During the recording of their most recent and critically acclaimed album 'Angel Dust', it became obvious that a rift was growing in the FAITH NO MORE camp. While vocalist MIKE PATTON was taking an increasingly strong grip on the band's lyrical and musical direction, guitarist and Metal icon BIG JIM MARTIN was becoming increasingly isolated from his band mates. 'Angel Dust' survived, but will the rigours of long-term touring and the pressures of preparing for their next LP be the straws that break the camel's back? No one will admit to having the hump, but STEFFAN CHIRAZI is determined to probe the problems anyway.
FAITH NO More's classic cover of the cheesy 70s Commodores hit 'Easy' sat prettily at Number Three in the UK charts. Faith No More, on the other hand, did not. The goofy fights and mud flinging that we've revelled in with the band have ceased. What's up in the FNM camp?
The problem goes back to the-making of 'Angel Dust', when 'creative differences' led to guitarist Big Jim Martin not being involved as much as usual in the LP. An unwillingness to deal with the issue has left the rift creeping wider ever since... now it's Jim Martin, and the other four.
No one is willing to confront anyone else. When drummer Puffy Bordin heard about this interview, 45 minutes before the band took the stage at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre, he blew a gasket.
"Not now. We cannot discuss it now; we have six months left to tour, so WE WILL NOT F**K IT UP. We'll take care of things at the tour's end."
So get this straight: FNM's latest dispute is long-term, low-key, uneventful, but as powerful as hell.
Have you noticed how much more a part of FNM Mike Patton has now become? Patton's development seems to have escaped press probings. The piss-drinking, the tampon-munching, the lurches, the screams, the insults, the jokes, the lyrics, the dark side of 1989s pin-up. He has become the definition for mischievous, curious and warped youths worldwide, a man who will try anything just for, the hell of it. But the biggest strides Patton made were in actually becoming a happy member of Faith No More. When did this penny drop?
"At first, the fruit wasn't ripe," trills Patton obliquely, "but it got riper and riper, and now it tastes really good. But the actual point at which everything finally clicked is hard to pin down. One thing about this band is that there's many things we've either not had the courage or the means to do before; but we're beginning to care less how we're perceived and to just get on with things."
It's probably easier for him now, looking back, to work out why he was so antagonistic when he first joined FNM.
"The truth is, there were certain things I wanted to know about the band, and I also saw a lot of things I didn't wanna know, so I ignored them. Rather than confronting issues, I found it much easier to ignore them."
Was becoming the Metal pin-up kid of 1989 the sort of thing we're talking about?
So your belligerence and antagonism were just to get you through? "That stuff was just instinct. When you enter a volatile situation, with the whole thing spiralling towards the toilet, you just stir it a little more. With this LP, we were all spiralling in the same direction at last."
WERE YOU encouraged to express your weirder, more f**ked-up ideas on the record, such as on 'Malpractice' and RV?
"It's not really aggression, it's just feeling comfortable, being able to unload everything. There was just a better forum for extremes."
Did you re-invent yourself, with the new haircut, the uglier tones, the darker personae than in the smooth, white pretty boy of yore?
"We'd better talk to the psychiatrist!"
So there was no conscious effort to say, f**k this, I'll never be a magazine pretty boy again'?
"Nothing conscious. Certain things just happen naturally. When you've toured for two years and you're trapped in a time capsule, you come back f**ked up."
Was there this bitterness of 'missing your youth'?
"No, it's just that you get to feel like a rat sometimes, because all you can do is run along with it, chasing the trail of cheese. In the end, you lose dignity - you really do. You end up convincing yourself that you have control when you just don't."
So why is it so much easier now than before?
"Explaining that would be like sitting down with your Mom and explaining why you farted at the dinner table three years ago!"
Is it therapeutic dealing with characters in songs, getting your anger out?
"No, because sometimes it isn't good to have that shit out in the open." He sighs deeply before smirking, "There's this myth about lyricists and singers, that they're always 'projecting their inner-most secrets', which is horse-shit. Singers are the WORST! They can't hide behind instruments..."
ALONG WITH Puffy Bordin, Bill Gould carries the weight of FNM on his shoulders (by choice, and at no extra cost). He's the guy to ask about any problems in the band. Those with Jim Martin - can the faulty engine be repaired?
Bordin considers. "Sure, anything's possible..."
Gould agrees. "Stranger things have happened..."
"I don't really think that ANYTHING right now is faulty," Bordin continues. "We're playing as well as ever, and that's what matters.
All I would say is that we are concerned with getting better; we'd be f**ked if we didn't try to improve, and the next record wi!l also be an improvement."
The making of 'Angel Dust' seemed fraught with tension and pressure. "We were running parts of the running race with a bum leg!" exclaims Gould. "Basically, it's like a puzzle. You've got a square peg and a round hole, and it isn't working, and you get frustrated. We would not
have put the record out if that didn't work, but we managed to pull it off."
SURELY, IN the old small days, artistic freedom was easier because you weren't a 'major' band? Didn't someone from your label say, "I hope you lot haven't bought houses!", after hearing 'Angel Dust' for the first time? "There's always pressure,"
Gould admits. "With 'The Real Thing', we had the pressure of making the record as soon as possible just so as we could pay rent and eat! There's ALWAYS pressure..."
It seems as if there's not as much humour or wackiness evident these days. Gould: "For the first few years of a band, you put humour first. Everything's a big joke. But then you look back and see that the humour is overshadowing other things, and you realise it can't be that way."
Bordin elaborates. "We are very focused on making our hour-and-a-half onstage the best we can, getting the job done properly. In that sense, maybe we're the ones who are worse off, because we have a standard that we now hold ourselves to - and if we don't make that standard we get really pissed off. "We've all grown into this sense of responsibility that there ARE people who buy tickets a month in advance, who plan to see our show, who pay to see us."
ONE THING FNM haven't outgrown is a good moan. Whilst 'Epic' was breaking them last tour, they were whining about being successful but not having money yet. This time, there was the infamous Axl bashing. If y'hate it that much, then surely you leave?
"It wasn't that bad on the road for the first couple of months," says Gould, "but after four months, there were lots of little things..."
Was there any discomfort at being associated with that 'Rock circus'?
Gould: "It's like this. For the past 10 years, we've been playing in this band as professionals. We get offered this huge stadium tour, and we figure that this is where it all leads to, the highest point. "But to be on that level, you have to WANT to be on that level. Touring at the highest
level is a disappointment, because you see a tot of unreal things, a lot of bullshit. And whether it's conscious or subconscious, you wonder to yourself, 'Is this where I'm headed? Is this where it all leads to? To this bullshit?"
"The conditioning of this industry is that that's where you go - you head for that level, as opposed to doing something that you're happy with. If you headline stadiums, you've gotta WANT to do that. It's great if you're into it, but we learnt that we aren't people who could do something like that..."
AS HE sips his cuppa in more serene surroundings than a tour bus, Roddy Bottum considers his expanding role in FNM, both musically and visually.
"On this last album, it was everybody's job to stretch, to take a step forward. And I had to come forward more."
It's Roddy who puts the pop into FNM, and Jim Martin is the Metal. The two extremes have cohabited with superb results, until now. What's Roddy's view of the Martin affair?
"Jim and I are absolute extremes. To enable the scales to keep balanced, the further I go in my direction, the further he has to go in his. If he stays where he is and 1 continue to go further, then things will go off-kilter.
"On the last album, he kinda stayed where he was: it wasn't only that he didn't produce a whole lot of material. So as things stand now, we're a little off-kilter but we'll work it out."
Roddy has a quite different view of the current live shows to Jim Martin's.
"I'm extremely happy with the shows - there's more aggression than ever before. Mike Patton's performance has improved so much, and the intensity level has upped to a point where we take it much more seriously."
Have Faith No More grown from boys to men?
"I suppose so. Our initial success with The Real Thing' was so unexpected that you just have to laugh - it's your only protection. You can only do that for so long before you start looking like an idiot.
"We did it for a long time, laughed at our success, but then we realised that by laughing at that, we were laughing at all the people who'd bought our records."
Was there a feeling of embarrassment that, to some guy in Iowa, for example, selling two million albums puts you in the same basket as bands like Great White?
"Yeah. Suddenly, you're not underground - you're this exposed band. More than embarrassment and discomfort, I think it just took some personal adjustments."
ADJUSTMENTS WHICH still haven't quite kicked in. Moaning on 'The Real Thing' tour, putting up with the rigours of fame (sob) now whingeing about playing to 40,000 people a night...
"We weren't into that whole scene, it wasn't what we were about - but you're right, we were stupid to moan, We should've just split. It would've been the gentlemanly thing to do."
Are the doors closing on Goofyville?
"Pretty much. It's stupid to complain about who we hate all the time to the press, plus I'm pretty bored with it. But when you're asked that 10 millionth time about Axl Rose, you just think, 'Who cares?' "
Then for him to slap your wrists personally...
"That was humiliating, that whole thing. I don't know the guy that well, but he seemed genuinely hurt, just this honest guy, saying, 'Hey, there's only two bands I really like, and I took one of them out with me - and then you bad-mouth me in the press'. They did us a huge favour, and then for us to turn around and say that stuff in press was pretty shitty..."
JIM MARTIN sits, as ever, like an old man. He has become an aural voyeur with his precious mobile phone-scanner Martin doesn't like 'Easy' "Never really did like that song. I didn't even wanna record it..."
After all these months on tour, he can still get his jollies off onstage? "Infrequently, it has to be said," replies the behemoth, "Maybe once a week."
Are we back to the 'it' factor that needs fixing? "Yes, we're back to the 'it' factor. Hopefully, when we do the next record, we can work 'it' out and get back on track."
Martin's just as reluctant to get involved in in-fighting as the other four about the obvious point: that he is currently an unpopular FNMster who doesn't want to confront the issues head-on any more than anyone else. He SEEMS disconnected from the rest of the band. No camaraderie in the workplace. Those have to be hard working conditions.
"The best thing to do is to look at things with your own two eyes. I look at things with mine, and make the best sense of what I see."
But onstage, the band are doing their best shows ever "To me, onstage, it doesn't always seem that way - I felt there was more raw energy comin' off the stage in the past.
"But for Mike Patton, there's probably a lot more energy than ever before..."
Isn't there this delicate 'chemistry'? "Probably - but it's nothing we know anything about. Maybe it's the combination of people.
"As a unit, you may have chemistry, but individually, you may have f**k all. Maybe a band who loses a member would be doomed."
You'll have to watch this space to see if Faith No More can survive...