By Mary Anne Hobbs
Everything and nothing a rock band should be, Faith No More are subverting the GNR tour with their maniacal metal mutations and well-weird sexual hangups. Mary Anne Hobbs dodges the slobbering roadies, staggering Gunners and dirty books to get in with the infidel crowd in paris. Derek Ridgers keeps the Faith in focus.
It's a bizarre and grotesque scene at elite Parisian nitespot La Bandouche. Patton stops dead in his tracks as we round the corner into the 'club area', where Vogue models are moshing to 'Teen Spirit': "Look!" He nods towards what resembles a fire-damaged Sindy doll, buttressed by male security bulk. And it is LaToya Jackson!
LaToya, who has made a career out of 'exposing' herself and her family, is currently leading a can-can troupe at La Moulin Rouge. Earlier, we had seen four men wrestling a live alligator trussed with thick rope, out of said venue.
Appropriately, LaToya is accompanied by an employee of a US gutter tabloid named The Star -- something like the Sunday Sport. The hack's eyes bulge, and the gash in the bottom of her face elongates into some semblance of a smile, as Faith No More approach: "So you guys are touring with Guns N' Roses?" Quickly, she presses a card into the palms of the band members and offers to make a handsome cash settlement in exchange for information about Axl Rose.
'Angel Dust', the new Faith No More LP, is simply the most inspired 'schizo-core' album release of 1992. Crazy from anxiety, twisting tourniquets out of melody about haemorrhaging muscle tissue, 'Angel Dust' is a compulsive and supremely durable genetic mutant (Metal, rap, disco and country are among its basic component parts), that will find house room with all manner of squabbling fan factions -- the hardcore, the subversive, and the shambling clubs.
The band's record company, London, have deemed the album 'commercial suicide' for Faith No More. Major labels are not, however, noted for their vision. Consider, for example, that Geffen made an initial pressing of just 40,000 copies of 'Nevermind'.
Faith No More burst out of San Francisco when American hard rock was, at best, rudimentary. Metallica and the cold Speed Metal exponents populated one extreme; mewling, manufactured primp lepers such as Bon Jovi, the other.
FNM were a group who clearly enjoyed meddling, and had nicked off with the rhythmic ethics of both funk and rap to shoot in the ass of their ruddy hard rock. The deviant Faith No More sound crossed over to the alternative as well as the metal audience in the UK as early as 1987, with 'We Care a Lot', taken from their debut album 'Introduce Yourself', featuring original lawless vocalist Chuck Mosely.
FNM are still notorious for the mutual malice between one another on a personal level. Chuck Mosely however, alleged hysterical drug abuser, left just one drawing pin too many on the chairs of the remaining band members.
Mosely was replaced by Californian skate-punk dude, Mike Patton, in January 1989. The band's second LP -- a gleaming machine-drilled stockade of potential singles, 'The Real Thing', was released 6 months later.
This album, which established the band in the UK, was finally recognised by the slothful, transmission-frazzled US audience after MTV picked up on the 'Epic' single, during the final weeks of a two-year spate on the tarmac.
"We were told to tour for another six months at that point. We couldn't do it. We hated those songs so fucking much," reflects bass player Bill Gould. "But y'know, I guess we're lucky. Nobody died."
The tour bus is a scabby and basic thing. You can't even really call it comfortable. En route to the GNR gig at which FNM will support, drummer Mike Bordin is discussing his affection for painter Francis Bacon: "You know what Baroness Thatcher said about him? FUCKING BARONESS. You know she was made a Baroness yesterday? Thatcher called him, 'That horrible man who paints those disgusting pictures.' Bacon is a goddamn fucking stud as far as I'm concerned. A friend of mine, an artist -- I really respect her opinions and taste -- she's in the process of being covered in tattoos. She had this purple and greenish bruise-looking thing tattooed on the back of her shoulder. I said 'What the hell is that?' She said, 'Oh, that's a self-portrait of Francis Bacon.' I couldn't take my eyes off it. That's where the Bacon thing started."
I finger a 22-date tour itinerary, titled 'GN'FN'R'S: STORMING THE MOTHERLAND'. Among the Gunners' road crew listed are: Personal Assistant to Axl Rose, Assistant to Axl Rose, Assistant to Axl Rose's Assistant, and get this, Witch Doctor.
Keyboard player Roddy Bottum (ex-boyfriend of Courtney Love, trivia fans) tells me that a well-known female American artist employs a crew member specifically to blow cocaine up her anus with a straw.
"It's gossip that keeps this band alive. We're like a bunch of old ladies," muses Patton. "It's the only thing that's new when you're traveling in a time capsule. All you can do is talk shit."
FNM have struggled with their reasons for supporting on the GNR tour. Patton will admit openly that he's a "whore." Bill, meanwhile, enjoys an intimate view of the ugly circus: "GNR and their management are like a small government. Axl's the president, and his manager's a personal advisor. A couple of the other more visible band members are vice-presidents. Then there's the little guys who come underneath, to make sure only the right information is leaked out. They're dependent on the band for their living, so they will police themselves. Support bands are like other countries with whom they maintain a diplomatic front. Like, keep your mouth shut, enjoy the ride and everything will be cool. Open your mouth, and jeopardize your own position. It's an interesting thing to experience first hand."
In addition to the regular security, 500 CRS men have been deployed to the GNR gig. The stench of paranoia hangs heavy in the atmosphere.
As guests of FNM, we are shunted into a small marquee, which is absolutely bare save a couple of chairs and tables, and faces out toward the coach park at the back of the site. Ridgers and I are ordered not to move from the spot. However, our clot-ish guard does not prove too challenging to out-manoeuvre.
Duff McKagan lopes through the Gunners' terrain backstage. He looks punch-drunk, swollen and decaying. "That's business, man," Patton will comment drily. "You have to hold your hat off to the guy who's done that to him." Duff is hoisted up the back of the stage to watch FNM by two sides of beef in uniform. This is as much as I will see of GNR.
The FNM performance is fearsome -- even in the gentle light of the Paris afternoon -- the band bludgeoning their instruments obscenely. It is Patton, however, that really embodies the transition that FNM have made between the clean and linear shape of 'The Real Thing' and the 'Angel Dust' mania. The singer is quite willfully self-abusive; battering his body against stray monitor equipment, twisting mic leads tightly around his throat, he buckles and crawls, and lashes at obtrusive photographers, eyes sparkling like Hopper in Blue Velvet.
Fanatics stockpiled against the steel 'safety' barrier are suffocating directly behind me. The weaker are plucked out like mushrooms from manure, and stretchered away. Limp.
We are back on the bus, attempting to make a dash from the site, however the French tell FNM's long suffering tour manager, "va motorway iz brooken."
Barry Adamson's "Moss Side Story" is playing. Roddy, Patton and I watch a little fellow who is wobbling the monster gargoyles inflating on either side of GNR's stage, so as to achieve some kind of 'scary' effect. Pyro cannons explode. Search lights chase through the blackening skies.
Patton, who has the attention span of a gnat, suddenly springs to his feet, and invites me to inspect a couple of new books he's acquired. The first, a pictorial collection of embalmed bodies lying in their states of grace, is titled Sleeping Beauty. An assassinated family, featured therein, is being considered for the sleeve of the next single, 'A Small Victory'.
The second book, which the singer extracts from a carrier stowed in his claustrophobic bunk, strikes fear and loathing into my breast. The attractive scarlet, Jackson Pollock-esque jacket does not prepare me for the photographs inside, cataloguing the work of a performance artist who decorates naked members of his audience with the organs of ritually slaughtered animals. There are group shots of people up to their elbows in bloody entrails, smearing goat guts over a living naked form. Close-ups of male genitalia, dressed with fresh brains, still seeping mucus: "Some people would feel guilty owning this book, unless they have the correct reason," says Patton. "I don't know why I own it. It's fucked up, but I like it.
"Discovering this kind of thing comes out of boredom. You just start getting really curious. And the further away you get, the more exciting it is. It's that way with sex, with art and with music for me. After a while you just have to know what the next step is."
There are no nubiles on the bus. There are no crack pipes burning as we leave the site. Considering both their status and current environment, FNM do not appear to indulge in traditional gluttonous rock habits. The band members single out guitarist Big Sick Ugly Jim Martin as the only 'womaniser': "Heck I love women. I still live with my mom," he confirms.
"People say that I'm macho because I'm big and hairy compared to the rest of the guys in the band. I grew up with three brothers. It was pretty rough and tumble. Couldn't get away with being a pussy. I like a bottle of beer. I like girls. But I don't know if that has anything to do with rock. As I remember, I was like this before rock."
Meanwhile, Roddy, Patton, and Bill are thrill-seeking on the roof of the bus, which is subsequently rushed by freaking adolescents, whose fists pound like pneumatic drills against the windows. Miliseconds before the vehicle will surely implode, we lurch away. "Wasn't that fantastic," gasps Roddy. "I came...twice! That's more the kind of 'perk' I enjoy."
A three-hour gridlock outside the venue is something we hadn't bargained for. A sweep is organised to kill time in the jam. One of the road crew is, apparently, willing to lick a cat's asshole for $100 on the condition that he chooses the cat, and $150 if it's supplied.
"The one thing you learn on these tours is that the cliche about roadies is almost entirely true," says Patton. "We have one guy, our slimiest roadie. This guy is always with girls. One night me and Bill are in a bar, we're bored. And he's talking to this girl. Both of them are sitting on bar stools. He's been scamming on her all night. It's a little insulting -- you don't want to see it... God. But Bill goes, 'look, look!'. We turned around and he's just leaning over to kiss her. They're both leaning towards each other. And their stools went right from under them. And they fell, like BAM! Slammed on the floor. It was totally violent. It looked like it hurt so bad. Bill and me were just choking. Both of them were so embarrassed they just wanted to die. I thought, 'good.' Poetic justice -- disgusting, slimy pigs. And I don't just mean roadies and groupies. I mean kissers.
"Sometimes a shit-eating video is so much cooler than watching two people kissing. Do you know what I mean?"
"I can't explain a whole lot about sex life, except for the fact that it isn't bountiful," Patton says as we sit in the deserted hotel lobby, in interview, at 3 am. "I think meeting people is great. But on a sexual level it's much easier to get bored I guess ... I don't know ... I've had a lot of mechanical sex ... I wouldn't say that I'm seriously into S&M. I mean, come on, having somebody pee on you wearing a Darth Vader suit. It's great and everything. But take a few steps back and you have to laugh.
"I don't know what happened to me. Maybe I went through puberty or something. I'd say touring as much as we did -- becoming a stimulation junkie, developing a very high threshold for pain and a very low attention span -- would tie anyone in a knot."
All the remaining members of FNM draw attention to the psychological and physical scars that Patton bears as a result of two harrowing years on the road. Many of his fascinations are repellant -- yet it's not difficult to see how they have manifested themselves. Patton will confess to being publicly provocative in the interests of short-term self-amusement -- watching people flinch. However, it is quite evident that he does not wish to be fully 'understood'.
Collectively, the band have ploughed their frustrations and demons into a truly devastating record, and are now set to become one of the most important and infernal metallic forces of the 90s -- for the simple reason that FNM (like Nirvana) are everything and nothing that a visceral rock band is meant to be.