Say the words out loud ... Faith. No More. Last year's
emergent US supergroup have pushed 'Angel Dust' around the globe for 12 months,
and it's almost over. Tired, emotional and frayed at the edges, Faith No More
are nearing the end of an important cycle. Difficult frontman and self-styled
'shit terrorist' Mike Patton smoulders silently while the rest of them talk
behind his back ... When does the shit hit the fan?
Mike Patton is quitting Faith No More. That's it. Perhaps.
There is a hushed conversation between drummer Puffy and the
band's manager Warren Entner. Apparently FNM are drawing up a legal charter,
protecting the actual band unit, in case of serious internal conflict between
Well, you have pre-nuptial agreements -- why not something
similar for bands? It's just the timing that seems unusual. After all, the last
man in Mike Patton replaced original singer Chuck Mosley in January '89. Why
not draw up such a contract then? And if it was unnecessary then, why should
there be a need for it now?
A couple of hours later, Mike Patton is feeding me shit from
a spoon: "Two things. First, I want to go see Iggy Pop. Right now. (Iggy
is playing at the same festival FNM are to headline, just outside the former
East Berlin.) Second, I don't want to do an interview. I'm in a really bad mood
... I don't feel I have anything to contribute."
Might it be possible to talk after Iggy's set?
Patton's response is low and cold. "I have made my
decision. I am trying to be polite."
The role of Shit Terrorist that Patton has maximised since
the release of the 'Angel Dust' album 12 months ago, is perhaps beginning to
feel uncomfortable. The singer's inglorious antics during this period have been
well documented: urinating in his own boot on stage and drinking it down before
a capacity crowd; crapping in hotel hair dryers; polluting beverages backstage
with his own excrement; acquiring all manner of contraband pornography. In fact
the singer -- who said "a shit-eating video is so much cooler than
watching two people kissing" last time I interviewed him -- is now
travelling with what might comfortably be deemed an affectionate female friend.
It's difficult to ascertain whether the Shit Terrorist is a
strap-on character, like Bono's MacPhisto, how much Patton could peel away,
even if he wanted to, and whether he is actually proud of this image. Most
critics, when faced with his litany of repellent hobbies, have tried to
understand rather than chastise him. Patton might indeed have inspired the
press intrigue that he wanted over the last 12 months, but at what price? There
has been a fundamental change in the singer's appearance. His hair, which is
usually fashioned after something you might fish out of a plughole, is freshly
trimmed. His clothing is neat; conservative even. And the steel sleeper once
hooked through his pierced eyebrow is gone. Has Patton already begun to scrub
away the Shit Terrorist's stains? And if so, how much of FNM, by association,
will go with it?
He doesn't want to talk about it. The singer has, according
to his press officer, never refused to give an interview before. There is no
question that Patton will be fatigued and virtually desperate to get home after
a solid 12 months touring. But is he actually ready to walk out on the band?
It's a thought. Surely after such a gruelling period on the road, all members
of any group must find very good reasons for staying together. FNM established
themselves initially with Chuck Mosely, and they could feasibly be successfully
without Patton again.
For his part, the singer has always said he loathed being
singled out as a spokesman. But four interviews with each of the remaining band
members are complete. And now it is Patton who doesn't want any part of it.
Of course 2 plus 2 doesn't necessarily equal 5. There is
always the fact that FNM now have nothing left to sell. It's all well and good
to spend time talking with journalists who will use leverage to get front
covers when there's 'product' to shift. But this is the very end of a campaign,
there's not even a crummy EP to flog. Nothing.
"Perhaps you could play up the sensitive artist
angle," suggests one of the band's entourage. Oh yes, sensitive artist,
craps in your Fanta while your back's turned...
And there's always the chance that I'm playing into Patton's
hands. Perhaps this is precisely what he wants; a last chance to generate
controversy and confusion before FNM's final European date on the 'Angel Dust'
tour (they are scheduled to headline the Phoenix Festival on July 17). These
are, after all, two of FNM's favorite commodities.
Journalists are frequently accused of conjuring conspiracy
theories from thin air, but under these circumstances it would take a blind
person not to notice that something is wrong in FNM.
Several hours before the Patton incident, and after the
conversation with Entner takes place, Puffy is evasive on the simple question
of whether the band will stay together.
"Who knows what's gonna happen? I don't know what's
gonna happen. I expect a journalist to wanna try to fucking peek under the
curtain. But I'm honestly not going to help you do that, because I know
nothing. I know nothing."
Despite all this, I'm a fan of Faith No More. And for people
like me, watching the media watching music over the last 12 months has been
U2 and Suede are now embracing the role of full-time media
darlings. Brett, like Coronation Street's Audrey Roberts, has an ability to
find energy in melodrama. Bono, meanwhile, has become a veritable male
supermodel, largely a canvas for the oils of his collaborators. Both are
skilled diplomats. But their music is shit.
A strong character in a band is appealing to journalists and
fans alike. But there is something grotesque about Bono and Brett's
preoccupation with super stardom and their intense vanity. It's increasingly
difficult to relate to these absurd little men atop telescopic pedestals.
All around, people are discussing the death of music, and
it's being reflected in real terms in plummeting sales of records, concert
tickets and weekly music papers... because miniature icons have been made of
these self-infatuated dandies whose actual music is at best aimless and hammy.
In the last 12 months, I have frequently needed reasons to
re-discover my passion for music. And it has been FNM's 'Angel Dust' (an album
for which the band have received comparatively scant recognition) that I have
turned to again and again. It has not failed me yet.
Legend would have it that the visceral 'Angel Dust' was
deemed "commercial suicide" by the band's record label Slash/London
prior to release. It actually entered the UK album chart last June at number
two, and has now sold over 2 million copies worldwide.
"A lot of that was like Bill, Roddy, and Patton writing
'shite' on the wall, running away and then looking to see who saw it,"
admits Puffy. "I honestly never thought it was commercial suicide. Lou
Reed puts out 'Rock N' Roll Animal'. It was a nice hit record. Got him on the
radio I'm sure. Then he puts out 'Metal Machine Music' and expects the same
result. That I think is commercial suicide. The definition of insanity, even.
"When we released 'Angel Dust', we didn't want the same
result we'd had with 'The Real Thing'. I don't think any of us could stand to
go through another photo session with Mike Patton expected to play the role of
Hunk of the Month for 12-year-olds."
'The Real Thing', Patton's first album with Faith No More,
was released in June 89. This gleaming machine-drilled stockade of potential
singles sold consistently throughout Europe, and was finally recognised in the
US after MTV dropped the 'Epic' video into heavy rotation. The band were well
into their second year on the road at this point. 'Angel Dust' is altogether
deviant by comparison, a generic mutant with metal, funk, disco and country
among its basic component parts; crack, cock sucking and all manner of crisis
on Patton's lyrical agenda.
It was Patton who actually embodied the shift between the
buoyant 'Real Thing' album and the freakish, infernal 'Angel Dust'. All other
members of FNM confirmed the stress Patton had endured as a result of two years
touring 'The Real Thing', which had left him both psychologically and
physically scarred. When he joined the band, Patton was a sunny-natured, sober
kid, who might confess to masturbating at a push but had never actually been
away from home. He was ill-prepared for even the little things, like the type
of psychotic fan mail he was to receive as FNM's first pin-up.
"If somebody takes the time to write to you, put a
stamp on the envelope and mail it, there has to be a reason. You have to know
it," he told me when we last met.
"I've had someone write to me -- I hate my parents. I'm
in an institution. I'm thinking about killing myself and I probably will. What
are you going to do about it? Things like -- I've got to take care of an
invalid for the rest of my life and I've got a trust fund to blow, so I'm going
to buy presents for you. Or -- My beloved master, I'll do anything you say.
Read this story I wrote about you beating me. It's amazing how people can take
a little bit of your music -- which has nothing to do with anything -- and
twist it into their lives ... Jesus fucking Christ."
Little things add up.
At the point of 'Angel Dust's release, Patton had entirely
re-invented himself, become willfully self-abusive, both on stage and off --
developing a genuine interest in S&M. He spoke about anal fixation, he
said that a shit-eating video could bring tears to his eyes, he began
developing the Shit Terrorist character in earnest.
"I don't know what happened to me," he said at the
time. "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."
There is no doubt that Patton is now nearing the end of an
(un)natural cycle again.
Backstage at the Bielefelde Stadthalle, there are cheerful
discussions about the previous evening's excesses: "Wie geht deine
nase?" (How's your nose?) That type of thing.
Meanwhile, Warren Entner, a most gracious fellow and a keen
golfer, who also manages Rage Against the Machine and L7, is divulging a little
Entner spent the 60s playing guitar in an obscure combo
named The Grass Roots and, allegedly, taught FNM's Jim Martin everything he
Jim is the type of character who might have been offered a
starring role in Penelope Spheeris' study of the Californian metal scene,
Decline of the Western Civilization. The guitarist actually bought Journey's
back catalogue on CD to take on tour. His heroes include Superman, John Wayne,
and several gunfighter balladeers. Jim would go to war for his country, and
opposes gun control in the US: "Why should I want another one of my rights
taken away from me? Hell, I'm not even allowed to smoke anywhere these
Even though the guitarist is now balding along his centre
parting, and will occasionally wear three pairs of glasses at one time
("Jim Martin is so old it takes him three hours to shit," observes
one of the road crew) he has a notorious appetite for groupies.
"Yup. The main thing in life is to eat food, occupy
your time and have somewhere to bury your bone," he confirms.
Not worried about AIDS at all?
"Of course. That would be a heck of a thing to take
home and spread around your family."
Jim still lives with his mother.
All five of FNM are radically different in character.
However, Jim and keyboard player Roddy Bottum are the absolute antithesis of
one another. Macho and homo respectively. So how does Jim feel about Roddy's
recent decision to talk to the press about his sexuality?
"I didn't feel anything. It's a personal thing. None of
us ever gave him a hard time about it. Whatssisname, from that fucking heavy
metal band ... Rob... "
Halford? (Judas Priest singer)
"Well, he's supposed to be gay, isn't he? People still
go to see Judas Priest concerts. If Roddy wants to announce something in the
press then it's up to him. I don't feel anything about it."
Last month the heavy metal parish magazine Kerrang printed
an article that dealt candidly with Roddy's sexuality. The piece was first
published by San Francisco based gay magazine The Advocate. For Kerrang -- an
organ best known for its naive but blinding sexism (with columns like 'Gaggin'
for a Shaggin') and basic reinforcement of rock stereotypes and cliches -- the
piece was revolutionary.
Jon Hotten, then editor, who decided to publish this
article, says: "I wanted to challenge readers, to make them think about
the fact that there might be gay people in metal. I don't believe sexuality
should be an issue at all, but the fact is, nobody in metal has ever come out
and spoken about being gay before. It was a really brave thing for Roddy to do,
because you could always get the odd idiot going, Oh right, that's it, I'm not
having anything to do with poofs. But I was genuinely surprised by the amount
of letters we got about that piece, all of which were really, really
Roddy appears both glad and mildly apprehensive about
Kerrang's decision to run the article.
"It's probably a really good thing," he says.
What reaction have you had from people since you decided to
go public about your sexuality?
"I don't think I've really talked to anyone about it. I
think people tend to ignore it. It embarrasses people, makes them feel
uncomfortable. But that's fine because my original position was that it was no
big deal anyway. Why should anybody want to talk about what I do with my dick
in my spare time?"
Had you told your parents before you spoke to the press?
"Sure, yeah. They're open-minded people. Good people.
They dealt with it OK. I mean, in the way you'd expect your parents to deal
with it. We come from different generations. It is difficult for older people
to come to terms with homosexuality because it was so chastised when they were
Were you confident that your fans would respond with the
same understanding that you'd expect from your friends?
"Yeah. People that identify with our music, I think
that they deserve a lot of credibility. I don't really think they'd give a
shit. And I can only compare the people I think are seeing my band with the
kind of people I would feel comfortable talking with. That's the only way I can
deal with it. On those terms."
Do you think that by coming out you will also help those
kids in similar hetero-dominated environments who are struggling with their
"Yeah. Definitely. That was in my mind. If you're gay
and that's an issue, it probably does make it easier to know that someone you
respect and admire is too. I don't know if I'm fit to be any kind of a role
There is another small point. Pre-Roddy, keyboard players in
hard rock groups were often hidden behind a curtain onstage. Some bands have
even been known to install monitors in the dressing room and insisted that
their keyboard player perform backstage!
Roddy smiles the smile of a bashful pioneer: "That
whole keyboard player thing, it just adds to the charm, doesn't it?"
Day two at the festival just outside the former East Berlin,
where the most popular local radio station plays yodelling around the clock.
The (deep breath) Freilichtbuhne Whlheide Ampitheatre is not dissimilar to the
type of arena that was constructed for Hitler's rallies. Primitive terracing
built into a man-made valley extends in a 180 degree arc around the stage. The
crowd on the level ground directly in front of the stage lip have enormous
energy and mosh as if they are springing from trampolines in one of those yoghurt commercials.
Backstage, a member of the Anthrax crew is acquainting three
teenage girls with ancient Western protocol observed when wishing to obtain a
backstage pass. And Suicidal Tendencies are practising aerobics (or possibly
ritual foreplay) in front of attentive female onlookers. Probably standard behaviour at a metal-fest.
Bass player Billy Gould is sat on the grass. Let's ask him
why FNM should stay together ...
"Did you ask the rest of them this question?"
"What was their response?"
Puffy said: "There's only one reason to stay together.
To make better music than the last time. As long as the band are interested in
being creative, as long as we can reach up under our shirts, grab a squeeze and
feel that something is still beating, then we have every reason to continue to
play music together."
Roddy claims he's now more interested in FNM than ever
before. "I think everyone felt pretty confident on this tour. And now I'd
like to see us really stretch. I'd like to see FNM do something real
experimental, like writing a classic Top 40 pop single."
Jim appears to calculate with his cock: "Take into
consideration the prestige of the band. The power to attract women and a
reasonably pleasurable lifestyle. You've gotta be out of your nut to throw something like that away. You can be sure Jim Martin will see this thing
through. No matter how long it takes."
Billy grins and considers his response. "I think it was
more a question of why do we stay together after The Real Thing. I don't think
any of us were prepared for that two year period on the road. The Real Thing
tour I look back on as a lotta hell. The record wasn't successful right up
until the end. When the success came we were too tired, too shell shocked to be
able to appreciate it and, God we hated those songs so fucking much.
"I really didn't want to go through it again. 'Angel
Dust' was hard to write. And it was even harder for us to get ourselves
together to go and tour again. But we knew the record had the potential to
really do something, and this time I think we've all played well, and really
enjoyed the songs.
"Now I think we're all feeling a need to reinvent FNM.
But it's a natural thing, like equilibrium I guess. The boat rolls to one side
and you have to counteract to the other. I think we all feel a need to shift
Then the Patton incident happens. In the final moments of a
two-day period with the band, the singer refuses to talk. Patton's timing, if
deliberate, is impeccable. Suddenly there's no opportunity to ask the rest of
the band what the hell is going on. Time only to accept terse apologies before
the bus lurches off the site.
Which forces me to speculate about the significance of the
contract that Puffy and Entner were discussing. About Patton's mind-set, and
the motives for his behaviour.
There is one other thing.
Patton and Roddy were asked if they'd like to dress in drag
to illustrate this feature. Roddy seemed to relish the idea. Patton said he'd
think about it. The shoot didn't happen.
There is a chance that Patton was sorely offended by the
suggestion. But it's unthinkable that you couldn't broach such an idea with the
singer who talked candidly in our last interview about dressing up in a Darth
Vader suit and having people piss on him.
No future? It's impossible to be absolutely final about such
a durable group. FNM bounced back from the brink when they lost Chuck Mosley in
88, and again after the crippling Real Thing tour in 91. Warren Entner has
found a surrogate FNM in Rage Against the Machine who are poised and ready to
foster the FNM audience while the band decide whether their sores will in fact,
scab over again.
But it looks like not even Mike Patton knows where Mike
Patton is going now.