Near-death experience inspires recording by Saint John musician

·3 min read

Four years ago, Saint John's Curtis Basque embarked on a creative journey that had the strangest of inspirations.

In 2016, in his late 50s, the musician found himself in the Saint John Regional Hospital battling sepsis, a life-threatening condition brought on by an infection.

Over nine days, he lost 40 pounds, and he nearly lost his life.

At one point during his treatment, Basque went into cardiac arrest.

"They paddled me," Basque said, "and that's when I saw my father."

Basque had a vision of meeting his late father, and the experience became the theme of a creative project four years in the making.

Curtis Basque
Curtis Basque

And, he said, it all involves the themes of life and death.

An accomplished musician, Basque hasn't performed live for 20 years or so.

These days, his creative outlet is the studio he built in his home.

It's here where the progressive rock fan has been putting together the project, writing and producing the music, and playing most of the instruments.

WATCH / Curtis Basque directed and edited the video for his song Lost Apparitions

"There were a few other musicians involved, I'd bring in a drummer," Basque said, adding the other musicians would help him "find out what's wrong or what's right with it."

Otherwise, Basque played guitar, bass and keyboards.

He said the toughest part was taking on the singing duties, something he had never done before. He credits his wife Giselle for pushing him to try.

Basque said he also learned a little trick. He would write his songs in multiple keys, then record in the key he was most comfortable singing.

He began with a song written for his late father, who served in combat and struggled with PTSD in the aftermath.

And the project has culminated in a song with a social conscience, written after watching a documentary about the hundreds of women who have gone missing in the city of Juarez, Mexico, just across the U.S. border from El Paso, Texas.

Curtis Basque
Curtis Basque

Called Lost Apparitions, a friend suggested Basque make a video for it.

There was only one problem with that idea. Basque had no experience with directing or editing.

But that didn't stop him from tackling it head on.

"I bought a camera, a camera gimbal, a video card and software," he said.

Then he enlisted friends to act in it, and people to operate the camera.

"It was a steep learning curve."

For the opening, he wanted to try to recreate the look of the opening of a 1970s National Film Board documentary, so he had a company produce templates of a theatre proscenium arch, and assorted set pieces.

Curtis Basque
Curtis Basque

He then mounted them on fibreboard to create his miniature theatre.

Then, for the impression that the camera was moving deeper toward the back of the stage, he placed his camera where he wanted it to end up, then slowly pulled it out with a short rope.

By reversing what he had shot, he was able to get the effect he wanted.

The whole video took him two years to make, and he funded it himself.

"Sometimes I got frustrated," Basque said, "But my wife said, 'Just walk away from it for a while.'"

Basque is happy with the results, and the response he's been getting from it.

He has plans to release the complete album on CD early next year.