28 September 2015

FAITH NO MORE | Details Magazine | September 1992




Faith No More wreak anarchy in the UK. William Shaw reports from London and Manchester.

Details | September 1992

Twist of Faith 
By William Shaw

No one put a pistol to their heads and told them they had to tour with Guns N' Roses. Faith No More thought it would be good for their bank balance. Now, after three weeks of shows, they're bored silly.
Monday they arrive in London from Paris. Tuesday morning, singer Mike Patton gets a phone call in his Kensington hotel room telling him tonight's show in Manchester has been cancelled. Axl Rose is suffering from exhaustion. Patton, looking a bit like an auto mechanic no one would trust, howls like it's the funniest thing he's ever heard. Downstairs an unshaven, dispirited bass player sits in the lobby. Unlike Patton, Billy Gould says he was looking forward to tonight's concert, if only because it would give him something to do. "But I can understand how Axl would be kind of exhausted, with this rigorous schedule of ours," he dead pans.
So far, the Guns N' Roses European tour is averaging two concerts per week. FNM are used to gigging six nights out of seven.
There's something else about the tour that makes them itchy. In the last three years, FNM have transformed themselves from down-at-the-heel Bay Area misfits to unlikely platinum rock stars. As such, FNM should be appropriate road companions for GNR. But FNM don't share a common musical goal so much as a collective loathing for good taste. The whole stadium-tour circus bugs them.
"I wouldn't go to the show," Patton tells me about their upcoming date at Wembley. "It's a spectator sport. If we can be annoying, then we've accomplished something. I think."

From their first cult hit, "We Care a Lot," 1985's sarcastic riposte to the Live Aid generation, to "Midlife Crisis," this year's scathing assault on the thirty something set, FNM have always traded on their snot-nosed anti-establishmentarianism. The band started out ten years ago when a quiet, dreadlocked drummer named Mike "Puffy" Bordin hooked up with keyboard player Roddy Bottum, who looked like the villain from a Jim Jarmusch film, and Billy Gould, a genial, bass-playing slob. In need of a guitarist they hooked up with the Muppet-like figure of "Big" Jim Martin, an old-fashioned guitar regressive. Martin wears two pairs of glasses, drinks a lot, and loves FNM groupies. He announces rather proudly that he hasn't yet received one Father's Day card. In Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Martin cameos as "The World's Greatest Guitarist."

Finding a singer to suit the band's outlook took longer. Hole's Courtney Love sang a few dates with them, but the group say they were too macho for her ("I spoke to her last night," says Roddy. "She's my best friend..."). For their first two LPs they were fronted by Chuck Mosley. "We Care a Lot" won them an adoring college audience, but by 1989 the big break hadn't come yet. The band were ready to split. "Our singer was fucked up, and we hated him," remembers Billy, matter-of-factly. So they sacked Chuck and replaced him with Mike Patton, from a little-known California cult outfit, Mr. Bungle. Suddenly it all made sense. Sort of.
The year Patton enrolled, they recorded The Real Thing. It was a maverick album, a fractious and improbable amalgam of West Coast punk nihilism, baroque progressive rock, and funk thrash that lurched unexpectedly from style to style. It sat around on the shelves for six months before anyone noticed. Then it started to take off. By early 1990, MTV had latched onto the sneery rock/rap of their single "Epic," which climbed to number five on the charts. Before they knew it, FNM were in the big pool, swimming through a promotional tour that was to last two years and end with them supporting Billy Idol and Robert Plant.

Now, this year's Angel Dust manages to repeat the trick that The Real Thing pulled off so well, somehow containing the group's explicitly separate visions of what they really should be doing on the one album. Angel Dust is easily just as misanthropic as previous FNM records, but this time Mike Patton has given full rein to all of his voyeuristic obsessions. Each song is a piece of cruel theater, a chunk of twentieth-century Gothic melodrama. From the sexual sado-masochism of "Be Aggressive," to the sicko drug violence of "Crack Hitler," the LP is the most brutal music the band has ever produced. Typically, FNM set the rough stuff against ironic, sweet moments, such as their easy-listening cover version of the theme from the film Midnight Cowboy.
The sleeve of Angel Dust features a picture of a beautiful white bird on the front cover and a slaughterhouse on the back. These sorts of inversions are central to the FNM world view, whatever that is. Billy studied Nietzsche at college and still invokes him bizarrely. "Nietzsche says, 'I make the rainbow of urine over the world, but the world is never slow to reciprocate,'" Gould laughs.
"These are the most boring shows I've been to," complains Patton. "The crowd is so safe. Backstage is so boring. All we do is eat..." Patton is intensity incarnate. He's from the backwoods of Eureka, California, a place he describes as "a sick redwood cocoon, hippies on one side, loggers on the other." Having escaped from a place like that, Mike doesn't want to miss out on anything.

With tonight cancelled, it will be a week between shows. The band have nothing to do until Saturday. The time off leaves them exhausted. They're starting to feel flabby, out of shape.
I take Gould and Patton for a meal in Portobello Road. They start talking unguardedly about touring with GNR. Out it all pours. Patton claims one crew member got sacked just for bumping into Axl when the singer was changing costumes one night. Warming to the theme, Gould says that he heard Axl hired an exorcist because he believed he was possessed by the spirit of the dead AC/DC singer Bon Scott. (GNR's publicist later denies both of these tales, adding that "it's physically impossible for anyone to bump into Axl.") They paint Axl as a cranky headmaster that everyone's afraid of. But their stories are backstage hearsay. The fact is, they never get to see Axl much at all.
One of Axl's minders has told Patton that Axl really likes Mr. Bungle. The minder says Axl wants to get into something heavier, more industrial. "Industrial," laughs Patton maniacally, banging the table. "That's sick!"

They have sampled Axl's voice and used it a few times in their stage act, but no one seems to notice. GNR don't watch their shows. Patton thinks they may sometimes watch them over the monitors from their backstage area, but he's not sure.
In the restaurant, Patton shares a secret. Axl has TV screens on stage that display the song words in case he forgets them. On the last night of the tour, Mike Patton tells me he wants "to take a shit right on top of those TV screens, in front of tens of thousands of people."
After lunch we visit Honest Jon's Records, then Vinyl Solution, where we bump into Puffy, who's making the same devoted trawl. It's a West Indian area, and Patton and Billy want to buy some grass on nearby St. Paul's road. Puffy isn't interested.
Mike "Puffy" Bordin confides to me he's worried FNM will get thrown off this tour because of the way the band is behaving. They're too unguarded about slagging GNR.
When I tell Patton this, he wheezes with laughter. "See?" he says. "That's what he's frightened of, but that's what excites me the most." Mike's eyes shine. "Three weeks into the tour and we're already pushing it. We're going to spend the summer with these guys. To me there's nothing... no real reason why we're doing this tour. I mean, it makes real business sense, but on a personal level we have to provoke. To me, that's our duty."

Later, we gravitate to a pub. Rain clouds gather outside. Patton orders a pint of snakebite -- a mixture of cider and lager beloved by English soccer hooligans -- but the barman refuses to serve it. "We don't do them anymore. We had too much trouble." So Patton orders a pint of cider. Billy drinks lager. When we've finished those we have another. "What time is it?" sighs Patton. "Five o'clock? Is that all?" They would be on stage right now.
A Canadian fan shows up, and Patton discusses pornography with him. Mike is an avid consumer, an almost evangelical advocate of autoerotism. Unlike Martin, real sexual interaction leaves Patton cold. He calls phone-sex lines, but not live ones. "You don't call a 970 number because you want to talk," he explains. "That's not why I try it. I don't know why. I've always had a problem with interaction. I'm just not that good at it."
Mike Patton says his adventures in self-stimulation began at an early age. He remembers humping the couch in prepubescent days while watching Gilligan's Island. "I did it in front of everyone," he smirks, "even my parents. I mean, I think it was very healthy in one respect, and very twisted in another..." As he goes on, Mike looks at me for signs of embarrassment.
His other group, Mr. Bungle, sometimes perform in bondage masks. Patton collects them. "Those kind of masks are the most unfathomable, completely space-age thing, but I think they appeal to an instinct that's completely primitive. I have ones with horse bits and blinders, I have ones with tubes and pumps, one with zippers, regular gags. Do I wear them? Yeah, yeah. They have applications in real life. Though I can't say I'm into S&M. I experiment with it. You kind of owe it to yourself."

Perhaps it's because of his demonic on stage charisma, or because his lyrics delve into themes of dominance and powerlessness, but Patton sometimes gets weird letters from fans. He's only written back once. "She started sending gifts and somehow twisted around the idea that I wanted to dominate her, you know? She called me her master... She said, 'I'll do anything for you. I'm your devoted slave.'" Soon she began inventing wild stories about Patton and his friends beating her and sexually abusing her. Now Patton doesn't answer letters anymore.
Back at the hotel, it seems Jim Martin has bailed. He's gone to visit an old Scottish drinking buddy who lives in Birmingham. That night, I take Roddy, Billy, and Patton to the cinema to see Delicatessan. I pay, because their per diem allowances are running low. Afterwards, Roddy Bottum splits and ends up at the Limelight, talking to a conductor "called Michael Thomas something." It turns out he's Michael Tilson Thomas, the principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra. He wants to come and see them at the Wembley show.

Thursday, Mike Patton gets drunk on cider. On the way back from the pub to his hotel he stops outside Kensington Palace -- just by the hotel -- where Prince Charles and Lady Di live. Patton drops his trousers and takes a dump on a park bench by the palace.
That night Billy and Roddy are in Amsterdam to see L7 and the Rollins Band. Billy buys a priest's robes in a flea market there. He's already picked up an East German Trabant car that someone gave him at an earlier date in Stuttgart: "It's so cool. It pollutes so bad."
"Did you HEAR what Patton did?" giggles Billy, just off the plane from Amsterdam. "The turd is still there." He disappears to unpack his priest's robes and put them on in the hotel bar.
"I have kind of a problem," explains Patton. I don't like to use toilets -- ever." Mike says it stems from a childhood fear of invasive insects in the bathroom. But the singer has turned his aversion to the W.C. into a form of scatological terrorism. Without batting an eyelid, he recounts a story about a meanie club owner who locked Patton and the rest of Mr. Bungle up in his club because he claimed they owed him money. He left the man a special gift in the club's microwave oven. "It started out being a problem, but now it's more of a weapon than anything," Patton says.

That night-- the night before Wembley -- the group go out. Roddy visits Madame Jo-Jo's, London's most famous transvestite club. Patton goes to a kitsch strip joint, where he watches the performers do fire-eating tricks.

Saturday is the day when the group finally get to play a concert, one week after their last performance in Paris. Gathering in the hotel lobby to catch the tour bus, the overwhelming feeling is one of resignation. In May, FNM played a well-advertised "secret" date at London's Marquee Club under the name Haircuts that Kill. "We're playing Wembley in June," Patton announced from the stage. "Don't come."
Billy opts to catch the Tube to Wembley, because he has heard that there is a drugstore along the way that stocks Somatomax, which he says is a slimming drug with side effects. "What does it do? It fucks you up," he grins. "The first time, I took it at a nightclub. I woke up on the toilet with my trousers round my ankles."
By the tour-bus stereo, there's a David Sylvian CD. In four pieces. Patton puts on a tape a friend has sent him of songs recorded by educationally disadvantaged children. It features songs with titles like "I Got a New Car," and "Throw Away the Trash," sung in eager, bright-eyed voices. "I love this album," declares Patton. He jumps up and down in the narrow bus corridor. Everybody laughs.

At the stadium, a fan is waiting. Kerry is ex-British army. He spent some time in Northern Ireland. This will be his fifty-ninth FNM concert. His nose is pierced with little horns that protrude from his nostrils and he wears a t-shirt that he designed himself. It features a picture of a man masturbating on a toilet and the caption: GIRLS ARE OK, BUT THEY'RE NOT THE REAL THING. FNM love it.
T-shirts are an integral part of the FNM look. In the bland backstage area, they change into their stage wear. Patton changes into a shirt that features the Route 666 logo of a Texas noise band. Jim martin puts on one that sports the moniker of his favorite defunct metal band, the Mentors.
Slash, Duff, and Matt from GNR appear in a rehearsal room down the corridor and start jamming. Slash is wearing a t-shirt that says "Fuck." A cigarette pokes out through a mass of hair.

Queen's Brian May appears, looking sheepish in white clogs and a loud shirt. He plugs in a guitar and joins in the jam, rehearsing a GNR encore he's going to play on.
Jim watches them rehearse. "What's up, Satan?" he calls to Slash.
Slash looks up. "Hey," he waves at Jim, "where'd you get that shirt?"
FNM don't get a soundcheck. They haven't had one all tour. Behind the stacks of gear, they wait to go on. One GNR flight case lays open, drawers marked with roadie jokes like "Lesbian Awareness Literature" or "Spare Panties." Billy lolls his head around, looking depressed. "People ask, 'Don't you get excited when you get onstage?'" he tells me. "For these gigs, it's more like I finally get to the head of the line in the department of motor vehicles."
Roddy, chain-smoking, explains that at concerts like this, even the audience knows how to perform. "They cheer the first group a little, the next band more, and so on."
Afterward, the group sit backstage in painful silence. After cooling their heels for a week, and pulling a hundred stupid stunts to pass the time before their show, they come away hating the set. They thought they performed abysmally.
Kerry, the pierced fan, disagrees, swearing it was a great show. The band's reaction to the show has more to do with their own depressed state of mind than anything else. In reality it was a riveting performance, dominated by Patton's frantic charisma. He'll crouch down on his haunches like a medieval gargoyle, then spring up and fling himself forward until his feet sail over his head and he'll slap back down on the stage, barking out dementedly the whole time. Before launching into a song, he'll boom out at the crowd of 70,000, "I bet you feel pretty stupid out there."
"Actually," Roddy says, in the dressing room post-match analysis, "I've got to say, Sometimes, Mike, you come off a little arrogant."
Mike Patton looks destroyed. Billy's face is a mask of depression. They all need to talk. They no longer have any perspective on how good a show FNM put on.
That night I will drive Roddy three hundred miles to a rave on the Yorkshire moors near Manchester. He's looking for something to do. We won't mention Wembley. The Manchester show has been rescheduled for tomorrow. Patton wants to come to the rave too, but he's put his back out with the on stage flips.
But now, I follow Jim Martin out of the room. He's the only one who doesn't look bummed. "it was a sluggish, ponderous, sloppy show... but I had fun," he says. Then he sees a pretty woman wandering about backstage in a fishnet top and bra. Jim makes a beeline straight for her. "Hi," he says, "Tell me something new."
"I don't know anything new," the woman answers, flustered.
Jim persists. "Tell me something old then..."


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