FAITH NO MORE | Band Of The Year | 1990
RIP Magazine | March 1991
You Wanted It All....And You Got It | Steffan Chirazi
Yes, they have. No, they haven't. Yes, they have. No, they haven't. Have, haven't, have, damn well haven't yet! The tensions ran high.
Every few hours I dashed to a phone booth in North Carolina, taking time out from another assignment and braving filthy smelling garbage cans in the thick, greasy humidity to try to find out if Faith No More had capped off a glorious year by being your favorites of
1990. Rumor was, they had it in the bag. They were the band. The choice. Your choice. Acting on this slim bit of info, I made another call from the same North Carolina booth, this time to the band's management, to somehow wrest some minutes from a group whose
time is all booked up. Quite simply, FNM 1990 doesn't have enough day in the day. I'd have to wait, they said, to see what could be done.
Then, in another booth somewhere in Florida, someone at the RIP office is telling me to hold up, step on the brakes, keep my hat on and stop talking about it. My source had been less than perfect. Now there was a good chance Faith might not pull it off after all.
The count wasn't quite complete. Slaughter were creeping right up there, and you could never discount the Crue now, could ya? It was going to be a squeaker.
In the end it took every last one of your responses to push Faith over the top and make them the winners in the Best Band category of the RIP Readers' Poll, 1990. That gave me a Reggie Hammond (48 hours) to write this damn retrospective cover piece on the band, to help you understand just where the hell Faith No More came from.
Tension and stress aren't things that are new to FNM. Ever since I first wrote about them in mid-'87 I've seen a good deal of it. Even before that, when they originally formed in the Bay Area during 1983 as Faith No Man, it was obvious that they were quite, errumm, different. Roddy Bottum and Bill Gould, schoolmates in the LA. area, moved to San Francisco, became bandmates, and quickly saw to it that the right elements were drafted in after a few early shows. Wiry wonder-drummer Mike Bordin came to the fold fresh from his studies in African rhythm at SF State. The enigmatic Chuck Mosley fronted the band, and Zappa-in-your-acid-nightmare Jim Martin added the metallic guitar crunch so necessary to the formulating sound. He came from various local bands, including EZ Street, Vicious Hatred and the infamous Pigs Of Death. And Martin wasn't exactly a stranger he and Bordin having gone to school together in Hayward, California. Their mutual friend Cliff Burton recommended Martin for the slot.
Signing with Ruth Schwartz's indie label Mordam Records, the band recorded and released their debut album, We Care a Lot, in early '86, using Matt Wallace to produce. A weird and wonderful album, WCAL was bound to confuse the masses with its nonconformist, open-handed approach. Pumped hard on college radio, the band achieved a cult following big enough that they could pack into a car with a trailer and march around the country, finding gigs wherever they could. They attracted the interest of L.A. indie (with Warner Bros. distribution) Slash Records, and were signed by Anna Statman to Bob Bigg's label in late 1986. Recording in Sausalito, again with Matt Wallace, they kicked out Introduce Yourself, a record that confirmed FNM's refusal to mould themselves to any genre or style.
FNM hired a Ryder truck, stuck a couch in the back, made a crib for their equipment, and set off on another gruelling tour in 1987. Things were tough, and I even remember hearing from Martin in Atlanta once, saying he'd crashed on a floor and woke up to find a rat eating some Chinese hot-and-sour soup that had crusted in his beard. Later that year the band set off on the Three Years Too Early Tour, supporting the Red blot Chili Peppers. (What would that cost in arenas now, eh?) There was a problem with Chuck, though, something that had been coming on for a long time. For reasons probably only he could explain, he grew more and more distant from both reality and his own abilities as a performer. More drinking and abuse came into the picture, a difficult thing to tolerate with everyone else working so hard.
Faith No More decided to split from their old management company, which didn't seem to be doing them a whole bunch of favors, and tensions continued to fester between Mosely and the band. The band's first (successful) tour of Britain in January 1988 saw some key catalysts. First of all, after a fight with Jim Martin, the band's main roadie was flown home - and he happened to be a good friend of Chuck's. Then the reviews from some shows started to come out, and all criticized Mosley's singing. Indeed, many reviewers felt he couldn't. While that may be true, it is important to remember that Mosley was still, potentially, a great performer.
Sadly, that wasn't enough for him. The excesses continued, the scared arrogance got worse, and his general distaste for both the band and its situation grew to intolerable proportions. FNM had signed a management deal with WEM (Warren Entner Management)
that looked set to put them into a competitive position, yet this singer situation still needed resolving. Another successful summer tour of Europe followed, but upon their return to the States it was officially over. Before that tour's start, Bill Gould had threatened to quit because of the Mosley misery; so with commitments fulfilled and after a bit of soul-searching, out went Chuck Mosley, and Faith No More were singerless.
Reprise Records, a sibling of Warner Bros, took up a new deal with Slash and Faith No More. A third album's music had been written, and all it needed was a singer. Humboldt County gave Faith No More a young auditionee named Mike Patton, and the click was there. Patton had only weeks to write a set of lyrics, and then Faith No More recorded once again in Sausalito, once again with Matt Wallace at the helm.
The Real Thing came out in late spring of 1989. It was a monstrous synthesis of the variations FNM love to combine; an album so rich, strong and great, that I was afraid it might go over a few heads. Immediately the band hit the dusty trails of the USA, playing club after club after club. Patton was proving himself to be a gem find - young, athletic, clean, professional, and packing a great voice and excellent lyrics. Sales crept merrily along, a thousand here, a couple thousand there, but nothing to blow anyone's socks off. Then came a major turning point: the September Metallica tour. All the West Coast outdoor shows that Metallica had already sold out were to have Faith No More as openers. It went back to the strong mutual respect the bands have for each other's music, some good friendships, and a little open Metallica support (i.e., James Hetfield modelling an FNM shirt on the Garage Days Revisited EP).
A storm they did not go down, the fans being a little too sheltered (closed-minded) to appreciate matters fully; but the door was open for celebrity accolades. Suddenly there was verbal support coming from such diverse figures as Robert Plant, Joe Elliot and Axl Rose. A winter tour with VoiVod and Soundgarden increased the buzz, yet the record still wasn't flying off the shelves. MTV had already passed on the video for "Epic," and it looked like no kick-start could save this poor brilliant bastard of an album.
Then, after some heated discussions and red faces, MTV did an about-face and started to place "Epic" in a more favorable spot.
WEM and Slash/Reprise were vindicated— particularly the management, who wouldn't stop running around on behalf of the bugger —because the placement worked! Smash! Barn! Boffo! Whamaroooni! You couldn't escape the mother after a few months. Their nasty fizzogs (dead fish and all) were on all the time. From a few thousand to a million albums, quickly and painlessly. Off the band went to the U.K. as superstar headliners. Then it was Australia, New Zealand, the rest of Europe, and on to the Monsters Of Rock.
It was a time when Mike Patton's tomfool mouth nearly got the better of him. He remarked that members of Poison indulged in certain sexual activities with themselves, and, sadly, there wasn't a sense of humor in sight. Couple that with an Aerosmith insult, and apologies had to be exchanged to ensure FNM finishing their show-stealing appearances. It was a turning point for Mike P., who finally realized that there really can be a lack of humor in this industry, especially among the big boys. The U.K.'s Reading Festival saw them rip open 40,000 More-heads before returning to the USA for a Billy Idol support slot and some dates with Robert Plant. TV appearances during the late summer/autumn of 1990 came on the MTV Music Video Awards and Arsenio Hall. Faith No More even garnered a Grammy nomination in the Best Hard Rock Album category. They were featured in every major magazine I can think of.
And, as we discussed at the start of this piece, their free time shrank to nothing. Even though most of the band didn't even have a chance to recognize the fact, Faith No More had become superstars.
An insane Friday night at the Hollywood Palladium with a cast of stars only our pal o' the stars, Lonn Friend, could assemble for
RIP Magazine's 4th anniversary bash. Chaos? Of course! Faith No More headlined the show, and it was my task to sneak around and A) tell the band they'd won the Readers' Poll, and B) record their reaction. Bottum, Bordin, Martin and Patton seemed surprised and grateful, while Bill Gould took on the mantle of official band spokesperson to deliver his feelings on the matter.
"We're really proud and honored to be chosen as the RIP Band Of The Year," Gould said in earnest. "RIP was the first glossy rock mag to give us lull support, and for that we'll always be grateful. And Lonn Friend's association with over-the-counter naked magazines makes the honor all the more wonderful."
What is the reaction when you see yourselves on magazine covers? "Well, it really is still kinda strange, because all these people say, 'You're there! You've made it, when we haven't. We're still working, we're still touring, we're still getting on with it. I think, unconsciously, people are telling us what they think 'making it' is. They like us to be a definition of having 'made it' - for them, something for them to get into. We're in the middle of all that. I don't see us as having made it, but I do realize the changes. This is not a giant machine that can just stop; you just keep on doing what you do."
Could I resist asking someone of Gould's deviant mentality what the wildest thing they saw during their year of rising stardom was?
Of course not. "Okay. I'd like to say that we've searched and searched, and I think we've finally found the 8th wonder of the world. It's in Zurich, Switzerland, about two blocks from the train station. I hear they're going to close it down soon, so if you're plannin' that trip to Europe, you'd better get this one in. It's a park about 300 feet square, with a large gazebo in the middle. At night about 400 people gather under a big light there. It might look like a rock concert, but move a little closer, and you'll see picnic tables with needles and spoons and candles, and blood on the ground, and people throwing up. If anyone has ever read Dante's Inferno, this is definitely one of the hells. Four hundred junkies puking on each other, with blood coming out of their necks and shooting out of their noses. They're shooting up in their eyelids —naked men in the Swiss winter shooting up into the veins in their dicks—and they all walk in a circle. Jim [Martin] walked the circle against them, and they got real mad. Think about it. This is the richest country in the world, and it's so fucked. These people are so fucked up, it'd put you off getting into it forever. That's probably the wildest thing I've seen all year. An ugly, ugly thing. Goddamn, was it ugly and sick."
Why are Faith No More RIP'S 1990 Band Of The Year? Because, quite simply, you and I both know there's no one else like them.
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