Originally published in The Independent (Jan.27 – Feb. 9, 1993)
You would think that being asked to sing the National Anthem at a L.A. Clippers basketball game would be an honor. You would think that if you were to receive such an honor, you might just brush up on the lyrics to the “Star Spangled Banner” so you wouldn’t make a fool of yourself. Well, you’re obviously not Bob Forrest, lead singer for Thelonious Monster.
“I forgot the words,” Forrest said from an undisclosed location deep in the bowels of Los Angeles, “I was laughing and the people thought I was being unpatriotic. They beat me up in the hallway when I was leaving.”
Forgetting the words to the sacred American hymn probably won’t win the band any fans, but Forrest readily admits that he took the gig, “cuz I wanted to meet the Clippers.”
In October, Thelonious Monster released their Capitol Records debut, Beautiful Mess, filled with punk-influenced urban folk rock, a trademark of their tumultuous eight-year history that has included drug addiction, arrests, deaths, label changes, marriages, breakups, and even a visit from the Secret Service.
According to Forrest, who relates the story with a snicker, Thelonious Monster was performing at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C. when he got a little carried away with his “ideas and opinions. It was really just a joke and the Secret Service knows it’s just a joke, but some people in the audience didn’t perceive it as a joke.” Rolling Stone reported that someone in the crowd claimed that Forrest said, “Instead of reelecting President Bush, we should murder him”
It’s a good bet that Forrest will eventually use this encounter as inspiration for a future Thelonious Monster song. Forrest admitted that he tends to write “self-confessionals.” Take, for instance, “Sammy Hagar Weekend,” from the band’s 1989 Relativity Records release, Stormy Weather, which is now discontinued.
“Oh, wow, I don’t even have one of those,” Forrest said when I told him I had just picked up the disc, which also included the band’s 1987 release, Next Saturday Afternoon, in its entirety.
“It’s just something I did one weekend when I was 16 or 17 years old. I went to Anaheim Stadium and saw Boston, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and Sammy Hagar and sat in the parking lot and took LSD, snorted coke for the first time, and drank beer. It was just the first big man’s weekend for me,” Forrest said as he described the inspiration for the song.
Beautiful Mess also features songs based on the laid-back singer’s misadventures. “Blood is Thicker Than Water” describes Forrest’s painful and confusing childhood, while “Vegas Weekend” tells the story of the trip that Forrest and a couple members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers took to Las Vegas to check out Julio Iglesias. “Song for a Politically Correct Girl From the Valley” is Forrest’s ode to his ex-girlfriend.
“I dated the girl from Mary’s Danish (Julie Ritter) and she’s a liar,” Forrest chuckled. “I was going to be all coy about it and Michael Penn-ish and twist words around and make it seem like no one would know. I ended up being even more blatant about it.” Penn adds his voice to “Body and Soul?,” while Soul Asylum’s Dan Murphy and Dave Pirner lend their talents to “Blood is Thicker Than Water.” “They used to stay at my house when they first came to L.A. to play because in those days, you didn’t have hotels and major record labels,” Forrest said.
Forrest was most excited, however, about his duet with the legendary Tom Waits on “Adios Lounge.” “I met Tom Waits a few times and I wanted him to do a really old-style song of his,” Forrest related, “and he did it.”
Thelonious Monster is in the habit of performing cover songs on their discs. Stormy Weather featured “For My Lover,” by Tracy Chapman, and “See That My Grave is Kept Clean,” by Blind Lemon Jefferson, while Beautiful Mess includes “Weakness in Me,” originally performed by Joan Armatrading. Forrest said he could see Neil Young doing “Sammy Hagar Weekend” and Marky Mark doing “Song for a Politically Correct Girl …” Would he honestly let the Calvin Klein-wearing rapper perform one of his songs? “Oh yeah, Marky Mark’s my man,” Forrest said.
Up to this point, it sounds like Thelonious Monster is actually Bob Forrest and session musicians and, for a while, Forrest had visions of putting out a solo album. “I made some solo stuff for RCA and they didn’t like it. And, um, well, I didn’t like it very much either. It was pretty horrible,” Forrest admitted.
This led to a reunion with drummer Pete Weiss and guitarists Dix Denney and Chris Handsome. Zander Schloss (guitars) and Martyn Lenoble (bass), who is now involved with Perry Farrell’s Porno for Pyros, also contributed to the album. Don Burnet, a longtime friend of the band and formerly of L.A. band 3-D Picnic, will be the bassist on this tour. “He’s dumb enough to want to be in the band,” Forrest said about his new bandmate.
Forrest said that the live show consists of both originals and covers. “It’s awful miserable to play the same songs like 160 times in four months so you try to shake it up and make it different,” Forrest said adding that if anyone wants to hear a song, “just yell it out and we’ll play it.”
“Well, take care of yourself,” Forrest said as we finished our conversation, “I’ve got to go clear up my warrants or I’m not going anywhere.”
Apparently Forrest has cleared up all his legal problems because Thelonious Monster will be performing at Stache’s on Feb. 3.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: As mentioned in the interview, I found a copy of Thelonious Monster’s ‘Stormy Weather’ CD. After interviewing Bob and hearing he didn’t have a copy, I went back to the record store where I found it and bought a second copy to give to the singer when his band came to Columbus.
I was in college at the time of this interview and may have done a little (okay, a lot) pre-gaming before heading to Stache’s for the show. Now, you may be familiar with Bob Forrest from his appearances on Celebrity Rehab – the singer has had a well-documented history with substance abuse and has been clean and sober since 1996. On this particular evening, however, neither of us were sober. I do have vague memories of Forrest coming to the front of the stage multiple times throughout the night and falling off. At one point, I believe his band was so frustrated with him that they left the stage. I had talked to Forrest before the show – had gifted him with a copy of Stormy Weather – and standing alone on the stage, he pointed to me and invited me to come on stage to play guitar while he tried to work his way through some more songs. To say I have no music talent is putting it lightly and even being to the point of barely able to stand, I knew better than to get on stage and make a fool of myself. I declined the (multiple) offer(s) but have no idea if the band rejoined him or if the set ended.
Learn more about Forrest and how he’s helping people with addiction problems by going to www.rehabbobforrest.com.