Six Dumb Questions with Rev. Jim Forrester of Foghound & Serpents of Secrecy

rev jim photo shane gardner

This one has been a while in the making. It was a genuine shock this past summer when bassist Rev. Jim Forrester was suddenly beset with a barrage of life-threatening medical issues. Keeping tabs on updates via social media became a tense undertaking. A crowdfunding was set up. Benefit shows were announced and held. Forrester‘s recovery from what he details as being a near-death experience and the worst pain he’s ever felt is ongoing, as one might expect, but there was no question that the East Coast heavy underground and especially that of the Maryland/Chesapeake region rallied to his side when called upon to do so. A scene taking care of one of its own is a beautiful thing.

Forrester cut his teeth in the late 1990s as a member of heavy Southern rockers Sixty Watt Shaman and has been involved in numerous projects across a range of styles ever since. Sixty Watt issued three full-lengths during their time, the last of which was 2002’s Reason to Live, and when they were done, Forrester went on to form Angels of Meth and participate in other bands. His arrival in Foghound re-partners him with ex-Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart, and the two also play together in the assembled group Serpents of Secrecy, whose debut single, Uncoiled, was released earlier this year on Salt of the Earth Records ahead of a full-length debut reportedly to come in 2018.

Between life updates, band updates, Sixty Watt Shaman‘s aborted reunion, and so on, there was an awful lot to talk about, so I won’t delay further, except to thank Rev. Jim for being so open and candid about what he went through and is still going through. Anyone who’s ever seen him play on stage can attest to the sense of attack he brings to his instrument, and it’s clear that is an ethic and drive for intensity is something he lives by on multiple levels.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

rev jim photo bob plank

Six Dumb Questions with Rev. Jim Forrester

For anyone who hasn’t kept up on your situation, take us through the medical issues you’ve been dealing with. What the hell happened? How did it all start? Where are you at now? What’s your next step and, most importantly, how are you feeling day-to-day?

During and post illness, my wife Tina and Todd Ingram (King Giant, Serpents of Secrecy) started the #RallyforRev page on FB to keep everyone updated on my progress or lack thereof, as I was in no shape to communicate with the outside world during my hospitalizations and subsequent recovery. When I was able, looking back on things and generally being a very private person outside of “music and art land,” I began to feel uncomfortably overexposed and completely exhausted with explaining the situation, as well as constantly talking about myself. I needed a long break from me. Shortly after I fell ill, some tragedies befell two of the most important people in my life as well, Todd lost his mother after a short illness, and Tina lost her little brother. I felt that it was in no way appropriate to talk about “me” and my bullshit, when two people I loved dearly were experiencing so much personal pain and trauma. 2017 was a motherfucker.

So, what happened? Over Memorial Day weekend, the Sunday to be exact, I awoke from a dead sleep to the most abhorrent abdominal pain I’ve ever experienced. I think I may have a clue as to what being disemboweled feels like now. Tina rushed me to one hospital, and then I was transferred to another. I had a blood clot in my portal vein (liver) that was cutting off blood flow to my liver, pancreas, intestines, and various extremities. Basically I was dying and damn close to going into organ failure. Blood thinners saved my ass, but also caused esophageal varices to burst, resulting in me puking up half my blood supply, intubation, and a three-day medically induced coma in which I almost checked out a few times as well. Around week three, I underwent a “Tips” procedure, a stent placed in my portal vein, and a new blood flow passage was created in my liver to alleviate the blockage (it had been there for years apparently, and was so rock solid; they couldn’t drill the damn thing out). I was released and returned home on a continued blood thinner treatment plan. Three days later I awoke to what I thought was a heart attack. Returned to the hospital to find a pulmonary embolism, and a grouping of blood clots behind my right knee. Another week in the hospital, and back home with increased blood thinners (self administered stomach injections, very metal). Played the Maryland Doomfest III three days later with Serpents of Secrecy. Before any of these events occurred, I had been experiencing some pretty intense weakness and pain in my right hip. I had chalked it up to hard living/performing, and overcompensation for a torn ACL in my right knee. No dice. MRI revealed that the blockages had caused blood flow restriction to my hip joint, so I was walking around and performing on a dead, decrepit hip, still am.

I’ve been jumping through medical specialist hoops ever since to get hip replacement surgery, most likely occurring this February. How this all happened has some solid answers and some mystery still lingering. I had liver issues back in 2012 that I had worked through, I thought pretty successfully, but life and stress (my own issues with depression, the death of a very close friend, the Sixty Watt Shaman debacle I’ll get into at some point in the future, etc.) saw me backslide a bit personally. It’s no secret I previously was a drink and drug enthusiast (no hard drugs for years now I will note) as cliche as it is, and I managed to do some significant damage to myself over the years. At various points I’ve been a bit of a mess, and have a lot of regrets regarding that aspect of my time. That aside, I lived a pretty hard life for an extended spell, pushed myself physically in ways that have consequences, and some of that is a factor as well. There is also a genetic blood clotting disorder that runs in my family, but the jury is still out on that matter (testing), although it would explain a lot.

As things stand today, beyond my continued issue with my hip, I feel pretty damn good. Staying vigilant, and keeping up with my docs. The thinners are getting phased out, no pain killers, and a lot of my enzyme levels, etc. are normalized to livable standards if not 100 percent healthy. I’m six months completely sober, back to throwing down on stage and in the studio with Foghound and Serpents. If any positives can be derived, it all really strengthened my relationships with my wife and step-kids and my bandmates. My family. My passions and obsession with art and music remains and has surpassed full tilt crazy again. It reinvigorated me as far as writing and creating is concerned. I’m overwhelmingly thankful for the love, support, understanding, and solid kick in the ass when I need it, from the beautiful individuals I’ve been so fortunate to have in my life. We only have so much time, know what you’re fighting for.

In light of all that, tell me about getting on stage with Serpents of Secrecy at Maryland Doom Fest this year. What was that experience like for you? How was the response from the room, and how did you feel after the set?

I can’t pretend that I wasn’t a bit nervy. After going through all of that, I really didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull off a whole set, and perform to the level that I set for myself, but I pushed through. I wasn’t going to let my brothers in SoS (they wanted to cancel in light of everything, I refused), the fans that had waited four years to see that beast, or Mark Cruikshank and J.B. Matson down. I honor my commitments. Doomfest is always a big family reunion, with a lot of my favorite people in the world anyway, but it by far is one of my favorite sets. The love and support in the crowd was amazing, and I think at various points most of us got choked up. Afterwards… pure adrenaline and joy. For a brief few hours I felt like myself again.

The Serpents of Secrecy single is a long-time coming for sure. Tell me about the development of that band from its beginnings, where you guys are at now and what the plans are going forward. How has the response been to the first recordings so far?

The Serpents of Secrecy story has more twists and turns than the goddamn Grizzly (King’s Dominion reference), and would take more space to explain fully that I’m sure this article entails. I’ll make it as brief as possible. Back in 2012, Scott Harrington (313 Management, Salt of the Earth Records) and I had developed a really strong friendship. When I was taking a break from the world up in the mountains near Morgantown, WV, he and I were in regular contact. Scott had been a huge Sixty Watt Shaman fan, and was really bummed that I wasn’t actively playing or performing at the time (my last group, Angels of Meth in Cincinnati, had run its course and I was aimlessly floating for a few). If anyone knows Scott, he is a true idea man, and unbeknownst to me, as we were in contact, he was up to some shenanigans.

Long story short, he helped pull together a really interesting cast of characters for a project. Todd Ingram – guitar (King Giant), Chuck Dukehart – drums (Sixty Watt Shaman, The Expotentials, Foghound), Johnny Throckmorton – vocals (Alabama Thunderpussy), Aaron Lewis – guitar (When the Deadbolt Breaks), and myself on bass. We convened in Baltimore and jammed a few times, really hit it off, but as I mentioned previously, I fell ill for awhile. We tried to sustain at least the idea of that lineup for awhile during the following year or so, but due to distance, time, and obligations it ended up not working out. Todd and I continued writing together, and spent the better part of a year trading riffs back and forth, or just writing complete songs and editing together. We also got together to jam independently when time allowed. The chemistry and material was pretty undeniable, so we muscled through and kept the idea alive (with Greg Hudson from D.C.’s Tone on drums briefly, until Chuck returned to the fold).

During this time period, Scott had received some inquiries regarding Sixty Watt Shaman performing at Desertfest. With incredible hesitation, Chuck and I agreed to entertain the idea, and spoke to our former vocalist, moderated by Scott. With a lot of concessions made on our part, and the best of intentions at play, Todd came in on guitar, as our original guitarist Joe Selby apparently wanted nothing to do with the idea. Hence the Sixty Watt Shaman reunion: a kickoff set at Chuck‘s Moving the Earth Fest, appearances at Desertfest London and Berlin, two Feast of Krampus shows with Wino, and my 40th birthday show in Baltimore. Todd, Chuck, and myself also had begun orchestrating a load of new and previous Serpents material, due to sparse SWS rehearsals, and were on a tear creatively so to speak.

I also came on as Foghound‘s bassist in this time period, so Chuck and I were jamming nonstop. We began negotiations with Ripple Music to release a new SWS full-length, a bit hastily as history proved, and that’s where the thread really began unraveling. Taking the high road here, but after a lot of soul searching and hand wringing… Chuck, Todd and myself made what I still consider the best judgement call we could have, considering a lot of circumstances that are best left unsaid, and called an undetermined-in-length hiatus for SWS. After a barrage of legal threats and behavior I can best sum up as unstable from our previous bandmate, that hiatus evolved into us throwing in the towel on any hopes of reconciliation. For all intents and purposes that group is a memory, no matter how voraciously some would cling to glories past.

In turn, Chuck, Todd, and myself immediately entered the studio with J. Robbins at Magpie Cage Studio in Baltimore, and whirlwind recorded the lion’s share of our three years of stockpiled material written up to that point, two songs of which — “Warbird’s Song” and “The Cheat” — appear on the Uncoiled single. Al “Yeti” Bones (The Mighty Nimbus) came on as vocalist for a period of time, but once again due to obligations, time, and distance (Canada) Al had to move on, although we truly appreciate his contributions and the awesome work ethic he brought to the table. Enter Mark Lorenzo (Zekiah). How he came into the story is a tale best left for him and Todd to explain, but I will say he was a breath of fresh air, one of the strongest, most talented vocalists I’ve ever worked with and a goddamn joy of a human being.

Steve Fisher (guitar, Borracho) will tell you we never told him he was in the band, he just kept showing up, lol, but he was the final piece to the puzzle that’s taken years to complete. We’ve already been through a lot together, and as with Foghound, it feels like family. As this band goes, we had hoped to have the full-length out by now, but it looks like we are wrapping up the album Ave Vindicta in Jan./Feb. 2018, and it’s up to Scott Harrington and Salt of the Earth Records to give us a release date. As soon as we know, so will you. The response to the Uncoiled single has been very positive so far. It seems to have accomplished our goal with the idea: Ggve everyone a taste, leave them hopefully wanting more. Apparently they want, lol. We are looking to play out as much as schedules allow, hitting the road some in 2018 and are already booked for the next installment of the Descendants of Crom Fest (Pittsburgh) in September. We’ve also started writing new material (along with the backlog of songs we couldn’t fit on this album) for the eventual follow-up to Ave Vindicta, and some other alchemy at play… but that’s another story.

From Sixty Watt Shaman to Foghound to Serpents of Secrecy, it seems like you and Chuck have a really special respect and relationship as a rhythm section. Tell me about that friendship and how working with him in different bands has changed over the years. What does it mean to you as a bassist to know Chuck’s back there behind the kit pounding away?

Chuck is my best friend in the world. He’s my brother. Damn near every important event that’s ever transpired in my life, he was there. If not personally, in spirit, or he was a call away. We’ve had our ups and downs, but brothers do. We’ve known each other since elementary school, picked up our instruments at the same time, started our first bands together. I suppose you could say our stories are completely entangled. He’s had my back when I never knew he did or I needed him to, that’s real friendship. We made a promise to each other a long time ago, that we weren’t going to let the small town we grew up in swallow us up, we were going to get out and do something with our goddamn lives. I think we held up that promise. At this point, through all the tours (starting in ’97), all the shows, the studios, writing so many songs together, we kind of function together with one brain as a rhythm section, “The Rhythm Section from Hell.” There is a complete feeling of freedom and comfort in the live scenario jamming with Chuck. Opens up some of the fun improv stuff we slip into the mix when we know each other’s arsenal backwards and forwards so well. Fun is the keyword. If it’s not, it’s not worth doing. We learned that one together too.

What’s Foghound up to at this point? Where are you at with the next album? Do you know yet when you’ll record or who will produce?

Foghound is wrapping up the third album right now actually. Last studio session with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand (The Obsessed, Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.) is the first weekend in January, I believe. Frank engineered, we produced. Then it’s mastering, artwork, turned into Ripple Music. No idea on a release date considering the volume of music Todd [Severin] and the label are putting out there, but it will be in 2018. There are some morsels on the horizon beforehand, some hints coming as to what this new material is shaping up to be, but I can’t really reveal any of that yet. I will say, the new tunes are going to surprise anyone with expectations of us putting out The World Unseen Part 2. We’ve already begun booking for next year with appearances at Maryland Doomfest 2018 and New England Stoner and Doom Fest scheduled. Anyone intrigued should stop by, we’ll be adding in a good portion of new material to give everyone a taste.

Of course there’s the crowdfunding campaign going on, but any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I just want to give another huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone for the words of love and support I received when I was ill, to the bands that played the benefit shows, to those that donated their time, hard work or financial assistance. You have no idea how much it meant, how much it’s appreciated, and how much it helped Tina and I get through such a difficult time. The only reason I can continue to do what I do is because of that, and not for a second is any of it taken for granted. I lived a lot of days looking in the mirror thinking I was a tremendous fuckup, and the friends, fans, and family that came to my side during one of the most horrible situations I’ve ever encountered, staring death in the goddamn face, telling me how much the work has meant to them, how much my efforts over the years made a difference, fueled me getting better, and keeps me fighting every day, and for that I am forever grateful. I am a very fortunate man to get to do what I do, surrounded by such amazing people. I love you all. Keep an eye out for new Arcane Recorporations creations, as well as Ave Vindicta by Serpents of Secrecy on Salt of the Earth Records, and the as-yet-untitled new Foghound record on Ripple Music out in 2018. Ave!

Serpents of Secrecy, Uncoiled – The Singles (2017)

Foghound, The World Unseen (2016)

Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks

Serpents of Secrecy on Bandcamp

Salt of the Earth Records website

Salt of the Earth Records website

Foghound on Thee Facebooks

Foghound on Bandcamp

Foghound website

Ripple Music

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One Response to “Six Dumb Questions with Rev. Jim Forrester of Foghound & Serpents of Secrecy”

  1. Albert Francis Affeldt says:

    I love what you all are doing, keep up the good work. Glad you are staying healthy Jim. One of these days, hopefully soon, I will get out to see you all again.

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