Skip to content
Close (esc)

NEWSLETTER

Sign up to receive information about new releases, exclusive pre-sales, and limited issues & reissues!

🌴 An open conversation with Alex in Tangier - part 1

🌴 An open conversation with Alex in Tangier - part 1

Hey,

I hope you’re doing great as we’re already kicking the month of October...! I just realized that I often share specific times, hours of the day and precise dates with you in those letters…! I don’t know why this is important for me to mention this, maybe it’s the result of my very strange relationship with time, of which I’m always trying to be free from in a way… And as you guessed it, it hasn’t been much of a success so far.! :) 

I’m already back in Tangier with Alex for a few days for this special project I slowly started to share with you. It is now evolving quite well, and I truly can’t wait to share more with you! Leaving Montreal to spend a week in Hamburg then come back for one day before heading to Tangier was a little exhausting for us, to say the least, but Tangier’s fresh October sea breeze quickly got us into the city’s unique vibe and charms! I love this city so much...! It always feels like home here no matter the time of the year we step foot in it and it’s always a huge privilege to share parts of my life with this place and its inhabitants who I always end up missing at some point…! 

A few weeks ago, as we were in Tangier, I had a rare opportunity to sit down by the pool at La Maison de Tanger with my best friend and brother Alex in order to ask him a few questions about this amazing city, his first passage back in 2016, what brought him here and what’s his relationship with this city is like now six years later…! 

So, as we’re back here for a few days, I thought the moment was right for me to share half of our conversation with you today..! 

Enjoy the Q&A!

 

Could you please walk us through how this idea of visiting Tangier, of all places, took place in your heart and mind? 

It was right after I had completed Your Favorite Enemies’ album “Tokyo Sessions” with Ben and Sef. The trip was supposed to take 2 or 3 weeks, but it became something like a 3-month journey, a creative voyage that was challenging for me, as I was still struggling with the profound stigmata left by a former band collaborator that basically destroyed every ounce of self-confidence I had after having to endure almost 10 years of constant bullying from this guy. Once I finally had the courage to part ways with him, rewriting “Between Illness and Migration” (that eventually became Tokyo Sessions) became a way not only to regain confidence in my instinctive ability to give life to what I was artistically envisioning but to also rebuild myself back as an individual… “Tokyo Sessions” became the album I had foreseen “Between Illness and Migration” to be in the first place and it was also a great accomplishment for me as I was the sole producer of the record, something that would guide me through, years later, into new personal projects.

But before my solo season would ever be a slight,  if not minuscule, idea, I had decided that it was time for Your Favorite Enemies to explore new sonorities, which was especially capital for me to find as I had completely lost interest in anything that was of the pre-Tokyo Sessions era. To do so, I believed that we needed to experience new adventures, to expose ourselves to the unknown, that I had to let other cultures provoke a bewilderment deep within me, something I hadn’t felt anywhere but in Japan at that point. It wasn’t much about being blasé but about stretching what I now realize was the inevitable end of a cycle, which usually takes place after setting oneself free from years of abuse and self-doubt. I needed something I wasn’t able to define at that point in time.

And for whatever reason, maybe it was the fact that I grew up alongside members of a Moroccan community and their singular African/Arabic richness, but I instinctively invited a few members of the band and 2 of our team members to make a 3-week trip all over Morocco with me. It started in Tangier, the city that inspired me that trip, as it was the reminiscence of so many books I read about the influence that city had on the likes of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs from the Beat Generation who either visited or lived in Tangier, but also painters Francis Bacon, Matisse, Delacroix, writers Paul Bowles, Mark Twain, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams, and so many others personal favorites that don’t come to mind right now… It was as if the soul of the city always had a natural, yet latent, form of attraction on me. And I knew, somehow, I had something awaiting me, something transcending logic, rationality or senses… 

Little did I know that my brief initial passage would literally change my life and that of so many others afterward…    
 

What was your first reaction when you first set foot there? 

It’s difficult to explain, as some of the most genuine and purest of all sensations cannot or don’t have to be understood. They are designed to be welcomed, embraced and felt… But if I try and share an image of what my first reaction in Tangier was… Let’s say that if my initial visit to Tokyo offered me an extraordinary personal homecoming bloom deep down within me, my first passage in Tangier offered me a profound belonging-like form of peace. They could be seen as two distinctive types of vibrations, but for me, they both are fabulously connected in their unique form of spiritual “home” nature, in a way. It’s paradoxical to realize that I found peace in two places of organized chaos…  


Why go back there specifically right after coming back from this trip all over Morocco? 

The trip, while it was nice, didn’t provide the collective spark I was looking for creatively. I felt more disconnected with the others than I had ever felt before. It was difficult for me to admit just how lost and empty I was and just how isolated and disrupted I felt from the others. There wasn’t any kind of animosity, no fight, or anything I could blame or that could stand as a far-fetched explanation regarding the bleakest state of heart and soul I was left with after those 3 weeks… It was a low point in my life. I was frustrated, bitter and felt trapped in circumstances I wasn’t able to recognize myself in. Somehow, I knew that I had to go… But where? And how long? It was totally uncanny of me, as being in the band, being in the community I helped build, and constantly being in motion towards the future were the only things I lived from my early 20s. I was paralyzed by questions and the absence of answers. Irresolution has always been a frightening place to be for me… And I was right in the middle of it.

I think I first told you about taking some time on my own a few weeks or a couple of months after we got back from our Moroccan trip. I initially wanted to spend some time in Barcelona, a place that I particularly love and that has a whole lot of wonderful memories attached to it. It was supposed to be 2 weeks or something like that. So I bought plane tickets, rented a loft and figured out all the other details associated with me leaving the community… but it just wasn't right for whatever reason. I knew I had yet to mourn my father’s death, and it was hard to fathom being able to anonymously sit on a terrace to do so when I have so many friends in the city, therefore so many distractions I could use to cope-out from my despair. A 2-week party wasn’t what I needed. Even though the prospect of just hanging around and forgetting the absurdity of my sorrowful emotions for a while was pretty tempting, it was a ridiculous idea, to be honest. It would have been to keep on denying my hopeless dejection and I was still conscious enough to know about it. Admitting to myself that Barcelona wasn’t what I truly needed felt like going backwards. The anguish had become quite heavy to deal with at this point… 

I came very close to leaving for Istanbul, as I just wanted to disappear in an unfamiliar place where I didn’t know anybody and where I couldn’t be recognized by anyone. I was about to have my plane tickets changed… I had found an amazing apartment in the artsy neighborhood of Cihangir, just a few blocks south of the Taksim Square. It felt like the perfect space for me to land, as it is a well-known place for writers, poets, musicians and painters. I figured I would fit right in, or at least find my long-gone inspiration maybe…   

Until, for whatever reasons, I went on the Facebook page of this hotel in Tangier’s kasbah, where we had stopped for a drink and a late-night dinner on our last day in the city. Scrolling through the page, I saw a post the hotel had done, featuring us on the rooftop terrace while we were talking with one of the owners, a moment that had been a very human-driven conversation. And just like that, without thinking, I just said, “Ok, that’s where I need to go. Not only Tangier, but at that very specific hotel…”

That decision, taken in an instant of pure instinctive abandon, that flash of resolution would end up the most important step forward of my adult life. I have goosebumps just thinking of it… Whoa…!


Is this what you mean when you say: “Sometimes, the unexpected emergence of new vibrant sensations reveals some pieces of tomorrow’s foreseeing images, made of fragments of memories, of faded fractions of long-gone shivering emotions, all reflecting flashes of untainted words, of emancipated sounds awaiting to be, from which I can discern the shadowing motion of life’s rebirth as we slowly awaken from brokenhearted hopelessness…”

Yes, in many different ways, it is… 


How did this specifically materialize itself? 

In letting go. The first 2 weeks – oh yes, I forgot to mention that I had decided to stay 2 months a few days before leaving Montreal – were filled with a lot of self-endured emotional violence. It was like having a heart and soul detoxification… I almost came back to Montreal only a few days into the trip. With so many years depriving myself from any potential healing, there were a whole lot of things waiting to burst from within, a lot to admit to myself as well… I honestly didn’t know who I was anymore. If there is such a thing as being the product of your environment, I was the perfect example of a person hiding his deepest sufferings through a constant involvement caring for others’ wounds, all that while I was the one being in urgent need of “medical” attention. I was a highly functional burned-out and severely depressed individual, a total mess of himself, yet someone being able to masterly maintain its house of cards up for everyone to admire. My facade was impeccable, but would I had let someone in, I think it would have been scary to look at just how desperate and suicidal I was. So I wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote and kept on writing, from early morning to late night. It became my therapy somehow, as well as the lyrical foundation that would be known as “Windows in the Sky” years later… 


Did you realize it while you were in Tangier? 

I don’t think you can truly have a clear vision of the lights shining through the cracks of your collapsing self-built fortress when you have spent most of your life living with your eyes open in the dark. Otherwise, you would have covered the cracks and would have fled from the lights. It’s scary to be blind, but it’s frightening to see, especially when you are that deeply broken inside and kept hiding in an abject form of profound denial. Tangier – or should I say the people who welcomed me and ultimately healed me – never forced its blazing incandescence on me; it just came as a delicate wind comforting my spirit with gentle kindness… That’s how it went.

 

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this through! Always so delighted to share parts of who we are and this journey we’re on with you! I’ll share the other part with you shortly! 

Please, let me know if you have some more questions for Alex, as I’d be delighted to share those with him of course!!! 

Take good care in the meantime! 

Your Friend and Host, 
Jeff 

Older Post
Newer Post

Shopping Cart

Your cart is currently empty

Shop now