Love The One You Are With | Steffan Chirazi
The change was swift, Spruance was out of Faith No More and Dean Menta was in. On the eve of a European press trip Steffan Chirazi grabbed these exclusive words.
"It's starting all over again," grins Mike Patton, "we know it's coming and we've got at least two more years of this!"
Drummer Mike 'Puffy' Bordin is unhinging in much the same way he usually does, great waves of enthusiasm pushing the man into curious behaviour. But even Patton and bassist Billy Gould are finding it hard to believe just how far Puffy's going. "I'm the same way as far as the record goes," cuts in Gould, "I think it's fucking great... the best thing we've ever done. I know I wouldn't say anything different, but after all the shit we've been through it feels good to like it so much."
This was said before Christmas, in regards to Faith No More's eagerly awaited new album King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime and with the Jim Martin trauma finally resolved and on the horizon, the seas were set to be looking a lot calmer.
Wrong! Just before the turkey was cut and presents unwrapped, while Gould was on his first vacation in years down in South America, as Patton prepared to leave for a European holiday, new guitarist Trey Spruance announced that over a year and a half of touring would be too much for him. Patton had already warned his bandmates that Spruance might pull a turd from his top hat at some point but no-one could have guessed it'd be a six-fooler like that, and so soon.
The transition was made swiftly, Spruance was out and ex-FNM keyboard tech Dean Menta was enlisted to join forces with four people he already knew extremely well, "I've been playing since I was 12 or 13," explains the even-tempered Menta, "I've never studied it, like taking lessons, I've just always been a music fan and expressed myself through my guitar and a four-track. But I initially started working with Faith No More on the crew during the Angel Dust tour. I was doing computer consultancy with regards to music software programs. What I basically did, and still do, are all sorts of sequencing and hard disk recording stuff. Roddy got my name and number from somewhere, so I started hooking up with him every so often trying to teach him more about computers and then I went on tour with him. I guess he'd never had a roadie before, he and Billy used to share the same guy, but on the Guns N' Roses tour they wanted a separate person for each job. I'd never done keyboards before, never been on the road, had no prior experience of bands at that level."
What was his initial view of how Faith No More interacted as a group of people? "From my vantage point, at least initially, there was very little interaction. They all kept their separate places..."
Didn't that seem a little insane?
"Not at all, it seemed iike a good thing actually. They weren't this band and it was their identity, they were normal people. I was generally excited to tour and travel, and it was very cool to find out
that they weren't what you'd think rock bands are.
Because most of the other 'personalities' I'd met were people I didn't have anything in common with and wasn't interested in having any sort of relationship with on a personal level."
As the Angel Dust tour progressed it became blatantly obvious that Jim Martin was not going to remain as the guitarist, so when did you think about tilling the vacancy?
"Well, there wasn't a lot of communication between us, Billy and I to be accurate, about how things were working out. Jim was gone and they were sending out tapes, I wasn't sure how they were going through the process, I got a tape and did some noodling, sent it back, they said they liked it and that was that. I figured they would make their decision based on whatever criteria they had. So Geordie [Walker - Killing Joke] was nearly in the band, then Trey [Spruance] joined the band... But I always had suspicions in the back of my mind that I might fill the spot, even from early on when I first realised that Jim was going. In a weird kind of way I had given up on music a little bit so far as being in a band, I was a little disenchanted with
things. But then being on tour with them and seeing them play inspired me to get back more into music."
How important is it lo be able to socially interact with the band as well as play with them? "It's important, I guess I'm a good choice to fill this position because I get along with everybody in the band, I've toured with them already and it's a happy coincidence that I play guitar as well."
Is it frustrating to be playing songs from a new album that nobody's heard, and that was cowritten with someone else's work on it?
"No, I really haven't found that frustrating yet. I have no ego problems where I feel I have to adapt my style of whatever."
And what of the rest of the band? Already let down by Spruance, are Faith No More confident that Menta's ready for the road?
"Well, Dean knows what to expect," answers Gould. "I think a lot of the thing with this kind of work, the biggest problems, are in their heads. People don't have perspective. When people first get signed they either make wild demands or they're overly paranoid like we were. But that's because you don't know. However if you know what you're getting into then you can take it for what it is. It's hard to take when you have no sign-post knowledge, but Dean's done it already so he knows what to expect, which is a very stable thing."
The Spruance departure still hangs as an extremely odd affair. No one knew Spruance better than Patton, who, before Christmas had this to say.
"We had pretty much played with everybody but him and everyone was up my arse saying, 'We gotta play with him'. So I told them, 'Look guys, I have to live with him in my other fuckin' world, butyou wanna play with him? OK... i know he's gonna be great, but you've gotta figure it out. You've gotta get to know him, that's what life's about, finding out for yourself how well things can work. He's game, he has a spirit of adventure."
A critic indication that Patton knew the scene was not exactly set?
Maybe he knew Spruance's "spirit of adventure" didn't stretch further than California. People who know Spruance have noted him to be a strange chap who would rather sit in coffee shops reading than anything else. The talented guitarist is also reported to be 'independently wealthy', explaining his lack of appetite for a tour like the one Faith No More are about lo embark on.
Thankfully, this sorry little episode was pretty much over as soon as it started, not forgetting that there's a meaty new album to discuss.
King For A Day.. . Fool For A Lifetime was recorded in conditions that the band weren't used to. Away from home, with a new producer, in
isolation and without any of the daily strife that usually sticks to their studio time like gum on a boot. And, more importantly, without erstwhile guitarist Jim Martin. It's been a split of frosty amicability in the public eye, but downright disgust at each other in the sick comfort of their own minds.
"Let's just say that the way things were is not the way things should go, we're giving it a new shot and so far were really happy with the way things are," Gould says convolutely, his temper getting shorter "It's not been easy and I don't really want to talk about it anymore."
How's has it been working without tension?
"It made things more mellow, less personality concentrated. I've always said that the tension was an unfortunate thing which had nothing to do with helping the band get to where it was at. The absence of tension, for me, can only make things better with regards to what we do." "It was definitely less tense recording, but writing it maybe not," sighs Patton, "I mean we wrote most of it without a guitar player, but at the same time, that situation made us a free agent, it allowed us lo sleep around with as many people as we liked. And I suppose the end result is more harmonious, sounds like a unit... i don't know, maybe we were getting along all the time!"
"I don't think you can say it follows any one path," explains Gould, "it depends on your state of mind. The Real Thing was one thing, Angel Dust was something rebounding off that and this has rebounded off both of them. It's a reconciliation of the two albums, to me The Real Thing was a little too slick and cliched but I only see it like that
because I've played those damn songs for so long. Then Angel Dust is thick and moody but it never hits you in the face, it missed parts where there were total impact, total aggression. And we need that this time. It feels like our first great record."
At one time FNM were like zombies who knew only that they hated each other's filthy guts, kicking and punching with reckless abandon. Now it seems that they've sorted it out, that musically and personally there's less anger than ever.
"It is a case of getting older and smarter, you know when to hit and when not to hit. We started out as a bunch of kids flailing away on all sides, now we time and calculate our punches a little more. We don't waste time like we used to. As far as I'm concerned, with our music the point has always been to sharpen the razor, you get the stone and make the blade sharper and sharper."
It certainly sounds more like a core group wrote and a core group worked on it.
"Everything happens for a reason. It sounds much more cohesive because this is where we're at right now. Maybe we'll be back at the other place some day, but right now it feels good. It was hard work, but this time it was good hard work."
Not always the case. Past recordings have seen FNM at loggerheads with each other, screaming with stubborn, brute silence at each other across consoles, pushing and shoving each other around to get results. Speak to them now and they'll gladly tell you how Martin's departure has settled the studio air. Though Patton will later admit that Roddy Bottum did go through a tough writing spell, and
there was none of the rancour the previous album, and having a new producer, a whip-cracker like Andy Wallace must've helped?
"That's what we wanted, we needed some outside perspective, a different set of ears, Matt Wallace's ears had become ours. Most of Andy Wallace's suggestions were extremely technical in nature. His advice was the difference between a good record and a great record."
The album was recorded in New York at Bearsville Studios, the important pre-production work having been done back home in San Fran.
"I always thought of pre-production as a load of shit," grunts Patton, "but Andy came in and made some excellent suggestions. At the time we were going through things with Roddy and what not, y'know, musical crisis and I think he really helped us out. He took a lot of our own personal question marks away."
Bearsville marked the first time the band have recorded away from home, and even though they were productive, they were bored shitless. "Oh my God kids... there's not much to do in Bearsville. It'd be Saturday night and we'd hear the crickets chirping in the woods. The most entertaining thing that happened to me was I caught pneumonia which kept me from being stir-crazy for about a week," laughs the singer. "The sickness kept me debilitated to the point where I lost my cabin fever, where I was happy just to get downstairs and drink some tea. The pneumonia saved my mental state. But as a group we've, never spent such a long time together without such a lack of stimulus and we got along very well. It was really good experiment."
Antithesis time.....mixing in Manhattan where these five bored stiff goons could vent their Bearsville spleens madly.
"We took care of about six weeks boredom in just under three," chuckles Gould, "we more than made up for our lack of stimulation."
Any band who has sold a million records feels it, and any band who sold over two lives with it; the pressure to emulate, to get even bigger. Angel Dust was a low profile record for America," explains Gould, "it went gold, which was no disaster, but everywhere else it was our biggest record yet. In America the album was marketed in a way we weren't very comfortable with. We never saw ourselves a funk-metal or Patton as some 'poster boy', so it created the freedom for us to have our own identity and carry on forward to this. It was like clearing shrubbery out of the road so we could move on."
"My job is not to feel any of that stuff (pressure)," affirms Patton,"why put yourself through that? It'll will always be there and a lot of if came through the following realisation for me with all these people: 'Look, we have a long life ahead of us but do you want me to fucking kill you all out here?!' On the last record I probably took too much time on The Real Thing I didn't take enough time I could've got a pot of coffee, gone to my room and written my stuff in a few days and nights. But I didn't think it was right, I mean people live with this stuff for a couple of years, so let me."
The natural Patton air of fuck you weaves and bobs in his new lyrics.
Titles like Get Out, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies, Ugly In The Morning and Cuckoo For Cars suggest a certain introspection. He, of course, refuses to indulge in specifics.
"Sometimes a good way to make music is to treat it like revenge - it's an open forum. You can say something you meant to say one day and didn't, you can re-create situations in your life where you weren't happy about the outcome and re-write them in a song. You can feel better about things and no-one will say anything about it. It'll be OK, no-one will step up, 'Whaddya mean by that?' And even if they do, you don't have to answer them."
Would you say though, that these lyrics are more introspective?
"You might say that," he gestures, "but I wouldn't but go ahead, say it man! Whatever you want, what the fuck are you asking me for? They're open to interpretation so go ahead, have fun, have a good time. I wrote the things and that's enough, that's all I wanna say about them."
The man doesn't suffer pigeonholes gladly so when I offer that it sounds like their first really big rock record, he chuckles.
"I wouldn't duck it at all...It doesn't mean have to call it that. You, can call it what you want. But that's as good a thing to call it as anything else I suppose."
Being the Kings of piss-taking, and taking into account all that's been said, it could appear that Faith No More are embarking on their calmest seas to date. But to that is to not allow for Patton's thoughts.
"I wish it were,but unfortunately I don't think it's over!" He chuckles, understanding the tick of the bands life.
"We haven't stated touring yet which always sees things change. I feel the record stands up more on its own. I think we, as people, are more ready to do this, but there are a lot of uncertainties. It's like a fresh start."