Back in 2011, I interviewed a young man by the name of Forest Juziuk about his planned relocation from Ann Arbor to San Francisco, California. As it turns out, it would be the first in a long series of exit interviews I’d conduct here, which, in turn, would spawn a second series of interviews with recent immigrants to the area. Well, I was just contacted by Juziuk, who informed me that, after five years on the west coast, he’d just returned home to Michigan, and would like to be the first person to do both and official exit interview, as well as an official immigration interview. While I’m not sure that he will ultimately settle in Ypsilanti, I agreed, as I was interested to know what either drove him from California, or pulled him back to Michigan. What follows is our our official immigration interview.
[above: Photos taken before and after Juziuk’s five years on the west coast show the ravages of time.]
MARK: When I interviewed you back in 2011, you told me that you were leaving Michigan, at least in part, because you wanted to “see what it’s like to live in one season.” So, how did you like living a little over five years in one season?
FOREST: It was great. It was the best. You know, I had the best time. I also had the worst time too, but that turned out to be for the best in the end. You know what they say: “Times were good, times were bad. We’ll look back at these times and call them our ‘salad days’.” A lot of it was bad, but I came out of it with all of my limbs, so that’s good… I’m not completely sure what you’re asking me.
MARK: You said, back in 2011, that you wanted to live in California because there isn’t really a change of seasons. And I was asking if you found that to be as awesome as you thought it would be?
FOREST: Yeah, the weather didn’t leave much to complain about. It was very confusing come X-mas time, though. The first year I was there, I worked a construction job for this guy who I guess is, or at least was, what people might call a megalomaniac, and I have a very clear memory of riding home from work one day, just thinking about how much I hated this guy because of all the terrible things he’d say about women, women in general, and just about every woman we knew in Oakland, and being miserable because he would take months to sign my paychecks, and I remember coming around the bend onto Broadway and smelling this smell – a very strong pine scent. And I wondered, “Why am I smelling this?” And then I saw this parking lot that had been turned into a X-mas tree farm. And, on the grassy median between the lanes on Broadway, I saw a festive ribbon tied around a tree. And that’s when I knew it was X-mas time. I didn’t know it until then… So, yeah, the lack of seasons is deceiving.
[above: A scene from Juziuk’s first night in San Francisco.]
MARK: So what have you been doing since you left? How have you spent these past five years in California?
FOREST: Well, I did the construction thing, which was a veritable hell on earth, but, because of it, I met this guy David, and then his girlfriend Stephanie, and they’re these two brilliant artist types with really great stories. And I smoked a little grass when I first got there. I’d started smoking before l left Michigan, and stopped shortly after I got to California. Weed culture is so prevalent there that it quickly became very annoying to me. And at the time I hated myself. And, as smoking grass and hating yourself don’t comingle well, so I stopped. But, when I was first living there, I would “wake and bake” and then ride to the construction site on the back of David’s motorcycle, and we’d get on the freeway, and I thought for sure we were going to spin out and die. I was terrified of getting into an accident, and also terrified that I would get an erection riding behind David on the back of the bike. Anyway, a lot of the other people I met through the megalomaniac were also nice and artistic, but I felt like some of them hated their own class or something. They drank expensive bourbon like it was PBR, and had fancy dinners that would descend into decadent orgies. Not real orgies, but, like, Thanksgiving was a depraved mess.
MARK: So you didn’t stay at the construction job long, I take it…
FOREST: Maybe a year or less. I eventually left and started work at a science museum, which was weird. But I guess that makes sense, as science is pretty strange. It wasn’t science fiction, because it actually happened, but it was surreal in ways that I don’t care to elaborate on right now. It was “science nonfiction.” I met a very cool woman there named Stacy, who, at one point, had lived with Anton LaVey’s daughter Zeena, who was also clairvoyant. Meeting her was indicative of the kind of experience I’d hoped to have there. Strange and unusual culture. Rubbing elbows with Satanists, or at least their former roommates.
MARK: I may be remembering this incorrectly, but I think other friends have crossed paths with LaVey’s daughter. If I’m not mistaken, she is, or was, into the metal scene in California. And I also believe that LaVey himself was friends with Gregg Turkington of Amarillo Records. It’s just interesting how much these Satanist connections come up when talking about the California underground music scene. Maybe I’m wrong, but seems like California has a disproportionate number of self-identified witches, Satanists, and the like.
FOREST: A lot of people in California, and I do mean a lot, claim to be witches, which is both overplayed and childish. It’s well past the point of hilarity, so much so that I can no longer even laugh about it. But I don’t want to sound like I’m just complaining about people; megalomaniacs and witches. That isn’t exactly fair. Everybody is on their own trip. I don’t want to judge. You have to be the way you are because you have to, you know? You can’t help it, so you should get used to it. “Stop making everyone miserable by not being yourself.” That’s what I always say. Even with the megalomaniac – he’s had a hard life, and terrible things have happened to him to make him the way he is, and perhaps he’s not like that anymore anyway, but he had to be for a while, you know?
People can be annoying, but you’re annoying too. I mean, I’m annoying. Give people a break. My friend Josh was telling me about how he hated this particular kind of dog and then his roommate wanted to get that exact kind of dog and name it “Baby,” and he cringed so hard that he had a back injury. But then he considered that maybe God wanted her to have this dog. “She can’t help it!,” he thought. It’s a nice way to look at things… So, yeah, give people a break, unless they’re a murderer or something.
[above: Photo by Maya De Paula Hanika of Juziuk at the old whorehouse in Port Costa, California.]
MARK: So, what did you do in addition to working the construction job and the job at the science museum?
FOREST: There was plenty more than those two jobs. That was just the first two years, and the least interesting part of living in California. I moved nine times over those five years, pretty much back and forth between San Francisco and Oakland… It ain’t cheap… Living there allowed me to get deeper into working in music, and, at this point, I’ll probably never get out of it, unless I become a drug and alcohol counselor, which almost goes hand-in-hand. That’s a joke. Or maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. Anyway, the people I’ve met as a result of working in music have been incredible. Being surrounded by creative geniuses and hard workers is great.
Overall, it feels like more was crammed into those five years than the ten that preceded them. But, to get into the last few years, there’s a lot of fresh pain. It’s too fresh. It’s like an extra fresh head of lettuce at the supermarket. It’s a bit too crispy for right now. Don’t even touch it. You might cut yourself.
MARK: I think I understand. Fresh pain sucks. In time, though, things will likely get better, right?
FOREST: Yeah, later on, much later on, I’ll be able to jump into the dumpster and yank out a perfectly fine, big bag of grapes. And then take a long drive. Just me, a friend, and the bag of garbage grapes.
MARK: OK, so let’s not talk about pain and heartache until the garbage grapes are ripe. Let’s talk about music instead. What kinds of stuff were you doing in California?
FOREST: I DJ’d a bunch. People in the Bay Area aren’t nearly as ready to rage at a dance party as they are here. Not even close. The San Francisco and Oakland dance scene is so weak in comparison. Maybe people in the Bay are too pooped from all that day-drinking and weed-puffing to really let loose at night, whereas winter dance parties in Michigan are a ridiculous frenzy. People have all that pent up cabin fever, and they erupt into lusty infernos.
My friend Lloyd and I started a musical chairs dance party and that was fun, until it wasn’t. We were forced to end the party after breaking too many of the venue’s chairs. It was either foot the bill to fix the vintage chairs, or stop altogether. We were supposed to supply our own, but the folding chairs Lloyd picked up kept getting stolen out of his backyard by scrappers. It was fun for a minute, and usually got bloody around midnight when the attendees were sauced and angry. No one wants to lose.
My absolute favorite thing I did in the Bay, though, was put together a few shows inside a cave at Sutro Baths. I can’t think of a better expense of time and energy than putting on shows inside a cave. It was very elemental, playing inside a cave, in the shining autumn, the ocean crashing outside. That’s a Fleetwood Mac reference, but it’s true.
Speaking of Fleetwood Mac, at one point, a sizable group of friends just stopped going to DJ nights, and stopped listening to that kind of music, stopped listening to old R&B and soul, stopped listening to house and disco, and just stayed home listening to Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac. This pissed me off to no end.
MARK: How have you changed over the time you’ve been gone?
FOREST: Well, now I listen to Fleetwood Mac… Otherwise, I probably haven’t changed. You can change your behavior, but I’ve found that I have just about the same emotional range that I did when I was a kid. And my reactions are pretty much the same. A lot of it comes from my family. Maybe people are always pretty much the same, but you just grow in awareness and experience, and you choose to do good, or to do bad, or to do nothing at all… I think if you do nothing, it turns out bad anyway, though.
[above: Juziuk in LA.]
MARK: What was it that made you decide that you’d had enough of California? Was there a specific moment when you just knew that you had to get back to Michigan?
FOREST: Yeah, this past May my friend Nate and I had put on an event in Detroit called Trip Metal Fest. It was three days of experimental music, film and talks, essentially what someone might call “underground” stuff, but Nate and I were just talking about whether the underground is dead, so instead we started using the term “street level.” So, yeah, we put on a street level experimental festival and it was a fun time. There was no metal though. It was a real family affair with friends from the world over playing and attending. It was nuts. It was so nutty. It happened because Nate won a grant from Knight Foundation to put it on but it was an “arts challenge” grant which meant it had to be matched. We were very fortunate to have massive support from people like Gretchen Davidson, who has a long and storied musical history in Detroit with Universal Indians and Slumber Party, as well as a significant number of folks who bought “tickets” to attend our free festival that pulled us through. It was just so much good will.
Anyway, the big moment when I realized I wanted to come back to Michigan was when Nate picked me up from the Detroit airport a couple days before the fest. The air smelled so good I couldn’t believe it. There might have been a bit of “donut air” which is a special kind of Michigan air that’s really very nice, but the state smelled so familiar and good. And you actually couldn’t beat the weather — it was better weather than it ever is in the Bay Area, and you can take that check to the bank. After drinking many, many bottles of Club-Mate, which is a very delicious caffeinated beverage, perhaps my favorite drink period, I stayed up until 6:00 AM or so every day during the festival and watched the sunrise, which you really can’t beat. At least California can’t beat it. The sun is peculiar in California. It’s quite harsh. The sunrise is not so nice there if you’ve been up all night.
And honestly, California is nice to visit, but it’s not the place for me… The foliage is very different. The “shrub shock” had to be endured, but, once you adapted, the world was an oyster! If you drove 30 minutes out of town, you would find the most beautiful places. On a drive through the countryside, I would think it was so beautiful. I’d think to myself, “No wonder the Grateful Dead stayed in California.” But I don’t actually know if that’s true. I don’t know anything about the Grateful Dead.
MARK: What’s your best California story?
FOREST: The one that always gets people, because it seems so exotic, is the one about my being a paid actor in a public disgrace movie for a porn website. They paid me $50 to play a surprised sugar daddy with two girlfriends.
MARK: Please elaborate…
FOREST: They shoot these movies at actual clothing stores and bars all over San Francisco and Oakland. You might be at an Italian restaurant and be halfway through your meatballs when you think, “Hey, this place looks kinda’ familiar.” Well, they put an ad on Craigslist for extras and all these guys showed up in plum-colored sweatshirts. That was the weirdest thing.
I was asked to wear a suit, to give the impression that I was well-to-do, and proceeded to walk with two women-friends into a clothing outlet in the Castro where they were shooting and pretend to be disturbed by the disgraceful public behavior of the main actors — lots of covering my mouth with my hands and looking at other people in uncomfortable disbelief. I am a very bad actor. I couldn’t act my way out of a wet paper bag to save my life. You would not believe my disbelief in this movie.
MARK: I’m not going to ask for a link, as I don’t want to see it, but, if you could send me screen captures of your face as you walk in, I’d appreciate it. I think it would really put this interview over the top.
FOREST: OK, here’s one.
MARK: So you just decided on a whim to respond to a Craigslist ad this one time? This wasn’t part of a concerted effort on your part to get into the porn business?
FOREST: No, I wasn’t looking for it. It came up via one of the two friends I went with. She invited me to participate. She and I knew each other from Michigan actually, but I think she’s now in SoCal. It was difficult to psych myself up for the gig. I must have known that I wasn’t going to have sex in the movie, but there was still so much to consider. “Is it good to do this? Bad? OK? Fucked up? Funny?” I just couldn’t get excited about it. I’m a nervous nelly. And I’m not exactly into that sort of kink, so it wasn’t a turn-on per se. It also didn’t feel excitingly transgressive. It wasn’t comfortable, but, at the same time, it didn’t make me uncomfortable in a way that’s beneficial. I didn’t feel psychic walls crumbling around me, or anything like that.
MARK: Speaking of the creepy shit you were up to, didn’t I see some shots on Facebook not too long ago of you with makeup and a pair of stockings over your head or something?
FOREST: Yeah. I mean no. I mean yes. That’s Tan Man.
MARK: Did you find that you fit in pretty well when you got to California?
FOREST: When I first got there, I wanted to fit in, so I stopped wearing deodorant and antiperspirant and went dancing five nights a week. Some people liked my B.O. and some people didn’t. But I’d say more liked it than did not. Someone once smelled my pits and asked if I was wearing sandalwood, and I didn’t know what that was. It was very exciting to read that sandalwood is an aphrodisiac!
MARK: What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned over the past five years, since I saw you last?
FOREST: Alcohol and drugs are not my bag. I started drinking late, around 24 years old, which made me think I wasn’t susceptible to “problem consumption.” I learned how to do a lot of things in the last ten years, but learning how to moderate my drinking was not one of them. Getting sober is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Also, I’ve learned that being closer to family is important, as is doing work that I care deeply about in a way that is smarter and feels more pure to me. That’s hugely important.
MARK: What kinds of artifacts will you be bringing back with you from California?
FOREST: I don’t know… California is a big secret and you’re not allowed take stuff out of it.
MARK: I brought back a glass mug from Universal Studios, where I spent an afternoon with Jad Fair. Linette and I just happened to be walking through LA when we bumped into Jad, who we’d met about a decade before, when we were living in Atlanta. We talked for a while, and he asked us if we wanted to go to Universal Studios. He said he’d heard that there was a super hero themed restaurant there. So we went with him and we all ordered these expensive drinks because they came in these super heavy glass mugs, which were kind of shaped like something you might find in a laboratory. Anyway, it was my favorite glass for years, and it came back to Michigan with us. I thought maybe you brought something back with you… maybe a prop from the set of the porn you were in, like a jar of lube, or an empty Viagra bottle.
FOREST: The Universal Studios mug thing, that makes sense. No, I didn’t do anything like that. All my stuff is in a storage unit, so I’m hardpressed to think of something without all my great, great stuff right in front of me. Actually, Lloyd, with whom I did the musical chairs party, had a couple hats made for us by Corinne Loperfido. Well, they aren’t hats, they’re ornate helmets!
And I got several tattoos: a creepy smile with the words “laffs & danger,” a creepy hand with the words “velly greedy”, and the Void crosses. The tattoos were deftly stick-n-poked by professional stick-n-pokist, doula, and my wife Maya. Yeah, I got married in California. The aforementioned grapes — they aren’t sour but they’re unripened. She’s great, and the tattoos have great personal significance that changes over time.
And my special friend Robin and I would go to the most incredible bookstore, Kayo, and buy the most twisted, degenerate literature and picture books we could find. That bookstore is on a whole nother level. It is an honest to God dream come true. They’re in the process of closing their doors to the public, though.
MARK: Speaking of bringing things back, when you left, as I recall, you took a woman with you. Will you be returning on your own, or will you have someone with you?
FOREST: Yes, I “took a woman” with me. I moved to California with the brilliant and lovely Erin Nicole. Then she went to Hawaii for a bit. Recently, though, she came back to Michigan. We hit the expiration date at the same time. Peta, the cat who came into my life in 2004, however, came back with me. I wish I could get rid of her. She’s 16, and a living nightmare. It’s hard for me… There are some people I hope move here. When Erin Nicole and I moved to California, we were able to get like 10 Michigan friends to move there over the first couple of years. A couple Michiganders were already there.
MARK: Are any of the Michigan folks you recruited out to the west coast still there?
FOREST: Yeah, some have stayed, some left after a short time, and some just moved to New York. I went to New York for a month, thinking I might just stay, and it was very neat, but ultimately I realized I didn’t need to be there.
MARK: Before you left Ann Arbor, you were quite active in the local arts community. Should we expect that, upon your return, you’ll be picking up where you left off?
FOREST: No, not exactly. My intent has changed considerably.
MARK: So, what is your intent?
FOREST: Less shows. Bigger events. More fun. More free stuff. I don’t really have the time to be a promoter, like I was years ago. I also don’t have the desire. And there are a lot more venues now! It’s really swell.
MARK: I don’t think it’s any secret that, before you left for California, you were a little less than enthusiastic about the state of the local arts scene? Assuming you’ve kept up on things since leaving, what do you make of the situation you’re returning to?
FOREST: Back then, I said something about putting on music and film shows to have the kinds of experiences that were lacking, or… I don’t know, I was on this pretty selfish bent about putting on shows that I personally wanted to see, and making like that was the end of my intent. Well, that’s not exactly true — that was a cop-out. But I’m definitely not as selfish in intent as I was then.
Probably the most important aspect of what Erin Nicole and I wanted to do was put films or performances into a very affordable punk and weirdo setting that typically only academia seemed to be able to support. Tuition sucks. By the way, I say “tuition sucks,” but I don’t think student debt should be abolished. Part of me thinks that, if you buy into the college scam, and that system, then you should pay. It’s easy for me to say that since I didn’t finish college, and I’m not in debt. Actually, I’m being glib. Now that I’m thinking about it, I’m just responding to years of living in Ann Arbor with friends in grad programs on their way to become professors who were very condescending, some of whom definitely thought I was an ignoramus. I thought “if you guys are so smart, how did you end up going to school to basically stay in school for the rest of your life, never knowing what it’s like to work a blue collar job, complaining about this debt you now owe your employer for the rest of your life?” But they are just horny for knowledge! Can you fault them?
I still think taking art and experience out of academia is important, although, right now, experimental film and music is more accepted than it was five years ago. Honestly, I think it’s a little bit of a fad. I’m not sure it’s a legit shift. People are talking but are they watching and listening? Time will tell.
That said, California was amazing for experimental film and music. In the original interview we did, I think I brought up something my friend Daniel said about proximity in SF — being able to close your eyes, reach out, and grab whatever you want. He was talking about avocados and beer but the access to film and music there is just kookoo. Canyon Cinema, Black Hole Cinematheque, The Lab, Bay Area 51, Terminal, Life Changing Ministry, ATA, Oddball Cinema — these places are, or were, hugely important to me. Some have closed or refocused in a way I’m not so crazy about, but weird shit is part of the fabric of daily life.
Anyway, to get back to the question, I can only really speak about Ann Arbor because that’s where I lived, but I thought culture was on its last legs in Michigan. I hated the “buy local” attitude toward the arts. It seemed as though people were pleased as punch to attend an opening for homemade pottery, but thought experimental film was too weird. The reality is that ceramics is considerably more popular for obvious reasons and has been for pretty much all of history. I thought it was simply CRAFTS, it was not “Culture,” and that crafts are chintzy. So snobby.
I don’t know what the situation is that I’m returning to. I’ve kept up a little bit but I don’t know jack. My friend Sam lives in Ypsilanti and told me that it’s “desolate” — no gigs. I immediately thought of you because you seemed to think Ypsilanti was going to pick up Ann Arbor’s slack.
MARK: We could use venues. There’s definitely a hole since places like The Elbow Room, Woodruff’s and Cross Street Station closed. But people have picked up the slack. Crossroads is having more shows, there’s still a pretty robust house show ecosystem, and places like Beezy’s and Dreamland Theater are stepping up to fill the void. So, yeah, I guess you’re right when you say that we didn’t fully fill the gap left by Ann Arbor’s cultural implosion, but it’s not true to suggest that things aren’t going on.
FOREST: Like I said, I have no idea.
[above: Juziuk in the DJ booth.]
MARK: Did you read this site at all while you were gone?
FOREST: Yes, if something bizarre came up in Michigan politics and I wanted to get your take on it, I would dip in. I was homeless for a little bit and a friend took pity on me and let me stay in his room one night and I stayed up and combed through all the exit/entrance interviews. They were always completely different and very interesting, but I didn’t sleep that night which was foolish in retrospect having been given that opportunity.
MARK: Does your old friend Brian Hunter know that you’re returning?
FOREST: Yes, but we’re taking things slow. We haven’t seen each other yet. We need to ease into it. This year marks our 30th as friends, which is a big number. It’s intimidating. We don’t want to fuck it up. One false move and it’s all over.
MARK: Do you have a job lined up?
FOREST: Yeah, but I can work anywhere. I’m not changing a job because of location or anything.
MARK: I’m not sure I follow. Are you saying that you’re going to be doing the same thing here that you were doing in California?
FOREST: Yep, booking tours in North and South America for about 25 experimental and electronic musicians and DJs, music management, Trip Metal Fest.
MARK: So, what’s next? What are you working on right now?
FOREST: My 2016 is pretty much cooked, so I’m looking at 2017. Plans include a record label, Trip Metal Fest in and outside of Michigan, a horror film fest… I can’t really talk about any of it. Right now, most of my time is taken up by booking shows and rehabbing the space that was once called MUG in Detroit. There are a few solo music gigs as Sikk Laffter on the horizon but no plans to DJ in Michigan at the moment.
MARK: How will I know you when I see you? Do you still have ironic facial hair?
FOREST: Society has advanced to the point that my facial hair appears to be completely accepted by the standards of the day. But I’m pretty much bald now so you’re going to have to deal with that. You & the rest of the world. It’s not just my problem anymore. Luckily I’m tall so some people don’t notice but I guess I just outed myself. I don’t care. I did have a girlfriend who mercilessly made fun of men with receding hairlines and I secretly hope her husband goes bald but only because he has a very nicely shaped head. He needs to accentuate the dome, not the fibers.
[above: Juziuk performing live as Sikk Laffter.]
Like I said up front, I don’t know if Juziuk will ultimately land in Ypsi, so this isn’t really an Ypsilanti Immigration Interview in the purest sense, but, if you’re curious as to why people are moving here, just follow that last link to our archive.