We had the good fortune of connecting with Michael Formanski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Michael, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Taking risks is how we grow. Step into the unknown, break down and rebuild again stronger than before. I’ve uprooted my life so many times at this point, changed career paths, settled down in new places, picked it all up and started over again just in the search for the path that’s right for me. Really simply speaking all in the pursuit of happiness, validity, and meaning. A big part of risk taking is just having the confidence to step into the unknown, knowing that no matter where you land it won’t be the end of the world and you’ll figure it out. By all means it’s important to be precise with the level of risk that’s worth taking on, but it’s never a waste of time and there’s always something to be learned from it. At the end of the day if a new venture doesn’t work out, no one is tearing up the road behind you, you can always go back.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My creative work encompasses both music and narrative film. Film is a perfect medium to talk about important issues, and music is to my senses the purest outlet for emotional experience. My films are typically socio-political. The last film I released, The Iron Wall, is a narrative confronting toxic masculinity and its impact on homophobia in blue collar New England. The core of this film really is about challenging some of the social norms that we grow up around, and pitting those against some of the contemporary rhetoric surrounding masculinity.
Honestly, one of my proudest moments happened when I was doing promotions and fundraising for this film. I was posting about historically significant queer artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Tom of Finland, and then I saw my Dad was reposting them, all of them. My Dad is a very traditional guy who grew up in the 70s listening to Bruce Springsteen, and here he was posting about all of these queer artists on social media where all of his friends were seeing them too.
This all culminated in a screening of the film I held in my home town. Where I grew up in rural Connecticut, there was no one in school who outwardly identified as LGBTQ. All of my family friends I grew up around were there, basically a whole group of people who have no context for queer stories. And for the most part they all got it, and they all loved it. That was such a big moment for me, and this is very much the kind of change I want to see. Of course it’s not like one film will change people overnight, but small steps. And I may not be able to reach a huge audience of millions of people, but if I can reach at least the people in my social circles and inspire new ways of thinking, for me that is a great place to start. For anyone interested, The Iron Wall is streaming on Amazon Prime.
My music on the other hand is much more personal, stories about internal experiences. I’ve been writing music for almost 20 years at this point, anything from black metal, to cyberpunk inspired retro wave, to ambient, and dramatic score. Right now I’m working on my first record as a solo artist. To me this is a milestone lifetime goal, everything I’ve ever learned as a creative is going into this record. The sound is, imagine crossing MGMT with Led Zeppelin and little Crystal Castles. Analog synths with a pop structure and EDM backbone, but guitar forward with that vintage 70’s sound. The lyrics are personal stories told mostly through folklore. I wrote a song about my love hate relationship with Los Angeles told through an allegory about mythological sirens. Sirens sing a beautiful song, beckoning you to their island only to lead you to your inevitable destruction. For a long time this is how I felt about Los Angeles. It’s a city that calls to you with the promise of fulfilling all the dreams you’ve ever aspired for, but it can be a really challenging and isolating place to find your ground in.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Let me tell you about my favorite thing to see in LA called Almighty Opp. Almighty Opp is a guerrilla marionette theater that happens on the last Saturday of every month at the corner of Western and Elmwood in Ktown (it paused at the start of the pandemic, not sure when it will start again). At about 9:00, two guys wearing puppet masks ride up to the corner on bicycles towing an unassuming large container that unfolds into a makeshift marionette theater. They play dreamy puppet songs while orchestrating these little performances with these stunning handmade marionettes on the little stage at the front. The show is punctuated with random outbursts, for example a bus will stop at the corner and the performers will start screaming to the driver to blow the horn, which they do and everyone cheers. I can’t wait to see another one of these shows, look them up on Instagram.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’ll dedicate this shoutout to one of my close weirdo artist friends, Muriel Naim. Muriel is one of the most emotionally intuitive and artistically mature people I know whose work is both unforgivingly powerful and extremely sensitive. One of the most important things is to be around people that are on the same path as you, part of the same collective pursuit towards creative goals and artistic merit. Muriel has always been one of those people in my life, someone who is always down to get into the thick of it when you’re developing a project, and really challenge the core of your work. She’s a good friend, I would not be the artist that I am today without having people like this in my life.
Muriel Naim, Marcel McVay