2 September 2015

FAITH NO MORE | Guitar Magazine 1992


Guitar Magazine | September 1992 

Get the Funk Out
by Lee Sherman

Three years ago, when 'The Real Thing' began its ascent to the top of the album charts, bands like Faith No More were the exception; today they are the rule. So what does the band that brought heavy metal kicking and screaming into a new decade do for an encore? Sacrilegious as usual, they break their own rules. You won't find any funk-metal on 'Angel Dust', the San Francisco band's latest -- at least you won't be able to label it as such. Labels are something that this band has consistently tried to avoid, but without them, FNM's music has always been pretty difficult to describe to the uninitiated. That should change with 'Angel Dust'. Though not all that radical a departure from the band's previous work, Faith No More has finally managed to fuse their catholic influences -- from retrograde metal, contemporary funk, world music and punk -- into a cohesive whole. The result is an album that, ironically enough, has a damn good chance of spawning more than one hit single. However, Faith No More knows from experience that it takes more than a great record to have success, and with that in mind, they've headed out on a series of summer concert dates with Metallica and Guns N'Roses.
It isn't only the band's influences that are coming together. While the majority of the songs are still written by the group's core of Mike "Puffy" Bordin on drums, Roddy Bottum on keyboards and Billy Gould on bass (the original threesome that formed Faith No More back in 1982), guitarist Jim Martin and singer Mike Patton are starting to play greater roles: One is the band's dvil, the other the band's angel. But, like most things with Faith No More, it isn't always clear which is which.
Jim is Faith No More's necessary evil, an unreconstructed heavy metal guitar freak in a band of musical experimenters. His guitar playing in Faith No More, while not technically spectacular, is a textbook example of playing the right thing at the right time. If you already think of him as a throwback to the '70s, his work on 'Angel Dust' will both amuse and surprise you. Martin's trademark power riffs are still present in spades but he also gets the opportunity to tread on new ground.
With his lyrics, his many vocal styles and his on stage antics, Mike Patton makes an already weird band even weirder. He's been given a wide berth on this record, but he still manages to save his more scatalogical references for his other band, Mr. Bungle. Patton is now an integral part of Faith No More. (Suffice it to say that no one ever asks about Chuck Mosley any more.)
It's been worth the wait, though fans could easily have lost faith waiting for 'Angel Dust' to appear. After nearly two years on the road, the band took some much needed time to recuperate and write songs for the new record. Time off was short-lived. FNM began to feel a lot of pressure from their management and record company to complete the follow-up to 'The Real Thing' -- pressure that eventually resulted in in-fighting. Of course, this was nothing new for FNM, and as usual, it had a positive effect on the music. Jim's work on 'Angel Dust' started with an argument and ended with some of his most unique guitar parts yet. (To understand how this could occur, one needs to know something about the way this band writes songs. Other bands may jam, but FNM exchanges demo tapes. Former frontman Chuck Mosley lived in Los Angeles while the rest of the group was in the Bay Area, and used to write his lyrics to the music that would arrive in his mailbox. When Mike Patton first came aboard, he did something similar, even though he was living with Puffy at the time.) Jim has always prepared his guitar parts on his own and sent them back to the band for approval. "They weren't really satisfied with some of the things that I was coming up with for their songs," says Jim of this recent effort. "I think that was the pressure showing, because I thought the parts were fine."
It won't be surprising to anyone who's followed this band to hear that Patton's view is almost 180 degrees away from Jim's. "It sounded like Guitar Center," the singer recalls, "somebody playing just to get themselves off. It came together after some primitive intimidation tactics. It's kind of the way we coexist with each other. We give each other lots and lots of trouble. We all believe that everyone deserves equal torment, 'except' for Jim."
By his own admission, this time Jim was going beyond his established role in the band -- his requisite heavy guitar riffs -- but just as there's more to Mike than funk, Jim's talents stretch beyond power chords, "I was trying to enhance the songs," he explains. "I was trying to add another dimension. Sometimes it was more melodic, sometimes it was other things." He maintains that the parts that ended up on the record were nearly identical to those original parts after all. "It really pissed me off," he says. "I don't think the difference between the parts they wanted me to play and the parts I played was enough of a difference to affect our careers. It seems like they wind up the bass player and the drummer. For example, after we did the demo tape, management said 'I hope nobody's buying any houses!' And they knew they were," he laughs. "People get worried about what other people think. I think it makes the band more conservative. They start worrying about writing radio songs and that kind of shit. We're in a position where we ought to do the wildest shit we can." The Sabbathy "Jizzlobber," a song Jim wrote almost entirely by himself, is both the heaviest thing on 'Angel Dust' and one of the strangest.
Part of the pressure was due to rumours that the band was way behind schedule in recording the new album. According to Jim, FNM has never operated on any kind of a schedule, and never will. "I think the problem was our last publicist leaking things out to the press that we were going to be in the studio at a certain time regardless of when we were going in, so it seemed like we were backed up. They wanted us to start writing songs right after we got off tour last time. They were putting a lot of pressure on our bass player. They were telling him that if we got a song out by summer, which was last summer, that it would be the biggest record ever. He's kind of gullible that way."
Jim grew up in Hayward, California, a quiet little town occasionally livened up by the sound of roaring motorcycles. It isn't any wonder that the guitarist was attracted early on to heavy metal. Th first record he ever bought was Black Sabbath's debut, and the first thing he learned to play was the riff in "Iron Man." His first guitar was a Japanese-made Epiphone, which he played through a Yamaha 50-watt amplifier. Later, he graduated to a Fender Stratocaster and Marshall amp, the definitive metal set-up ever since Hendrix reached for the skies. A child of the '70s, Jim has fond memories of 8-track tapes by Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and UFO. Newer guitar players like Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen have had next to no affect on Jim. He admits that the last album he bought was 'Bridge of Sighs' by Robin Trower.
Martin's influences aren't always apparent in the diverse sound of Faith No More, but traces of Jimmy Page can be heard on the new track, "Be Aggressive." Jim's own more aggressive use of his wah-wah pedal on both "Be Aggressive" and "Crack Hitler" provides even more of a throw-back to the '70s. "You can hear it on 'The Real Thing' as well, but it's not as blatant," he says. "I'm using it as a filter. It lends a certain effect to the harmonics."
Indeed, the wah-wah pedal has become Jim's secret weapon. "On some of the other songs I'm using it too, but not in such a '70s fashion. I just have it wide open and it gives it a whole different sound." His current favourite guitar is a 1979 Flying V that's been broken three times. He's also got another Flying V that he uses as a backup and a Gibson Les Paul Deluxe. A long time Marshall man, Jim switched to a Mesa/Boogie amplifier last year when the tubes went out and he couldn't get the sound he wanted out of the replacements. "It's good, because you can dial it in any way you want," he says. "It's got a graphic EQ with a hundred knobs on it. I usually like to keep things simple. With my old Marshall, I'd just run up all the knobs and it'd sound great."
Martin takes a similarly old-fashioned view toward effects, relying primarily on his Morley Power Wah Fuzz. His guitar sound was established years ago, almost by accident, and it isn't likely to change that much. Occasionally, he'll experiment with compressor, delay or vibrato units. He also relies on his whammy bar, especially in live performance where he gets more of an opportunity to solo. "After I got my Strat, I got really used to the whammy bar," says Jim. "Every guitar I got after that had to have a whammy bar on it. I don't use it all that much, but I Like to have it there." Due to the versatility of Faith No More's music, Jim requires different guitars for different songs. He uses a Les Paul on "Be Aggressive," and a Strat on "RV" to get a country twang. Those who think of Jim as the ultimate heavy metal guitarist may be surprised to learn that he also plays banjo and mandolin. In fact, one song which prominently features his mandolin playing nearly found its way onto 'Angel Dust'. Close, but no cigar.
Jim's role as lead guitarist has expanded on the new album, oddly enough because it was the only way he could fit into the songs his compatriots were coming up with. "A lot of the songs had nothing to do with me," he says. "I thought they sounded better without me playing."
Martin's lead playing was a key ingredient in the band's hit, "Epic," but he gets very little room to stretch out in Faith No More. "That happened in the studio as well. I was just noodling around on the demo and there was one little part at the beginning of the solo that grabbed me. Sometimes that's all it takes." On "Be Aggressive," Jim takes a rare extended break. "I was surprised that I was allowed to go on as long as I did," he says. "The band doesn't really like guitar solos that much. It was a part of the song where it really belonged, but that hasn't stopped the band from chopping a guitar solo apart in the past." Normally, Jim prefers to work out his parts well in advance, as on the first album's "Introduce Yourself," where he constructed a dual guitar solo in the manner of Thin Lizzy, playing both parts himself. This time out, the opportunity to play a solo came as a surprise, so he came up with three different impromptu takes that were edited together.
Jim's relationship with the rest of the guys in Faith No More is best described as adversarial. His parts for the new record, as on all the others, were written separately and grafted onto the songs. "My song writing procedure is: I get together with my friends, party for a while, drink a bunch of beers, jam and have fun, and I record it," he explains. "I then go back and listen to the tape, and pick riffs out that would be good for songs. Very little of what I write is actually appropriate for Faith No More. When I write a song for the band, I write most, if not all, the parts, Mike Patton writes the lyrics--he's pretty good at doing what he does. I have to tell everyone else what to play. They're very open to what I have to tell them. I like it when they write stuff to my songs. When it works out, it's great, but they don't really know how to write songs from a guitar point of view; they're used to writing songs from a bass, drums and keyboard point of view."
Established groups like Van Halen are known for never setting foot in the studio at the same time, but they at least put up a fa├žade of brotherhood; after all, two of them are brothers. Jim, a loner by nature, probably would do things this way even if it weren't for arguments. "I rehearsed very little with the band," he says. "I feel like I can do a lot better on my own with the tape. When I'm here with the band, I'm pretty much there for their sake. I don't feel like I should ask the band to play songs over and over again so that I can figure out what the hell I'm going to play. That's where some of the problems came in, because I was figuring out stuff on my own and they weren't hearing it, so when I came in and played it, they weren't used to it."
Dissatisfied with the guitar sound on Faith No More's first two albums, Jim did his research for _The Real Thing_. "I sat in Rick Rubin's studio while he was recording Wolfsbane. There's certain aspects of the sound he gets that I like. I talked to James Hetfield to see how he got his guitar sounds. Most of what they do is mike placement. What I learned from these folks is that you keep experimenting with things until you get what you like. Matt Wallace never paid much attention to getting a good guitar sound--he stuck the mikes on there and that was it."
Jim credits the improved sound on the new album to continued movement down this path: "Matt likes to record drums in a big room with a lot of ambient mikes. This time we recorded them in a drier, more controllable way, with a lot of close-miking. I think that had a lot to do with it. You can hear the drums a lot better without having to really crank them up. If you think about it, a lot of records you listen to today, the kick drum sounds like a snap. On this one, you can hear the bass drum more."
For a totally different take on why it took so long to deliver the new Faith No More album, you only have to talk to another member of Faith No More. Contrary to what Jim says, Mike Patton says the band was too insulated to feel any pressure. "We didn't feel any pressure at all about following up the last record," Patton claims. "We were really confident. The record company was leaving us alone and it was kind of quiet. Little did we know that there was a lot of panic bubbling under the surface. They'd be happier if we delivered a record just like our last record." While Jim expresses concern that the songs on 'Angel Dust' sound too much alike and too much like what is expected of the band, Mike thinks they've done exactly what they wanted to do. Part of the reason for the disagreement may be the lack of straightforward rock songs on this album. "They said there's too much 'gratuitous sampling', and they thought that would affect those poor little rockers' ears," says Mike. "They were concerned that it wasn't commercial enough."
Faith No More has never been easy to categorize, now even less so when their various influences have coalesced into a more distinctive sound, as they have on 'Angel Dust'. "They said we can't go to alternative radio because 'you guys are a failed alternative band,'" recounts Mike, relishing the thought of making life difficult for his record company. "I think the element of danger is a beautiful thing. I think it's great that these record company assholes are worried about making the next house payment. I think it was something they were afraid to deal with."
And then there was the rumour that Patton was leaving the band to rejoin his buddies in Mr. Bungle. Jim claims they never took that possibility seriously, but given Mike's public statements indicating his disillusionment with the way FNM operates, it definitely put pressure on the band. "The people that were the most worried about it were the record company and the managment," according to Jim. "I don't even try to figure out their end of things."
In some ways, the band has gotten even further far out on 'Angel Dust', as evidenced on the hilarious ong, "RV," a song that is clearly a vehicle for Patton's twisted world-view. Then there's their decision to cover the theme from 'Midnight Cowboy' because bassist Billy Gould had some sort of perverse attraction to the movie's storyline!
"We didn't want to make the same record and we all knew that," says Mike. "We've explored more extremes and we've gotten a lot better at executing those extremes." The approach this time was to eliminate as many hyphens from descriptions of the band as was humanly possible. "There was one that really pissed us off: funk-metal. That's one thing that really ate a hole in our stomachs," Mike says. Except for Jim, of course. "I think it was accurate, because I was playing a metal guitar style and Bill was playing funky bass," Martin states. "We played exactly what we wanted to play, but because we all feel the same way about that," insists Mike, "this album sounds the way it does. There are still funk-based grooves, but I think it would be harder for someone to [tag it funk-metal]."
Whether you side with Jim or Mike, the real story is that Faith No More have made a record that both of them can be proud of. In any case, the band is sick and tired of the songs on 'The Real Thing' after playing them on the road for the better part of two years. Jim says it didn't really hit him until the band made it to South America. For Mike, "It's very hard to be objective about 'The Real Thing'. How can you not end up despising it? It's very mechanical to play those songs. There was a period of time when I was really happy with it, but I think we lived a little too long with those things." Mike, like Jim, is also somewhat of an outsider. He's been criticized by some people for his decision to stay active with Mr. Bungle, the band he was in before Faith No More. Those folks needn't worry though -- he's got enough nervous energy for 10 groups. "I think it would be easy for people to have a problem with me, because to them, I'm scum for doing what I'm doing," says Mike. "I'm an adulterous slut. It's real simple to me. It's not a concept, it's not a way of living; it's like taking a shit."
Patton, the baby of the band (and that's meant in a good way!), was a fresh-faced kid from a small town when he first joined Faith No More, moving into Puffy's flat in San Francisco. For 'The Real Thing', his first album with FNM, he wrote his lyrics while listening to tapes of the songs composed by the other members. These days, he's a much more essential part of the group, and he was there writing songs from the beginning. "When you're there with it from the beginning, there's more of a connection," he says. "When you're just writing words to a tape, you end up pressing rewind a lot." Being thrust into an existing situation where the other players have been playing with each other for nearly a decade wasn't easy for the singer at first, and despite his experience as the leader of his own group, it took some time before he was ready to properly express himself. "I've had no choice but to become comfortable," says Mike. "It was either that or choke on your own vomit."
Patton has learned that if you want to get very far in Faith No More, you've got to fight for what you believe in. "I'm making myself more vocal," he says. "I've spent more time and there's certain things I hear the band doing and it's great if they can do it. I wrote a song for this record entirely by myself, 'Malpractice.' When I first joined the band, things were a little foreign to me because I was coming from a background that wasn't very song-oriented. I don't know how to write a pop song. The way I write is very skippy and very irritating."
Those who think of Patton as the group's funk specialist will be surprised to learn that "Malpractice" is one of the most heavy metal tunes on 'Angel Dust', a perfect showcase, in fact, for Jim's crunching riffs. Unlike Jim, Mike didn't grow up obsessed with music. And unlike the others, he never submitted to any music lessons. He doesn't even play any instruments, though he uses a rack with a guitar effect processor on stage with Mr. Bungle. "It's just for freaking out," he says. So then what is he doing in Guitar? Pattons' song writing is unusual but effective in bringing in different influences from rap, pop, metal and avant-garde music. He takes a literary approach to the lyrics, and has been scrawling out words as long as he can remember, but he says he doesn't have any intentions to write anything other than songs. "I can't stick with one idea or concept for longer than five minutes, so songs are perfect."
Many of Faith No More's songs are character sketches, where Mike acts out the part of some tortured soul. He changes roles as easily as Jim changes guitars. The way he writes lyrics is, to say the least, unconventional. "I got one entire song from fortune cookies ("Land of Sunshine"). On another one, I took words from different Frank Sinatra songs and pasted them together. Another one, I was just driving around and there was a piece of paper on the ground, so I stole it." Whether he's rapping or singing, Patton uses his voice as a musical instrument. For him, the sounds he is making are as important as the words, maybe even more so. His favourite singers are Elton John, Diamanda Galas, Chet Baker and John Tardy from Obituary ("up until this last record he didn't even say words, he just made guttural sounds"). He also cites Nomeansno and the Residents as influences. "You gotta steal from all the people you listen to," explains Mike. "I wouldn't even learn words to songs, just phonetics. That to me is way more important." But Patton's no purist when it comes to tone. "I used a bullhorn, I used distortion. It just helps bring out an extreme. I don't care what it takes. If I can't do it with my voice, I'll use something else." On "Crack Hitler," he used a compressor which makes him sound as if his head is being squeezed in a vise. If his singing on 'The Real Thing' was innovative, what he's done on 'Angel Dust' is mind-blowing. From the rap dementia of "Land of Sunshine," his muttering on "RV," and the drone of "Jizzlobber" to the melodic pop of "Everything's Ruined" and "A Small Victory," Mike is the man of a thousand voices. As the group's singer, he's also the most visible guy in the band, and his boyish looks have turned him into something of a reluctant pin-up boy. "Puffy's the only guy who's jealous," says Patton. "All drummers want to be singers. I think it's a myth that the singer needs to be the focus. Bands perpetuate that myth. With somebody like Sebastian Bach it makes sense. Look at him. He could be in an Avon ad."
For all his attempts to be taken seriously as a musician, Patton does get his share of rampaging teenage girls trying to rip his clothes off. "It all comes down to what your mother taught you," he says. "It's not a comfortable thing to deal with. I try to avoid it as much as I can. Put down the tape recorder and let's go have a burrito."
Patton uses pop culture as a weapon. In his eyes, just about the worst thing you can be is politically correct. "If you were asking my opinion on the Rodney King case and I pulled out a Twinkie and started talking about 'Days of Our Lives', it would really freak you out," he says. This is the man whose idea it was to bring in cheerleaders for the chorus of "Be Aggressive," drawing the line between the in-your-face urban angst of rap and the bottled up anxiety of the average suburban town, like Eureka, CA, where he grew up. Nowhere is this more apparent than on "RV," a Tom Waits-like tribute to white trash middle America. "It's about a slob sitting around who doesn't do a thing," says Mike. "I kind of identify with it."



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