Wil Forbis is something of a legend here at diskant, both for his Bargain Bin Culture series of columns and for being a kickass kinda guy, in all senses of the word. I can’t even remember how we met – I think Conrad Keely put us in touch because we were both people running websites and thus bound to get on (this was back in the days when the interweb was so small you could walk all the way round it in a day). He even came over to Glasgow once and me and Chris H showed him the wonders of the 13th Note. There’s an entry in my visitor book where Wil details his enjoyment of Irn Bru.
Anyway, flash forward to 2008 and Wil has a BOOK out; a hilarious and thought-provoking look at pop culture with articles, reviews and interviews mined from the enormous archives of his webzine Acid Logic, that hive of debauchery and disdain your mother warned you about.
I hit Wil up on the old email system to find out all about the book, the music and the awe-inspiring life of Forbis.
For all the newbies out there, how did Acid Logic come into being?
There is something of a interesting secret history to the whole thing. Acid Logic started out in the late 90s as a column I was writing for a webzine called Twisted Underground. It was published by this fairly excitable guy – I think his name was Richard – who had tragically lost his fiancé in an automobile accident. I think the webzine was in some way a tribute to her. And one day, he just sort of dropped out of sight and stopped all communications with everyone who had been writing for the zine. We, of course, all considered the worst possibility, and to this day I’ve never found out what happened to him.
At that point, I collected the writing I had done for Twisted Underground and started up the Acid Logic zine. I think my original plan was that it would just feature my writing, but almost immediately people started sending in submissions. Since then it’s had some moderate success I suppose – it’s always a thrill to meet someone new and find out they’ve read the website in the past.
What piece of writing on Acid Logic are you most proud of?
That’s a difficult question – I’ve written so much quality material! There is a recent piece I did, about trying to find a balance between the hedonistic and intellectual sides of life, that keeps sticking in my mind.
But for a pretty solid example of my combination of humor and pop culture analysis, I think my feature on Blaxploitation actor Antonio Fargas climbs to the top of the heap.
And for all-out absurdist humor, I recommend my fictional sendup of comic book heroes, The Suckiest Superhero in the World.
How did the book deal happen, and how did you go about choosing what material would go in it?
Well, to be honest, it’s a self published book so the “deal” happened with me paying them money. But it was definitely a great overview on the process of what goes into publishing a book – from deciding on the cover artist, to choosing font size and line space and considering the economic ramifications of those decisions.
I spent a lot of time agonizing over what to put in the book. At first it was just going to be a free-for-all of Acid Logic content, but eventually I decided to focus on writing about movies, music and pop culture. But that focus caused me to cut in pieces from the book that I really loved. However, my articles are like children to me, so I have no problem knocking them around if they get mouthy.
Tell us about some of the people you’ve interviewed. Who have been your favourites and why?
Curtis Armstrong, best known for playing the part of “Booger” in the “Revenge of the Nerds” is probably my favorite. It was sort of early on in my interviewing career so I was kind of amazed that any sort of celebrity would even talk to me.
I’ve always been particularly proud of my interview with horror director Stuart Gordon. And it came about in a roundabout way. I was briefly associated with a film production company here in Los Angeles called Gryphon Films. One of the interests of the company was developing the work of horror/pulp author H. P. Lovecraft for the screen. (We actually had a meeting with John Carpenter about him directing “Call of Cthulhu” which obviously never happened.) There was some confusion over who owned the copyrights to Lovecraft’s work and it seemed like the best way to sort it out was to talk to Gordon who had directed numerous films based on Lovecraft stories, including the quintessential cult film, “Re-animator.” Since I was already talking to him I figured I might as well hit him up for an Acid Logic interview as well.
9/11 had recently happened so we ended up having an interesting conversation about violence on film and how it relates to the real world. I think a highlight was when he argued that “Star Wars” was the most violent film in cinema history. (Leading one to wonder whether the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center didn’t take some contorted inspiration from the rebel attack on the Death Star.)
But perhaps the most intriguing interview I’ve ever done was with author John H. Richardson who wrote a fascinating book about the lives of dwarves called “In the Little World.” We ended up having a really meaty conversation about all things philosophical.
You play music as well don’t you? How’s that going?
Great! There is a surprisingly healthy alt-country scene in Los Angeles, and I just released an album in that flavor under the moniker “Wil Forbis and the Gentleman Scoundrels.” It really spans all my musical interests, from jazz, to rock to country and bluegrass. And I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can purchase it, as well as listen to audio samples, here. While I’m at it, I should mention my myspace page, which also has a lot of my music.
Do you have any abiding memories of your time at diskant?
How could I forget!? The drunken arguments with Simon Minter. The all night partying with Ollie Simpson. And the crocodile wrestling competition with yourself, Marceline. All done virtually, of course!
What’s the best thing about being Wil Forbis?
Probably the way that everyone secretly respects and admires me, but finds me too intimidating to actually show it.
You grew up in Hawaii. Was it like LOST? Or not.
Well, I’ve only seen LOST once but it didn’t seem to make any mention of public schools filled with gigantic Samoans constantly threatening to kick your ass, so I’m guessing not.
But seriously, on some level I do consider it a blessing to have grown up in Hawaii. It’s a collection of very diverse fascinating cultures and Hawaii now, or even in the 80s when I was there, is probably a very good indicator of what the rest of the United States, and much of the world, is going to look like in 20 or 30 years.
A book deal, writing for diskant, your own Myspace page – what ambitions do you have left to fulfill?
To fall in love. No, wait! To drive a rocket powered race car down the Champs Elysees in Paris! While hugging a baby panda!
What’s the best thing you’ve seen or found on the internet lately?
You know, there’s this terrific site called youtube.com where you can watch all sorts of videos. Do they have that in Scotland?
Actually your question makes me realize that I’ve been remarkably negligent in my web surfing. I tend to visit the same four or five websites – your excellent diskant.net for example – with not much effort made to broaden my horizons. And it’s a shame really, because I can remember that when I discovered the web in the mid-90s I could spend hours mindlessly meandering through the cyberverse. I’m somewhat ashamed to say the thrill is gone.
Tell us something about you we’d never guess?
I genuinely enjoy the music of the Indigo Girls.
If you were to be a monster in a B movie, what would you like your back story to be?
I’d probably be one these mad scientists who comes up with some harebrained scheme to impress a girl. Something like, “She’ll have to pay attention to me once I’ve harnessed the POWER of the SUN to FLY!” And of course that would fail and I would become hideously disfigured and go around killing prostitutes.
Do you have any requests for when I’m elected Evil Dictator of the World?
Can you help me harness the power of the sun to fly?
What’s coming up next in the world of Forbis?
My current big project is what I would call a cultural memoir. It’s an autobiography of my life in Olympia and Seattle, Washington during the 90s, combined with a lot rumination of the cultural impact of the Northwest music scene during that era. As you might presume, there is a lot of discussion of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam mixed in with recollections of the often absurd, frighteningly stupid situations I found myself in.
Anything else you want to tell us?
Thanks Wil! You can also win win win a copy of the book along with Wil’s CD right here on the blog.