FAITH NO MORE | December 1992 | RIP
Rip Magazine | issue December 1992 | Mark Putterford
If there was any substance to the theory of beauty sleep, Faith No More would surely require a fix of Rip Van Winkle proportions. In these ultra-sensitive, politically correct times I suppose you'd have to refer to them as "sartorially challenged" or perhaps "aesthetically under privileged," but in the liberated vocabulary of the good old days "scruffy bastards" would have been perfectly acceptable and appropriate.
Singer Mike Patton is the least beautiful of all. He shuffles from table to table in the huge catering tent erected behind the stage at Gateshead Stadium, the outdoor arena near Newcastle in the north east of England where the Guns N' Roses/FNM/Soundgarden carnival has alighted this day, clad in the most stomach-wrenching pair of leather knickers imaginable--bought, he boasts, at an Iranian flea market in Paris and made from such crusty hide "it feels like I've got half a dead cow wrapped around my balls." On his feet are boots a gravedigger wouldn't be caught dead in; on his back an old rag masquerading as a T-shirt; on his head enough grease to fry a full English breakfast. As he approaches, a sixth sense urges you to look quickly away lest he thrusts a slimy palm under your nose and grunts something about needing a quarter for a cup of coffee.
In fact, "Gaaaawwwwd!" is his opening gambit when he eventually arrives, the Lord's name trailing out of a jaw-breaking yawn. "I'm so tired, man. Doing nothing kinda knocks me out, and we've had so much time off on this tour, it's disgusting. There's, like, a week between shows, and when we do get to play, it's only for 45 minutes. It takes us five songs to warm up, then we've only got three songs left! It sucks."
Sympathy for the boy doesn't come easy. In 15 minutes Patton and his band will be on stage before 20,000 British fans, promoting an album, Angel Dust, which is fully expected to transcend the multi platinum triumph of 1989's The Real Thing and which has already propelled these San Francisco drop outs into the stadium-hopping slipstream of Guns N' Roses and Metallica. It has been, after all, just three years since Patton joined the band, and in the aftermath of The Real Thing and the MTV-cracking success of the "Epic" single, the guy's set to become a millionaire. Who knows, he might soon be able to afford a regular supply of Head & Shoulders.
Up on the stage's chrome-plated catwalk moments later, Patton tries to banish his boredom with a few heart-stopping somersaults. As FNM lurch with slapdash abandon into the thundering strains of "Caffeine" from their excellent new album, and the Gateshead throng--pumped by the exertions of openers Soungarden--surge and froth like a sea of local beer, Patton throws himself head over heels to the floor as if he's engaged in judo combat with the Invisible Man, then staggers to his feet to spit and belch at the front row. He seems to be enjoying himself at last.
Like Patton, whose arms often look like they're having an argument with his legs and are determined to do their own thing, each member of the band could well be performing in his own little world. Guitarist big, sick, ugly Jim Martin, a kind of Guy Fawkes who actually does wear his spectacles over the top of his sunglasses, chugs away with neo-Sabbath inclinations on an inevitably black Flying V. Keyboard player Roddy Bottom, proudly sporting a T-shirt embossed with the legend "Marky Mark," bobs and weaves like one of those Kriss Kross brats. And the rhythm section, bassist Bill Gould and drummer Mike Bordin, twists and tugs its way from thrash to country-and-western, barely acknowledging each other in the process.
But this is cultured chaos and clockwork disarray; a schizophrenic symphony where seductive melodies court hideous guitar riffs, where the bass sound tightens slowly around your neck and chilling keyboard atmospherics suggest you keep one eye over your shoulder. This isn't metal, this is Faith No More.
The 10 p.m. curfew at Gateshead means that FNM have to go on in blazing sunshine, and it's clear that conditions are hardly conducive for a classic performance. But as the band churns through "The Real Thing," "Midlife Crisis" and "We Care A Lot" into the guts of the set, they fall into a measured stride that once again seems at odds with their apparently disjointed delivery. This, after all, is the only place you'll encounter a deadpan rendition of the theme from the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy rubbing shoulders with a vicious spurt of hyper blur like "Introduce Yourself." And thus, what better as an encore than an alarmingly authentic cover of the Commodores' super-smoochy smash "Easy"?
It's 6:30 p.m. when Mike Patton slams himself the stage for the last time, and within a minute FNM are slumped across the leather sofas of a dressing room equipped with a sumptuous spread of food and several crates of ice-cold beer. They hardly need a dressing room, as none of them wear anything on stage other than what they've had on all week, but maybe they like to have a quiet place to pluck out their earplugs (essential FNM stage wear, I kid you not!). This specially adapted locker room, complete with potted plants and moody lighting effects, may as well be it.
The conversation that follows, like almost everything with this band, leaps from one extreme to another--Princess Diana, birth abnormalities, Spain, tuna sandwiches, the Beastie Boys (who like FNM, stayed at the Holiday Inn in Newcastle the previous night), corn circles, radiation, ketamine, animal sex. It's difficult to keep up. Diarrhea seems to be a recurring theme, the result of a bout of mass food poisoning caused, everyone suspects, by a cook on the catering staff who was spotted returning to duty from the lavatory without washing her hands.
"I've just lost half my intestines!" wails Mark, the tour manager, from a nearby cubicle, pants visibly bunched around his ankles.
"C'mon, Mark, let's hear you hit that pan real hard!" yells an excited Patton. "I wanna hear that mutha echo!"
"Squirt for me, baby, squirt!" squeals dread locked Mike Bordin, snatching up a camera and holding it over the top of the cubicle door for a few souvenir snaps.
"I almost squirted tonight onstage," confesses Bill Gould. "It was a real buttock-clenching time for a while. Shit, I hope Axl doesn't have the same problem tonight, what with him wearing those tight white pants and all."
"Hey," Bordin exclaims, "didn't Axl speak to Jim yesterday?"
"Naw, I think it was Patton," says Bill. "I think he said, 'Huhrrrmmmmmnnn,' as he flashed past with his bodyguards."
"I heard it was more like, 'Rrrraaaahhhggg,' actually," adds Roddy.
"Naw, I'm pretty sure it was, 'Huhrrrmmmmmnnn,'" protests Bill.
"Some guy sad to Patton, 'Hey Mike, Axl just spoke to you!' and Patton was like, 'He did?'"
By and large FNM feel they've been treated well on this European tour with Guns N' Roses, although there have hardly been many opportunities to hang out with their illustrious compatriots. As Bill says: "Touring with Axl has been like touring with Michael Jackson--although I think I've seen Michael Jackson more times on this tour that I have Axl!"
Axl aside, contact with the GN'R inner sanctum has been casual and cool. And walking around backstage at Gateshead, you get the impression that, incessant interference from the media and other unwelcome distractions aside, the atmosphere is a little lighter and more comfortable than when Guns visited Europe on the Get in the Ring tour in the summer of 1991. Last time it seemed you needed a laminated VIP pass to even be allowed to breathe in the vicinity of the band. Now everyone seems more relaxed, with smiling faces and friendly nods being the order of the day. Why, even a journalist stumbling into the Guns' dressing room looking for the toilet is forgiven with a shrug of the shoulders when once he'd probably have been mashed into pulp by a hit squad of hulking muscle men.
Yet despite the friendliness surrounding this tour, you get the feeling that the FNM chaps haven't exactly had the time of their lives on the trip; that somehow the whole concept of playing huge outdoor shows is at odds with the essence of the band's attitude and approach.
"Yeah, we're not the kind of band that's make for this kind of stadium show," explains Bill. "It's just not what FNM is about. It may be good from a business point of view because our record has just come out--what better way to promote it than to get on a big tour like this?--but if we had our way, we wouldn't be doing this. I mean, it's cool to be out there in front of a lot of people, but, man, the sound is shit, the place is too big, the crowd is a fucking mile away...it lends itself to more of a cabaret act--the kind of band that wants to indulge in all that theatrical bullshit, with costume changes every other song. I mean, we do change our clothes, but usually only once a month."
The whole sickly circus (just as intense and absurd in the U.K. as it is in the U.S.) that surrounds any GN'R activaty has made life pretty difficult to bear for FNM as well. Ask any of the band how they feel being at the eye of the hurricane, and chances are the inquiry will be met with an expression that suggests someone nearby has passed wind.
"When is this interview going to be printed?" asks Bill with a nervous laugh. "You see, I have to watch what I say. But, hey, fuck that, just print this: I hate the whole circus thing. We all hate it. But at the moment we don't have the power to do what we want to do, so we still have to eat a little bit of shit. We almost have the power to control what we do, but not quite; so we're just gritting our teeth and getting through it the best we can. Every band in the world might think they want to open for GN'R but, lemme tell you, it's been a real ugly personal experience having to deal with all the shit that surrounds this fucking circus. I've always hated that aspect of rock music, and I've never wanted to be part of it; so to find myself being associated with a tour this big kinda sucks."
"Besides," Roddy pipes up, "I'm getting more and more confused about who's who in Guns N' Roses, and it's blowing my mind. There's Dizzy and Iggy and Lizzy and Tizzy and Gilby and Giddy. Shit, man, on stage now there's a horn section, two chick backup singers, two keyboard players, an airline pilot, a basketball coach, a coupla car mechanics..."
The list is interrupted by tour manager Mark, bowels now under control, poking his head around the door to announce that Angel Dust has entered the U.K. album charts at Number 2, only being kept off the summit by Lionel Richie's Back to Front album.
"Slag the bastard off on stage," suggests Mark, an Australian.
"Naw, we'll probably dedicate 'Easy' to him," grins Bill, upholding the band's tradition for contrariness.
That tendency extends to the artwork for Angel Dust, with its front cover highlighting the beauty of an exotic bird, and the back featuring a grisly photograph of a butcher-shop window with the head of a cow hanging among plucked and decapitated chickens on meat hooks.
"Angel Dust leaves itself open to both angelic and demonic connotations," says Bill, "so we wanted to balance the beautiful with the sick. It's not a statement for vegetarianism or anything; it's really just a reflection of the music, a visual representation of what our music is all about--some of it's nice, some of it is fucking ugly."
In the background Guns N' Roses can be heard launching into "Live and Let Die," and those still hanging in the FNM dressing room exchange silent smirks. They seem resigned to the fact that they're gonna have to put up with all this until October, when the awesome U.S. arena bill of Guns, Metallica and FNM winds down.
"This is really just the beginning for us," sighs Bill. "Last time we toured, with The Real Thing, I left home at the age of 26 and got back when I was 28. Some of my friends had moved away, some had gotten married, some had had kids--I had a hard time dealing with that. This time I'm 29, and I know I'm gonna be on the road until I'm 31. Fuck, I don't even wanna think about it."
Mike Patton shuffles back into the room with a pint of coffee in a transparent plastic container and the welcome news that it's almost time to get on the bus for the long overnight drive to London, where they'll snatch a few hours rest before heading on to some godforsaken German hell hole. GN'R will be flying down in their private jet. That doesn't bother FNM though--least of all the explosion-in-a-junk-shop figure of young Patton, who is, after all, just as happy playing with and promoting his side project, the mysterious Mr. Bungle.
"I can't see this band going that way," he grins. "We'd probably end up hitchin' rides to each town with truck drivers or something."
He paws his little goatee and smiles like someone just tossed a buck into his hat. Somehow you can't imagine him ever flashing past surrounded by bodyguards with only a "Huhrrrmmmmmnnn" (or perhaps a "Rrrraaahhhggg") for his fellow travellers. But then again, this is the sick, schizo world of Faith No More. And there, anything goes.