It's one thing for a rock musician to get sober (you can't fling a cigarette butt outside a coffee shop without hitting one in Los Angeles), but it's another to devote your life to helping others wrestle those demons. Bob Forrest was once one of the most promising front men in the L.A. music scene, and his band Thelonious Monster were on track for mainstream success, alongside peers like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane's Addiction. Ultimately, rock stardom was not meant to be for him, although notoriety on TV and film eventually was; Forrest found his calling helping fellow musicians through the Musicians Assistance Program (MAP) Fund and later on the TV show Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew.
Bob and The Monster, a film documenting his journey from on-stage savage to off-stage savior premieres tonight as part of Allison Anders' “Don't Knock The Rock” film festival at the Silent Movie Theatre. Forrest will be there for a discussion and live music performance afterward. Here, then, is a little pre-screening Q&A to get you warmed up for the event.
What did you think when director Keirda Bahruth and producer Rick Ballard came to you about making a movie about your life?
I thought it was an interesting idea, but part of you goes, “Are you kidding?” and another part of you goes, “It's about fucking time!” Ha-ha.
How does it feel watching it? Any tough parts? Stuff you don't remember?
I've seen it a bunch of times now and I enjoy it, but the overall thing that's hard is the thing about truth. You have your own truth and then there is the truth perceived by your friends and family. When Elijah — my son — says in the film that humility makes for better music in reference to my songwriting post-sobriety, that's not my truth. That's his truth. He believes that. I believe I was a better songwriter because of the incredible miracle that happened in my life and the accumulation of my experience.
There is really nothing that I don't remember. I remember it all for better or for worse.
Why do musicians in particular so often become stricken with addiction?
There is a theory that it 's one of the most “lay yourself out there and see what they think of you” occupations that you could ever have, and these are fragile and insecure people trying to express themselves through music. Then the vehicle through which it's all sold is brutal. You put your heart and soul into something as well as you can and then people end up hating it or sometimes worse, loving it. Success can be a very empty feeling. It doesn't fix what's wrong with you.
What saved you and what saves most people? Rock bottom? Is it different for each individual?
Rock bottom is subjective and it's different for everyone. What saved me was my stubbornness. I'm very stubborn and confident in my opinions. I tell people this: you are going to suffer to the extent of your arrogance, so if you have a big ego and you're very arrogant like I was, then you are going to suffer for a longer time because drug treatment requires some mechanics like shame or guilt.
In 1996, I got the chance to be sober because of jail, which was invaluable for me and while I was in jail I had a chance to take a look at my life and think about how I could start to make this work for me.
As part of Celebrity Rehab, you've helped many high profile artists. Were you hesitant to have your work documented on TV?
The first season was an experiment and then I learned a lot about television. I trust how I'm portrayed on television, that's who I am, but I don't trust some of the methods of the industry and I don't trust reality television to help an audience understand the complexities of addiction. What's wrong with most addicts has nothing to do with biology and has everything to do with environment and personality.
Do you wish you could have met or done something to help Amy Winehouse? What do have to say about her passing?
For sure I do. There is a whole contingent of people that I used to be able to reach out to before the TV show, because I was just the guy from MAP. Now some of these people think, “Oh the guy from Celebrity Rehab is trying to get a hold of you.” So, the show has been a blessing and a curse in a lot of ways.
My allegiance is always to my fellow songwriters, I feel for them. I have kind of an instant shorthand with musicians and songwriters. What destroyed Sinead O'Conner was her second successful record. She was listening to her press. How do you follow up that Back To Black record? I'm sure Amy was spinning about that. I wish I could have gotten to know her and helped make things more tolerable for her and helped her figure out how she could have made sobriety work for her. It's a very sad ending.
Bob and the Monster screens at Silent Movie Theatre tonight. First screening sold out. Second screening added at 11 p.m. Tickets here.