”

“If you always have the same kind of instruments and you’re very faithful, like we used to do, [saying] ‘Okay, we’re a Fender Jazzmaster band’ – that was some kind of a statement. For this record, it was really like taking an instrument and seeing what was complementing the other ones that I had… I was trusting my ears rather than what I thought I should do.”

How did that sound design express itself? At the composition stage? Recording? Mixing? All three?

“I was really interested in making sure it wasn’t just a wall of noise. It’s very easy to put everything, you know, to 10, push a pedal and suddenly you feel like you’re king of the world, but nothing really happens. So that was the biggest challenge afterwards, because especially in Tangier we had a small space and we were close to a mosque, so five times a day [there was the call to prayer]… we were also on the corner of a very busy street, so you have a lot of life going on.”

“I wanted this to be part of the music as well, [and] sometimes if you put your headphones you can hear these little weird noises that you don’t really know what [they] are. It was really part of the environment that we were in.”

“So I wanted the guys [involved] in the project to be in the environment I was in when I wrote everything, so instead of just coming and playing the parts, there were a lot of moments where they had to listen, in a way, to each other, rather than just playing super-loud. So that’s how we were able to mix all the layers into one sound.”

That makes sense. How did you orchestrate the players in the band while playing yourself?

“Sef [Lemelin] is a wizard with all the pedals and everything, and I didn’t want him to lose himself in the technicals and everything. So that was another thing – I wanted him to kind of, strip down his gear and all the resources that he usually used just to make sure that we didn’t lose ourselves in all the funky stuff.”

“So that was liberating for me… it was more about the songs than about the performance. Sometimes you can be an amazing musician but it’s very sterile. You don’t feel anything. Sure, you can go very fast, and that’s awesome, but can that thing make me feel something, other than ‘wow’?”

In terms of amps, what sort of thing were you working with?

Sef Lemelin: “A Fender Super Reverb and Orange Rocker 30, just the combo.”

So classic club amps then? No surprise it wasn’t Marshall stacks.

Lemelin: “If we had used full stacks, 4x12s, the neighborhood wouldn’t have allowed it!”

So obviously there’s Alex’s tenor guitar – what else was there?

Foster: “We had the tenor guitar, a [Eastwood] mando-stang…”

Lemelin: “[counting off] A Troy Van Leuwen Jazzmaster, a Duesenberg Starplayer TV…”

You had the tenor guitar at the treble end – any extended range guitars?

Lemelin: “Yeah, we had an Eastwood bass VI. What’s cool about this kind of bass guitar is that you can play the same chords as a six-string and it sounds so rich. On The Hunter, the bassline is done with a bass VI.”

That’s cool. As it’s a pretty different project, did you find yourselves using different scales or modes when playing?

Lemelin: “We started to explore different scales and modes, as the major-minor scales we were using in the other band were not quite enough to describe complex emotions and concepts. The dissonance we used a lot, because we realized that Alex was really into that while rehearsing, but also the [Phrygian] and a lot of Dorian as well, which to us is more soundtrack-ish.”

Final question – what do you love about music?

Foster: “Freedom, it’s the freedom that I like. The idea of creating something from invisible and then in a spark to be able to create something that you can share with others, that moves you as well as communicating that with others.”

Windows In The Sky is out May 1 on Hopeful Tragedy Records and available to preorder now.

April 8, 2020


Alex Henry Foster: His playlist commented

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As published in Le Journal de Montréal / Le Journal de Québec

Read the original article here

ADISQ took advantage of the confinement period to ask around twenty Quebec artists to craft playlists accessible on Spotify and Apple Music. The only rule: to contain at least 65% of songs in French and 35% of Canadien content. Singer of the rock alternative band Your Favorite Enemies and solo artist, Alex Henry Foster accepted to play along and talk about his choices with Le Journal.

First and foremost, I would like to thank you. It’s been ages since I last listened to Me Mom and Morgentaler.

“(laughs) It’s been quite a challenge for me, who’s evolving in an Anglo-Saxon culture, to find French music. This exercice brought me to rediscover some stuff. Finding Me Mom and Morgentaler reminded me that I use to skip school to follow them.”

Ferré, Gainsbourg, Bashung, Fontaine, you also have great voices from France in your selection.

“Yes and this is because music was part of my childhood. Since we were coming from quite a humble background, in the rough neighborhoods, my parents used music to make me travel, to show me that it was possible to dream. My father made me discover Led Zep, but on my mother’s side, there was a lot of great French songs. Bashung was playing at home. My mother was in love with Gainsbourg.”

During this crisis period where we tend to look towards the nation, do you think that others like you will rediscover the French repertoire?

“It’s a very good question and I ask myself too. I don’t know if people will go back to French music like me. We are somewhat in a global village and, in my opinion, people will rather go back to songs that make them feel good.”

I think that it was clever of you to insert songs in French from Iggy Pop and Placebo. Was it to respect the French quota?

“(Laughs) Most of all, I wanted to put in stuff that I like and stuff that people didn’t know. Perhaps people didn’t know that Placebo had done a song in French.”

Me the first. I listened to Placebo a lot about twenty years ago but this B-Sides album released in 2016 had passed under my nose…

“Brian Molko (the singer) lives in France and he speaks very very good French. He has a profound interest for the French language. Same thing for Iggy Pop. Artists like Léo Ferré, Serge Gainsbourg or Brigitte Fontaine have a deeper impact than we might think, at least seen from Quebec, on American or English artists coming from the alternative or avant-garde scenes.”

I look at your list, Tout le monde est triste (Everyone’s sad), La vie est laide (Life is ugly): it’s trendy right now but I think that a part of your selection is anxiety-inducing. Is it on purpose?

“It really happened out of the blue. It’s funny of you to say that, I didn’t even notice. I talk about going back to a state of well-being and to take care of ourselves and I realize that a lot of the songs are not too happy go lucky. However, that’s what I like, it’s the music I listen to and what I wanted to share. But I still have Les Rita Mitsouko, Amadou & Mariam…”

Even your song from Placebo starts with “It’s the unease of the moment, the epidemic that is spreading.” You’re right on it!

“It feels like what’s happening had an impact on me. It looks like what we’re consuming triggers awareness. Personally, I’ve been a huge fan of Camus since high school. Now, he’s trendy because of his book The Plague. It looks like even though you want to nourish yourself with something positive, human nature creates this desire to live it and music, I believe, is the extension of your reflexions.”

I also see that the progressive guy in you treated himself a little. There’s a 16-minute song of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and another one of 19 minutes from Sonic Youth. Right from the start, your list lasts about forty minutes only with those 2 songs.

“(Laughs) Indeed and I withheld myself because it could have lasted even longer. It’s fun because there are people who have no idea of who Godspeed is. One day, I was playing in Manchester, and I was talking about the Montreal scene. Spontaneously, people started throwing names of popular Canadian and Quebecois artists who are not necessarily part of the same music scene as me. At some point, I said: “Ok, here’s my joker, it’s Godspeed You! Black Emperor. You may have all the other artists twenty times, it won’t ever measure up to this band.”

I want to talk to you about two other songs on your list. Texas Sun, first of all, from Khruangbin and Leon Bridges. A great discovery. It was released very recently and I had not listened to it yet.

“That’s the joy of being on the road and to meet lots of musicians. They come from Austin where I stayed often and where I have numerous musician friends. I wanted to share things that go under the radar so that people may go back and discover what shaped those artists within their other projects. Who knows Tinariwen? Yet, it is the figurehead of a much larger Arabic music scene. Same thing closer to us. Stefie Shock? He just recently released an album. Some things are not for the general public at all but people may however still appreciate them. What’s the other song?”

I want you to talk to me about “Ordinaire”. It’s my favorite song from Charlebois.

“You see, as far as I can remember, Charlebois played on repeat at my place. It can sound pretentious or ridiculous, but when I had a big breakdown with Your Favorite Enemies, I felt like I had to continuously put on the same costume to go put on the same show. To go entertain people who, in the end, are there to see you play the show dog. During the two years that I later spent in Tangier, I rediscovered this song. I felt like it was revealing in such an honest and simple way, what I was feeling and didn’t want to admit. Neither admit to the others.”

*Your Favorite Enemies released the album “The Early Days” on January 31.

*Alex has just returned from a European tour that he was able to complete just before the pandemic was declared.

*He will do a Facebook Live, Sunday, at noon, to talk about the documentary-book about the three first years of the band, “The Evidence of Things Unseen”.


  • The Dead Flag Blues, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
  • Everybody Knows, Leonard Cohen
  • Les feuilles mortes, Iggy Pop
  • Nànnuflày, Tinariwen
  • Sénégal Fast Food, Amadou & Mariam
  • Jésus Christ mon amour, Katerine
  • Avec le temps, Léo Ferré
  • Tourne encore, Salomé Leclerc
  • The Diamond Sea, Sonic Youth
  • Texas Sun, Khruangbin et Leon Bridges
  • Ordinaire, Robert Charlebois
  • La nuit je mens, Alain Bashung
  • La vie est laide, Jean Leloup
  • Tout le monde est triste, Stefie Shock
  • Marcia Baïla, Les Rita Mitsouko
  • Heloise, Me Mom and Morgentaler
  • Honey Bee (Let’s Fly to Mars), Grinderman
  • Viêt-Nam Laos Cambodge, Bérurier Noir
  • Le vent nous portera, Noir Désir
  • Je suis venu te dire que je m’en vais, Serge Gainsbourg
  • Demie clocharde, Brigitte Fontaine
  • Tangerine, Christophe & Alan Vega
  • 2020, Sunns
  • Protège-moi, Placebo
  • Vert, Harmonium

April 5, 2020


Qetic Exclusive Video! The frontman of Your Favorite Enemies, Alex Henry Foster, releases his first solo album in Japan.

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As published in Qetic Magazine

Original article available in Japan only

Formed in 2006 in Montreal, Canada, the band Your Favorite Enemies has known increased popularity in Japan, and toured with Simple Plan in 2008, and even participated in the soundtrack of the video game “Dissidia Final Fantasy”. Ranging from indie rock to hard rock, their sound is based on several elements, is emotional yet experimental, but the most important element – even to this day – remains who they are. The band’s frontman, Alex Henry Foster, has just released his first solo album, “Windows in the Sky”. The album expresses emotions he couldn’t release before, his insecurities and his struggles through a poetry reading delivered by a stunning voice over a dramatic soundtrack from the band. His album has generated big reactions and reached the tops in digital charts in Canada, amongst Muse, Imagine Dragons, Lady Gaga and Queen. In the video message that follows, he talks about this album and also about Japan, which has greatly inspired him, both professionally and personally!

Japan is a home for his heart

You have visited Japan several times already, right?

I used to visit Japan a few times a year, but these past few years, it has been only once a year. Every time I come, however, it makes me think about what I’ve done so far, kind of makes me reflect on my actions. I feel a kind of cleansing effect in who I am.

Would you say that Japan is like a second home, then?

Japan is home to my heart. It’s a place where I can feel in peace. So it naturally gives me the ability to focus on what I should do.

How did it start like that?

It’s mainly because of the people. My first visit to Japan was also because my Japanese fans passionately invited me over. Usually, when they think about Japan, people think about shining neons and culture. But in my case, it’s the warmth of people. I was moved to be welcomed as if I was a part of their family even though we were meeting for the first time. Despite the distance between Canada and Japan, it was the first time I could experience a feeling of familiarity that strong.

How did Japanese fans contact you?

At that time, there was an online community called Myspace, where I obviously shared music. But I also wrote some personal blogs, some about despair and other dark parts of my life. The Japanese people who would read them reacted to it.

Music made me feel like I was not alone

So for you, music would stem from despair and those type of negative emotions?

Well, yeah. I would create sounds and melodies to express what I felt inside but couldn’t spit out in everyday life. Music has been a way to express myself so I never thought that I would make a living out of it.

What kind of things inspire you to create music?

When I was a kid, I was always moving from a place to another because of my family’s condition, so it was hard to make friends. The only salvation for me was through music and books. In there, I found so many emotions that I couldn’t put into words otherwise. It also taught me that I was not the only one.

And you formed the band Your Favorite Enemies in 2006. How did it all start?

At that time, I was a university student in social work but I was working at the same time to support the immigrants who couldn’t speak English much. Sef came there as an assistant. He was already playing guitar, but told me that he never really played with anyone before, so we decided to play together. We invited Sef’s younger brother, Ben, as a bassist and formed the band. Both of them were really into metal while I was more into bands like Sonic Youth, or other more indie bands. Our interests were really different but our passion for music was the same. And we respected each other so the wall between us quickly disappeared and I knew that our relationship would be one that would last for a long time. As a result, our relationship got even deeper and we’re now like family members to each other.

Your Favorite Enemies “The Early Days – Evolving in Reversal Frames (Anthology 2006-2009)”

As a band, you made a lot of hit songs and gained a lot of fans from all over the world. But you started your solo activities in 2018.

After forming the band, we are honored to have received so many offers for touring and shows. We were quite busy, but at one point I started wondering “What’s really important for me?” And I realized that I was somehow afraid to think about this [before starting the solo activities]. And then my father passed away, adding to the fact that I was already burned out emotionally and physically. I decided to take some time away from the band and went to Morocco alone. Many musicians and poets that I love went to Morocco and it (the city of Tangier) served as a stepping stone for them to go forward, so I thought that, maybe, I could gain something as well. The language and culture were different from everything I had known before, but there was so much stimulation every day that the plan of staying for a few weeks became 1 month, 6 months and eventually 1 year. Music became my way of expressing what was growing inside of me. And I became curious about the chemistry that could be born if I composed with the band members, so I invited them and started recording, and the album came about naturally.

The first solo album being accomplished by overcoming “pain”.

And you made your first solo album, “Windows in the Sky”, which became No.1 in digital charts and stayed in the top charts with Muse, Imagine Dragons and Queen for a while.

I crafted and released this album because I needed to do it without thinking about making a hit record. And even if it would sell well, I thought it would be because of the fans of Your Favorite Enemies. So I didn’t do any promotion but started receiving a lot of messages via social media. And I learned that a lot of people can now see their own experiences through the music. I’m glad that I have released this as an album.

Your album has such depth in it.

My father passed away without making me feel like we have any connection through blood. I feel like I haven’t received any answers. And this album describes the process of how I have made peace with it. Also, it’s like a reminder for myself that I need to accept my emotions as they are even when they are negative.

As it’s a solo work, were there some differences in the way you crafted it?

I have expressed some dark emotions even with the band, but it was just that I didn’t think it was right to convey such personal emotions. That’s why I have released it as a solo album, even though we’re the same people playing it, so there was not much difference in crafting it.

After the enthusiasm in Canada, “Windows in the Sky” was finally released in Japan. How do you want the Japanese listeners to receive it?

When I listen to the music I like, I don’t really want to know about the explanations from the creator. For example, I love the album “Pornography” from The Cure a lot and many people say that this album is dark. But for me, it’s an album filled with light. How everyone understands something depends on people, but if it’s explained, we limit the possibility of it. So I want people to listen to this album freely.

“Summertime Departures” music video from the album track

“Summertime Departures/Sometimes I Dream” live video

The relationships with Japanese fans led to “hope”

What type of music do you want to seek from now on?

I just want to make music that is honest. If it’s honest, regardless of how people listen, I believe it will lead them to something real. I don’t have any ambitions to be a rock star or anything.

What will be the balance between your solo work and the band?

The band and I are one. They definitely are involved even when it’s for my solo activities. There is no one who knows me – the good and the bad parts – and supports me as they do. The box may be different but the content inside is the same.

And what about the balance with your social work?

Both are essential for me. They’re connected and can’t be separated. I take action to tell people in the world that they are not alone in so many different ways. But music is the best way to express it. So I want to maintain a connection with the world through music.

Could you tell us your impressions of Japan?

I might cry, is it ok? Actually, I had the most moving experience I’ve ever had in Japan. As I said at the beginning, I have talked with Japanese listeners via social media for a long time, and at one point, there was someone I suddenly couldn’t reach anymore. You know, it happens on social media sometimes so I didn’t really do anything. But one day, I received a message from his mother, saying he had committed suicide. And she told me that she wanted to meet me when I come to Japan. So I met his mother and his family and friends. They asked me “what is the power of music?” “My son seemed to have been encouraged by your messages but the choice he made was to leave this world. And I wanted to know what was in your music“. And it made me really think about what kind of impact I could have with my music. The next time we did a show in Japan, we invited them on stage. We explained to the crowd why they were on stage. And then people who were attending welcomed them warmly. I thought this was the answer. I felt the power that music has. I felt that everyone had gone through so many things – like earthquakes & tsunamis – but everybody was still standing there. This moment completely changed the way I see music. It taught me how important it is to keep making honest, sincere music to myself. If I hadn’t had this experience, I believe my solo album wouldn’t be out. I can say that this is the root that made me who I am today.

“The Hunter (By the Seaside Window)” short movie

Alex Henry Foster exclusive video comment


Alex Henry Foster Pushes Through ‘Windows In The Sky’

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As published in American Songwriter

Read the original article here

In 2018, Canadian singer and songwriter and producer Alex Henry Foster released his debut solo album, but no one would have known. There was no promotion and no interviews. He even released it around the same time as Muse’s Simulation Theory and other, big rock releases so his own work would be drowned out.

Syncopated thoughts and melodic noise flood through Windows In The Sky, out May 1. An atmospheric release of grief, mental struggles, escape, and revival, sonically swelled tracks like “Summertime Blues” and “The Hunter (By the Seaside Window)” are drenched in the artist’s abstract, visceral senses.

To complement Foster’s Windows In The Sky vision, he recently released a short film around “The Hunter (By the Seaside Window),” written and directed by longtime collaborator, French filmmaker Jessie Nottola (Tinariwen, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Arthur H), who was given carte blanche creatively, and filmed throughout a week, somewhere 200km north of Montreal.

“I wanted to experience the bewilderment of losing control on the narrative of my own work and wanted to explore the freedom that comes with pure creative abandonment,” says Foster of the piece.

Foster spoke to American Songwriter about working around the current COVID-19 pandemic, exiling to Tangier, coming to terms with Windows In The Sky, coping with mental illness, and creating beautiful noise.

American Songwriter: The coronavirus has brought everything to a halt, including the music industry. How has it impacted you? Are you finding yourself writing more during this “down time”?

Alex Henry Foster: It’s quite a terrible ordeal we all have to go through right now. My heart is with the people who don’t have any health insurance or any economical, social, or emotional support. I have friends in all spheres of life and contrary to Madonna who’s preaching the equilibrium of the present situation while bathing in roses, real people are currently fighting for survival on every level. So let’s just say that I’m not part of those disconnected artists preaching the “we are in it together” kumbaya-BS-rhetoric from their luxurious sanitized bunker. This makes me sick, actually.

I own an independent record label that includes a multi-media and a merchandising department, so I am more focused on making sure we can provide for our staff and their families. They’re all longtime friends and collaborators. For me, it all goes back to those very humane and communal values on which I have been building ever since I started playing in punk bands covering Fugazi, The Velvet Underground, and so many others as a teenager. People are the foundation, so they’ve been my main focus and preoccupation.

It’s also a time for me to put my priorities in check, to count my blessings, and to be grateful for what I have. But even more, it’s important for me to acknowledge what I have that I can share with my friends and those who generously offer me the privilege to connect with them through words and music—and most of the time way beyond music. So instead of looking at how bad of a timing it is for me to release an album in those tempestuous circumstances and all the could-be-wasted effort so many people have invested in it, I remind myself that I wrote that album in the same type of emotional despair and managed to see the morning light after years of personal bleakness.

That’s what I can share, or at least offer, as a perspective as we face the profound insecurity of the unknown. I have never been interested in the commercialization of art. Again, for me, it’s about people and communion.

AS: Windows In The Sky was previously released in Canada in 2018. It’s only been two years, but now that’s it’s being re-released, how do these tracks resonate with you today? Have they taken on new meaning for you?

AHF: At the time, since Windows In The Sky is such a personal album, I didn’t have enough courage to fully assume its nature publicly. I wasn’t even interested in the idea of releasing the album. It took me quite some time to be at peace with that perspective, and to be honest, releasing the album only in Canada was a bit like cheating the whole process, in a way, especially since I had agreed to put it out without any promo, no singles, no momentum—no strategy!

It was important for me to release it, but it was a way to say “ok, it’s out, let’s forget about it all.” I even picked the week where Muse, Imagine Dragons and a few other superstars had releases to make sure mine would go unnoticed. So I felt safe, in a way. I wouldn’t have to talk about this album whatsoever. That only possibility freaked me out uncontrollably. Until I could hide no more.

I was in the highlands of Virginia, where I now live after spending two years in Tangier, the day the album was released. When I started receiving text messages that were interview inquiries due to the fact that Windows In The Sky was No. 1 on the Apple Store and that it looked like the sales would lead to a Top 5 SoundScan chart, I thought it was a joke—until it wasn’t and I had to do interviews. I didn’t understand. How could a totally non-commercial record about grief and despair generate that kind of reaction? I was completely overwhelmed. And when it reached #3 on the charts in its first week, I stopped answering the phone or taking my emails. I totally shut down. The album stayed on the top 40 for several weeks, but I systematically refused to do anything about it.

It may be strange for people to read this, as it should have been a wonderful thing, a moment of celebration. And it was. But not for me. I totally crashed inside and didn’t want to have anything to do with it no more. I was living those troubling emotions that gave birth to the album once more, in a way, and I didn’t want that. The reason I’m sharing this right now is to give you a bit of a perspective on how I came to terms with it, through messages from people who had listened to the album.

Since I was nowhere to be found, people were sending me messages about the album, sharing their own grief and mourning process. I read them all and answered them all. I realized it was way beyond myself and my insecurities. It was deeper than my own fear of being exposed as the mentally fragile person that I am. And that was the beginning of the healing process for me. Shortly after followed concert and tour inquiries, which were another emotional setback. I slowly decided to step into a diffused and tamed light. Everything I was terrified of came my way, revealing over time a little more of my profound anxieties. So it’s been one step at the time for me. I was physically ill every step of the way until I decided to go on a 27-concert tour this past February and March. That was the real test for me. Would those songs lose their intimate essence? Would I be able to connect with the people in the crowd? Would I be able to transcend my dreadful panic, or would I keep the audience captive of my disarray?

Once I let go and allowed the songs to emancipate from my personal anguish, I’ve been able to witness and grasp what those songs had become, for the people but also for me, and realized that I didn’t have to hide or pretend. It was ok to be scared. It was alright to be doubtful. I owe that to the affection of the people who have welcomed me as I was every night and who offered me the blessing to live those songs freely, to dwell into the moment regardless of how I could feel. It was a wonderful way to free myself from so many of the things I was captive of, things that had always served as an excuse for self-preservation. It’s a journey, just as the album is. And I’m still in the middle of it and I appreciate it now. At least, I allow myself to appreciate it.

AS: How did the album come together?

AHF: It all started when I exiled myself to Tangier. I was an emotional mess at the time, but a highly functional one. I kept denying the fact that I was totally burned out and probably dealing with severe depression. I just kept denying it all by jumping from a project to another. Once in Tangier, just how lost I was hit me, and it hit me pretty hard. And from an initial trip that was meant to last four weeks with a goal of writing the next Your Favorite Enemies album, it became two years of an emotional detox. I ended up writing a whole lot, for myself. Without any ambition to do anything with it. It’s when the rest of the YFE (Foster’s band, Your Favorite Enemies) guys came to visit me in Tangier, about 18 months after I had initially arrived there, that the idea of turning those texts into an album was first mentioned. We talked. We talked a lot. We played music for the first time in years, just for the sake of playing music. Ben, YFE’s bassist and my creative accomplice, invited me to consider recording some of my ideas and lyrics, for me to express those intimate feelings and to make peace with them. And since I didn’t envision doing anything with those recordings, it took place pretty organically.

AS: When did you first start writing and working on Windows In The Sky?

AHF: The timeline is a bit blurry for me, as I wasn’t working on anything, so to speak. The lyrics, except for the song “The Hunter (By the Seaside Window),” which I wrote in Virginia, have been written during my stay in Tangier. I had the words and some fragments of music, sounds, and vibes I already had recorded in Tangier, where I had established a decent home recording studio. But it’s only once we got back to our church-turned-professional-studio located an hour away from Montreal that I can say it became precise for me. I stopped playing with words in order to deny what I was actually doing. It was early May 2018.

AS: Dissect your songwriting process around specific Windows In The Sky tracks or the album as a whole.

AHF: Since every song is pretty much the organic result of either a session with Ben or a collective one with the guys from YFE who have tagged along, everything started with the first track and ended the moment I decided that it was it. This is quite a paradox in the sense that every song reflects raw and honest emotions that were very painful for me to even acknowledge. But writing the songs came naturally, not without suffering, but with complete abandonment to every single one of those moments. From a sound, a word, a discussion, a silence, it was about the spark, the let go and the decision to keep it as it was once I would say the moment had been honest and therefore needed to be free from the ever-growing temptation to keep reworking them and thus hiding their true nature. Most of the vocals were one-takes [with a] few corrections here and there.

Music needed to be real and free. I give a whole lot of credit to Ben, who engineered the project and had to keep me from my constant attempts at destroying it all. A lot of credit also goes out to the guys who have supported me musically. They not only had to follow the instruction of keeping it about the moment and not about the parts but also had to forget and learn, once more, everything in terms of writing and recording music. I was conducting them into some musical explorative fluidity based on an improvisational stream.

It wasn’t easy because they are tremendous musicians. But I wasn’t looking for virtuosity, nor was I looking for a perfect interpretation of my “vision.” I was looking for let go, for freedom. I knew the execution of the parts wouldn’t be an issue for them and that’s why I wanted everyone to go in the opposite direction. I picked instruments depending on the vibe and didn’t bother if it meant playing the same note on a Moog for 30 minutes. That’s part of what I learned in underground musical gatherings in Tangier, where music is about the spirit, not about what chords make sense or what the rhythm section should be. And that’s the spirit I kept, from one song leading to another, one moment at the time.

AS: “The Hunter” is magnificent. Tell me more about the song, the short film and how all of it came about.

AHF: The album version of the song has been edited from a 30-minute instrumental jam we did in our church-studio, something very organic. I remember, since I would always share the images to the sounds I could hear before we’d start playing anything, talking about my life in the mountains, about the peace that I had found living in such luxuriant nature, [and] a place I compared to all the moments I had staring at the sea while writing in Tangier. We let go, only relying on the essence of the moment. It’s sonically saturated and uplifting at the same time. It was as real as the sea and the winds in the trees.

I kind of forgot about the song for a while. But since I always insist on everything to be recorded, all the time, I found the session for “The Hunter” while looking for another song. The moment we had shared while playing it came back to me. The very singular sensations I had when we simply allowed ourselves to play without any rules. I cut the last 20 minutes of the song as I felt it became about personal parts and hooks, about the performance rather than what was collectively lived at that moment, but kept the rest of the sessions as it was originally recorded.

And somehow, one of the short stories that I had written when I first moved to Virginia, seemed like the perfect text to illustrate the image I had shared with the band before we recorded. It was about the native mysticism that defines the nature of hunting, some kind of an essay on modern life, and about the paradoxes of taking another life to survive, about giving away our existence for someone else to live.

I told Ben, who was with me at my home in Virginia, to record the vocal track, with just enough gear to pretend it was a professional attempt at recording. I wanted to see if my instinct was right about the song. And from what was only supposed to be a ghost track recorded to fix EQ and mic location, the lyrical narrative for “The Hunter” was born. I simply said “That’s exactly it. Perfect, thank you!” to Ben’s great dismay. I immediately asked my collaborator Momoka who happened to be there for another project to translate a section of my essay in Japanese and to record it. Aligned with what we initially lived dwelling into the song’s spirit, I gave her an image of the emotion it represented for me. Momoka did one take and that was perfect for me. It was organic, real and lived.

As for the video, the idea of doing a short film for “The Hunter“ came as I was on the set of another video project with my close friend and talented French movie producer Jessie Nottola. He told me he was obsessed with the song and couldn’t stop thinking about giving it a visual incarnation. Since I hadn’t talked about any of the song’s meaning at the time, Jessie kept asking me questions. And since I didn’t want to pollute his perspective of the song with mine, I told him I would agree to make a video under a few conditions; I didn’t want to be in the video and it needed to be his own vision, not mine. In other words, he had carte blanche. Inspired by the likes of David Lynch, Jessie came to Canada, up north from Montreal, to film it, and he was so invested in the project that he ended up playing one of the three characters in it.

AS: Some Background: When did you first start writing, performing … and making beautiful noise?

AHF: I was very young, actually. I grew up in a financially-challenged and violent environment. My parents used music and literature not only to preserve me from what it meant to be really poor but also to feed my imagination beyond the walls of my family’s miserable economic reality of a life. I would record myself on old tape cassettes to start. I later became obsessed with doing music myself after discovering the likes of The Cure, Skinny Puppy, Sonic Youth, Fugazi, and early Nick Cave.

I spent my teenage years skipping school to attend concerts in Montreal and to play in all sorts of garage bands. But it’s only when I met Sef, a guitarist with whom I would start YFE, at a community center I was working at while attending university in social work, that it became more serious, more engaging. It would become a full-time commitment from both of us after we formed a band to play in one of the most ghettoized and left-to-rot neighborhood of the city. When I saw the people from different cultures, gang members, and religions get all together for a moment that transcended everything that usually stands between them – between us – it stuck with me. Ever since, it has always been about that communion for me.

AS: Are you planning on working with Your Favorite Enemies again, or are you just focusing on the solo work at the moment?

AHF: For now, it’s about my solo project. It took me so long to dwell into it and I believe that the other YFE members would be mad if I decided to go back to YFE now, especially after how much they had to suffer because of the everlasting existential tantrum this project caused.

AS: How have you evolved as an artist, and as a writer, since starting with Your Favorite Enemies through now with Windows In The Sky?

AHF: I don’t have to use the band as an alibi to stay safe from the words I write, nor do I have to hide in a collective concept to assume who I am as a person. It’s more distinctive in the sense that I stand by everything now. It might sound strange, but I don’t dissociate myself from what I give life to anymore. This has been a very important step for me to take. It’s no longer about writing about what I pretend I know or what I figured it should be like or feel like. It was somehow so important for me to look for an absolute, for truth, for what’s immutable, just so I wouldn’t have to feel anything anymore.

Now, it’s about standing in the light, even when it’s to express the bleakest of all emotions. It’s honest and therefore those words evolve as I do, and I evolve when they do. It’s about the freedom to fail, the beauty of paradoxes, confusion and mistakes, the emancipative notion of pure abandonment. The rest doesn’t interest me at all.

March 27, 2020


Alex Henry Foster: A communion for the present moment

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As published in SOCAN Magazine

Read the original article here

Flashback: In 2018, composer Alex Henry Foster recorded his first solo album, Windows in the Sky in the studio of his band Your Favorite Enemies. It was located in an old church in Saint-Simon de Drummondville.

After the death of his father, Foster exiled himself in Tangiers, Morocco. Sadness, grief, depression, and spiritual questing followed. The musician and entrepreneur needed a break.

“When I heard the news, we’d just gotten home from a tour, and four days later we were headlining a festival in Taiwan in front of 90,000 people,” says Foster. “That’s crazy. When you’re in a band and you tour the globe, your link to reality is always a little off, and it’s normal that people are nice to you. On a human and emotional level, you wonder how much of it is true. It’s easy to lose track of reality. So I just hid behind the thick curtain of distant screams.”

And even though this Asian tour allowed Your Favorite Enemies to write three songs for the videogame Final Fantasy: Dissidia (they’re the first non-Japanese artists to record music for the game), Foster was fed up. “After Tangiers, I allowed myself to be, simply be, and to re-set all counters,” he says.

Ever since the group was founded in Varennes in 2006, the rapid rise of the sextet — whose sound is reminiscent of Radiohead, Swans, and Nick Cave — has turned many heads. Ardent DIYers, the band has recorded a fair number of albums and EPs in their aforementioned studio, Upper Room, situated in a place of worship they acquired at the end of the 2000s. They’ve played in 10 countries, sold more than 150,000 albums, and their videos have been played more than 500,000 times. Yet they’re relatively unknown in their own land.

The church is also home to their vinyl press, and the source of graphic design for their album sleeves, as well as the printing of their T-shirts and other merch. Your Favorite Enemies are still feeding the net: The Early Days, which will be released on Jan. 31, 2020, is a compendium of the band’s early days, from 2006 to 2009, and will feature re-mixes, a re-mastering of their first two EPs, unreleased demos, alternate takes of their most popular tracks, their entire first concert in Tokyo in 2008, and more. All of that is produced in-house, including the management and booking.

“Windows in the Sky wasn’t created with the idea of making a record, or going back onstage,” says Foster. “It’s not music you play when your family visits for New Years’; there’s a lot of verbiage and narration. It’s completely different from YFE. I mean, there’s trumpet, cello…”

Windows in the Sky is a subtle affair, yet surprisingly vigorous, a blend of nervous tracks filled with the spoken, introspective poetry typical of Foster, who irradiates an orchestrated madness while cultivating the ambiguity of his murky personality. He’s a master at rattling brains with his mix of clear and distorted sounds.

“It took me by surprise,” he says, “because the album wasn’t created with the idea of marketing it, but I think YFE’s fans were eager to hear that universe.”

In the wake of three convincing concerts in New York in early December, Foster and The Long Shadows — his band, largely composed of YFE members — will head to Europe in February and March 2020 for a string of 26 shows. He fondly remembers the shows in the Big Apple: “It was a tiny venue with minimal technical support. Some people in the crowd were crying. That’s why I make music: to experience those emotions communally.”

Kind of like a religious service, then? “You have to live in the moment,” says Foster. “If you resist, that wave is going to spit you out. It’s like being a tightrope walker without a safety net; if you fall it’s a huge drop. People want to experience something that’s bigger than the music itself. I don’t feel it rests entirely on me, because it’s so musical and immersive. And I’m just as exhausted after one of those shows as I am after a YFE concert.”

January 23, 2020


Summertime Departures – NEØLYD

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As published in NEØLYD

Read the original article here

The latest festival performances of Alex Henry Foster and his band were described as epiphanic, unchecked, massive and epochal. Foster, a former gang member and speaker for Amnesty International, went through many things in his life, overcame downsides, and found himself back thanks to music. This man’s inspirations are bands like Swans, Sonic Youth, Mogwai, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Inspirations that you can hear in his melange of heavy rock epics and a catchy pinch of alternative-rock, bringing with it a lot of explosive power. Yet, the music also lets you stare into deep abysses when being played with his mostly 7-headed band.

Twelve years after Foster founded the band Your Favorite Enemies, he went on a solo trip with a handful of friends and old comrades in 2018. The album “Windows in the Sky” was released under his own label, Hopeful Tragedy Records, and it quickly climbed the “All Genres Charts” in the Canadian iTunes store. “Windows in the Sky” is something like the ultimate compurgation of Foster, who left North America after his father’s death and went to Tangier, Morocco, to write. And of course to work on new music. A central moment, and also the heart of the album, is the song “Summertime Departures”, in which Foster faces himself. In the song he draws a conclusion:

“…now looking at it with an honest perspective of my own paradoxes and vulnerability, I understand that “Summertime Departures” is my way to say that regardless of what we may have spent our entire lives believing in or what we may have forgotten with time, there is a permanence amidst the most painful of all sorrows and our decision to let go in the acceptance that love, just like stone, will forever endure.”

It is high time to put this piece into the spotlight and to crown it with its own release. Foster plans big things for 2020 and “Summertime Departures” is only the beginning. Presented on a clear heavyweight 12’’ LP, signed and numbered, the release looks amazing thanks to silkscreen printing. If you have 11 minutes, you can marvel over an extended version of the song, which Foster also performed during 3 days of showcases at the Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg with his band The Long Shadows. The video version was recorded at the Montreal International Jazz Festival in summer 2019 and shows impressively what power lays in this special band set-up.

This spring, Alex Henry Foster returns to Germany with his band where he will impress as an opener for …And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead.

12.02.2020 Köln – Stadtgarten
13.02.2020 Bielefeld – Forum
14.02.2020 (CH) Basel – Sommercasino
16.02.2020 Reutlingen – Franz K
17.02.2020 München – Strom
18.02.2020 (AT) Wien – Flex
19.02.2020 Berlin – Festsaal Kreuzberg
21.02.2020 Hamburg – Stage Club (Neue Flora)

January 22, 2020


A Window Into AHF – Exclusive Interview

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As published in Montreal Rocks

Read the original article here

Randal Wark & Alex Henry Foster

Imagine opening a leather-bound journal. You touch pen to paper and, without filter, you begin to explore your trauma and pick at the fresh scars.

At the end of the exercise, you have poured out your innermost feelings, you faced your deepest fears and relived trauma you wish you could forget.

To what lengths would you go to hide that journal from curious eyes? A bank vault? Armed guards? Bottom of the ocean?

Alex did the opposite. He took his journey, gently placed in on a layer of music and release this soundtrack of his recent life.

What starts as darkness, pain and trauma becomes a story of finding your true voice, feeling the light and finding forgiveness.


Montreal Rocks sat down with Alex before his sold-out performance at L’Astral on November 30th, 2019. The dressing room is filled with pictures of the band, memories of past shows and Your Favorite Enemies milestones.

We first spoke about the recent Nick Cave Evening of Talk and Music that we both attended.

Alex Henry Foster: I’ve been a fan of Nick Cave for a long time. He suddenly evolved into a very public figure, with the letters, being in every music media and on the website every other week. I was wondering if it was a move, where fans like me, might feel that it’s not the same anymore.

Montreal Rocks: Like the never meet your heroes thing.

Alex: Yeah, exactly. We’ve met him and the Bad Seeds in London. It was a completely random thing. We were rehearsing at John Henry’s pretty early in the morning. We are a pretty hard-core band in the sense that we get there early and do our thing. There was a band already before us, which was like…whoa, those guys are serious! As we are setting up, we started hearing the music. “That’s funny…they’re playing a Nick Cave cover.” We keep doing our thing and eventually went: “Wait a minute…who would keep doing Nick Cave covers? No….” Then Miss Isabel comes in and says she just saw Nick Cave in the common kitchen area. So, out of the blue, we spent the whole day with those awesome guys.

Sometimes, with the other band (Your Favorite Enemies), we played so many festivals, so we got to meet a lot of bands and people that we really like. I’m sometimes reluctant to talk to them because you never know if the relationship with their music will be affected because of who they are that day. If they are acting like a** holes, it doesn’t mean they are.

MR: Everyone can have a bad day.

Alex: Exactly. I’m always very careful when I’m meeting people, regardless of what is going on in my life. That one moment is very important…

MR: For them…

Alex: And for me as well. When you lose that perspective, you lose everything; the reason you communion with people.

Even with those seasoned artists, like Nick Cave…it was HIM.

MR: It wasn’t an act.

Alex: Exactly. It’s a good thing, especially now in the music business, it feels like there is a disconnection. It’s shrinking and everyone is fighting for a piece of something that doesn’t exist. There are rivalries, for whatever reason. We have never been in cliques like that because we evolved in different areas. We’ve never been a “Montreal Band” for instance, because everything started elsewhere. We’ve never had that perspective of; are you in the right crowd or clique?

MR: I want to go back to the beginning. Because “The Beginning is the End.” (first song off his Windows in the Sky album)

Alex: True!

MR: You are a young child and you are flipping through your parent’s record collection. What stands out as something that changed your life?

Alex: I don’t remember a day without music at home. I come from a very humble family where my father always struggled to get a job and keep it. We were always moving. It wasn’t till I was 13 or 14 years old where I could say: “This is home.”

Music was what preserved me from that crazy environment of always moving.

MR: It was like the one constant.

Alex: Yes. It brought so much joy. My mother was really into old school rock-n-roll like Elvis and Jerry-Lee Lewis. I remember, as an only child, dancing with my mother every Saturday morning.

My father was into Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, CCR, Black Sabbath, Rolling Stones. The fondest memories I have, spending time with my father, was through music. He would go: “Let me show you something.” He had an enormous collection of LPs and 7 inches. It was so powerful.

I think that music impacted me in a very positive way and preserved me from understanding the reality I was in. It was also able to connect me with my folks in a very special way.

Those are the fondest memories of my childhood.

In my teenage years, I discovered music of my own.

MR: I’m also an only child.

Alex: By the nature of an only child, you are always alone. My mother was really pushing me into art and to read. I understood later that these are the dreamy elements that shaped me into the person that I became. I can now understand my passion for words, sounds and to connect with others through music in a very special way.

MR: I want to ask you something, out of burning curiosity. At one point, in your teens, you went from one side…to the dark side, the Neo Nazi direction.

Alex: Yes.

MR: You then swung way to the other side, where you are helping Amnesty International. You said it was something your dad said that brought you to your sense. What did he say?

Alex: I now realize the reality of being bullied in school because I wasn’t wearing the right stuff. It was difficult to understand because I came from inside this reality bubble at home.

Suddenly, my dad became an alcoholic, a very heavy drinker. That safe environment that was preserving me from the exterior world was suddenly shattered.

I was very angry, confused and frustrated. It was through the music that I was introduced to those groups (Neo Nazi).

When I share my story at conferences, I share that I was so alone. If someone would have come to me and said: Do you want to play Chess? I would have been the biggest champion of Chess! Chess would have been cool!

But it was those groups that could see and detect kids like me, living what I was living. I found myself in a place where I had these people to be with. It went way beyond the uniform thing, behind the ideology. Still, I was part of this thing that was completely crazy.

When I saw my dad turning his life around, I really hated him for that. It felt that what my mother and I had to go through; it was an easy way out for him to say: “I found Jesus…I’m saved.”

I was like; “You might be saved, but I’m going to give you hell to pay!”

But again…I was a teenager…

MR: You don’t know how to process it.

Alex: Exactly. I was in a constant storm with this and school. The only way I had to protect myself was in the music.

With my dad, it was always confrontation. I was always picking on him. I was even reading the bible to go back at him. It wasn’t that I hated him, but I was in a place where I wanted him to pay.

MR: I think we all go through a rebellious phase. My pendulum swung from one side to the extreme, but you find your middle eventually.

Alex: One time, he came to me and said: “Well…you are right.”

He apologized for all those years. It was the first time I saw my dad cry. He talked about his own experiences as a child and things that happened to him.

I think it impacted me, because deep inside, I wasn’t someone who was into violence. That wasn’t part of who I was in my core.

I started to process that and break it down. The price to pay to be in those groups versus what I was gaining…it was just weird.

Also, you grow, meeting other people and they can have an impact on you when they are patient and compassionate. They were able to see through my uniform.

There was a wall where you don’t want to be touched or have people approach you. You want to be safe in your own bubble. The message is so strong and repulsive that nobody would dare come close to you…but friends where still coming to me.

It’s been a whole process to realize this. It’s not so much something he said, but it was looking at someone and saying: That’s the real deal…for him.

MR: That vulnerability shows a lot of strength. That was back in the days where men didn’t cry. You held everything in and pretended you had everything figured out. When you see that vulnerability in man, it’s a good thing.

Alex: Yes. I think it was a breaking point.

MR: Your album is about being vulnerable. You’ve taken that from your dad, and now you are giving it to other people.

Alex: Yeah. It’s a beautiful thing to stop for a moment. It feels like the whole world is turning so fast, especially now, and you don’t quite understand what is going on. You pretend that you do.

At that moment, when he sat down with me, even if we didn’t have a follow up conversation to that out of the blue moment…it has been THE conversation.

I was very touched to see that. My dad was a big man, 6.4”, 250 pounds and always worked very hard…that whole cliché, you know what I mean? Then there was me, small frame but with that drive…going at him…you know….let’s drop the gloves!

It was a turning point for me where I realized that I was hurting myself more than I was hurting him. It just didn’t make sense anymore. It was time to acknowledge that through those years, I hurt people, even without knowing it, because of what I represented.

MR: Yeah. It could be a symbol you wore even…

Alex: Yeah. When I did my first mission trip to Haiti and was working with people that were dealing with AIDS, I got caught in a place where I was the only white guy. I wasn’t very popular. (laughs) I understood, then and there, what it meant to be judged. They were experiencing things that I was representing. That moment was very significant for me.

Being with Amnesty International, I had a very different perspective than being on the other side.

I still have a lot of compassion for those still stuck in those groups (Neo Nazi). It’s difficult for people to understand my point of view because it’s very easy to react to those groups with hate. It’s the reflection of what they are showing you.

I have a different perspective because I want to see the person behind the uniform. I was one of those guys, but I was still reachable. Rejection will feed…

MR: Feed the hate.

Alex: Exactly. Because I have a different point of view, I’m able to reach out to them without being judgmental. We can talk about so many other things.

MR: Find the human side.

Alex: Yes…there is! Whenever there are chances to do a conference, I like to do them because it gives a different perspective to people who are working with them or people who have been victims of these groups.

MR: I don’t know you that well, but I think you found a way to conquer your ego. You made this decision to break away from Your Favorite Enemies. You said it was so that your ego would not take over, and you could stay true to yourself. What triggered that desire to preserve yourself and the enjoyment of what you were doing?

Alex: We’d been on the road for something like 12 years. At some point, you lose the perspective of reality. It’s a normal process in that business to have a little bit of traction, which we had with the band, going everywhere in the world.

There is always emphasis on the lead singer. I had a very particular past along with what I was doing with Amnesty International.

It was important for me to keep my sanity, in a way. It goes so fast!

When you start believing in your own press kit…it’s already too late.

When you start believing in your own press kit…it’s already too late. – Alex Henry Foster

I always kept a little bit of distance and perspective from all the glamour…what you want other people to believe…how you want to be perceived as well. It’s a business of image. There needs to be a strong message of how you look and what you believe.

Maybe because I’m coming from that very special background, I know how easy it is to fall into those same traps. I never really want to play that game. It got to the point with Your Favorite Enemies, all that attention…it was fantastic! We were really fortunate. But I needed to take a step back. Why am I doing this? Do I still enjoy it?

When you never press the pause button, there is a reason for that. Maybe you don’t want to ask the real questions. You don’t want to be the one to tell the others that you need a break. If you do that, you will impact other people’s lives, the people that you love.

I was at a point where I really needed to stop. It was time. I was destroying myself slowly. I wasn’t enjoying it. It was becoming a real burden for me because I was tired. I wasn’t able to connect all the feelings of how important it was for people, with what I was doing. I wanted to keep that connection, but I felt I was losing a bit of it. I didn’t want to be a rock-n-roll cliché where you only do the same thing, the same jokes, the same set.

It was necessary to take a break. The rest of the guys would surely agree, because we are like brothers.

Going to the studio to rehearse and writing new song was like a bad picture that was just a little off. It’s not that much out of focus, but you could see that I was the guy in the back not having a good time. It was obvious for those outside of this thing (music business). But when you are always on the move, you don’t realize that.

MR: But they are here. Obviously, they are supporting you.

Alex: Yes.

MR: When your dad passed away, that was a catalyst for you. We were both at that Nick Cave show where he described going through such a grief was like your life being shattered into a million pieces. You are then grasping at all these shards, trying to put yourself back together. But you will never be the same person.

Alex: True.

MR: For Nick, he had more compassion. You went to Tangiers. Was that to put yourself back together?

Alex: When my dad passed, there was still tension between us. I was always on the road. I wasn’t easy to connect with long distance. We were able to see each other a good ten days before he passed.

What was frustrating and difficult, for me was, where do we start from that conversation we had so many years ago?

Now I’m seeing my dad, this big invincible guy, who is now so fragile. He was weak but yet his spirit was still so strong. I was so moved by him being so full of faith. I had never seen him like that. It was so confusing for me.

When he passed, I just shut everything down. We were headlining a festival in Taiwan five days after. Even the band said we could cancel the gig. My mother said: “If you want to cancel, cancel. If you want to go, go.”

We played there, in front of 90,000 people and I wasn’t feeling anything. Even the band was seeing me doing my thing, but they knew I was not normal.

That’s what I had to touch in Tangiers. Through the years, I was so disconnected to all the emotions we’ve been through as a band, friends, brothers, family…that I was completely out of touch emotionally.

MR: Dead inside.

Alex: Yeah. That’s why I had to stop Your Favorite Enemies for a moment. I needed to go to a place I’d never been before, where I didn’t have friends and it woud be a completely different culture. Somewhere where I’m completely invisible.

I didn’t know if I wanted to come back. Completely lost, but not in a way where I wanted to waste myself. I was confused but aware of it, and I had to address that.

I realized all my friends were really worried, thinking I looked like a suicidal guy.

It was only a few years after my dad passed till I went to Tangiers, but in that time, I don’t remember much. We did so many things…tours…festivals. It was the most successful period of Your Favorite Enemies…but I don’t remember much emotionally. Obviously, I remember places…but I don’t remember feeling anything.

MR: It was time.

Alex: Yeah, and to allow myself to grieve.

MR: It’s like a complicated puzzle. You have to put it all on the table and see all the pieces…what the heck is this life that I’ve had…before putting it together.

Alex: Even if everyone was so supportive and they really wanted to help me, in my head it was: Where do I start? What should I do?

Some people will experience someone’s death when they are a little bit older. I lost someone very close to me, my grandfather, when I was four or five. I understood what loosing someone meant and had that conversation.

MR: Even at that age? Wow.

Alex: Yeah. I had that understanding, but as an adult, I was like: “Let’s keep going. Let’s keep going. Let’s keep going.”

In Tangiers, I remember looking at the bay and I had to admit: I’m so lost. What the f#$% is going on with my life?

All this, even though months prior, everyone was screaming when we performed. It felt like when you watch a TV show and you think: Maybe that was a season too much.

MR: Jumping the shark.

Alex: Exactly. I felt like that. When it’s your life, it’s weird.

MR: Water is featured a lot on this album. If you close your eyes now and pictures yourself back in Tangiers…what feelings do water bring back to you?

Alex: Peace. It was what I was looking for. I was in the midst of living in the noise. I don’t remember how many days I spent on that terrasse just looking at the sea. The thing about Tangiers is that the sky is always blue. It’s the perfect reflection of the water. You lose perspective of where you are.

MR: What’s up and what’s down?

Alex: Yeah, exactly. That’s how I felt and that’s why I really recognized myself in that situation. That peace…to close my eyes and listen to it.

Even all the boats, because there was a ferry every 45 minutes that would go from the Bay of Tangiers to Spain. I was thinking about all those people travelling, all those images in my head. I would look at the people in the streets…the lifestyle.

I was in a little hotel in the oldest part of the city owned by French people. We became friends. When you ask them why we became friends, they say it was because they saw this guy and he looked so sad.

Even to strangers, and I wasn’t playing the guy who was emotionally unstable…it was that obvious.

MR: Interesting. Do you feel that this record was something that was inside of you and needed to be released, or was it more of a process, a journey of self-discovery that you need to take?

Alex: It was more of a process because it wasn’t like I was going to release a record. It was just like water. I was in the middle of it for so long, drifting to wherever. My friend, who went through the same thing, gave me this little journal and said: “You have to write, whatever it is. We know you are writer, but don’t think about it. Write about whatever you feel.”

I was in the plane going to Tangiers and I looked and saw in the plane all those little windows. Windows in the sky. It was the beginning of that process. I wrote that on the top of that journal. I just wrote, wrote, wrote.

At the end, those words had a different incarnation than what they were at the beginning. I was exploring things in the same realm of reality but suddenly in the end, it was something different.

At the end of that whole process, I realized that I was writing a little bit of music here, some words there. But I wasn’t contemplating putting out another record, not even something on my own. I was so far away from that. I didn’t want to get back together with the band. I was just in the place where I wanted to be free and peaceful for a while.

In the end, those words became alive in a way that was very special for me. I started to put them on the music I was writing. I was writing a score for films…that’s the thing I wanted to do.

MR: OK. That makes sense. I was walking here from the Metro, listening to the second song off the album, Winter is Coming. I’m picturing a scene from Apocalypse Now in the hotel room.

(Alex burst out laughing)

There was just this intensity. What the heck was going on in his mind at that time?

Alex: Yeah!

MR: Even in real life, I think Martin Sheen had a heart attack. That scene was intense. In the end, it creates a beautify artistic thing.

I’m really curious how you will bring this to life, because I’ve never heard you play live. You have a sold-out show tonight.

Alex: It’s a different experience, especially now. I got through the record and the band was so instrumental in the process.

As I was writing the score for an independent movie, Ben, the guitar player that I always write with said: “What is this thing?”

“No…don’t worry about it…don’t touch that.” (referring to the journal/music).

He said: “Dude, this is very…Wow…very personal.”

We talked about it a little. He said: “Do you want to keep doing it? No pressure…just for fun and for you to be able to let go of all those emotions?”

That is how it started. Even to the point of us being in Tokyo for the pre-listening session, in the green room with Jeff…I was still thinking: Do I really want to release this?

To the very end, I didn’t know if I had enough guts to share that record and those songs with other people.

To the very end, I didn’t know if I had enough guts to share that record and those songs with other people. – Alex Henry Foster

Have I exposed myself too much? Would I be able to live with the fact that now I could not go back? Where do you go from being that honest to going back to Your Favorite Enemies…if we do go back? This was my reality now.

It’s something to have the record, all the songs, with no pressure. When it was time to cross that line and to share, I really freaked out. I remember Jeff was there and said: “Alex, it’s your call now. Everyone is waiting. If you want me to cancel it, there’s no pressure. It’s your thing. What do you want to do?”

I took a deep breath and said: “Alright man…let’s do it.”

That was the beginning of it. I didn’t want to play the record live because my biggest concern was first, would I be able to stand in front of people and live those emotions over and over again. For me, it was out of the question. It was not something I wanted to perform.

Maybe because I was doing movies…I could have images to the songs, something like that we could share. I was doing Q & A after, and maybe I was OK to do something like that. Playing live was completely out of the question.

Then Laurent Saulnier of Le Festival de Jazz heard the record and kept calling. “You need to come and play that record. It’s very cool and I really dig it. People will really like it.”

Then with the sales…everything went out of control. I got so scared when suddenly I had to give interviews. “Oh…you sold THAT amount of records…”

I never cared about that, even with Your Favorite Enemies.

I took a long break, for months. Laurent was really persistent. Out of love, he really wanted me to perform. So, I said OK.

It was completely different from Your Favorite Enemies. We were rehearsing and I was thinking: Will I cry? How will I experience all those emotions? I don’t just want to play them like a jukebox.

Even if I had ten to twelve years’ experience, playing everywhere, doing every sort of gig, jumping from the third balconies…all those crazy things…I was so scared…so scared.

MR: This is completely different. It’s like you are being almost naked on stage.

Alex: The guys were so good with me. They really nurtured me into going back into the light. I said: “I don’t want to do Your Favorite Enemies Part II.” I wanted to have other people come into the band. We are now nine, which is completely crazy.

It was a different experience at Club Soda for the Festival de Jazz. I received so much love. Close friends telling me it was MY VOICE. It wasn’t about the jumping around. It was my voice, and I was really happy that I didn’t turn it into some sort of rock-n-roll gimmick. It was me incarnating those emotions, because they were still there.

MR: You mentioned at one point that this album was almost like a communion, which is a sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings. Because you are getting so much feedback from others about the way they are interpreting these songs, what are some things they are getting from it that you weren’t expecting?

Alex: I’ve been set free from what I was feeling when I received that feedback.

I knew I had a responsibility to not just throw the record out and “see you later guys, whatever you want to make out of it.”

When they were writing to me about their own grief, what they were experiencing and the difficulties they had, it was very very poignant.

MR: You realized that you put something out there that had an effect on other people’s lives.

Alex: Yeah. It was very transcending in many ways because I realized that it wasn’t my record anymore, and that felt really good. It wasn’t done out of selfishness.

MR: That why I think you found the key to releasing your ego. It wasn’t about you anymore.

Alex: Yeah. I felt humbled by that. At that moment, I was releasing the vinyl edition and I wrote a personal letter to every single person who ordered one. That period where I didn’t want to give interviews, I didn’t want to promote…that’s what I did. It was a connection with people.

It was very intimate. I was writing why I wrote the record. I answered those that bought the record and sent me a message with it.

My friends thought I was crazy. It’s such a labor of love. I didn’t see it as I HAD to do it…it was that connection…

MR: I WANT to do it.

Alex: Exactly. I felt like that record opened a very intimate line of communication with people. I felt humbled. I didn’t feel like I was obligated to answer and write them, but it was such a beautiful opportunity.

Some people would get something different out of the words on the record.

It’s true! That what those words meant for me. I could relate.

I was discovering the record differently because I was able to have a bit of distance with it.

It was an exchange off the grid, one person to another. It wasn’t an artist answering his so-called fans. It was very personal and emotional.

I was talking with a Japanese girl. In Japan, emotions are complex and different. You need to people, love that culture and dwell on what it means.

Someone wrote to me and said they experienced being abused, in their family. She said: “I want to forgive. I want to let go.”

That’s the kind of messages I was receiving. Pretty powerful!

It goes way beyond the music. Is it good? Is it special or not?

What can you say to something like this, more than just: “Wow…Thank-you. You have so much courage. There is a beautiful power in acknowledging that you can give forgiveness.”

For me, forgiveness is the most generous gift you can give others.

“Forgiveness is the most generous gift you can give others.” – Alex Henry Foster

You will set them free, whether they will take it or not. It goes way beyond what truth is about. It goes beyond morals and religion.

MR: Have you forgiven your dad?

Alex: Yeah. That’s what we talked about on his deathbed. It’s fifteen minutes that shaped my life and leads me where I’m going.

December 10, 2019


AHF @ L’ASTRAL | Concert review by Montreal Rocks

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As published in Montreal Rocks

Read the original article here

Alex Henry Foster performs at a sold-out L’Astral on November 30, 2019.

“Who is this guy?” I said to myself, being handed an Alex Henry Foster pamphlet, as I exited Club Soda.

Earlier that day, I had a fascinating conversation with Bishop Briggs and subsequently caught her show in the evening.

This was the sixth or seventh AHF pamphlet I had received since the summer. After every MTelus show…at the Jazz Festival Verdun exit…there was this mysterious picture of Alex. This street team is dedicated!

Curiosity got the best of me, and I went to YouTube and found this.

I reached out and secured an interview before his sold-out show at L’Astral on November 30th, 2019.

I was definitely not expecting the conversation to last over 45 minutes and to get so deep.

Read the original Interview with Alex Henry Foster.

En français: ici and even in Japanese !

Highlights from Alex Henry Foster Live @ L’Astral

To call this a concert review would not give it justice…it was a 2 ½ hour performance. Intense, captivating and powerful are the words that spring to mind as I think back to my experience.

Alex put Your Favorite Enemies on hiatus, after playing in front of 90,000 fans, yet feeling nothing inside. You could tell that to the sold-out crowd, Alex was feeling something far superior, intimacy with his fans.

There he was, performing solo, but with the full backing of the members of Your Favorite Enemies behind him, and then some. Nine talented musicians shared the stage, led by Alex.

This was more than a concert. It was the story of a man whose life was shattered by the death of his father. He escaped to Tangiers to grasp at the shards of his life, and slowly put himself back together again. He would never again be the man he was before but experienced a rebirth as an artist.

The street team was just a glimpse into the support that Alex has behind him. There is a genuine love and respect from fellow bandmembers who trust that this story had to be told musically, and they fully backed him.

Each song was a glimpse into the mind of Alex as he struggles to make sense of all the pieces in the puzzle of his life.

These were not your typical 3 to 4 minute pop songs. The mathematical average length of the songs were 13 1/2 minutes, but the reality being that some went past the 20 minute range.

A cohesive group of musicians told this story with every note, backed by an extensive lighting show.

I was not familiar with all his songs, but some of the highlights were “Winter’s Coming In” and “The Hunter” among many others that I simply cannot name.

The 2 1/2 hour set went by in a flash, and we had to return to reality. The lights were turned on, and the fans remained, speaking to one another.

Alex Henry Foster and the band were in the lobby, once all were moved out of the main area. Alex hugged every single person in the lobby, having found some magical boost of energy after his draining performance.

That energy comes from his connection to his fans, a group so diverse in every metric.

I got my hug, and made my way into the darkness of the night to catch the last Metro.

I remember sitting there reflecting on the day and night I had and couldn’t help but appreciate the connection I made with Alex through our conversation. I appreciated experiencing this intimate story with his dedicated fans. I appreciated his courage to share with us his incredible journey.

I look forward to seeing where that journey leads him.

November 30, 2019


Alex Henry Foster: Interview with an emerging artist

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As published in Le Collectif

Read the original article here

How did your passion for music start?

The passion for music, literature and art in all its forms undeniably comes from my parents who, despite their constant struggle to survive, have taken all possible means to make me discover a reality that was expanding well beyond the financial precariousness with which they had to deal during most of my childhood and adolescence.

I have no memory of a day without the music of an artist or another coming to fill the space of the innumerable small makeshift apartments where we lived successively for a brief moment.

The most intimate memories I have with my dad are defined by the moments when he made me sit on an old sofa to share his love of The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath, to name only those. I still remember my fascination for these vinyls, which ostensibly so fragile, had in their grooves an unsuspected power, a clamor with the unique property of feeding both my mind and my imagination.

My mother, who is very fond of what is now called old time rock ‘n’ roll, made me dance every Saturday morning to the rhythms of Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Little Richard and other heroes from her childhood. I could not really understand how much good it was doing to me, but at this age, I would say that the definition of a sad existence was not that marked by the anguish of my uprooting and multitudes anxieties engendered by what it means to have to deal with poverty, but rather of a life stripped of all forms of music.

I think that music truly took over from the moment I witnessed a rehearsal of a friend’s brother’s band. I was in 5th grade… I will never forget that moment when I saw people really playing an instrument. There was such power in coordinating the chaos that I heard this autumn afternoon that made me discover The Cure, The Clash, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Smiths, Joy Division and many others. I was totally hypnotized by what had changed my life forever…

Then followed my discovery of the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, The Stooges and The Cramps, bands that allowed me to live my first musical experiences, although it was Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen who eventually took the whole place, while the music became for me more than decibels, but literature and sound textures. From that moment, everythin that was not artistic became totally uninteresting for me…

What led you to start everything?

I had numerous bands while in high school, but nothing too serious. It’s only when I met Sef, with whom I was going to found Your Favorite Enemies, through our academic background in social work, that music would become the driving force of our activism and the tool with which we could express ourselves and have the opportunity to bring together people who, like us, felt the need to break their emotional isolation.

It’s really this goal of reaching people that made us start everything. We played a few benefit concerts to the profit of human rights groups with which we were already involved and then followed the beginning of what would be a unique adventure which brought us to the four corners of the world, without any other plan than to follow our instinct, guided by our friendship and the desire to connect with others, whomever they might be.

You were first the singer of the band “Your Favorite Enemies” before starting your individual career. What distinguishes your music as a band from your own music?

I would say that it distinguishes itself by the nature from which this music emanates. Your Favorite Enemies has always been the product of a deep friendship among its members, a collective vehicle expressing strong emotions through our deep creative differences. The pure energy of this expression was only for the sole purpose of being communicated with people who felt the same emotions, the same needs, those same desires, or who did not suspect their existence… All through one almost cathartic abandonment.

My project, however, was born through the mourning of my father, which highlighted years spent trying to avoid addressing deep personal issues and other intimate emotions that I had camouflaged for years through the group’s sound and the “we” that implies to be part of a collective. This is what makes my music a more introspective, contemplative and immersive experience, where the words carry emotions expressed honestly, without filter, without shame, without artifice, where music transports us rather than jostling us and to make us capsize.

In 2016, you went to Morocco for 2 years to work on your album “Windows in the Sky”. What was your inspiration in its creation?

I first and foremost went to live in a place where I had no friends, no landmarks, no potential beacons. I was totally exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually. My only goal was to drift, but the spirit of the city of Tangier allowed me to discover what abandonment meant, to let go totally. It was at this moment that the desire to write slowly came back, and that I became aware of my need to live the mourning of my father, to make peace somehow with the many torments and storms who had marked the person that I am and the artist that I had become.

Have you always wanted to have a solo career? What led your choice?

I have never had any careerist ambition… For me, creation, like art in general, is a gift that we receive in order to offer the subsequent fruit in return. And if producing a solo album was really a choice, I would say that it was more a need I felt to express myself without having to hide through decibels and not having to throw myself into the crowd from the second balcony of a venue to feel alive…

Why introducing your album in grand premiere in Tokyo?

Because I always felt at home in Japan. As this album is both personal and intimate, I felt this deep need to expose myself to people who have not only seen me as the person I am today, but who have always been generous to me in their affection and hospitality. I knew that if I could present myself in front of them with this album, it was because I knew that I had gone to the end of my ressources for it to see the light of day.

You launched your book “A Journey Beyond Ourselves” in 2017, in which you discuss the creation of “Tokyo Sessions” of Your Favorite Enemies. Why was it important for you to explain the story of the creation of this album?

Because “Tokyo Sessions” is the album that allowed us to free ourselves from our doubts, our limitations and our eternal reassessments. This album is the re-appropriation and re-writing of the album “Between Illness and Migration”, for which the group was nominated at the Juno Awards and which allowed us to tour around the world for almost 5 years, tours where the songs became their own incarnations and where we became aware of the distance that had settled between us. It was important for me to witness this pivotal period, to share its nature with the people who had been following us and supporting us so loyally forever. If “Tokyo Sessions” was to be the last album of Your Favorite Enemies, it was exactly what we wanted to do and the real reflection of what the band had become. I wanted to celebrate the emancipating effect it had on us and to bear witness to the creative freedom it infused in us.

You also write about artistic, musical and daily topics in 2 magazines: “The Eye View” and “BEEAST” in Japan. In addition to considering you as a singer, musician and author, you are a poet. What are your writings inspired by?

Of all that I perceive when I take a moment to observe, to see beyond myself. I have always been fascinated by what I affectionately call “the other”; his life, his wrongs, his paradoxes, his nonsense, his kindness, just as his honest cruelty. There is in the “other” what I refuse to admit in my own self, what I like to believe as different when it is not. I saw absolutely beautiful things in “the other”, I was swept away to have seen the suffering and terrified by those he loves to inflict his neighbor. I realized and understood that I did not know anything about him, or me, for that matter. It is these reflections that inspire me… “The other”, knowing that he sees me too.

Before focusing on your music career, you first graduated from Social Work and were involved with Amnesty International as a spokesperson and speaker, among other things. Do you give room for social involvement in your artistic career?

For me, the two are indissociable. There is no form of art, whatever it is, which does not prove to be a social implication. Even the one that can appear as the most insipid form of expression or creation is a social implication. Whether it is the reflection of the world or the pitfall of the latter, art is social, has always been, and always will be. I often feel that we live in an age of appearances, the illusory and the culture of insipidity in all its forms, but art is nonetheless at the heart of it, just like its social impact. Art is a reflection of the world, of the “other”, and its opposite. At least, that’s how I see it and put it at the center of each of my public or personal projects.

You have been nominated for “Anglophone Album of the Year” at L’ADISQ this year. Did you expect this nomination after seeing the success of your album?

It was a wonderful surprise, but for a reason that has absolutely nothing to do with the award ceremony and their so-called recognition, since for me, it is first and foremost the joy of knowing people who have received me through my album to be not only proud, but carriers, since they have given an identity that goes far beyond the words and sounds that carry the album. They made it theirs, and it was for all those people that this nomination particularly pleased me.

Among all your compositions, do you have a crush, a preference? Why?

This is a difficult question to answer, because the answer invariably rests on my state of mind. At this moment, I would spontaneously say “From the City to the Ocean”, because it is about questioning yourself in front of the distance that one believes to cross with the time which unfolds before our eyes, a text resulting from a perspective on our intrinsic need to be in control, when this is never really the case; the motion is the result of our decision towards the need to let go when we are told to hold on.

When did you realize the scale of your musical success? Did you anticipate it at a certain point? Was it your goal when it all started?

I do not believe that we can anticipate anything if we feel no desire and in that sense, I do not really believe in the notion of success or failure when we decide to create. However, I quickly realized the perverse effect when I felt dispossessed from the reasons why I created when, after only 3 concerts, our first (and last!) manager parachuted us without any form of preparation or coaching in the implacable world of entertainment and the claws of those who feed on the dreams and hopes that are for some their only possessions. I am proud to say that it is our deep friendship and love for each other that not only protected us from ourselves, but are the reasons why we are still together today. If there is a notion of success attributable to our adventure, it is our friendship that deserves to be honored…

You also perform in Germany. Do you plan to expand elsewhere in the world? Are your roots (Montreal) important to you?

I did not have the vision to go on stage when I gave birth to “Windows in the Sky”, I was even terrified! I did not think I had the strength or the ability to play these very personal songs night after night. It was our friend Laurent Saunier who insisted that I perform at the Montreal International Jazz Festival, which convinced me by his resilience, his insistence, but especially his deep attachment to my album. So, unlike Your Favorite Enemies which took off in Europe and Japan, this project is closely linked to my roots. That’s what made me want to repeat the experience on November 30 at L’Astral in Montreal, but also to perform across Quebec if the opportunity was given to me, although I’m already scheduled to play in Europe, Asia and the United States in the coming year.

What are your plans, what can we wish you for the future?

The deluxe version of “Windows in the Sky” is expected to be released internationally next spring. I composed the soundtrack for a film about the Irish poet William B. Yeats also set to appear at the end of 2020. There’s also a project that is particularly close to my heart, the release of a special boxset of Your Favorite Enemies on January 31, 2020.

And if I have a wish to express, it is the hope that the privilege you granted me to share my adventure through your newspaper will inspire others to follow their instincts and create their own uncompromising destiny.

Don’t hesitate to write to me: Facebook

November 20, 2019


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