Melody Maker | 28.11.1992 | David Bennun
"F"* YOU!" The Swedish punter is ill pleased. He would like to get up but Mike Patton, sitting astride his chest and thrusting a microphone in his mouth, is hindering his progress. Mike wants the punter to sing, but the punter isn't so eager. "F you!" is as for as his repertoire goes, so Mike lets him up, and he scrambles back across the stage into the crowd. "I rescued him from the pit," Mike explains later. "Security were gonna pummel him, so I pulled him out, and he looked at me like I was gonna pummel him. I don't know why he was shouting maybe it was the only English he knew. Or maybe he was mad at me." Could be.
Cut to a few hours earlier. Mike and the rest of Faith No More are out on the chilly streets of Gothenburg, shopping and taking in some fresh-frozen culture. Matt Bright and I slouch around the uniformly pink venue, within the uniformly pink Gothenburg fairground watching guitarist Donita Sparks and drummer Dee Plakas of L7 contend with the local TV interviewer, a tubby, inane English expatriate. As you join us, they're telling him that the band met up 25 years ago on a speed binge.
"Why," they are asked for the nth time in their career, "do you call yourself L7?"
Donita sighs. "Because we're all lesbians. It stands for Lesbian 7. There used to be three more of us."
"If you're lesbians, do you fancy me then?" "No," snaps an indignant Dee, "you've got a penis." "lovely girls!" enthuses the dolt, and puts an arm round each. Donita gazes skyward, but the heavens fail to strike him down. Dee looks strongly tempted to do it herself. "Yeah, fun for the family," says Donita. A demented gleam comes into her eyes. "The Manson family."
The TV crew pack up, seemingly oblivious to the snorts of laughter on all sides.
PARTY GIRLS AND BOYS
This is only the second night of their mutual European trek, and already the two bands have taken to each other like ducks to ducks. Backstage is like one big party - an eighth birthday party; apart from the bottle of Bushmills that Dee has just sunk.
"I did not bring you up to be a party-girl badass!" she yells, Greek-accented, in imitation of her father, before slapping a brisk tattoo on my nearby thigh. Juliet from London Records remonstrates with her.
"He loves it when I beat him like a drum!" cries Dee, and tells me how her engagement toFaith No More's keyboardist, Roddy Bottum, has left guitarist Jim Martin the jealous party in a bitter love triangle. Dee is recently married. Her two major talents are percussion and chaos.
''This total white trash redneck construction worker threatened to kick my ass. He said, 'I don't care about anything and I have a bad attitude.' We were touring Florida. It was in this bar around five in the morning, crackers coming out of the woodwork, and he started spouting all these racist stupidities. So I had to respond to them. Right after I left the bar, this big brawl started - like in the movies-chairs being broken over people's heads."
L7 bassist Jennifer Finch heard the shouting, and figured that Dee was involved. But she was having problems of her own in the hall, where a mad janitor had accosted her.
"I walked across his wet floor and this guy grabbed my arm and started babbling at me in Spanish. I yelled back at him in the only Spanish I know, which is 'Your eyelashes look like my butt hair!' In the end, they had to call the police to take him away, even though he worked there." "It's like the tee-shirt says," observes Donita, 'Friends don't let friends go to Florida'."
The water pipes honk and yowl incessantly. Somebody suggests sampling them I remark that Public Enemy got there first. "F***ing racist bastards, hisses Jennifer.
Jim Martin looks up. "Did someone say 'bassists'?" he enquires. "Yeah!" says Jennifer. "F*"ing bassist bastards! Actually, I don't think Public Enemy are racist bastards. It's Ice-T I hate, because he's so cool on lots of issues, but he's a sexist pig, so he makes being a sexist pig look cool."
Across the room, affable FNM bass player Billy Gould looks puzzled and vaguely affronted by the sudden anti-bassist mood. Drummer Mike "Puffy" Bordin sits and glowers at nothing in particular. He does this a lot.
LONG WINDING ROAD
Both bands have been on tour for months. L7 hit the road before guitarist Suzi Gardner had fully recovered from the head injuries caused by falling equipment at the video shoot, aha, apart from a few days' rest here and there, they haven't left it since. Faith No More are fresh, if that's the word, from supporting Guns N'Roses across the US.
"It was entertaining and enlightening, totally educational, says Mike Patton. 'I didn't want to into it with some kind of superior F'**in' attitude. It was like going into the CIA. You see - you have to -things you're maybe not supposed to see and, after a while, you make a judgement. We were out of our place, and that's a good thing, totally healthy."
Somewhere along the line, Mike has acquired an ancient baby doll, name of Toodles,which he carries around tenderly, wrapped in a tee-shirt. His fellow band members make a big fuss of the doll, cooing at it and kissing its forehead. Toodles has a large, pink head, potholed and cracked, a filthy, partially burned, crocheted body, and filmy, opaque green eyes. There is something distinctly eerie about Toodles. I flippantly ask Mike if he breast-feeds Toodles, and he looks at me like I just grew and extra head.
"She doesn't eat," he explains, as one would to a simpleton.
Yet when FNM head for the stage, he props Toodles face-down over a bowl of mayonnaise. Maybe he should have offered the mayo to L7 instead. L7, in the great tradition of support bands, don't get the full benefit of catering. Once a day, a nourishing meal of bread and water or a little thin gruel peremptorily thrust in their direction. These women are hungry, and have resorted to daring raids on FNM's rider.
"Jennifer ripped the breast out of the roast chicken in their dressing-room," Donita snitches. "We're only allowed to have dinner," protests Jennifer. "On this tour, it's like who's in control of who's in control of who ... we heard from a roadie that the tour manager was asking, 'What are L7 doing in our catering?' - so we had to tell him that we were getting coffee, and he went off and reported it to the tour manager. "It's really comical and disgusting," reckons Donita. "Actually," confesses Suzi, "we were slipping pieces of pizza into our pockets."
When L7 take the stage, they play like they won't get fed until they finish the set. Hello, everybody!" calls Donita. Her guitar falls off. Nobody cares.
The Swedish kids welcome L7 as rock'n roll deities. Behind me, two girls scream through "Scrap" and "Pretend We're Dead" fit to shame the most passionate Beatle maniac. I haven't seen this level of teen frenzy since-ever, really. "We didn't have to pay them much, either."
In the corridor, we find Faith No More earnestly debating the merits of seven graphic variations on the theme of rutting rhinos. Seems they're choosing the cover for the next single. A few nervous Hinkleys are in evidence. "Hinckleys," explains Suzi, "are fans or groupies.
You know, after the guy who shot Reagan, the guy who was obsessive about Jodie Foster. L7 have acquired some Hinckley's of their own: a Swedish metal band called Sator, with whom they have struck up a mutual admiration society. Billy Gould, meantime, has promised a place on the guest list to a girl who will, in exchange, bring him a list of the filthiest phrases and most offensive insults known to her language.
"I got a great one in Germany but, when I said it aloud on stage, the whole place went deadly silent. I think! made a boo-boo," he tells me.
The line in question is too vile to be reprinted, even here. The curiously asexual atmosphere backstage doesn't make for thriving Hinckleydom. Most hang around for polite conversation, then move on.
Stockholm is a city of icy grace and elegance. It is also closed on Saturdays. Or maybe that's just because it's Halloween. Halloween is a big deal here, apparently, almost as big as in the States.
"Last Halloween," recalls Jennifer, "we dressed up in identical waitress uniforms, with brown floral print and puffy white sleeves, and put our hair in braids. We played the China Club, which is the place where the highbrow, over-40 rock set go, the 'beautiful people' with leathery faces.The bouncers were out of control , real testosterone monsters -and there we were, these braided waitresses in puffy sleeves, screaming at them to stop roughing up the audience."
We're sitting around a hotel room, L7 and a few stray FNM-ers, conversation bouncing from topic to topic - the quartet's recent highs going to Australia and meeting up with The Cosmic Psychos, playing with Joan Jett at a Rock For Choice benefit and lows Florida; journalists who class female rock bands as a genre, getting compared to Girlschool.
"Girlschool?" Roddy joins in. "Hey, we thought we were touring with Extreme. Then these guys turned up."
Scabies, or a rumour of same, is doing the rounds. Some of the crew are said to suffer from it. "It's nasty," says Jennifer. "You get a rash on your chest that looks like this."
"Aahh cooties! She's got cooties!" Shriek all assembled, recoiling.
Whatever Jennifer has on her chest can't be as spectacular as what she's got on her back. Its a tattoo, about half a foot in diameter. At first, I mistake the design for the cover of Queen's "A Night At The Opera", some kind of irrevocable glam trash aesthetic statement.
On closer inspection, it proves to be an intricate and finely executed, albeit unfinished, representation of four angels who touch wings in a circle as the universe explodes within. It beats the shit put of butterflies and pierced hearts.
Self-decoration abounds, Roddy, in addition to his debonair Errol Flynn moustache which he darkens with borrowed eyeliner for photo shoots has acquired an eyebrow ring, and relishes the squeamishness this causes me.
Mike Patton wears one as well, although the skin looks bruised and infected around his-probably a result of his "interactive" relationship with audiences. A leather strap around his waist reads Sissy.
"I've had a whole series of them," he proudly announces. "'Submissive slave','Sissy Boy', and now just 'Sissy'. They're good for starting conversations."
If you really want to break the ice, how about one that just says pervert?
"Yeah, that's a good one. That'll do it."
For all their reputed in band friction. Faith No More seem to get along
fine. Mike, Roddy and Billy are the charmers, a kind of boys club, gurning and joshing and riling the girls with finger-poppin' doowop renditions of 'Pretend We're Dead'. Puffy is friendly enough but more hard-bitten, and Jim is, uh, difficult to figure out. Tucked away behind his massed hair and bizarre glasses, he answers any questions briskly, and volunteers nothing.
L7 are more like a gang, close-knit, suspicious of the press -or of this particular representative, anyway. Suzi, the band diplomat, is never less than polite. Dee is never less than wild. Donita, and especially Jennifer, tend to be wary.
"Doll it up for the press!" Jennifer repeats, when she's not joining in the current band catchphrase, courtesy of those Florida red necks; "Gaw dam gay gits!" "Last tour I got so sick, I passed out on stage, on a bunch of beer cans. I went to see the doctor and guess what he
Um.. .Girl you better try to have fun no matter what you do?
"Uh-uh. He said, 'You need a rest.'"
Jennifer has a sense of humour. I have a sense of humour. But never, it seems, the twain shall meet.
It's Halloween night. Faith No More are playing the Stockholm ice rink, and Mike Patton has just executed a perfect somersault of the monitors and into the crowd.
"It's like a bodily function," he tells me afterwards, when we finally sit and talk at leisure- something that hasn't happened before because, to quote Jennifer, organising around Faith No More is "like trying to house train a box of maggots."
We talk about bodily functions and disease and decay, the recurring themes of mikes lyrics
"Well I wouldn't say I'm fixated, but there is a kind of fascination about it, decay for sure... No, I don't plan my stage dives, there wouldn't be a lot of mileage in planning something like that. It's more like a bodily function. Okay, okay, I'm fixated!" - and he explains why he's taken to crooning 'The Commodores' "Easy Like Sunday Morning" part way through the set: "People yell at us to play our Black Sabbath cover. So whenever they shout 'War Pigs', we play 'Easy..,' Lionel's the man, really underrated."
When I ask if playing in a band is a way of prolonging your adolescence, Mike is aghast. "No way. You can't base your youth on something like this. What do you do when it's over? This is a fucking movie, man. This isn't gonna last."
Can you see yourself getting old and fat and lazy, sitting on the sofa with your beer and remote, like the characters in your songs?
"Yeah, it's only too easy to imagine that, man. It comes to all of us. It's a horrible thought, horrible - and it's definitely going to happen."
But it isn't until I mention Toodles that Mike truly comes to life.
"TOODLES is what I've been wanting to talk about! Toodles comes from Atlanta. I dug her up. It was on the Guns N'Roses tour. We went to a graveyard, a really old graveyard all prisoners. No names on the gravestones, only numbers. There was this really small grave, and I figured, how could there be an infant prisoner? So I dug it up, and there was Toodles. I could hear 'Sweet Child o' Mine' playing across the night from the open air arena, and I knew we were meant to be together"
The ice rink suddenly starts to feel a whole lot colder.
Everyone's packing up for the night. The band members are all tucked upon their respective tour buses- almost all. As we pass Faith No More's dressing room, the door opens to release a spurned stream of strapping blonde Hinkleys, Followed by a boggling Jim Martin. Any male equivalent will probably be stowed away on L7's coach by now. Soon, Mike will be curling up with his macabre companion. Happy Halloween.