This was published on irismagazine.net in February 2004.
On a recent promotional trip to Ireland, I met up with Alex Foster, singer with Canadian Rock band In This life and their manager Stéphane Bonneau and chatted about life, death threats, guns, movies, tennis and their connection with the Irish music scene.
Its a Saturday morning and Alex and is in good spirits, he has just had his first Friday night in Dublin. Foster is an extraordinary 29 year old, having gone through more things in his first twenty years than most of us. Alex is quite open about his past and how it led him to where he is now.
Foster is now a Social Worker and an Amnesty International spokesperson. At the age of 15 he was a gang leader. He grew up in the poorest part of Montreal and describes his youth as a result of (his) culture. His family moved to another poor area and Alex often found himself bullied and not hip.
He came in contact with the White Supremist Movement. An intellectual, he had read of how the party was formed and at 14 was the only one to have read Meine Kamfp. Foster found himself in a bar in Montreal discussing politics with one of the parties leaders. Alex had found someone who had taken him under his wing. By the age of 16 he was addressing conferences and concerts and also had his own monthly newspaper expressing his views. I also was very independent. I didnt want to owe anybody anything. Until I was 18 I was the youngest guy involved at this level. But a lot of money was involved.
Alexs Dad became a Christian. His Dad had told him that in this situation he would never be free. These words stuck in Alexs head as he tried to figure out why, at concerts kids were trying to touch the swastika flag. Something inside said its not you, its not right, stop hiding. It was a time of torment for Alex, seeing what influence and power he had over other young people but also seeing how deep he was involved. He had been dealing in guns and weapons, he had two murder attempts in High School, he had a bodyguard and at one time was earning more than his parents.
Alex decided enough was enough. He took a break from public appearances but still put out his newspaper explaining where I was at. He went to one of the biggest Neo-Nazi gatherings at the time and distributed his paper. Alex was invited to a meeting with all of the partys leaders, not a good sign. The leaders agreed to let him leave the party but didnt want him to talk to any of the organization again. Alex was ready to walk away from the party but had to face the fact that he may be killed. He was also told that if he spoke to the press, he would not be harmed or killed, but his family would.
Later, the organization sent a friend of Alexs to see him; he went to a bar he didnt know. They all wanted to know if you would be faithful to your friends or the organization. During the course of the conversation Alexs friend broke down and cried. He left the party and is now in hiding, having feared for his life, I dont know where he is.
Alex was lucky, although he no longer had no friends and had to reconsider his life, he had stayed in school throughout his ordeal, so he continued with his studies, leading to a degree in Social Studies and now working with sexually abused kids.
It was around this time that Foster met Stephan Lemelin (guitarist) and The Riddlers were born. At first Alex described his music as an exorcism for him. It was this that gave his music a driving force. Alex now describes his life as a platform to educate an example of this is, a Yugoslavian film director intends to make a movie of Fosters experiences.
The Riddlers evolved into what is now In This Life. As The Riddlers they left Canada and headed to Nashville where they signed a management deal. Things werent great though for the socially conscious band as Alex says Were not puppets.
They then met Stéphane Bonneau, an ex-Canadian Tennis Champion, who was also moonlighting as a gig promoter. Following a couple of meetings, the band convinced Bonneau to work with them. It seemed like a natural thing for him to work with us. It was also at this time the band got a new drummer and decided to change their name to In My Life. It was such a thrill to start everything over. The band previously had focused on their natural American market but is now taking things to Europe.
Bonneau was a professional tennis player for over 10 years. While on the road all his spare time was spent in local records shops and reading music magazines, always to learn about the bands he was listening to. As the years went by I got really selective as to the music I was listening to. I discovered that it was drawing me to Irish Rock. It was the music that gave me goose bumps. If I needed to feel my head or my heart, it came from Irish Music.
In between tournaments Stéphane made many trips to Dublin, checking out bands and spending time in record shops. Remember this was pre MP3. For me it has become a love affair with Ireland because of the music. Its a bands country. In Montreal we dont have bands, we have solos or Hip-hop or Rap. I wanted to be involved in the music. The first thing I thought was to sign Aslan, five years ago. Aslan were opening a concert held in conjunction with the Montreal Grand Prix. Bonneau went to the concert, met the band afterwards but couldnt understand why they werent known in Canada or why he couldnt find any of their music, although they had a video being played on a local French music network.
He went to the band asking if he could help in any way. He made a trip to Ireland to get all the information on Aslan that he could that would help in some way with promoting the band in Canada. The following summer, Stéphane had arranged for a consortium of people to come to Ireland to sign the band. These included a publicist, another music manager and a music lawyer. The consortium were people I had brought into my business (Pouring Rain Management) and who would show me for the first two years how I would manage a band. During this time Bonneau was also looking at other bands while in Dublin. If it worked for Aslan it could work for other bands. Four months later the consortium received a fax saying the band did not want to enter into a contract. After that Stéphane decided to hang up his headphones and give music a break, concentrating on tennis teaching again.
In November 2002, something changed; he decided to get into music again. Bonneau started running gigs in Montreal, with the intention of finding a band to mange. While looking for bands he met Alex Foster.
The two seem to have a mutual respect for each other and although they know each other for a short space of time seem to have a complete belief in each other.
The band are currently talking to record labels in Canada and are building up contacts here in Ireland, hoping to come back and tour here in 2004. It is an expensive business bringing a band across the Atlantic for a series of gigs. Alex says, I think its just strategy. In terms of promotion, I will be the one here doing it. Its also a great platform for all of Europe. Its a music driven country and a window to the UK also. Its my first time here but people are so enthused.
Stéphane adds People are really willing to help us, even if its only to give us directions, but some of them are willing to go further. We dont feel like we could get this help in Canada or in the States. Even after a week here I can totally understand where Stéphane was coming from. To me it was a strategy but Ireland is much more than that now, says Alex. We may now have the European sound but we do sound different.
So the band are hoping to come back in April to promote their new album and maybe come back to open for some Irish bands. They can then come to Canada and open for us.’