AS A PRELUDE TO THEIR CURRENT EUROPEAN JAUNT, FAITH NO MORE TRAILED ACROSS THE STATES WITH VOIVOD AND SOUNDGARDEN AS PART OF A TRIPLE-PRONGED METAL ATTACK. ROY WILKINSON JOINS THEM ON THE ROAD FOR AN EXERCISE IN AMERICAN EXCESS, ED SIRRS WATCHES THEM BLOW THE OPPOSITION APART
LIKE A burst of rock 'n' roll I tracer fire, three silver juggernauts fly through the night. Asleep inside these chrome capsules are three consignments of metal from a new forge. Triple-headed, this metallic-hued tour beast sweeps along the North American East coast. The monster tour vehicles are design classics, but inside them are bands from heavy duty rock's cutting edge.
Montreal's Voivod headline the package and have the most luxurious road roller to go with their pole position.
Seattle's Soundgarden come in second on the bill. but their gear-packed bus earns them last place in the wheels-of-style comfort stakes.
Opening the show are San Francisco's Faith No More. Between a gig at Washington's Bayou - a perfect replica of London's Mean Fiddler - and New York's Ritz the No More nice guys get the best sleep they can in their mobile hotel. At the wheel is Mad Danny, a man famed for his limitless bonhomie and occasional entertainment spot as M'Asshole Marceau, the C&W mime artist.
As currently high profile as Faith No More are, they're still a long way from the megabuck status of arena plastimetal godz, from Poison to Bon Jovi.
Besides, they're a last minute addition to this tine-up, using the tour substantially as a limber-up for the forthcoming European jaunt.
With three bands carving up shows that range between attendances of a few hundred and 2,500, FNM are not coining it here. The drivers net a bigger profit- 150 dollars a night, double that if they can cruise more than 500 miles plus as many Yorkies as they can eat.
ALL THREE bands thrive, to a greater or lesser extent, on their ambiguity to heavy metal's motley constituency. In many ways Voivod are the most traditional -the sci-fi imagery, a weird and wonderful guitar collection worthy of Spinal Tap's Nigel Tutnell, tempo changes that conjure images of a jazzfusion Rush.
Soundgarden are increasingly puzzling -they're up for mocking metal's sacred codes, as is made dear by the cover of Spinal Tap's 'Big Bottoms' they belt out to straight-faced New Yorkers. But these days, with the 'Louder Than Love' album, their music is a pretty straight angle on tradition.
It's Faith No More's mix of stylistic components, personalities and that UpAmerican commodity irony that's giving them the edge in the meta-metal stakes.
One strength is their mix of mentalities. Generally, they divide into two camps. First, there's guitarist Big Jim Martin and drummer Mike 'Puffy' Bordin. the more traditionally inclined muso-rockheads. In the other camp there's bassist Bill Gould, keyboards man Roddy Bottum and vocalist Michael Patton.
The divide doesn't always hold - as highlighted by Jim's continual references to Hell and Satan - but it's Gould, Bottum and Patton who most often have their tongues in their cheeks. Mention lan 'Wolfchild' Astbury and Billy 'Bill' Duffy travelling in separate tour juggernauts and the three are away. ..
"Yay Wolfchild, go Wolfie'" they chorus.
"The Wolf child is hot", decides Billy, before Mike P drops some of the irony.
"No, we haven't got our own buses yet- not like buttchild."
Roddy: "But where does The Cult keyboard player travel? No one knows they've got one except them - they keep him hidden behind curtains onstage."
FNM's ridiculing of metal's embarrassing elements extends to their songs. 'Surprise! You're Dead' is a cartoon version of speed metal's death obsession.
"Yeah, read the lyrics," agrees Mike P. "They're really ridiculous. The song kinda sounded cartoonish so I wrote that kind of lyric to it. Hey, I listen to a lot of Slayer."
Billy: "It was pretty much Jim's tune. Basically, I think Jim's dead serious about it - he's a twisted guy. He's a self-parody and himself at the same time. and he gives his music that feeling."
DESPITE FNM's duality there are things on a rock tour that can't help but remain traditional. After the Washington show, time-honoured rock characters assemble in the FNM bus-there's Pamela Des Beers, the bargain-basement groupie who is so inherently rock 'n' roll that it takes that rock-archetype gunslinger Big Jim to rise to her challenge.
Afterwards he gives his verdict: "Hell, she was a hell of a lot better than last night's. That chick looked like Elvis' sister- and that's Elvis just before he died."
Next on the list of requisite rock figures is Dave Bud, the band's King roadie. A generously proportioned, younger version of US comedian Sam Kinnison, Dave is always ready with a one-liner and a bagful of tales of his sexual potency: "Did I ever tell you about that time with the four Poison groupies and the salami..."
There's no doubting that FNM have the personnel for serious touring activity.
And touring they have been.
In the wake of the 'The Real Thing' album Faith No More have fought valiantly to usurp Manowar's road rhetoric anthem 'The Kings Of Metal: 'Manowar, Manowar living on the road/When we're in town speakers explode."
The chant threatens to become "Faith No More, Faith No More. . " Already FNM have two post 'The Real Thing' voyages to England under their belt and, as you read this, they'll be midway through a third. And that's before we've mentioned a month's worth of Metallica support slots in the States.
It seems a lot when you look back over the Past six months." groans Billy, his half open eyes bearing testimony to intense sleep deprivation! "I start getting tired simply because I think I should be tired."
But after Metallica they must be up to anything. Metallica's American shows are surely the most extreme environment to perform in.
Billy: "Their fans are insane. We were pretty worried before we started with them but it wasn't too bad. It took a while to get used to a big stage, though — it was like playing in slow motion."
As relaxed as FNM are about it, a full blown American tour can't help but be an exercise in extremity.
Traveling the country by bus rams home the sheer scale of the place, state blurring into state. No benign country either -the scariness of the place is emphasised in Washington.
First the gig is interrupted by an announcement: DCs Mayor Barry has been arrested, apparently the cops have a video of him smoking crack. The second stun comes as we drive away after the show: a man lies prostrate, seemingly shot, on the sidewalk.
"It becomes a haze," drawls Roddy. "I can't remember cities at all. I try but I can't. These guys are better though -they'll go. Remember Nebraska? I just can't do it."
Billy: "It does seem an extreme until you get back and settle in a while and see that nothing's changed. Then you realise that you've been doing something completely different to the way most people live. It becomes a total routine on tour, though - we're almost as adaptable as cockroaches."
"One extremity is the health factor," says Roddy, tackling a subject ably illustrated by Bill's impressive beer belly. "There's too much alcohol availability and never enough good food."
Mike Patton is the one No More geezer unaffected by this. A no drinking health freak, Mike's fitness is apparent when he leaps fearlessly into the ultra-violent New York crowd and emerges miraculously unscathed.
Big Jim is Mike P's inverse.
Billy: "Jim's one out-of-shape motherf**ker. He takes hours to have a shit. He's got the body of a 65-year-old man. We call him grandpa."
IN THE face of touring's stress FNM concoct some dumb distractions.
The latest is the T-shirt race, a contest based on each night's merchandise sales and designed to wind-up band's more competitive members, Jim and Mike Bordin.
Billy: "We keep telling them that it's T-shirts that really decide how good a band is. So when we lose out it's, look guys, the other bands are better people -they're better looking, write better songs. But then when we win we're better."
Midway between this buffoonery and the wildness of touring lies Faith No Mor's oft'-viewed porn vid. Presented to the band by fans, F*** My Boy, features supposed septagenarian incest sex- and is frequently used as a means of clearing the tour bus of lily-livered guests. Right now, however, another video nasty is occupying the band's mind - an intensely televised spectacle. This year Faith No More have been nominated for a Grammy in the annual American pop awards. In the Heavy Metal category they line up against a list of potential prizewinners that include Soundgarden (on the strength of last year's SST album 'Ultramega OK'), Dokken and Metallica. Of course, Metallica were thwarted last year- by Jethro Tull.
"Yeah, f***n' Tull!" guffaws Mike Bordin. "That shows right there how ridiculous these awards are. Everybody knew Metallica would win. Man, they just knew!"
Mike B: "If Metallica don't win the Grammy I'll f***in' run naked down the street. If Dokken were to win it'd be so ridiculous - but look what happened last year."
Billy: "It's a joke, the whole industry's a joke. I feel sorry for anyone who's taken in by it, who takes it seriously. I feel sorry for my family who think it's an honour to be nominated for a Grammy."
Roddy: "It's just the latest in a list of Great Things that've happened to this band. It started with the Metallica tour being the greatest thing. Then we get all these rave reviews in the metal magazines and then all these rock stars declare their undying love for us. Now we're up for a Grammy. We still don't make a penny, we still don't sell any records."
Billy: "We feel like total monkeys sometimes, just running on a wheel so all these people can get the energy generated from it and light their homes.
"There are so many people who make a living from the Grammys and that kinda shit. In American especially. But, hey, I'm still fooled into being flattered. It makes me smile."
Billy knows more about industry lunacy than most - until recently he wasn't getting his ASCAP performance royalties cheque. Instead they were being sent to a songwriter called Barbara Gould.
"I didn't even know I should be getting anything until one day Jim told me about these cheques he'd been sent." he shrugs.
Ah, the biz - what these boys really need is some sponsorship. Surely they were aiming at a Coke deal when they titled the album 'The Real Thing'?
Billy: "Oh yeah, I was thinking, like, a baseball guy or a tennis player in a slow motion shot hitting the ball. while our song plays in the background. But nobody want to sponsor us.
"We were thinking we might get some action with Nestles. They're not so popular after selling milk in South Africa, so we thought they might need some kinda hip thing to get the kids on their side."
That'd set you up nicely for a tour with Public Enemy.
Billy: "The problem is our manager's Jewish and so is our drummer. I think Public Enemy'd prefer a Jew-free tour."
Mike P: "I've got my order in for Public Enemy lederhosen though."
Billy: "Yeah. have you seen that National Lampoon thing on Public
Enemy? It's hilarious. It has this new Public Enemy song called 'Don't Believe The Kike': 'Hymie you couldn't buy me/With a skullcap full o f shekels'."
THE JOKES have always flowed with Faith No More, but nowadays the band-has a new ease about it. It's 18 months since Mike Patton stepped in for the ousted Chuck Mosley. At first it seemed the band were less without the deep-seated tension that seemed so crucial to their existence. Now they're a band reborn, having supplanted their original brooding charm with a furious dynamic that's given them a much wider appeal.
Dark-edged drama is out, a startling live band having taken its place. "Live we're definitely more focused and more consistent. Before it was always a tittle nerve-racking," understates Roddy.
Billy: "At least now you know everybody in the band's doing their best - even if things f*** up you can't get too mad. If you look at my bass I've got all these huge cracks in the neck. That's all from when Chuck was in the band cos every night I'd think about leaving the band. I'd end up either hitting Chuck or the drum riser with my bass.
"I've got an ulcer from that- literally. The ulcer's getting better - then I'd be throwing up every morning. I'm getting old. man - I couldn't keep up with that."
Mike Bordin selects a CD from an ontour collection that includes Cab Calloway. gospel compilations, Bhangra music and all Roxy's albums alongside the metal: "This is great. I can just get into my own world and cool out."
The eclectic essence of Faith No More is to be alive as ever. Only, these days, they can relax while they're at it.