“Life never really works out exactly how you imagine it in your head,” says Steve Forrest on his new record label, life after Placebo and his new approach to living.
To discuss his journey through professional musicianship and outlook on his successes, Dom sat down with the American musician Steve Forrest. Owner of the record label ‘Redub Records’, former drummer for Placebo and Evaline and recent new father, Forrest talks of embarking on a new chapter as a full-time solo artist.
Upon first mention of the name ‘Steve Forrest’, the band ‘Placebo’ comes to mind. However, with his departure from the band and the United Kingdom in 2016, Forrest now lives in Kentucky having chosen to part ways with a life playing in bands and taking up a new direction as a solo artist. “Now I’m so happy to be back here in the States,” he says as he discusses his relocation to the United States after problems surrounding his UK Visa, “after I left Placebo it was the weirdest transition.” With a life dedicated to his time in the UK, Forrest felt completely lost as the news of his relocation became a reality: “I had completely given myself over to this life and once I came back to the States I was like ‘where do I go from here’? I started to hit up everyone in LA and get in contact with lots of different management, but the timing was always weird.” After countless auditions with various bands such as Vampire Weekend and The Vaccines, Forrest describes how he eventually moved to Nashville and “essentially went from being a live musician to being a session musician” playing on the tracks of artists that he would sometimes never actually meet.
Undoubtedly, Forrest has experienced a whirlwind of a career having played in successful bands since the age of sixteen and touring the world as an impeccable drummer. “I started to rethink where I wanted to go with my life…I didn’t want to sit and try and rebuild that career, I wanted to do something different,” he explains. Forrest began work at a local record store which in time led to ownership of the business, but still his purpose was not at what he deemed at its peak. With a divorce on the cards, he decided to “cut everything out again” to rediscover himself as person and not just musician. In tern it was not long before he met his new wife whom he believes motivated his pursuit for a new purpose saying: “She told me to concentrate on being a solo artist and see what I could do with that. And to get into the publishing world of things also…my wife was like ‘You are such an amazing singer-songwriter, you really need to tackle this.’” Around this time, Forrest recorded the gorgeously folk inspired beginnings of his EP ‘Stuck Inside My Head’ and this new sense of self control began to resonate with the musician who had previously sculpted his skills as the frontman of his former bands Planes, Florence e’ Florentino and Steve Forrest & The AOKs.
Country music central, Nashville became “saturated because it’s music city, everyone’s dumping and everyone has a voice,” describes Forrest, “it was maddening to try and do anything with that!” Arguably the turning point in his everchanging career, his former bassist Matt Davis was on the route to his dream of setting up a record label and in doing so contacted Forrest about his vision. “He called me up one day and was like ‘Man I’ve seen you hustle with your music and I want to give you a home for it – what do you say we work together? I want to put out your music!’,” explains Forrest and amid the madness, ‘Redub Records’ was formed. Although, with Forrest’s plethora of experience his mission is now not only directed towards his own solo career but also that of upcoming musicians that were in the same place that he once knew. Forrest admits: “For me I don’t wanna just be a musician who’s slugging it away with a record – there’s not a lot of security in that – for me I need new challenges. I want to help people – I wanna give other artists the opportunity to go away and do what I got to do for so many years…this bridged the gap for me.”
With this enthralling new challenge, what lies in store for the new record label? “We want the artist to feel like they’re responsible for their own music – essentially we meet them halfway,” Forrest discusses, “the more money the artist makes, the more money the label makes – the responsibility is both ways and with that you can form better relationships.” Having been signed by huge record labels in the past such as Virgin Records, Universal and EMI, Forrest states that the best relationship his former band Placebo had with a record label was PIAS Recordings. He explains that this type of relationship is one he would like to replicate since “it was a small, concentrated group” which allowed him and the band to increase their pay-out as well as their success on releases. “The future looks really bright!” Forrest announces excitedly as he explains that this new pathway allows him to tour with his new releases as an artist, work with the label but also carry on his journey into fatherhood.
With great success must come great experience and during his time in Placebo, Forrest admits, “It was more and it was less like everything I expected – it was crazy and it wasn’t at all the way I pictured it.” However, during this time, his mental health and sense of purpose took a downfall despite the masses of success that the British alternative band were facing. Forrest depicts: “I felt like I was in a daze…you’re on stage in front of sixty to seventy thousand people and then eventually when you’re back in that hotel room every single night by yourself and you’re exhausted, everything’s moving so fast. I remember chunks but there’s so much I don’t remember so it’s not as glamorous as you think it’s going to be.” In February 2015, Forrest left Placebo to concentrate on his career as well as fronting the band Planes at the time which he had recently begun. “My Dad is a preacher and he used to say ‘Don’t give up your soul for all the gold in the world’,” describes Forrest on this shattering decision, “when I left it was the hardest decision that I’ve ever had to make but nothing’s black and white.” According to Forrest, the mixture of personalities surrounding him in Placebo would cause difficult working issues that would result in furious cases of anger and anxiety for the former drummer. “There was a lot that psychologically messed me up – they kind of put me through a baptism of fire and they were really hard on me but I wanted to gig so bad so I wanted to do anything,” Forrest explains how the band’s arguments would soon take their toll on him, “I didn’t realise the effect that this was having on me.”
Even with the tough departure from Placebo and his life in the spotlight, he admits that he does sometimes fondly look back on memories with the boys acknowledging: “I can see my mistakes and nobody’s perfect…I couldn’t have predicted all the heartache from that – everything went wrong. Everything was forcing me to rethink my life…I miss those boys and I look back at memories with fondness, but I still don’t to this day regret that decision because it shaped me.” Despite the trials and tribulations that Forrest would undertake in his journey to freedom and newfound purpose, the venture with Redub Records is proving a success for not only his career but also his mental state: “You know I think I’ve gone full circle. When I look back to how I used to be with Evaline when I was sixteen…I was a happy and bouncy kid. I had a really strong spiritual faith, there was a peace that came from that for me.” Forrest looks back at his career and expresses that through therapy and regaining his sense of purpose, he feels as though he is now in the same peaceful position that he was when his former band Evaline started out. “With all the different labels I’ve been with…as head of the label we want to treat musicians how we wish we were treated. Family first and business second,” he stresses as he outlines the ideologies of his new business, “what brings me so much joy is taking somebody else’s music and their dream and making contact. That joy that they get fills me with so much satisfaction.”
Now taking on a wise and patient attitude to his career and success, Forrest reflects, “Life never really works out exactly how you imagine it in your head.” Whilst some may say that touring the world and playing to thousands of people is the peak of success, Forrest now thinks differently as he expresses: “Nowadays success to me is being content…I remember being on tour with some band and talking to Bill Lloyd (Placebo’s technical advisor, bassist and keys player) and just thinking ‘what is wrong with me – I feel so empty and I don’t feel content’ and I fast forward to now, there’s lots of new struggles…but I’m happier than ever!” A well-rounded perspective on his experiences, Forrest concludes: “My entire life is kind like a ‘f**k yeah’ moment – like cheers for the good ride, I’ve had a good time…Finding a way to be content with who you are, where you are, when you are, that is success. Once you have that peace, it’s amazing to see what success comes from that.”
As sensational opportunities lie ahead for Forrest, with two new LPs on the horizon of releases for next year including a cover’s album and solo record, he is nothing but incredibly grateful for the immense support he has had over the years from his peers. “Ultimately, just thank you so much for your love and support and I will do everything in my power to continue to inspire and entertain,” promises Forrest as the excitement surrounding his new mission in Redub Records is ignited. With this new direction and undoubtedly promising future, it will be incredible to witness the growing successes of the brilliantly talented and humble Steve Forrest.
Words: Lucy Tessier / Interview: Dom Smith