Raw Magazine | 01.03.1995 | Issue 170
Humping Axl's Leg | Neil Jeffries
FAITH NO More have come of age. All the bullshit the band have been through now makes sense. In fact, there's a point during 'Evidence', the slowie third track on their new 'King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime' album, where everything makes sense. Wah-wah guitar plays lazy tennis with Roddy Bottum's string-like keyboard stabs, Bill Gould's bass and Mike Bordin's hyper-relaxed drums form a black, Funky sandwich that's swallowed by the psychosmoochie voice of Mike Patton. Bordin can't contain his excitement: "I don't think we've ever gotten the smooth song as smooth as we would like before," says Mike. "But this is as it should be. It's not like a Rock band doing it for the sake of it, so it sounds forced or ham-fisted. At a playback party in France these guys and their girlfriends were slow-dancing to that track. I was so happy!
"Oh, and the backing vocals are Patton. You're the third journalist across Europe to ask who the 'girl' singer is!"
FAITH No More were always the band most likely to l break the mould, this time they've really done it. Six years on from the square-peg-in-a-round-hole breakthrough album, 'The Real Thing', they've clearly learnt some lessons.
Behind them are the triumphs and the torments - a gruelling world tour and massive success with 'The Real Thing', conflicts with a record company who thought they could sell more of the same square-peg music if tailored to the round hole of Metal, then 'Angel Dust', an awkward follow-up that sharpened the corners rather than rounded them off and (after a massive tour opening for Guns N' Roses) led to the departure of recalcitrant guitarist Jim Martin. Martin was replaced by Trey Spruance who played on the new record, but has in turn been replaced by Dean Menta, of which more later. It has, you might say, been a hell of a learning curve ...
And so it is an older, wiser Faith No More (minus the new guy who has stayed Stateside) that pair off to conclude a-two week European press and promotions jaunt by talking to yours truly in a fifth floor suite of London's Mayfair International Hotel.
First up are Bill Goutd, short of hair and bright of eye, and Mike Patton, trim of 'tache and given to outbursts of Beavis and Butt-head-type laughter. Patton relaxes in a chair while Gould sits cross-legged on the bed. Half-an-hour later I ask more or less the same questions of Mike Bordin and Roddy Bottum. Bordin assumes Gould's ecstatic parent roll, while Bottum sits for the most part in an apparently distant silence, dashing that image with occasional quick witted and concise answers. Answers that are the lessons learned by Faith No More.
LESSON ONE: RECORD COMPANY'S ARE NOT ALL CORPORATE ASSHOLES.
HOW, If they hated their record label at the time of 'Angel Dust', everything seems fine now... have the guys there changed?
Gould: "No, it's the same people. Here, London Records, were great. But in the States, at Warners, it's such a big company and they just didn't get it. But we've changed. There's no point being a negative asshole or being antagonistic."
Patton: "We are happy with this record. There was no pushing and no hassle. It was the record we wanted to make."
Gould: "This time we like every song on the record. We've just said, 'However you wanna do it, which ever way you want to go, just go! Run with it.' We don't give a f**k 'cos we're happy with the record. After all, that's why we're here, that's why we've gone through this year of
LESSON TWO: BEING IN FAITH NO MORE IS BETTER THAN NOT BEING IN FAITH NO MORE
DID YOU ever think about splitting up?
Patton: "The problem was, we had some songs kicking about that we knew were good. So no, we never really entertained the idea."
Gould: "Splitting probably would have been an easier thing to do. Probably preferable at some times. But it wasn't really an option because we were writing some really good songs."
Bordin: "I didn't... but I'm sure somebody did. Between the records I wondered if we'd ever get this out - with all the f**kin' shit that was going on."
Like the Guns N' Roses Get In The Ring US tour in summer '92?
Gould : "It SUCKED!"
Bordin: "l wouldn't realty agree with that. I was happy to be out playing in front of a bunch of people, although it was weird."
Gould: "We felt like we didn't have control over our own lives. So we were punching in every direction we could until we found a hard spot. Then we'd grab onto something. We made a lot of mistakes doing that, but we were drowning!"
Patton: "It was like grabbing onto Axl's leg and humping it for awhile, hahaha!"
Gould: "Yeah, we'd talk shit about them until somebody fought back. We tried to see what we could get away with. I think it was attributed as a real negative thing, but for us it was healthy."
It sounds like a kind of therapy.
Gould: "lt was!"
Patton: "And if we didn't do it then, we'd be doing it now!"
LESSON THREE: LIFE IS BETTER WITHOUT JIM MARTIN
HAVE YOU all changed personally, and are things easier merely because Jim Martin is no longer with the band?
Gould: "That's a big difference."
Patton: "I think that's mostly it."
Gould: "We've never really written stuff with Jim, as a band. Usually we'd give him a tape and he'd put stuff to it because he didn't tike practising with us much."
How long has that been going on?
Patton: "He did that on 'The Real Thing'!"
Gould: "He'd have maybe one song that he'd want us to play per record, but most of the time he didn't like what we did. It's hard enough if you don't work together, but then if there's a huge taste difference as well, that just makes it even more frustrating ... I played guitar on a lot of the 'Angel Dust' songs because they just weren't ready. Then we toured and you could see that he wasn't into the record, he wasn't into the songs, he wasn't into the band. But we did a lot of work, we worked our ass off for that record, so we got resentful towards him. None of us were realty looking forward to getting back and writing songs again. Still, we had a lot of ideas. We started writing and Jim would come in once a week and we'd try to go over what we were learning, but it just wasn't happening. We tried it for like two months and finally we decided, 'This is ridiculous'."
LESSON FOUR: TIMING IS EVERYTHING
SO WHY didn't you get rid of Jim before?
Bordin: 'I don't know if we should have. I don't think the time was right, honestly. Dean certainly wouldn't have been around... I think we did it when it was right. I also think that for my mind - and remember I have a different take on this from the other guys, having known the f**ker for 15 years I really hoped that during the process of the tour something would click in and he would discover how to relate to the songs. That was my hope. Yeah, it was totally futile and probably not even realistic, but what the f**k? We followed through with it, then started something different."
Patton: "It's just not that easy. Plus when you've been involved with somebody for years like that - like if you've ever had a girlfriend - you keep on."
Gould: "Not only that, it's really hard to get rid of somebody who doesn't want to go."
Patton: "Someone who won't even admit that there's a problem! And if there is, it's your problem. Because we addressed the fact that there was a problem, the problem was ours. It's the tree falling in the woods thing."
Gould: "But, hey, we didn't want to slit our own throats."
Patton: "We were also pretty stubborn. Probably a little too much so, hahaha!"
LESSON FIVE: IT'S NOT EASY BEING DIFFERENT
Gould: "We took a chance on 'Angel Dust', and we got a lot done as far as how people perceived the band."
Patton: "That's how it should be. Even if you're having a rotten time, you've got to learn from it. That's what you're here for."
Gould: "Ever since 1992 there's been the Pearl Jams and Nirvanas and other bands that have broken, and we've been through all the bullshit that those kind of bands are going through now. Maybe they'll adjust, maybe they won't. But we were thrust into an environment, like in 1991, when our peers weren't Nirvana and Pearl Jam, they were Poison, Whitesnake, Guns N' Roses. There was a huge pressure for us to fit in.
"The Pearl Jam guys are now starting to realise that, when you get into major popularity, it isn't just people who have the same tastes as you who like your band; there's lots of little kids, people who like Ace Of Bass! Eddie will be getting kids in Ace Of Bass T-shirts saying he's their favourite singer and he's having to deal with that. You have to go through a process. You have to hate it to understand it. You have to reject it to know whether you still want to do what you do.
"I can see that with Kurt Cobain shooting himself, or whatever, people get confused. Who are you gonna trust? Are you gonna trust your management who are making a shit-load of money off you? Are you gonna trust this or are you gonna trust that guy? No, you probably ain't gonna trust anybody, so you fight everybody."
Patton: "That's why it's your duty just to make yourself happy."
LESSON SIX: YOUR SINGER KNOWS BEST!
AFTER JIM Martin left, the band sent out guitar-less demo tapes to prospective candidates, but were hugely disappointed with the results. They had a shortlist of two: Trey Spruance of Patton 's side-project band Mr Bungle and Geordie of Killing Joke. The omens were bad from the start with Trey...
Bordin: "Trey didn't come highly recommended by the only person in the band that knew him! Mike Patton said, 'He's great guitarist, he'll do the job, but he's lot dependable and he'll f**k us up ultimately due to his lack of any sense of responsibility'."
With Geordie there was another dilemma:
Bordin: "Geordie's great, he's amazing, but we had such a difference in where we lived, our backgrounds. And Trey we knew already. He was almost like part of the family."
Patton: "It was easier with Trey; a shorter leap of faith, but he didn't come with flying colours. He didn't come with four stars or anything. Great musician and all that - but I lad my doubts about how well we'd work together."
Gould: "If you want to get married again, the worst place to go looking is in sleazy singles bars! And when you're looking for a guitar player, you're looking for a wife! It's a marriage contract with somebody you want to work with, see eye-to-eye with, and depend on. So you might as well keep it as close to home as possible 'cos trust is a luge thing."
Bottum: "Trey was a good guitar player, basically. We can and have dealt with a lot of weird personalities, and that wasn't really too important. It seemed a really good thing to do so we jumped right in. We're all very strange erratic, troublesome personalities at times. We dealt with Jim Martin for a long time; the fact that Trey was probably the same didn't really phase me."
LESSON SEVEN: THE KEYBOARD ROADIE ALSO KNOWS A THING OR TWO
EXIT TREY Spruance, enter 'Angel Dust' tour keyboard roadie Dean Menta...
Patton: "Trey simply didn't want to make the commitment to tour with us. Like Billy said, it's like getting married. Some people panic at the eleventh hour, and Trey f**king threw the ring back! He ran out of the ceremony, hahaha!"
Gould: "Dean was a guy who could do the job, but he was so close to home we almost wanted to look around a little more, actually, we'd thought that with Trey, too. Trey's not a bad guy, it wasn't like that. We didn't have a fight, he just freaked!"
Patton: "We don't hate him. I mean, what could we say? You do what you gotta do, and it took us 20 minutes to get on the phone with Dean."
Gould: "The funny thing is, Dean would usually do the soundchecks because Jim wouldn't do them a lot of the time. Dean would be playing the guitar, and we'd laugh because he'd be playing the songs better than Jim would a lot of the time. But we still didn't think of him 'cos when we got off the road Dean went into computer stuff - he writes soundtracks for CD-ROM games and stuff like that -so we figured he had his own career and he was fine. Until that fateful day."
LESSON EIGHT: WHAT THE HELL, CHANGE THE PRODUCER AS WELL
YOU'RE using Andy Wallace after ten years with Matt Wallace (no relation). Why's that?
Patton: "If change is happening, go with it! More than anything we all knew that, with a new record and these songs, it wouldn't work with Matt. if he made a suggestion we knew him welt enough to say, 'F**k you!'. And he'd say the same to us."
Gould: "But he's cool. We have like a brotherly respect, but at the same time, a brotherly disregard for the other person's opinion. I remember once Matt phoned me up at home ... (looks to Patton)... I don't know if I ever told you this! He was freaked out 'cos I think Jim was calling up about something and he said, 'You guys! I don't know what's going on, I don't want to get in the middle what you guys need is either a new guitarist, a new producer or both.
Patton: "NOWAY! HAHAHAHA!"
Bottum: "It seemed uitimately selfdefeating to continue to do a record with the same producer. Andy did some great stuff with us, but over the course of a career why limit yourself to one person? We're the kind of band that prides itself on diversity, versatility,