Tyler Forslund was born and raised in Vernon and counts various residents of the town among his friends and family, so he will always have a spot in his heart for the Okanagan Valley.
But it isn't home.
When Forslund moved to Victoria in 1994, he eventually found a safe haven: A community that was supportive of his artistic and athletic inclinations. "In high school and junior high, being a skateboarder and a punker, you had to move fast and be ready to take a beating," Forslund said of his Vernon youth. "It was pretty rough. There was a tough couple of years there."
Anything music-related was of marginal interest to the town's residents, Forslund recalls. There was no local music scene to speak of, no quality record stores, and, in the days before the Internet, few ways of keeping abreast of new punk bands popping up around North America.
"There were no shows, either," he said. "We had to go to Kelowna or Kamloops for a punk gig."
Within a year of arriving on Vancouver Island, he was doing the unthinkable: Chatting on-air at CFUV, the University of Victoria's campus radio station. Forslund, 36, didn't know much about radio back then, but he was passionate about music. He couldn't have imagined it at the time, but his experiences over an eight-year period, including stints as a writer at UVic's Offbeat magazine, would help create one of the most colourful characters the local community has seen in some time.
Forslund's tenure at the long-adored, now-defunct Offbeat saw him interview underground greats the Jesus Lizard, Pavement, Pennywise and Mudhoney, among others. He would eventually pen articles for other local fanzines, even starting one of his own, Mystery Meat, which published seven issues between 1996 and 2000.
As a punk publisher, Forslund was in heaven. "I'd print it out on a word processor, then chop it up and glue it on to backgrounds. I was always covered in black ink and glue stick, but it was awesome."
Talking to and about bands eventually put Forslund smack in the middle of one, the Jizzwailers, which released one album, Sweet Zombie Jesus ... It's the Jizzwailers, before disbanding in 2001. It was the first of a half-dozen notable local punk bands to feature Forslund, all of them rooted in a single, galvanizing style (punk) and bearing one identifiable Forslund trademark: humour.
"I really get into writing about funny stuff. Punk's got to be funny. It's got to be angry, but at the same time you have to laugh. I don't know it could just be me."
His second group was the Staggers, whose members were as combustible as they were hard-drinking. Years earlier, at a Jizzwailers show, Forslund was approached by a teenaged punk singer demanding they start a group together. Forslund liked his energy, so he agreed. For the next two years, Forslund, who played bass in the group, would watch the singer transform from a teen screamer named Lee Starck into Leeroy Stagger, a fantastic frontman who would later find success as an alt-country performer.
"Leeroy had this big rock 'n' roll vibe, part Germs, part Stooges," Forslund said. "It was mayhem, with more rock 'n' roll thrown in than your average punk band. I don't remember a lot of it, but I know I wore a Mexican wrestling mask for lots of those shows."
Forslund's next project, skate-punkers the Hoosegow, got underway in 2002 and quickly became one of the city's top punk acts. It remains an ongoing concern for Forslund and his bandmates, though free time has been harder to come by of late.
A full-time job as a screenprinter at Team Sales, in addition to his family commitments (to his wife, Elise, and five-year-old daughter Sophia) mean his free time isn't what it once was. Many of his friends are suffering from the same crunch, he said.
"A lot of us have kids and families, but you can make it work. You can't quit altogether, because it'll leave an empty spot in your heart."
Forslund has more time these days for less intensive cover band projects like Black Flab (a Black Flag tribute written by and about punkers with a few extra ounces of anger) and the Angry Snowmans, a "Christmascore" band that rewrites punk classics as seasonal songs.
In recent weeks, Forslund and Co. have played Angry Snowmans dates in Vancouver and Seattle, which went over well. The band's annual show on Friday at Logan's Pub is expected to sell out.
For this project, like all his others, humour is tantamount. Some of the songs are extremely irreverent -- take, for example, Ebenezer Ãber Alles, a riff on the Dead Kennedys' California Ãber Alles -- which can be problematic. Forslund, who dresses for the gigs in a Santa suit and adopts the name Saint Dick, has trouble keeping a straight face every so often.
"I'm so used to the lyrics now, so I know what's coming. But sometimes I lose it. It's ridiculously fun."
If you ask Forslund, he'll tell you he has the best job in the world. And as for his daughter, Sophia, she probably thinks so, too.
"She loves it," Forslund said. "We listen to the Angry Snowmans CD in the car a lot. Oddly enough, she thinks it's hilarious that mom and dad get dressed up in these goofy Christmas costumes and play rock."
Unconventional? Yes. But the Forslunds are living proof that the family that laughs together can also rock together.
Worth remembering at this time of year.