Underground photographer David Forcier has a knack for capturing compelling images. Forcier’s snapshots express the intensity and integrity of live music, documenting a vibrant, vital scene and evoke a myriad of feelings for the viewer. In the latest edition of his photobook project, Reckless, you’ll find an interesting and dynamic collection, mostly from the Australian underground punk scene between June 2016 and April 2019. Gimmie caught up with David recently to chat about the project, as well as the new record from his band, Civic, that’s in the works.
Firstly, how are you doing?
DAVID FORCIER: Yeah, I’m alright, some days are more difficult than others but things could most definitely be worse.
Currently, you’ve found yourself back in Quebec, Canada after spending the past five years living in Melbourne; how does it feel to be back in Canada? I know that having to leave Australia was very overwhelming for you: losing your partner, home, job, dog, support network, creative outlets, identity and sense of security. These are huge things. We really feel for you!
DF: Well to start off I’m living in the country about an hour-ish from Montreal and about a 20-minute drive to the nearest town. When you think of the stereotype of what living in Canada would be like that’s pretty much where I’m at with it all. It’s pretty wholesome mostly and because I’m unable to work and have been in varying stages of lockdown since October I don’t really see anyone and spend most of my days alone working on music or other creative endeavours to keep my mind busy. If I’m honest I’ve barely done anything “normal” since I’ve been back so it’s hard how to say I feel about anything, I haven’t most of my friends and everyone is still in the collective lockdown mess.
Can you tell us a little bit about where you live in Canada? What interesting things did you discover about your neighbourhood since moving back?
DF: So, the little township I’m in at the moment is called Mayo, Quebec. There’s about 600 people that live in the area and its farm land and not much else. So, to call it a neighbourhood would be a stretch but I think I’ve really learned to appreciate being in nature more than I ever thought I would. It’s the middle of winter at the moment so it’s a struggle to get outside much these days but honestly being able to just walk through a field or the forest without a soul around you can be pretty healing especially with the anxiety surrounding the unknown of what’s next in my life.
Initially, what drew you to living in Australia?
DF: It’s not especially exciting but it was honestly the idea of not having to deal with winter anymore. I don’t do well in the cold and it’s so unavoidable here. I had sort of found myself at the end of what felt like a chapter in my life and had lived in Europe in my early twenties already so I thought I’d throw caution to the wind and just do something to figure myself out a bit more. I had never intended on staying for as long as I had but honestly just could never bring myself to leave and it really just felt like my home.
How did you become interested in photography? I understand that you started taking photos while living in Europe in your early 20s.
DF: Looking back at that point in time in my life it was a pretty lonely weird existence and I think I just needed something to be creative with to keep my mind busy. I ended up picking up a few cameras and just started taking photos of everything I could which eventually led to music since that was a pretty big part of my life already. It’s strange to think about but I remember being in my mid-teens seeing live music and seeing some of the photographers that were fairly prominent in the music community around me and think “I’d be good at that” but never really had the courage to do it. I think sometimes leaving the places you spend so much time in can really allow you to explore the things that you might be too anxious to do otherwise. When you move somewhere new you don’t know anyone and as someone who has pretty severe social anxiety being a bit anonymous can be a huge breath of fresh air and luckily, I’ve embraced that in the times I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone.
You’re getting set to release the second issue of your live music photobook, Reckless, which compiles live photographs taken in the Australian underground punk scene between June 2016 and April 2019; how did you initially come up with the idea to make a photobook?
DF: I most definitely used my camera as a crutch for my anxiety when I first moved to Melbourne which meant I ended up with a lot of photos. It’s a bit embarrassing to think but at times when you are going to events that are meant to be pretty social and you don’t know anyone having something to do can be the only that will make you actually go. After a couple years I needed some way to get them out in the world so I could keep moving forward and, in a sense, move on from the things that had happened. Leading up to the release of the second book I’ve found myself thinking about the passage of time a lot and how it’s important to not get stuck in the “what was” of everything. I suppose this is more evident than ever with everything that has changed in 2020 but I’d like to think I’m moving forward and compiling the last several years of photos was a pretty good way to bookend that part of my life and know that everything is in forward motion.
For you, what are the elements that make up a great live photo?
DF: The beauty about photography and a lot of other ways people tend to express themselves, whether it be in music, painting, writing or whatever else is that it can be truly unique from person to person. I know what my strong points are and the way that I’ve developed the aesthetic around what I do but a great photo can literally be so different from person to person and I can find something to appreciate in most. From a technical standpoint you could have a photo that is really shit but could be the one that sticks out in hundreds. So, I think what makes a photo great really varies and at the end of the day when you are taking a snapshot of a moment in time when you get to look back on it there’s always something great you can find in it.
Your images are black and white; what inspired you to choose to work without colour?
DF: For years I’ve been thinking about how important it is to work with limitations within ever way you are expressing yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up in getting the perfect camera or piece of equipment but if you limit your options a bit it can really force you to be creative and work with what’s available to you. Black and white is just one of those things, it was just another thing that I didn’t have to think about and just made the whole process a bit more natural. That and I kinda got obsessed with the aesthetic of black and white after a while because it just always feels a bit more timeless which can be especially good when documenting music.
What made you choose the EXEK photo for the cover image? You used a 35mm camera for it, right? I know you didn’t you want to have someone’s face on the cover; what was the thought behind that?
DF: I think I just like the idea of things being a bit more ominous than it just being like “oh yeah that’s such and such” on the cover. There was a point where I was trying to catch really calm parts in bands sets and not have anyone’s face in the photos which ended up with a whole whack of otherwise unusable photos. Also, I kind by default kinda gave people I’m either close friends with or just really love their music a bit more attention in the book. EXEK are just always great and they are mates as well as being a pretty big constant in Melbourne punk to me so it just made sense.
What do you feel is one of the most compelling images in the book? Can you tell us the story behind it?
DF: There’s a photo of Jai Morris from EXEKs guitar that just stood out to me and was one of those attempts at getting a cover image sorted. It’s got “please kill me” written on it and just seen it so many times that it feels a bit iconic and I think at times it’s a pretty relatable thing to read.
Assembling material for the photobook, were you trying to emphasize anything about the Australian underground scene with the images you chose?
DF: I just wanted to get a good snapshot of that specific chunk in time within that specific punk scene. I spent so much time being in it and getting to know so many people that I could now call family. I touched on this a bit before but I think it’s really important to be able to look back to certain parts of your life or in time so you can know you are moving forward and becoming at peace with things that are no longer what that used to be like. Probably half the bands in the first book don’t even exist anymore and in a few years’ time it’s likely that all the bands in this issue won’t exist anymore but I like to not get caught up in thinking that’s a bad thing at all and that things just change and adapt. No one likes to be around the person who still thinks high school was the best point of their lives, there’s a whole world of possibility in front of us.
What do you enjoy about the editing process with your photos?
DF: The interesting thing is, not dissimilar to journaling, when you take photos of anything you tend to be able to remember the details of otherwise unremarkable times. I could tell you what I did before and after most of the photos in that book, who I was with, where they were taken and where just by looking at them. Maybe it all just ties into that idea of moving forward and maybe not rehashing all the same thought patterns. It also gave me something to work on after the fact and to be excited about. When you get film developed you never really know exactly what the result is going to be and getting a great photo is really rewarding.
Why is it important to you to document culture?
DF: I think now more than ever it’s evident that there is going to be a bit of a gap in most people’s lives with photos of what was in their periphery because those images are all on old iPhone 3s in some drawer, a hard drive that crashed or gone with the Facebook account you deleted. I guess culture is no different to that, I’d most definitely like to look back on the past not through the lens of the weird technology that we are still trying to work out how to make sense of and instead from the point of view of someone who actually cared enough to take the time to and had intent behind it.
How did you first get into punk?
DF: It’s pretty cliche but my older brother had this dubbed minor threat tape when I was like 11 or 12. Not to sound like Dave Grohl in a music doco but Minor Threat just really blew my mind and I had no idea that kind of music even existed which I imagine a lot of people can relate to.
Can you remember the first live show your ever went to? What details can you remember about it? What feeling did it give you?
DF: The first thing I went to was Canadian punk band S.N.F.U when I was 13. RIP Ken Chinn. It’s interesting to look back at that being the first thing I ever saw because if you are familiar with them then singer who just recently passed away was at once the wildest most offensive person and also seemingly the most misunderstood extremely talented person and will most definitely be talked about for decades to come, at least in Canada… Seeing Chinn perform was scary and weird and often made you feel uncomfortable as a kid that was 23 years ago so it’s hard to really remember the details but I guess just gave me the feeling of what the fuck did I just watch.
What’s something important that you’ve learnt from being a part of the underground music community?
DF: I think over time have really learnt the importance of community in general. I think as humans we generally strive to fit in somewhere and often what comes with that is helping out the people around you and when it happens it can be truly beautiful. I’ve had my share of difficult times with Visa denials and ultimately getting kicked out of the place that I call my home but there was always someone around to help me through it all. I think if anything this has been highlighted with the situation, I find myself in at the moment and really feel this longing for community most days.
How has lockdown, due to the global pandemic, tested your creativity?
DF: Well for the first part of the pandemic I was in Melbourne still and managed to finish recording the Civic LP that we have coming out so that portion was actually really productive. We’d all lost our jobs so we just had infinite time to get it all done which was great. As for now it sort of comes in waves, I’ve managed to pen down a lot of rough ideas for a few different projects but am finding it a bit frustrating to have to think of every single part of what I’m working on. I’m a drummer first so I’ve had to really work on every other instrument a bit which has been a challenge, I’ve also picked up playing saxophone which has been incredibly rewarding. I guess I just really miss collaborating with other people, I guess this is where that community thing I was talking about comes into play. I’ve got pretty good at being alone but it’s definitely not sustainable.
Have you found any positives from the tough last year (spilling into this year for some) that we’ve had?
DF: I think there’s plenty. I have so much time to look inward and sort out a lot of my mental health issues and am actually pretty thankful for the pause and time for self-reflection. I guess maybe I’ve been trying to stay positive as best I can so maybe I’m sounding a bit hokey but I feel like maybe people will just be better to each other now that we’ve realised how much we need each other.? To be honest though, I’m usually a massive pessimist and feel like we collectively haven’t learnt fucking anything at all. Time will tell, I guess.
What project/s will you be working on next?
DF: There was some recordings that have been passed back n forth with Civic so maybe that will materialise into a 7-inch or something. It’s definitely not the ideal way to do anything but will see how it goes. I’ve got a few other music projects I’m slowly piecing together as well but it’s all slow moving when it’s just you. As for photography stuff the drive to do anything really ebbs and flows but I have a huge back catalogue of stuff that no one’s has ever seen dating back to the mid-2000s so maybe I’ll figure out some way to give that some attention. Thanks for the interview!
Extra RECKLESS Info: 84 pages, 107 photographs, black and white, risograph printed, 133mm x 210mm. Mix of 35mm and digital photography.
Featured Artists are: THE STEVENS, SYSTEMA EN DECADENCIA, HARAM, THE UV RACE, TOTAL CONTROL, THE FRANTICS, ROT T.V, COLD MEAT, VANILLA POPPERS, SEX DRIVE, RAPID DYE, BLOODLETTER, BB AND THE BLIPS, LOW LIFE, THE NO, L.A SUFFOCATED, KNIFER, EXEK, UBIK, RIXE, POWER, PARSNIP, CONSTANT MONGREL, OILY BOYS, STRAIGHT JACKET NATION, RED RED KROVVY, ORION, VINTAGE CROP, THE STROPPIES, HANK WOOD AND THE HAMMERHEADS, TALC, THE SNAKES, ROBBER, GELD, PUCE MARY, TOL, NUN, NOTS, TERRY, EXECUTION, VERTIGO, SPOTTING, STATIONS OF THE CROSS, RABID DOGS, SPIKE FUCK.
Reckless photobook comes with a cassette mixtape compilation. Tracks chosen by the artists involved.
01 David Eastman – Walking On Water /// Total Control
02 The Homosexuals – You’re Not Moving The Way You’re Supposed To /// Terry
03 Au Pairs – You /// Spotting
04 Leather Nun – No Rule /// Puce Mary
05 The Viletones – Screaming fist /// Rot T.V
06 Scrotum poles – Pick the Cat’s Eyes Out /// Constant Mongrel
07 Pagans- Boy Can I Dance Good /// The Frantics
08 The Comes – Public Circle /// Vanilla Poppers
09 Stations – Cultural Capital /// Stations
10 Japan – Quiet Life /// Bloodletter
11 Screamers – Vertigo /// Vertigo
12 Electric Eels – Accident /// Cold Meat
13 Pink Fairies – Do It /// The Snakes
14 High Rise – Psychedelic Speed Freaks /// Geld
15 Jesus and the Gospelfuckers – Kill the Police /// Straightjacket Nation
16 Sheer Terror – Here to Stay /// Low Life
18 The Dogs – Slash Your Face /// Rabid Dogs
19 Dr Feelgood – I Can Tell /// Kniffer
20 Little Bob Story – Like Rock’n’Roll /// Rixe
21 Davy Graham and Shirley Collins – Love Is Pleasing /// The Stevens