STEFFAN CHIRAZI INTERVIEW
Every Faith No More fan should really know of Steffan Chirazi. This unforgettable name was in the heading or footnotes of almost every important story from 1986 to 1998.
Sure other music journalists such as Phil Alexander, Neil Perry, Paul Brannigan, Chris Watts and Mike Gitter have written significant and engaging articles on FNM. However none of those guys understood FNM like Chirazi, none of them lived on the road, lived the myths or were considered family by the band and fans alike.
Steffan has written about FNM for publications all over the world. He wrote their very first feature article for Kerrang! in 1988 which set the tone for many FNM interviews to follow: honest, gritty and unique. He went on to write no less than eight FNM cover story features for Kerrang!. He reviewed the very first Mike Patton fronted show for Bam Magazine and reported on historic events such as the goliath Metallica / Guns 'n' Roses tour, the departure of Jim Martin and the 1998 split. Nearly every notorious tale (piss drinking, shitting on stage, trash talk for Poison, Lenny Kravitz or whoever) originated from a Chirazi interview.
Steffan wrote the book on FNM, well he did! One of only two books written about Faith No More The Real Story is a wonderful collection of interviews that tells the official story of their career up until 1993. The book is written with great passion and ‘author’s interludes’ give the reader a true idea of just how deeply he penetrated their world. The second book released on the subject of FNM by Greg Prato is equally informative, but it is still built on the interviews Steffan held with the band over ten years.
Indeed without Steffan’s enthusiastic and creative style of writing it’s possible FNM would never have reached the audience they did, particularly in the UK.
Mr Chirazi began his career as a music journalist at the age of 15 and has interviewed pretty much everyone in the rock world including: Nirvana, Alice In Chains, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, Pantera. The list is endless.
He is now a creative consultant for Motorhead and editor of the Metallica fan club magazine So What!. Also there are his published books, one of note being ‘Too Much Horror Business’ a catalogue and appraisal of Kirk Hammett's horror memorabilia. I'm sure that if Steffan were to go on Mastermind his chosen subject would happen to be.....Metallica.
He is an avid supporter of Tottenham Hotspur football club, loves his dog and cat far too much and is a person of impeccable taste, if he recommends a movie or album……you take heed.
It is therefore with great pleasure that I give you the…..
Steffan Chirazi Interview
Who was the first rock star you interviewed and how'd it go?
It was Lemmy and it was in 1982, I was a school kid actually. I'd sort of been involved with starting my school magazine which was four pieces of paper stapled together done off the office photocopier. I contacted Motorhead's management to see if they would possibly let me do an interview, which was absurd because at the time they were one of the biggest bands in Britain if not Europe. They didn't only put the message through to the band but Lemmy was like 'yeah absolutely come down' and he was wonderful. He greeted me at the door with a pint of vodka and orange, sat me down at the front of the control desk, showed me where the volume button was and said listen to the mixes of the album. It kind of blew my doors away to be honest I think I was there for about another two hours, it was unimaginable really.
I remember sprinting home and forcing my parents to listen to the entire interview I was so excited. I learnt then what it is to be a good parent because if someone did that to me now I'd be in pain! If anything it was such a positive experience that it set me thinking this is really possible, I might just try to make a living out of this.
You attended your first FNM show in 1986 with the late Cliff Burton. What was it about them that excited you so much?
Well I'd seen Cliff in the offices in London and I said 'I've gotta get out of here, England is gonna grind me down'. I moved to the Bay Area and Cliff said 'Here's my number I'll try an introduce you to some friends of mine'. True to form Cliff did exactly that, several times we'd hang out in the city and the first person he introduced me to was Jim Martin, Cliff had said 'You really got to see his band I think you will like them'.
I think what I liked about them when I first saw them, and it's a distant memory so I'm dragging on instincts here...the thing that really hit me the most was they were so utterly unique compared to anything that I had heard, and I was a big Killing Joke fan. I grew up listening to Ian Dury and The Specials so I had a fairly wide musical palette, it wasn't total metal tunnel vision at that time. But FNM were unlike anything I'd heard and visually they were pretty arresting, they looked on the verge of chaos at all times which was very appealing. You know suddenly there are these haunting keyboards in and amidst all this chaos, I can't really describe it, it was like wow, this is really magnetic. I looked at cliff and said you're not wrong.
Jim and Cliff go way back.
Oh yeah and Mike Bordin as well. What's interesting is the three of them never used to fully connect even though they were all hanging out with each other. You know the history and I think it's something more for Jim to address but yes it was long, it was illustrious. Sometimes when I think about it Cliff introduced me to these guys and then he went off on tour, it's quite strange. The funny thing is I may have missed FNM for a couple of years if Cliff hadn't brought me to that show.
I also went to another show at The Sound Of Music, which was right the heart of a really shitty neighbourhood in San Francisco and that show was even more insane, I mean it was like a scene from a Hieronymous Bosch painting! People were stumbling around out of their minds, Chuck Mosley was lying flat on his back refusing to sing 'War Pigs'. There were people throwing up in the corner I remember it being really mental!
From what I understand the crowd weren't convinced with Chuck's replacement at Mike Patton's first show in 1988. Can you remember much about the night?
I don't, I really don't. I do remember quite arrogantly and quite rudely passing some comment to Mike [Patton] along the lines of 'These are my friends, don't fuck them over'. And actually when I look back it is incredibly rude, what proprietary did I have to say anything like that? But I think I felt very protective of them because I had seen how hard they were working and I' had seen Chuck, possibly through no fault of his own, refuse to sing and nearly blow a showcase for them. So I think had arrogantly assumed that I was gonna fly the flag for this band, my friends. It became like a tribal thing. Anyway Mike must looked at me and thought what cunt! He never said it but I wouldn't have blamed him. Sorry Mike if I said that, he probably won't remember but I do.
But no I don't remember any animosity at all, it might be an inner fan thing, if there was maybe I wasn't paying any attention to it.
In 1989 FNM and Metallica were on the same bill for the first time. In your reports you mentioned how the crowd didn't really care for FNM. Were FNM playing the wrong shows? Was it a bad match?
No not at all. If I can drag you back first of all, I think one tour were skipping over that was really important in this band's career is the tour with the Chili Peppers when Chuck was still in the band. I thought that was the making of them, solidifying their legend to a degree. It's worth having this on record.
There's not a lot of information about that tour.
Well I'll tell a few things, number one I think that is the genesis, of the very lazy and somewhat irresponsible tag of funk metal or whatever. People tried to throw FNM in as a funk metal band for five minutes which is absurd really. I think it's because they must've looked to the Chili peppers.
You know these guys got a big rider truck, they basically cornered off some of this van and they lived in the back travelling around the country taking it in turns to drive. You've got some very different characters in that assembly. A wonderful air of youth, different personalities, and poverty they were pretty poor hacking it out and it was really the making of them. I think they really understood a lot more about who they were and what they needed to function. At that point the friction was either ignored or entertained and that was an important factor. So when you came to the Metallica tour, no I don't think it was the wrong tour at all as once again if anything it hardened their resolve to be who they are. They are an interesting bunch, when you tell them 'no' to something they just say 'fuck you' and do it even more, that's how I remembered their nature. So they really took the challenge on. I think at that point as well Metallica fans were in the background, so it wasn't like they had 20 million people following them. FNM would've known what they were getting into and I think it really helped actually because even if a hundred people a night went away from those shows liking the band you've got a lot of people who are gonna pay attention to their record.
One of greatest FNM reports you wrote was from Rock in Rio in 1991. You, Bill Gould and Patton watched as Roddy Bottum tried to connect with Prince. Do you remember this particular adventure?
I do! It was really a pleasure and privilege to be there with them at that time. I think they were appreciative of the coverage I was giving them and happy to show it, of course it didn't hurt that we got on. We got into the van first of all outside the hotel and it was absolute chaos, people were jumping all over the van and rocking it. I remember people mobbing the van and shaking it. So Mike [Patton] and Billy in particular started shouting and rocking the van from the inside, I don't know if it was a nervous reaction or they were having fun but that kinda set us up for a really weird situation.
So we went to this club and he [Prince] was sitting in the corner with two really big body guards, proportionally speaking it was quite amusing to look at that for a start because Prince is not a man of immense physical stature. Yeah, it wasn't disrespectful but there was this air of mischief, it was like being in middle school in England. I remember they were trying to figure out what drink he would like, none them involved alcohol but there was whipped cream involved with a cherry on top. It was all for fun. Bear in mind they all respected Prince's music and you've got remember that Rock In Rio was a ridiculous celebrity do.
So Roddy went up and Prince didn't get up, he looked up and kinda nodded very sombrely and proffered his hand forward like he was a prince, sorry for the irony there, offering it to be kissed or held in a royal fashion. There was no long dialogue and everyone scurried back to our side of the room. He was very pleasant but there was no arm around the shoulder 'how are you my old mucker', I don't think you get that from Prince. That was a great trip that was an exciting time.
The press seemed to have a field day with the festival.
Oh yeah it was madness, it was the height of excess. I personally had a very interesting time. I was there working for Kerrang! primarily and had to review Guns N' Roses. So I was standing on the side of the stage and I heard a rumour that Rob Halford wasn't going to be able to ride his Harley onstage, that GNR had said this couldn't happen, it'd come from Axl. Bare in mind at this point to speak to GNR you had to go through a few PRs and sign a contract saying that they had full rights over your interview, that was a big fuck off and nobody I knew worth their salt would do that. Therefore rather than watch the GNR gig I got so hot under the collar that I said to my colleague and good friend [photographer Mark Leiloha, 'Hey I'm not reviewing them, they are restricting Judas Priest, they can fuck off.' I thought I'd go back to my hotel and review it from the television, and Mark would take a picture of the television screen and we would tell people why we decided to do it this way. Why because they'd fucked Judas Priest over or so I'd heard.
About three weeks later I get a call, 'Is this Steffan? It's Axl'. To which I immediately said 'Fuck off Lars' because I thought Lars Ulrich was calling winding me up. So then he calls me back, 'This is Axl and I wanna tell you a few things!' For twenty minutes he was going on about what an arsehole I am and 'How dare I ?', 'This is outrageous, I would never do that.' He then says to me, 'Why didn't you just ask me? I would've told you there and then it was a bunch of bullshit.' I said, 'Do you know how hard it is to talk to you?' And I explained to him about the contracts, how no one was getting close to him, how their whole camp was separated from everyone and just how utterly in a bubble he was. He completely chilled out after that, he really calmed down and actually apologised saying he had no idea.
We spent another half an hour talking and I think he might've been a bit unaware. Apparently he had not in any way said that Judas Priest couldn't do any of that stuff and Rob Halford did ride his bike that night.
In 1992 on the ill fated Guns N' Roses tour there were rumours about Axl making demands of FNM, and of course Patton taking a dump in his coffee cup or orange juice carton!
I find that very hard to believe, presumably the legend would be he shat into the coffee so Axl would drink the mythical turd, am I right?
Yeah I guess so, there were many tales.
I think that's absolutely ludicrous. I'd like people to consider what wonderful aim you must have to have a shit in a coffee mug! [laughs..] Unless the insinuation is that Mike shat in his own hand and then put it in the cup? I never really paid much attention to what Mike was supposed to be doing or not doing, I think he might have pissed in his shoe at one point.
Of course Kerrang! was the first to report on Jim's departure from FNM. Being so close to Jim was it difficult to do your job impartially?
Yes it was very hard indeed, it was difficult on several levels. Firstly there's the impartiality I had to achieve. Secondly there was the real fact that at that time I did think there were two sides to the coin. And thirdly I am one of those people who believes that you have to take charge of the fifty percent that you are in control of. It is very important to be one hundred percent at peace with whatever conclusion you personally arrive at with regards to your feelings on a matter.
I wasn't in that band, I don't know what their dynamics were. I do know it was quite strained. I know that Jim had gone through some personal matters with the loss of his father. But it was four people versus one person. I do remember clearly saying to Jim that the rights and wrongs may not matter here it's about what you all want long term.
It was very very hard, I love Jim dearly he's like a brother, and I know that's thrown around like confetti but I really do. Billy and I were really close as well, he is tremendous company and a really great guy. I tried really hard for many years to walk the line there, and I think I did OK. I think it's possible to remain friends with two sets of people who themselves have a difference with each other.
What I will say is creatively it broke my heart as a fan of theirs because I think the way they worked together was brilliant. And at the end of the day nobody can really deny Jim's personality was a vital part of what the band did at that phase of their career. I'll tell you this which is really interesting, I think they all used to get pissed off with me for continually pushing in interviews the element of friction. Friction makes the art, which could be a fortune cookie phrase, 'You can't have art without friction' a cheap throwaway line. I genuinely believed it in their case but their feeling was 'Fuck you! You don't have to live it!'
Is it true Jim was best man at your wedding?
Well I didn't have a best man per-say, Jim was our officiate he was the man who married us. One of the great memories of that day was that we had sent him the vows we were to exchange and he'd printed them out on fax paper which didn't cut off. It was a windy beach we got married on and this thing is fluttering in the wind like a massive scroll. It was brilliant he couldn't have planned it any better [laughs]. You know this is Jim he was very surgical, he got it perfect with the minimum of fuss.
I look back at their parting, it's old history now but I'd be lying if I didn't say I always found it great shame, which is no secret. I just wish they'd found a way to make it work. I thought 'King For A day' was a really good record, I thought they came back and did really well and was extremely happy for them.
Kerrang! was the first publication to print an in depth article when FNM split in 1998, and it was quite correctly your words. This must have been tough to write about after following their career since the beginning.
Well I'm trying to remember why they actually broke up. I think they just fell out of love with it. I don't remember the article but I would speculate that the conclusions I would have drawn are they probably became churned around by the sheer level of media attention, expectancy to be a certain way, inner friction. I think all of that must have really taken it's toll rather too heavily on them.
'The Real Story' was a draft that was published by mistake. How did your vision differ to the final printed book?
[Laughs] Correct! Well there wouldn't have been three chapter 60's, and there wouldn't have been about forty eight typos so let's just start right there. When I saw the book I actually shed a tear not because I was happy, I was like 'Oh fuck! They printed the wrong file.' I think the book itself looked like large magazine and I really wanted it to be a book. I know people ask about it being reissued but I don't know who owns the copyright to it, although I am trying to find that out. If it was ever to be reissued I would absolutely want somebody else to take over adding on the years after the book ended. It would only be fair to have someone who has followed them with perhaps as much fervour and enthusiasm as I did at that time to do an addition to it. I'm a big believer that if you wanna write really good books on bands that have been around for several decades you need multiple collaborators to make them worth their while. I don't think one person can ever write a really interesting book, if you wanna mix it up you gotta have a couple of different views. I would love to try and get it out again.
Two years ago you wrote about how Cliff Burton changed your life in So What! Magazine. Why did you decide after 27 years to open up about this?
I'd almost been embarrassed to talk about it because everybody had a Cliff story and I didn't want to look like I was jumping on a band wagon. It was really insecurity to be honest. [pause] I didn't really know how to talk about it, and I began to question was it really that significant in my life or am I just making it up to myself. But it was extremely significant. I finally came to peace with it and thought why shouldn't I say something. A couple of the Metallica fans were saying 'you really ought to write something about Cliff'. I talked about it with James [Hetfield] and he was into it, Dan from the Met Club had said we really need to do this, we need to do an issue on Cliff and it was the right time. It was really uncomfortable for a lot of us to talk about for various reasons.
As a close friend of Lemmy you had the honour of speaking at his funeral. It seems that music is no longer creating rock n roll icons of the same calibre as Lemmy. How will it survive?
Great question. I think it comes down to a few very important things. Number one I think creative people need to be honest with themselves and do what they are doing for the love of it. Whether that means your playing to twenty people in Worksop or whether your playing to a hundred thousand people at Wembley. I also think that you have to have some personal integrity and by that I mean you need to be a decent person, you need to love who you are and what you fucking stand for.
You look at Lemmy for example one of things that I hope came across in all of the eulogies that were offered are that this is a man who had impeccable manners. I don't want to sound like an old man but it's true, how can you respect your audience if you don't have good manners. You gotta have some respect for what you do, for your fans, for your life. If you have that you have strength of character, add that to not giving a fuck if you make money but just getting your creativity out and I think you are two thirds of the way to it. You have to be single minded in your vision, that I think will leave us with a good chance.
There's a guy in the States who's in a band called Spirit In The Room, Dennis Sanders, and he's the closest I've seen to a potential iconic rock star for real. But I don't know if he's ever gonna get a break, he's the real deal and I hope that someone takes a chance.
I think it's very hard these days because A+R people used to take a chance on personalities and strength of character but now people want a safe bet.
I'll tell you this, and it's probably gonna raise your eyebrow, one of the best shows I've actually seen in the last few years was Katy Perry. She's phenomenal. She's in it for real, it's OK if she's pop. I think there's a lot of middling metal bands that disturb me more because they don't stand for anything. They are just regurgitating a lot of tired riffs, that to me is worse than anything.
Metallica's headlining spot at Glastonbury last year caused some controversy. However their performance silenced the doubters. How was it to see them overcome the odds and perform arguably the most iconic music festival spot there is?
It was really exciting. One of the greatest things about Metallica is that when you put their backs against the wall and tell them they can't do something, they almost develop this gang mentality like a bunch of savage kids. They are like 'Fuck you, were gonna show you!' and they are never better than when they are doing that. This is a prime example, everything was stacked against them but I knew they would treat like a massive challenge and they would surprise people. I think people completely missed the point with them playing Glastonbury - I thought it was perfect. It was very entertaining and isn't that what Glastonbury is about? Diversity? I thought the Julian Temple video whilst extravagant was brilliant.....Good for them, fuck everyone [laughs].
You love movies and always have trustworthy recommendations. You also helped Kirk Hammett write his book 'Too Much Horror Business'. That must have been fun writing about films rather than music.
A great amount of credit for that book must also go to the designer Mark Abramson who worked tirelessly with Kirk to find an aesthetic that worked. It was great, I love horror and Kirk is a full on horror nerd what could go wrong!
How did feel when FNM announced their reunion?
I was happy. I felt it was very important for them to work together in the studio again and establish another chapter. There name has been touted so many times, and quite rightly so, as an influence and as a band they deserve to see some of that recognition. By the same token I do think that it's not overcooking the egg to say that probably their most seminal and venerated work was with Jim. So there is always gonna be a part of me that wishes Jim could have been part of it. And I want to make it clear that's nothing on anyone it's just a personal thing because I'd love to hear it.
Did you enjoy 'Sol Invictus'?
Yeah, I think it's a solid album.