FAITH NO MORE live at The Forum, London. March 13th, 1995.
By Martin Bate
Faith No More are back from the wilderness. It's been nearly three years since their massively successful (in the non-American world) Angel Dust album. During this period they toured for a ridiculously long time, fired their long-time guitarist Jim Martin, searched long and hard for a replacement, finally found one in Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance, recorded an album, parted company with Spruance almost as soon as it was finished and asked keyboard tech Dean Menta to join half an hour later. FNM always seem to be a band forced to do things the hard way.
I caught up with them six shows into a pre-album-release mini tour of Europe which saw them playing small venues in the UK, the size of which they hadn't played since back before 'Epic' went nova. The show itself was incredible as always - nobody juxtaposes beauty and ugliness quite like FNM - the frightening Black-Sabbath-on- crack of "Jizzlobber" is followed by the majestic Bee-Gees cover "I Started a Joke" and the super-smooth soundtrack-funk of "Evidence" contrasts with the opening assault of "Cuckoo for Caca". Mike Patton is visually the centre of attention, snarling and spitting, screaming in a crouch, bouncing off the stage-front monitors, crooning gently with mock cabaret stage moves and joking with the audience - when someone throws a drink at him, he asks for more. And, the encore tongue-in-cheek cover of The Cranberries "Zombie" with some poor girl from the audience being dragged on stage to sing while Patton rocks out was one of the funniest things I'd seen in ages. The rest of the band is equally in control. Bill Gould and Mike Bordin are one of the best rhythm sections around at the moment, swapping between tribal pummelling and fluid grooves with ease. Roddy Bottum expands the sound with his keyboards and is almost a second front-man and new guitarist Dean Menta plays old and new material alike with confidence and an energy that had slowly become missing from Jim Martin. He is also without a doubt the nicest guy in the music business - fact! If there's a feeling that they aren't *quite* back to 100% it's probably down to the set-list. A good two-thirds of the set is made up of established favourites (the new album wasn't due to come out for another few days) and songs like "Epic" and "We Care a Lot" can't do anything *but* sound a little tired and over-familiar after years of faithful service.
I talked to bassist Bill Gould after the show with Dean dropping into the conversation occasionally. Bill is friendly and talkative, his relaxed confidence and business-like manner giving him the air of someone who'd do well in white-collar management if he ever fancied a career change.
Consumable: So how's the tour going ?
Bill: Fine. I mean it's only been like six or seven shows. It's brand new, we've just started.
C: Why the small clubs ? Bill: It's good to be out here when the record comes out and we don't want to do anything too big because we want to work Dean into it in a comfortable way.
C: How's Dean doing ?
Bill smiles and says "He's doing good I think - what do you think ?" I tell him that there definitely seems to have been something that's just clicked with Dean coming on board. That there seems to be a new confidence and strength and that everyone just seems *happier*. Bill nods, "Aw, totally! I mean just the atmosphere...." he tails off looking satisfied.
C: What happened with Trey ? The official story was that he got cold feet about touring...
Bill: Well, yeah kinda. Y'know, he's a good guitar player but he wasn't the right guy for the band.
C: There were all sorts of rumours about a fall-out with his long time Mr. Bungle band-mate Patton and money disagreements.
Bill: Well...Trey has some personal problems that will probably never be resolved.", he states, abruptly ending that avenue. I hit another slight brick-wall when it comes to song-writing. How did the breakdown of the writing go on the album ? I heard Patton wrote a few guitar parts.. "Yeah, he did." In the past, it's always been hard to work out who does what. "Its something we don't like to talk about."
Okay...What would you say if I said the new album wasn't particularly a challenging album (in the sense that Angel Dust was a notoriously difficult album) but that it was challenging people's ideas of what FNM are. Is that fair?
"Yeah. No. Actually, I think that we didn't think like that as much as we used to. I think it's just more like we decided to stop fucking around and just make a good record", he laughs, "As far as we see one. I don't see us so much as trying to change or define what we are. I think now we're pretty comfortable with what we are."
I noticed a few people tonight who went to the bar as soon as you started playing new smoothie "Evidence". Does that bother you ?
"No, that's cool, it doesn't matter. They did the same thing with (the Commodores) "Easy" when we started playing it too, it's the same thing - it's got the same effect. Y'know in six months it'll be totally different - it's just that people don't have the record yet."
FNM are always challenging people. One of their greatest strengths is that even their fans have no idea what's coming next. The song I had the most problem getting my head round on the new record was "Take This Bottle", (previously compared in Consumable to Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn"). "Just a Man" is pretty camp and "Easy" was pretty tongue-in-cheek but...
Bill interjects, "Take This Bottle" is *not* tongue in cheek!" "Well that's the thing", I tell him. "I kept looking for the irony. There's definitely a sinister undercurrent in there though. Maybe a little violence." Bill nods, "Yeah, a little bit. It's just going to take people a little while to get used to it, it's always like this when our record comes out. If people hear the songs and don't have the album it's a little strange. It doesn't ever actually work live until they get to hear it."
Bill, Roddy and Dean are all computer-literate and all three are members of the independent FNM/Mr. Bungle mailing-list, 'Caca Volante'. Indeed Dean was lurking on the group from its creation back near the start of the year.... So Bill, the Internet, and computers in general - whaddya reckon ?
Bill laughs, "What do I reckon ? Ha Ha ! Big question!" I laugh. OK, well...a few people reckon that 'net-surfing' is just a fad. "No, it's definitely not a fad. I don't think it's that, I just think it should be cheaper and more accessible. Y'know there's no international access really - like, I travel, I tour a lot all over the world and there's no way I can find any international access. The internet is not internet for me because I can't log onto my computer, I can't do any telnets from out here to get back there, so I'm fucked!" Courtney Love, was making her infamous usenet posts from her hotel rooms. I guess she was doing that within the US though.... "Yeah well she did it from America On-Line. Any fucking idiot can do that." Yeah, AOL gets a bad name... "Well it's stupid! I mean it's cool for what it does but..."
We get distracted as Dean wanders over and I take the chance to ask Dean about his other work. He's done work on soundtracks for several games. Anything we'd know ?
"Probably not. I did work for like this major game for this new company but the game was kind of a flop. And then I worked for a guy who did all independent stuff, sound for Virgin games. I don't know the names of them, but tons and tons of stuff. I was like understudy for the guy."
So start looking at the credits for your software, FNM fans. I tell Bill I heard he wrote the title-track for King for a Day on computer. Is that right ?
"Well, ", he pauses then laughs, "a lot of this record was written on computer actually. I tell you what, "Digging the Grave", that song was *all* on computer. The whole fucking song, believe it or not." I look surprised. "Well, the thing is, all the ideas...it's just the way you present your ideas to the rest of the band. I used to have a four-track and I used to put my ideas on there and play them to everybody. And then you want more, you want to learn digital audio and start learning MIDI, so I just do it on computer now because they're more versatile."
"But y'know after you bring your ideas in everybody goes through and arranges the song - Everybody does everything together." Do you find it easier to work like that ? "I just *like* it, I think its cool. I love computers."
What do you think of the Caca Volante mailing list ?
"CV's pretty interesting. I like to watch CV. If there's any mis-information going on I like to say something, but other than that I like to see it develop on its own." There used to be more gossip before people knew you guys were listening. Bill perks up. "Good gossip huh ? Weird shit ?" Well, nobody said much about the Select interview (Recent UK interview which centred tabloid-style around Patton's marriage and Roddy Bottum's personal problems) whereas before it would have sparked some discussion. How much did that interview exaggerate things ?
Bill sighs, "Well, y'know this is the thing about the British press right now, they're using old ideas, things we were fucking around with 2 or 3 years ago. They don't know what to write about and everything is going back to shit and Roddy's drug problems - I mean, Roddy hasn't had a drug problem in two years!"
Yeah, they seem pretty obsessed right now Patton and his shit (Patton now has a history of doing things people normally wouldn't do with their own faeces including having a taste of it according to a recent interview. Call it sick, call it an inquisitive mind, call it what you like, as he doesn't seem to care as long as it keeps the conversation off his private life).
"They don't know what else to talk about. They don't have any other angle."
I tell him it seems as if they're trying to make Patton the cartoon character now that the most easily defined character, Jim Martin has left.
Bill agrees, "Yeah, that's exactly what they're trying to do. See, once they turn you into a cartoon character then they have the power to kill you." A lot of the mis-information and tabloid-hype in the press is kind of scary. "Well, the thing is, you can't really defend yourself because if you do you're giving *power* to the bullshit they say. The thing is, the British press, no matter how funny and entertaining it is to read, doesn't have a lot of credibility outside of England. It's pretty much a joke to the rest of the world. So it's hard to take that seriously."
What about some of the almost fan-hysteria on the mailing-list ? Does it worry you or bother you ? "They can't touch me. I can just delete all my messages.", he grins, "I don't give a fuck! I like it better that way. I like it better electronically cause I can come and go. There's a certain amount of respect because I take somebody at their word, face-value, none of the bullshit, I don't see what they look like. It's cool - it's the way to really communicate with people. With respect to fan-artist contact, computers have really broken down barriers. "Yeah, I'm fucking into it! It's a good way to get way to get information out and a good way to write information. If you want to know something, ask the source. Better than hearing it from some other asshole!" he laughs.
Later he tells me, "We're gonna try and get a web site going in the next couple of months so we'll have like a chat-room on the site and an information centre. Warner has their own web site now (at http://www.warner.com)"
Many of the companies do seem to be getting in to it just now but a lot of the time it seems they're just doing it because it's trendy. "Thats cool. Y'know, whatever it takes. If it gets done, I don't care." He's got a point. So what's the plan now ? "We're gonna tour for fucking forever! Until this time next year at least. We're doing this 'Alternative Nation' thing in Australia [Lollapalooza-type bill happening around Easter]. Three shows and then straight back to the US for the tour starting four days after that."
Are you going to do Lollapalooza ? Have you been asked ?
"No. We have been deemed uncool for Lollapalooza. We *asked* to be on it actually. We don't have the cool factor though."
Would a big thing like that not worry you after your bad experiences on the G'n'R/Metallica tour ? Although it can`t be as 'rock-n- roll' as that...
"Well from what I hear, it is! But I think it would've been good for us to be on it." For the exposure ? "Exactly. But you can't be cool to everybody.", he shrugs.
How much further do you see all this going ? There's been a lot of talk of how things nearly came to an end and so on.
"One day at a time. It's always been fucking tense in this band. And it'll continue to be.", he smiles resignedly. There's been mention of how if you go out now, you'll be going out on a high with the new album. "Well, no. We'll do another one after this, definitely. We already have half of it written so it's not going to take three years to come out next time. We're gonna write it on tour so when we get off tour we'll just make it right away. I'm gonna have a beer, d'you want one ?"
As I say yes, it seems like a good place to end to end this interview. Cheers!