Jesse LeBlanc is perched behind the counter of Spin-It, Moncton’s go to spot for anything related to music or movies.
It’s time to close up, but LeBlanc doesn’t rush anyone out.
Young pin-and-patch covered punks are inquiring about a band called Grimskunk.
“We just played a show in Quebec City,” he tells the young punks. “One of the members of Grimskunk was the sound guy. I almost spit beer in his face when he told me. I couldn‘t believe it.”
The young punks are in awe – not an uncommon moment at Spin. LeBlanc is an encyclopedia of stories and anecdotes.
LeBlanc has been a staple of Moncton’s music scene for the past 12 years, 12 years that addiction nearly took away.
“Alright everyone, we’re closing. Time to finish up.”
On March 16, 1982 during a Doobie Brothers show on their farewell tour his mother attended, Jesse LeBlanc was born.
“Her water broke during a song she really liked, I can‘t remember the name but she waited till it was done then she left to have me.”
Growing up in “the sticks” of Dieppe, LeBlanc looked for some creative outlet but his options were scarce.
“You play baseball in the summer and hockey in the winter, that’s what you do,” he said, “…I was more into drawing but felt forced to go into hockey ‘cause I didn’t want to be a loner.”
LeBlanc’s passion wasn’t in the rink. Music came into his life, more specifically American rock band Nirvana, and he didn’t let it go.
“It was loud and aggressive which was appealing and also had the qualities I liked as opposed to a lot of bands that were flashy, that giant rock star thing.“
When Jesse got his first guitar, his obsession with music began to take over.
LeBlanc realized his love for music through Nirvana, and would soon develop another habit associated with the band.
He started experimenting with drugs like marijuana and hashish. By 17, it escalated to opiates and heroin.
“It was atypical, coming from a city that had no future, I mean just bored and depressed. I was hanging out with people two to three years older than me so I was up to where they were in drug use. I was never addicted so much to one drug as I was always on drugs.”
But his addiction never stopped his music production.
He was playing guitar in a band, Heimlich. Heimlich gained notoriety for their live shows across eastern Canada and because you could score drugs off any band members. By the time the band died, Jesse knew his life wasn’t too far away from the same ending.
Along with friend and Heimlich drummer JP, he moved to Victoria to get on methadone because the Moncton waiting list was 18 months.
“We knew we wouldn’t live 18 months so we should move out there ‘cause there’s so many junkies that there should be more supply of methadone.”
Once he completed treatment, he relapsed. This accumulated to a $500 dollar a day habit.
“At one point I shoplifted $200 [dollars] worth of toothpaste and was able to use that for trade.”
LeBlanc had a few run-ins with the law but never served substantial jail time.
Nine months later – within two weeks– he saw the death of two of his friends to addiction, one being JP. He knew he
had to get clean and move back home. A phone call from his mother saved him.
“For some reason they were taking me in at Moncton. I was being pushed through as a priority. Of course in my drug-addled mind I thought this was a C.I.A. sting operation and they would bust through the doors, but I took the chance.”
After completing the methadone program, he found what would give him reason and strength to keep grounded. This came in the form of his future wife, Michelle.
“It still wasn’t clinging completely that I was sober, and I still think I was teetering on the edge of it when I ran into Michelle and that’s where everything stopped. I knew her from before and she just returned from Ottawa after going through some of the same things I just did,” he said, pausing.
“I‘m fairly certain if I didn‘t meet her at that time I would have lapsed back. We balanced each other out. Through her I realized who I was and that was the clincher. Knowing I had self worth, it was all okay.”
The punks finish up their purchases, still in awe about LeBlanc’s meeting of Grimskunk.
He has remained clean since 2006 and refocused on music.
A fresh mind made him a hot commodity in the Moncton scene. Picking up the bass, he has played in numerous outfits
such as the reunited Burnt Offerings and The Kamalas.
He formed Pervert with the surviving members of Heimlich. He sits behind the drum kit, adding another instrument to his arsenal.
His group, the Thalidomy Kids, have just released their first EP.
LeBlanc takes out the trash before he leaves Spin-It. Now, he goes home to his wife and lights up his beloved Benson & Hedges, he feels free of all his past baggage. He’s looking ahead.
“My biggest project, which whichhcihweioewh will be for the rest of my life, is the slow elimination of the ego. Which is peeling back all of what you know to get back when you were born.” he laughs. “This will probably not happen though.”