RAW MAGAZINE | Issue 110 | 11.11.1992
They're considered weirder than most. They don't have the slightest bit of interest in the Rock culture, they attract psychos, they cause confusion, they chew roses on stage - all this from a bunch who had trauma-free childhoods, believe in family values, ride mountain bikes and collect antique dolls!
LIZ EVANS (words) and TONY MOTTRAM (pix) hop on a plane to Florida to meet the indefinable enigma that is FAITH NO MORE and some members of their obsessive freaky fans.
"IT'S NOT something that is pleasant to talk about, but yeah I do attract weirdos. Well I don't know if it's me, but this band does..."
Over a bowl full of salad in a plush Orlando hotel restaurant, Mike Patton, singer with Faith No
More, and thought to be weirder than most, is contemplating his freak appeal. After six weeks
travelling around America freaks are bound to sneak into the conversation, and it seems that
here in Florida they prevail more than just about anywhere else. Much has been made of FNM's peculiarities, their music has confounded Rock fans, their strong, highly individual characters have intrigued public and press alike, they have become something of an indefinable enigma, and all because they don't adhere to the usual rule of unified identity commonly found amongst Rock bands. The truth is, the people following FNM are way more peculiar than any of the band could ever hope to be.
"They're not really typical," says keyboard player Roddy Bottum of the more extreme fan base. "I think there's three people who are like that. I was writing to one of them for a while, but I
don't think they're typical of obsessive fans. But I want more obsessive fans , I want more psychos at the shows, I'm really attracted to them!" Being an obsessive type himself (he once had an obsessive relationship with Courtney Love of Hole who's now married to Kurt Cobain of
Nirvana), Roddy knows what he's talking about.
He's not bothered about regular groupie types, he wants insanity!
"The whole groupie thing, you can never get around that. It's more sad than sleazy because there's nothing they can achieve by doing it. It's not real power, it's always going to be in Their minds how they got there and they have to live with that which isn't good. because your roots are really important. What you grow into has got to be a product of that and it's wrong."
ON THE regular side of FNM's following, for this tour, there's Adrienne and Kelli from New York, and a couple of the more parasitical faction from Ohio who've been driving guitarist Jim Martin around. Adrienne and Kelli have known various members of the band for several years, they think of them as 'friends' but Jim's chauffeurs are decidedly vampiristic and desperate. One of them chased an alarmed Patton down a hotel corridor and both are unashamedly, constantly self impressed, trying to foist their 'strange' tales on anyone who'll listen. Aside from Jim, everyone wishes they'd just go away.
"It's a little different in England,"says drummer Mike Bordin later in his hotel room, "It's
friendly there and people respect our privacy. Here they tend to take over a little more, like
those girls with Jim. They're just boring, they've got nothing to offer, When I see people like that
on the bus or hanging around I get depressed."
Some what irregular, and far from boring is Karen from Clearwater, affectionately nicknamed 'the Sunshine Lady' by the band. Always smiling the Sunshine Lady has a 400 page scrapbook of FNM and Mr Bungle, which she will pull out at the slightest excuse, claims to have met Patton in past lives which she reaches through regressions, wants to heal him with strange Tibetan methods and crystals, and believes his karma will culminate with hers in a spiritual blast al the
dawning of the age of Aquarius. Or something like that. She's obsessed all right. Patton calls her Satan, and she thinks she scares him. Once he told her he had nightmares about her, so she learnt how to make a dream catcher. Dream catchers are used by American Indians (Sioux and Cherokee in particular) to trap bad dreams, only allowing the good ones to reach you,
"I even gave him a little thread to hang it up with," says the Sunshine Lady, "But he thinks I'm crazy because I'm always hyped when I'm around Him. He needs me, he just doesn't realise it," "She keeps telling me that I'm going to have dinner with her parents someday, and that we're communicating spiritually," says Patton bemusedly,
"She's so happy. I mean no one should be that happy all The fine'"
After the Fort Lauderdale show, the penultimate US gig, the Sunshine Lady turns up at
the hotel with a pile of beautifully wrapped and be-ribboned gifts. It's a little how you would imagine one of the Three Wise Men, except Mike Patton is no baby Jesus and thankfully there's only one Sunshine lady. Her messiah is nowhere to be found, however. He's undergoing acupuncture for lethargy and his throat and numerous other reasons. Sunshine Lady looks as if she might cry when she realises he won't be around, "Tell him I'm sleeping in the parking lot,"
And then there's Phyllis who had to be slung out of a FNM show at Patton's request the last
time they played her town. Phyllis is downright scary. She made tapes of her taking a submissive role to his Mr Dominant, and she wrote him detailed letters of all manner of perverted fantasies.
"She wanted us to make her one of us, she wanted some kind of weird camaraderie."
Patton copied the tapes for his friends. It's the kind of thing you wouldn't believe until you heard it.
ATTRACTING PSYCHOS is bound to be an occupational hazard for a band with five, rather than one or two, powerful presences. Watching them on stage in Fort Lauderdale, it's easy to work out why FNM Induce such confusion and nutty fixations. Especially in a town such as this. If the missing link is anywhere, it's here. Thick necked jocks lunge around like sulky bulldozers, sweating like pigs and smashing their way through human obstacles. On the way out one girl tells her friend how something sharp had been jabbed into her back, she swears it was a knife. A fight breaks out during the gig, kids hurl past each others ears, using any old shoulder as a springboard.
On stage the activity is feverish. Patton chews up a rose thrown at Jim, Roddy behaves like a
demented windmill , Bordin climbs inside his rhythms, entranced. Billy stomps and head bangs and Jim is deadpan, the ultimate cartoon guitarist. Causing confusion is fun. The problems start when fans want to dehumanise and idolise because bass player Billy Gould points out, all
FNM are is a bunch of bums who don't really relate to Rock culture at all.
"Touring with Guns n Roses made me realise I'm not in a Rock band." says Billy on a sunny afternoon in Florida clutching a Strawberry daiquiri, "When the indulgence thing first
happened, with people driving around in limos, no one knew how far the money could go. But now most people are realistic, so to perpetuate that myth now is, I think, unconscious behaviour. The thing that bothers me most about the music industry is how people are programmed. We had such a hard time getting our record accepted because no one could categorise our music. If we played in Czechoslovakia, people would accept us at face value, because they haven't been fed a lot of hype, and they're not into thinking in a prescribed fashion. People in the West are really sophisticated because they think in regimented thought patterns. The worst thing is that record companies and radio stations like people to think in those Ways because then they can target their audience all sell their product. The worst thing is when bands themselves think like that and perpetuate it.
"I think bands like Nirvana are guilty of that kind of behaviour to an extent, because they smash their guitars up. but at least they're not coming from a background where people worship
themselves. We've found that even with the way we are and the way we look, which is like bums, people treat us like royalty; if we don't play with their game they feel insulted. It's a very twisted thing. We're just normal guys making music and the fact that it's made into such a big
deal shows how out of touch people are."
A society which is so huge and relies so heavily on the media for its information is bound to be out of touch to a degree. Depending on cinematic images and TV for just about everything helps to fabricate reality rather than complement it and the Americans have developed such a highly intrusive and sophisticated media culture, that their perceptions cannot remain untouched. The solution? Ban TV!
"People's thresholds are so low, I just can't believe it," remarks Roddy Bottum of the easily offended American sensibility. "It's this over saturation of television, people who've been watching it all their lives, they just can't get over anything. How you raise your kids is of upmost
importance. It's really easy to sit them down in front of the television all day, they're babysat for six hours. If I had kids I don't think I'd let them watch TV, I'd take them out and play games, read
them books, do something to make their minds work. I think it's really important."
Coming from a strict Catholic background, Roddy is surprisingly very close to his parents. He went to Catholic school with Billy who also believes in the family unit very strongly, although
his own was much more relaxed, ("I think we all were I think that's why we have the fucking nerve to do what we're doing!") Mike Bordin went through some 'very testing' times at the age of
ten with his family, and Patton spent more time with his mum and dad than he did out! As for Jim, well he still lives with his mother. "He never moved out!" exclaims Billy, "Fucking twisted bastard! He's just a dickhead. Ask him when he plans on going to the Betty Ford clinic. Tell him Puffy wants to Know work, trust me!"
Considering the album is lyrically a collection of fairly negative observations on American culture, with family values being addressed in particular, it comes as a surprise to discover that all of FNM had relatively trauma-free childhoods,
"The family value it's a really fascinating thing," muses Patton, who claims his lyrics don't work unless they possess a cinematic quality, "You could raise a kid and teach it anything, you could teach it everything wrong and it wouldn't know. Peer groups are a whole different way of learning.You can paint a kid any colour you want and he or she has to go out in the world and be
this way. It's not something I've suffered from at all, but I think it's fun to think you could do that to
he able to control another mind to that extent."
BEING A front man Patton knows all about control. It's his job to work the crowd for the hour or so that FNM are on stage. In Orlando, on the last night of the tour, Patton and Roddy discover an Ecstasy tab on one of the crew. Announcing that They're going to sell it, Patton grabs the tab and waggles it at the front row, like a fisherman with a juicy bait. Arms reach out as the roadie shakes his head. Eventually Patton returns the drug to its worried owner, and the set continues. But not without an extra kick of rage from the rhythm section,
"I was really mad about what happened tonight," explains Mike Bordin back at the hotel, "This was a great tour and things have been going really well, but there are certain things I don't like to hear. I don't like to hear Ecstasy mentioned on stage 'cos Florida is so fucking redneck. One of the band got arresled for a roach here about six or seven years ago, so I was really down on that. But I told him, I said 'Mike, that made me feel like we should just go on stage and do comedy and tell jokes and fuck the music!' Bill was furious. I felt it interfered with my playing and you've got to give your level best."
Drugs aren't something FNM do an awful lot of. At least not serious drugs. Bordin is something of a hemp connoisseur, Roddy enjoys a smoke and the occasional trip when he's raving, Patton
doesn't appear to indulge at all, Jim drowns himself in beer (and has wonderful wise old cures such as whiskey for jet lag) and Billy gets his highs from health food shops.
"Guaraná, that's good, if has plenty of caffeine in it," offers Bill, "And I've got some black stuff which is like tar and gets you really wired. I also have this stuff called Somadamax that's just Been made illegal because kids have been Od-ing on it. It's like a quaalude, it makes you really stupid and very slow and you laugh a lot. Yes, I advocate healthy drugs, because they're healthy!"
Billy also gets his kicks from his computer games. His current fav is Might and Magic, a Dungeons and Dragons type affair which takes three days to play, A perfect pastime for touring, his portable computer is ideal for whiling away lengthy plane rides and looking for new games gives him an excuse to hit the nearest mall. According to Mike Bordin there are kids in the States who've become so embedded in the fantasy worlds of their computer games that
they've actually gone out and murdered people. No doubt FNM would blame the families!
RODDY's RECENTLY acquired a new mountain bike and is travelling to Europe with it. He's a little worried about where he can cycle when he reaches Britain, although the main worry at
the end of the American tour is what to send home and what to take across the Atlantic, Mike Patton has packed a huge square wooden box, Jim has bought three new plastic guitars for
$80 each, so he doesn't know what to do with them, and Roddy's just getting paranoid.
For a band who practically live on the road, such disorganisation is a little surprising, but then again most people don't get carted around in a huge luxury tour bus. And most people don't hoard monkey skulls and withered dolls.
"Have you net Toodles?" asks Patton, holding up an ancient baby doll with diseased limbs and peeling eyes. Apparently he picked her up in a thrift store about three weeks ago, although her place in his heart is already being threatened by a monkey skull he found in Pennslyvania, "It's supposed to win me arguments and protect my home," Patton smiles, "I don't believe in it, but it's a great theory, Bill bought Alister Crowley's original cocaine spoon. It's got a little document with it like a little family tree, saying whose hands it's passed through."
People like the Sunshine Lady perhaps.
Touring isn't just playing and shopping, though, it's about living too, and it can get tough. "This whole thing can be a drag," confesses Billy, "When we get bored we pick on each other. The thing about our group is that everybody's encouraged to take. You have to feel that there's a base of security and then you can do anything you want to, so you can put yourself out and there'll be four other people backing you up, That's When you do your best stuff, if everybody's doing that, you're all going to come up with something good. If you're worried about what everybody else is doing, you'll feel inhibited and you're not going to do that. On the last record Patton was inhibited, he didn't know us very well so his singing was really conventional, He was a little kid, but he's not like that so much now. He's doing what he likes to do and he knows he won't get shot down ,"
THE ONE, very noticeable rift within FNM at the moment is that between Jim Martin and everybody else. The remarkably non-verbal guitarist is obviously enjoying himself as long as there is bar open and girl to take there, but not communicating with the rest of the band. He hasn't been travelling with them since they played Ohio (where the two parasites picked him up). Bordin is the only member who doesn't dismiss him completely. But then the two go back a long way.
"Jim's withdrawing a bit now. I've known him since I was 14. Me and Cliff (Burton, Metallica's bass player who was tragically killed when the band's bus trashed). Joined Jim's band. I don't know why he is withdrawing , and sometimes it makes me sad. He won't talk and that's wrong, bul in some ways I don't think we've ever got along better. Everybody has a certain respect for everybody else in this band. It's like a family. And that comes from having a job and owning a company because that's what we do, we own this band.
"I've actually seen Cliff many times, I'm talked with him a lot. This probably isn't for a Rock magazine, but I have dreams, and my whole world is dreams. My entire fucking everything is
dreams. There's day residue dreams, and there's the part of you, your life, your unconscious, and it's something which is really important to me, it's another part of me. I think the radio's
playing for everybody, but you have to know where to tune in. And fear inhibits people, too. It all depends on what you intake of what people teach you. It's real simple and it's real difficult."
FROM HERE FNM go to Helsinki, then around Europe, where they feel their audience is more accepting than it is in America. Plans For the future vary. Roddy wants to experiment with elevator music, because he's impressed by its power and drama, Bordin wants to work at perfecting the balance and delivering the message, Patton seems happy now he's found
his space within the band and can really spread out, Jim jokingly says he's hoping to make a video for a tune he's come up with ("It'll start out with me in my bedsit. All my possessions will fit onto one table and I'll go busking in the tube stations. Then I'll go home and it'll be raining; it'll make you want to cry.") and Bill wants to get some easy listening out of his system.
"I've been to a lot of early 40s and 50s stuff," he says, "and I'd like to do a couple of standard-type songs. Coming from punk bands and stuff, I've never had the chance to do that, but easy listening's always staring us in the face.
"Youth has a lot to it. People always think that between the ages 15 and 25 are the best years, and after that all you can do is have kids. But they really limit themselves like that, and with music it's the same. Most Composers wrote their best stuff when they were 50 or 60. It's not that I'm comparing Rock music with Classical, but people can do a lot at a late age. Then there are bands who try to stay young well that's their problem. Or they're good at it, I don't know.
"I always like learning things, and improving things, so I think band'll keep changing because
like to do things differently. We're a little bit curious, I'm not saying that's better than the other way, 'cos! don't know about the other way and i couldn't do it."
By 'the other way' Billy means 'safe' And no, FNM couldn't do anything that way. Provocative