By 1979, he was back in Australia, joining the health industry for a company introducing complementary medicines to pharmacies and practitioner clinics. Several years later, as a technical director, he formulated a range of 20 products for practitioner clinics, coordinated manufacturing and spoke at a number of practitioner educational programs. In the late 1980s, major changes were taking place in the regulation of medicines in Australia, with responsibility shifting from state governments to the federal government under the Therapeutic Goods Act of 1989. Mr. Forbes brought his expertise and enormous number of “grandfather” registrations and listings for complementary and OTC medicines prior to the July 1991 cut-off date for full implementation of the Therapeutic Goods Act. After processing regulatory work for two of Australia’s leading retail brands, Mr. Forbes formed Robert Forbes and Associates in 1993. He is currently the president of the Association of Therapeutic Goods Consultants in Australia and the vice president of the Consultants Association for the Natural Products Industry in the U.S. When not managing RFA, he is in the band known as Tramtracks.
Health E-Insights: What services does your firm offer?
Mr. Forbes: Robert Forbes and Associates is the go-to consultancy for companies in the U.S. and Canada, who want to enter the personal care products market in Australia and/or New Zealand, and who need to ensure their products are compliant. By personal care we are referring to complementary medicines (dietary supplements in the U.S.), foods, cosmetics and household products, and some medical devices. The work we do includes advice on the acceptability of ingredients, claims and the evidence required to support them, labeling, advertising restrictions, government approvals and quarantine permits.
Health E-Insights: When not handling regulatory affairs, you become a professional musician?
Mr. Forbes: I am not a professional musician. I am in a band called Tramtracks that plays and records original music regularly and produces CDs. I play keyboards and theremin, just passably. And I do play a mean tambourine.
Health E-Insights: When did you start your band?
Mr. Forbes: I had been instrumental in inviting the well-known English rock band Yes to Australia in 2003, which was their first Australian concert after nearly 20 years. After the concert tour I felt a bit of a musical vacuum so I built a recording studio, gathered some good friends and we started playing regularly in 2004.
Health E-Insights: Rumor has it you’re a big fan of Yes.
Mr. Forbes: That’s not a rumor; it’s a fact. When I saw them in 1973, it was one of the best concerts I have ever experienced. Years later, I traveled to the U.S. to see Yes several times. I decided to invite them to Australia. In 2002, I delivered an invitation booklet prepared by fans in Australia, and they accepted and eventually toured Australia in 2003. At my suggestion, Australia’s progressive rock band of the 1970s, Sebastian Hardie, re-formed and was the support act for the 2003 Yes tour. Hardie’s well-known keyboard player, Toivo Pilt, now plays in our band. Yes also came to Australia in 2011. In April, I was on the “Cruise to the Edge,” a fantastic cruise that left Miami for five days with 27 bands, including Yes, the early Genesis (Steve Hackett), Tangerine Dream, Soft Machine, PFM, Renaissance, Marillion and many other bands, plus my friend Roger Dean displaying his amazing music album cover artwork. An unforgettable experience.
Health E-Insights: How would you describe your music?
Mr. Forbes: We call it progressive chill. It has a chilled out vibe to it, but we are all influenced by progressive rock. The music is not created by using loops or garage band pre-recorded drums. Rather, we play live and most of our tracks are based on just one live take of that track, with vocals being added later.
Health E-Insights: How many albums have you released?
Mr. Forbes: Apart from a few self-released albums in the early days, we have three professionally mastered and manufactured CDs: See, Rain and You. A new double CD called Grow may be released shortly. For me, Rain is a special album. It was produced specially for an exhibition in the gallery of Australia’s National Glass Art Collection in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales called “Remembering Rain.” A close friend from medical school has become one of Australia’s most respected glass artists, and his work was featured in this exhibition and images of Marc’s glass works are included on the CD cover. The lyrics were written around the theme of Rain.
Health E-Insights: Where can your CDs be purchased?
Mr. Forbes: You can purchase our CDs from CD Baby (http://www.cdbaby.com/) and direct from our website www.tramtracks.com. You can purchase MP3 files from a number of music stores including iTunes and many others. However, we got really tired of receiving statements from these sites indicating that we were receiving either 1 cent or 2 cents per track, so we decided to give away our MP3 files for free. You can download and/or listen to all our tracks, including some new unreleased music at no charge at www.tramtracks.com/free-music.
Health E-Insights: You have Tuesday jam sessions in your corporate headquarters. Can anybody attend?
Mr. Forbes: No. It’s by invitation only. The studio is set up for two keyboard players, three guitarists (rhythm, lead and bass) and drums. We cannot have people showing up expecting to play. We have had the fortune to have played with many guests over the years, and they have all contributed greatly to our sound.
Health E-Insights: Musically speaking, what’s your proudest career achievement?
Mr. Forbes: I have never thought of myself as being good enough musically to have a proudest moment. I am proud of the fact that I instigated the Australian Yes tour and I got to see the joyous faces of around 10,000 Aussie fans, many of whom had never seen them in concert before.
Health E-Insights: What is the most distinct aspect of your office?
Mr. Forbes: Not many regulatory affairs consultancies have a recording studio. Regulatory affairs is a very disciplined profession that requires attention to detail and a good understanding of human health. Without music, I could have become very boring. We have a good team of around 15 people, we work in a fun filled happy office, and staff have benefits including lunch provided every day. However I am not allowed to play loud music during office hours.
Health E-Insights: What is your most treasured musical possession?
Mr. Forbes: Can I list three? First is an old synthesizer I have owned since 1982—a Yamaha CS01 with breath control. For those in the know, it is the last analogue monophonic synth Yamaha made. Not digital, no pre-sets. You have to create the sound every time you use it. Number 2 would be my Memotron, a modern version of the classic Mellotron, in which every note is a sample from the mellotrons used by classic progressive rock bands from the 60s and 70s. The sounds I use most are Tangerine Dream’s flute, the Genesis choir and King Crimson’s strings. Number 3 is my Moog theremin. If you don’t know what a theremin is, look it up on the net. It was the first electronic musical instrument and for a long time, the only one you played without touching the instrument. Think of science fiction soundtracks, and the Beach Boys playing Good Vibrations.
Health E-Insights: What song do most often sing?
Mr. Forbes: Whatever the track I am mixing at the time.
Health E-Insights: Do you sing alone when in your car?
Mr. Forbes: No. I hum and invent melody lines in my head. I tried to sing on a couple of our tracks, but I sound like a frog with a bad cold. I prefer to compose lead synthesizer lines while I drive.
Health E-Insights: How about singing in the shower?
Mr. Forbes: Oh no. It’s all in my head. Sometimes I yawn in the shower, and I sort of sing when I yawn.
Editor’s Note: Check out Marc Grunseit’s beautiful glass at www.marcgrunseit.com.
Sheldon Baker is well-known for creating nutraceutical brand marketing and public relations campaigns. For Health E-Insights interview consideration, contact him at Sheldon@NutraInk.com. And follow him on Twitter @NutraInk. By the way, Sheldon is looking for a few good PR consulting jobs.