Rock Power | Issue 13 | 18.11.1992
They may manage a superficial grin during photo shoots, but Faith No More are down.
Divisions within personnel, tour boredom, snipes at Axl Rose purely to relieve the boredom... JIM STEVENS asks: Are Faith No More...
On the side?
The Aragon Theatre a beautiful old ballroom on Chicago's North Side. With its high, majestic ceiling, turreted balconies and sweeping staircases, it looks like a cross between an Arthurian castle and a Las Vegas casino. Faith No More would make an equally interesting sideshow in either Camelot or Vegas. They greet the Aragon crowd with a bizarre limbering up routine - only
the guitarist fails to join in the mass workout, but then you can't really imagine Big Jim Martin indulging in anything as downright "pussy" as press-ups.
This strange ritual appears to be a hangover from Faith No More's slothful months of playing
less than two shows a week with Guns N'Roses. Still, it's not as if Mike Patton needs the exercise. Every night, the mesmerising frontman puts himself through a punishing routine: hurling his body around the stage, battering his head against anything that comes in his path, strangling himself with his mic lead and still screaming out schizoid lines like, "Forget the
glamour and mumble a jackhammer, under your breath" during the psychotic 'Caffeine'
But although the crowd are getting into the songs, the Aragon's seating only policy means
that no one dares doing anything more than stand up and shuffle politely beside their chairs.
After a few songs, Patton - who is a self-confessed "stimulation junkie" - decides to inject some insanity into the proceedings.
"We're collecting chairs up here," he says, calmly. "Why don't you pass them on up."
A couple of dozen chairs quickly rain down on the stage, but Patton doesn't even look impressed, Interms of self-amusement, catching chairs isn't nearly provocative enough. Because, when it comes to provocation, nobody does it with more style or any more frequently than Faith No More. And the three months they spent supporting Guns N'Roses during the summer gave them ample opportunity to be offensive.
Prior to the GN'R tour, Faith No More had played a secret gig at the London Marquee as Hairkuts That Kill.
"We're playing Wembley in June," bassist Bill Gould told the crowd, "don't come."
"Yeah, stay home," suggested Mike Patton, "and phone some bomb threats through instead."
Inevitably, it was Axl who came in for their heaviest flak from the band. Besides publicly insulting him and spreading vicious rumours, they even sampled his voice for their stage show. Still, it's not as if Axl Rose is the only one who has ever been wounded by Faith No More's barbed wit.
During 1989/90, they ended up touring their third 'The Real Thing' LP for two arduous years, and the only way to amuse themselves was to insult their touring partners, including Poison, Aerosmith, Whitesnake and Billy Idol. At the end of that tour, Bill Gould complained that,
"The whole thing seems like a dream or a lie that just keeps going - a movie that's being made at our expense."
Given that Faith No More have been touring 'Angel Dust' virtually non-stop since its release last May, does it feel like another movie's being made at their expense?
"No," smiles Bill, "Now, it's a movie being made at Guns N'Roses' expense."
"And it's a much better movie," enthuses Mike Patton, "with a much higher budget. It was shot on 35mm, whereas before we were being shot on Super-8."
Now that Faith No More are touring the States in their own right, they've been reduced to 16mm. They have, however, acquired an extra tour bus and some new, more expensive, toys. Bill, for example, has just bought himself a Kurzweil 2000 keyboard, which has an impressive array of pre-set sounds like Doomsday, Alien Factory and Rainforest Crunch. The bassist is only sorry that he didn't have the keyboard during the tedious GN'R tour
"When we first heard that we might be able to get on tour with Guns N'Roses and Metallica," says Bill, "we thought, That's incredible - the biggest tour in the world! Getting in front of all those people is exactly what you need as a band. But when you get out on tour, you realise that there are a lot of shortcomings.
"I mean, I don't know how much we actually benefited from it because we played to pretty much their crowds, and not many of our fans went. So if somebody said to us now that we could go out and open for Elton John and play in stadiums, we might well turn it down, cos there aren't as many benefits as you'd imagine there are."
"That whole touring environment was so safe and so sterile, it was like a public swimming pool," continues Patton. "When we were playing, we were just the soundtrack to people
having barbecues or shuffling around in their seats."
Even Jim Martin was bored to distraction by the tedium of the tour.
"Guns N'Roses treated us really well," he says, "but my idea of touring is not five days off, two days on. "On this tour, we're playing five nights a week, maybe six, and for me it's a lot easier I'd like to think that if we ever get to the point where we have to tour on that scale then we'll have two stages and leapfrog between them, doing at least five days a week."
Bored to distraction, it's not surprising that Faith No More eventually turned their attention to
Axl, Although it wasn't until the end of the tour and the publication of one particular article where certain members of FNM ridiculed Axl's bald patch that they were reprimanded by the Roses' manager.
"Guns N'Roses have policemen who fish through the media and find things that are written about them," claims Patton. "But slagging Guns N' Roses off was like mouthing off against the
President or saying fuck cops it's something that everyone does. It's like the seat-belt law: they never call you on that, but we're like the one per cent that actually got caught."
"We were just kind of having fun," smiles Bill.
"Yeah," adds Patton, "we can't really apologise. We're just fucked - and this is the way we relate to each other"
The that Faith No More do (or don't) relate to each other has always been central to their overall sound. Someone once described them as "the furious sound of five worlds colliding"; and
during the writing of 'Angel Dust' four of those worlds seriously collided with Jim Martin's.
"The four of us got on really well," says Bill, "so it was actually kind of fun. But getting the fifth part to work was kind of a drag."
Jim - who wrote 'Jizzlobber' seems oblivious to their snipes. But it's true that the rift between him and the others, which opened up during the writing of 'Angel Dust became increasingly wider during the Guns N'Roses tour, and now Jim is the definite outsider of the band - a role that has traditionally belonged to drummer Mike 'Puffy' Bordin.
"What you have to realise," says Jim, "is that we've had a little bit of a problem recently with the
band talking shit about other people in bands (ie Axl & Co)and I suppose I've sort of withdrawn myself from that, cos it's a waste of my time. I can be up in my room playing Tiddlywinks or at the bar drinking, having more fun, so perhaps that's how I became Puffy."
Jim's idea of "having more fun" has been an increasing point of contention between him and the rest of the band - particularly since this is the side of Faith No More that is inevitably picked up on in the press.
"Well, what other side would they go for," demands Jim. The other side is pretty boring."
But isn't there a slightly more cerebral level?
"Yeah, but that's all boring shit," he says. "Everyone has their own cerebrum or whatever the hell you call it to deal with. It's always more fun to read about the wild things."
"Things worked out better than we had planned...working overtime, completed what was assigned. Now everything's ruined," sings Mike Patton on the band's new single, 'Everything's
Ruined' It could be taken as a good indication of where Faith No More are at right now, but it's probably just another example of the fear, guilt and general neurosis that make Faith No More so brilliant.
"I get really ashamed of us," says Mike Patton, over lunch, on the way to the next sound check, "because I think we're all control freaks, and the more time we spend playing in this band, the less control we have. It's seriously harder and harder to maintain control over what we do." "Everyone in this band has their own way of doing things, and you have hardly any control over the whole picture," continues Bill. "If one guy does one thing.- for example, Puffy will walk out after the show and hand out his drum sticks to everybody, which embarrasses the shit out of me, cos it's like, Who are you to hand out your drumsticks, you cheapskate son of a bitch? I'm ashamed for myself cos its like I'm doing it, if he does it."
Earlier in the day, the band had told their record company that they were going to record the promo for 'Everything's Ruined' in a $15 video booth, so maybe their fears about losing control are a little premature. However, you only have to look at the cover of 'Angel Dust',which has a beautiful white bird on the front and a slaughterhouse on the back, to get some idea of the position that Faith No More are in.
On the one hand, they could be about to take Nirvana-style flight; on the other, they could end up as just another piece of meat, strung up on the rock n' roll rack that they experienced first hand on the Guns N' Roses tour, and felt nothing but disgust for. It's a dilemma that they are acutely aware of.
"Every band I've ever liked has turned shitty," says Bill. "Frank Sinatra, Elvis...every single band
that ever became successful. Even Psyche TV went shitty, and we will too,I guess."
Whatever happens to Faith No More, it's obvious that they've come too far to suddenly start
pleasing anyone but themselves,
"You don't really know what people expect of you and you can't waste time thinking about it," states Mike Patton. "You need a frame of reference, but if you look at it like, 'What is someone expecting of me?', that will definitely alter your reaction. I mean, We were very aware of what
people expected of us on the Guns N'Roses tour, and that's why we fell down and hurt ourselves, cos we didn't have bombs and explosions we looked like the road crew. They couldn't even tell when the band had come on stage!"
"Rock n roll is just conditioning," says Bill. "It's people conditioned into the lifestyle and
imagining what the lifestyle is.Y'know, thinking that there's strippers everywhere and that the
band drive around in limos,"
"But when you're touring on Guns N'Roses level, you realise that it's real," continues Patton. "It really is a part of peoples' lives."
"People bought the myths themselves," adds Billy. "So it gets like a car that's out of control, going downhill really fast."
The Guns N' Roses tour gave Faith No More an insight into a level of stardom that comes uncomfortably close to The Devil's Dictionary's definition of fame: "conspicuously miserable" "Hmm, that's a pretty accurate definition," muses Patton. "It's like Madonna: she's so miserable she's got to make an S&M video."
"But she's happy, too," counters Bill. "Because fame also gives you the key to getting more and more free stuff."
"But even if you can get everything reimbursed or paid for, you're still miserable," insists
Patton. "If you can't even pay for your own fuckin' meal, you're not just miserable, you're pathetic."
With an almost comic sense of timing, the waitress comes over to collect our empty plates and give Patton and Bill a couple of free T-shirts and the manager's compliments. She does, however also present them with their bill.
Faith No More obviously haven't reached the point where they're considered too "pathetic" to pay for their own meals. Let's hope they never do.