If you’re gonna start podcasting, why not start with the lead singer and lyricist for your first favorite band? Bob Forrest is the co-founder and frontman for Thelonious Monster, the LA band whose heyday paralleled my first heyday, the late ’80s and early ’90s. There’s something about being 20-21 years old and feeling like a band is yours. Forrest’s songwriting spoke to me so profoundly, and the band was so chaotically brilliant the 20 or so times I saw them, I proselytized their genius to anyone who would listen. I’d say since 1990 I’ve told approximately 14 billion people about the greatness of the Monster.
* Ironically, Bob didn’t write “Adios Lounge.” George and Bob Kuhn, an obscure father-son duo, composed that one.
As I’ve often said, Thelonious Monster was my Replacements. They were middle class punks featuring a singer who was a secret folkie and who, as a unit, were the living, breathing embodiment of real rock ‘n’ roll. I loved that Bob’s poignant, hilarious, occasionally bitter, and often self-deprecating originals shared space in setlists with deep cut covers of Dylan (“Sign On The Window”), Neil Young (“Mellow My Mind”), The Beatles (“Yer Blues”), and The Pogues (“If I Should Fall From Grace With God”). Their two-fer CD that combined Stormy Weather (1989) and Next Saturday Afternoon (1987) has been a steady companion for 25 years.
This interview took place largely due to good timing. Bob began his own podcast, This Is Water, back in July, so he obviously was in the mood to talk. In fact, Bob’s appearance on The Cris Kirkwood Podcast in May — which I covered extensively in Tuning is for Cowboys: Bob Forrest & Cris Kirkwood — probably presaged Forrest’s own dive into podcasting waters. Additionally, when we met on September 6th, Bob was a month away from releasing a new album, Survival Songs, his second or third solo record — depending whether you count Bicycle Thief as a true solo project — and his first since 2006’s Modern Folk And Blues Wednesday.
While we discussed Survival Songs towards the end of our conversation, I mainly wanted to discuss Thelonious Monster. I mean, when the hell was I gonna get the opportunity to ask these questions again??? As much as I enjoyed the movie, Bob And The Monster, and Bob’s 2013 autobiography, Running With Monsters, the band’s music wasn’t really explored in great detail in either. Thelonious was a gateway to the recovery narrative, and from a storytelling perspective, I get that. Besides, focusing on music is my job, so it was a privilege to talk to Bob about the origin of the Monster, how the various band members worked together musically, his songwriting process (such as it is), the influence of guys like Top Jimmy and John Doe, his possible influence on “Under The Bridge,” the importance of “place” in the creation of music, and even the fact Bob and I graduated from the same high school.**
** Marina HS in Huntington Beach. Bob graduated in 1979, I graduated in 1987.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Bob’s podcast producer, Nate Pottker (aka Nate the Man). This wouldn’t have happened had Nate not reached out to me in July about the possibility of an interview, and Bob finally agreed in early August. In fact, Nate told me that Bob agreed to do the podcast on my birthday, August 3rd. Happy birthday to me! So, I met Nate at his house, we drove over to Bob’s Hollywood home, and the discussion — which was originally scheduled to only be a couple hours — ended up running almost 3 hours long. It’s been edited down into a couple different parts, both about an hour long. This is the first part and the segment posted to This Is Water. I’ll follow up with Part 2 in a few days and THAT show will be my first official Adios Lounge Podcast.
Enjoy! And thanks again to Bob and Nate. “I’m chowderin’ heavily!”