|Photo by Debra DiPaolo|
AFTER BURNING NEARLY AS MANY BRIDGES AS THE Roman army, Bob Forrest kicks off his first postThelonious Monster album by announcing remorse. He's not gonna do it again, he's not going through it all again, Bob yowls on You Come and Go Like a Pop Song, his latest round of episodic dope-fiend confessional-repentance sagas, wherein self-image bludgeoned by excess finally begets illumination, transcendence and rebirth, recurrent Bob themes that can only be delivered in that gritty, profoundly Catholic adenoidal squawk which is so deeply Bob.
The reformed suburban-stoner Sammy Hagar fan from Huntington Beach, who once said he dreamt of being a spiritual link between Darby Crash and Top Jimmy, is back for the first time since the undervalued Beautiful Mess (Capitol, 1992). Bob is heard on this new live-in-the-studio set of semi-acoustic folkish pop rock with good old-fashioned five-stringed guitars strumming away and at least three or four great tunes mastered loud and hot in a first-rate Pro-Tools-in-the-bedroom production by Marc Hunter and Josh Blum. Lyrically, as always, everything's utterly personal in Bobsville: It's his bloodied bed of regret, he says, but at the end of the day, the dear chap wants you to know he's still trying, trying, trying.
And so Bob's back to work courtesy of Goldenvoice Recordings, with a revised post-corporate indie philosophy: If you carve out a small brand-name niche and sell a few thousand CDs here and there, plus a few tours thrown in, well, you'll never be as rich as former roommates Flea and Swan, but it sure beats washing dishes at Millie's or being a 38-year-old delivery boy, a light-bulb-flash revelation alluded to in “Cereal Song.”
Bob's strength on this fine new outing, as in the Monster, is as a collaborative lyricist-singer-songwriter whose talent and charisma help to attract the right combination of co-writers, arrangers and musicians to make it happen. Apart from one co-write with former Monster guitarist Dix Denney, the lovely “Rainin' (4 a.m.),” the new crew boasts the immensely creative young guitarist/ multi-instrumentalist/co-writer Josh Klinghoffer, bassist/ co-writer/co-producer Josh Blum and drummer/co-writer Kevin Fitzgerald.
I recently enjoyed an afternoon with clean and funny Bob (Bob at his best), whom I've known on and off since mid-'83 from lurking around the Cathay de Grande, Club Lingerie, the Zero, Power Tools, Raji's and the many other drink-'n'-dope dives of the day. Bob talked about his new band called the Bicycle Thief, the new album, being a dad, education and the shortcomings of the L.A. Unified School District, corporate pop culture, the Musicians Assistance Program and many other things unprintable, and there isn't space anyway.
“NOW I'M IN A BAND WITH A 19-YEAR-OLD AND A 24-year-old,” says Bob. “I learn from them, and they pick up a few tips from the old dog, too, so it's cool. Josh, the guitarist, recently turned down a tour with Nine Inch Nails, and when I asked him why, he said, 'It just doesn't excite me — anybody could play the guitar parts in Trent Reznor's music. I love you and playing your music.' That spun my head around. Maybe there really is hope. This was from a kid whose first live gig was seeing Pearl Jam, whose dad was into Led Zep, the Stones and Springsteen a little later, so it's likely our guitar player was conceived with In Through the Out Door in the background, or maybe it was The River!”
Bob also pointed out that for some of us older fuckers disinclined to roll over, there's the very real dilemma of what to do about the very unfunny nightmare issue of the formal education of our progeny. Dad Bob addresses this over the funky, irresistible groove “Aspirations,” about his 12-year-old son, the angel Elijah, who is fed up with school.
“The L.A. Unified School District sure makes my life hell. My son is bored to tears by a whole bunch of cold numbers, dates and facts, which is the way all the LAUSD curricula are designed. The how and the why are always left out, and there's nothing on how all this information relates to kids' lives, or anybody's life, so your kid rebels and fights with you, and all you're trying to do is encourage him to get a basic education.
“But the big upside of being Dad is learning about the world through his perceptions. Although we share the same belief system — that everything basically sucks — I'm forced into positive reasoning rather than just whining along with him, and it helps me so much to dwell on the positive.
“One day I noticed hair under his arms, and I'd see him talking to girls, so I said, 'Son, the time has come for us to have a little biology talk,' and the script went something like this:
“'You mean, like, we're gonna do the man-to-man sex talk?'
“I said, 'Uh, yes . . . I guess so,' and he went all grave and serious.
“'Dad, are you, uh, under the assumption that I'm a virgin?'
“'Dude, you're 12 years old!'” ã
BOB HAS A LOT OF FRIENDS WHO CARE, even though he whines on “Boy at a Bus Stop” that he doesn't have a single one, a temporary state of affairs no doubt owing to Bad Bob's lurid addict side and his penchant for extreme outlandishness, such as getting booted from Johnny Depp's exclusive Viper Room bad-boy inner circle for totaling the boss's pickup. This incident earned Bob Hall of Fame status in the Hillbilly Prince's personally named “Waste-O Club,” whose elite membership also included such superheavyweight badasses as Gibby “Satan” Haynes, Evan Dando, Shane “I'm Not a Fuckup Like Bob” MacGowan, Al Jourgensen and John “Go With It” Frusciante, with occasional quickie visits by Perry “Gotta Dash” Farrell.
Could you support someone as an artist who once beat RCA out of more cash than McLaren ever squeezed from A&M for the Pistols (somebody over at RCA thought Bob might've been the Dylan of the '80s) if you thought he was a good songwriter? 'Course you would.
Could you get with a guy who emotes about living with John Frusciante during the darkest hours of the latter's hellacious “Your Pussy's Glued to a Building on Fire” period, some of which is captured in Johnny Depp's movie short Stuff, just before the young Chili Pepper burned down his Hollywood Hills digs? Rather than calling 911, the composer of “Under the Bridge” once stood over Bob, who was writhing on the floor while plummeting into a major OD, and said in a soothing, reassuring voice, “Just go with it, man . . . it's okay.”
The same Bob who survived that little kick in the head was soon able to howl at the moon with laughter following his humiliating brush with the ultimate in Big Top Geek shame: getting booed out at a Clippers game while singing the national anthem wasted on smack and booze.
THE HELLION MYTHS AND LEGENDS ON Bob's way-after-midnight exploits abound ad infinitum, and on his new record Bob once again writes about what he knows best: the agony and the ecstasy, the many near-death experiences, and the dark side of fame. When Bob transcends his pain, sometimes you, the listener, get to go with it.
“I accept that my music doesn't necessarily have mass appeal. I used to blame drugs and alcohol for not getting over, but I've learned to live with the awareness that my music may not be for everybody. And you know what? So what! My music is for the type of people who want to know if life is worth living, and I'm here to report that, sadly, it is very much so. Life without drugs and alcohol is all about battling with your kid over schoolwork, playing with your dog and telling your mom you love her.”
AS A LATE TEEN, BOB FORREST CAME TO punk rock after listening to Rodney's Sunday-night KROQ show: “I bought an import single by the Pistols and went to see the Go-Go's and the Plugz at the Fleetwood in 1980, and was shocked to see older jocks from my high school there with shaven heads smashing each other up. But I knew instinctively punk rock was about so much more than that.
“I started reading Slash and saw there was an intelligent, literary side to it, too, which appealed to me as a compulsive reader. I was going to Golden West College in H.B., and, later on, LACC, with the idea of majoring in journalism. I knew something was happening, but didn't know what it was . . . like Mr. Jones in the Dylan song.”
While attending LACC circa 1983, Bob hung out at the Cathay de Grande, ã where he befriended local blues legend Top Jimmy and got to know Michael Brennan, the club's owner. Bob talked Brennan into hiring him as a between-band DJ: “For $15 a night and all the booze I could drink, I lamely ditched school. I also drifted into a bit of booking and did some Sunday-afternoon shows at the Cathay and other places, with the Minutemen and Black Flag and others . . .”
Another inspiration was seeing the Replacements in '83.
“Paul Westerberg seemed a geeky-outsider kind of guy like me, who was really into punk rock but who could also write songs that had some meaning and passion — like Dylan and John Lennon, Neil Young, Elvis Costello, or some of my other favorites. Westerberg was a sensitive, introspective lyricist, which I thought was so cool because you weren't allowed to be sensitive or reflective in punk, and there he was pulling it off without being a sap. Wow, now I was really stoked to try and do something.”
Thelonious Monster lasted 11 years, on and off, and made four albums and an EP, and will probably convene for sporadic reunions forever.
“While at LACC I met Pete Weiss, Chris Handsone and Jon Huck, who wanted to start a band but had no singer, and we found we jammed well together. The intent wasn't to get rich and famous. It was just for love of music, but soon it got like 'If we're going to perform drunk, why not rehearse drunk to know what it feels like?' 'Just play music and it'll all fall into place' was our naiveté.”
A Fan on Today's Music:
“Freddie Durst [Limp Bizkit] and his ilk amaze the shit out of me. They have literally been able to get dollar signs down on tape, and now Fred's a record exec at Interscope, too. He's my rock icon for the millennium, the ultimate combination of rock boorishness, dollars and pop culture turned to shit . . .”
“Call me precious if you want, because music is my religion, and I think of it as life-affirming and soul-supportive and the best thing ever on a Saturday night, but what do I know about it ever since jocks, ignoramuses and other idiots became part of the market share of punk rock and its splintered aftermath?”
“I was talking to Johnny Depp about my beef with Fred and his band, and he said I should go public with it in interviews. I said, 'I can't do that, I can't diss somebody that big — some even say that Fred's supposed to be a nice guy.' Johnny said, 'Sure you can. You owe it to yourself, to music fans and to pop culture in general.' So here we go: Fred Durst is as much the enemy as the Backstreet Boys and all the fucked-up record execs that sit around agreeing on how evil the machine is, yet none of them will cop to it that they're contributing. It's never them personally. It's always somebody else who's the evil sonofabitch. Even Jon Sidel, a bud for, like, 15 years who now does A&R at Interscope, told me that he was shamelessly just looking for another 'N Sync, while agreeing that the big bad machinations of corporate commerce sucks so hard. So it's not all Fred's fault, I guess, but he's a huge chunk of it. Freddie D. will, of course, respond that I'm just sour grapes and that I should go fuck myself because he's sold nearly 10 million records, whatever, and who am I and what have I done?” [bursts out laughing uncontrollably].