Faith No More thrive on chaos but for the moment, the dust seems to have settled. Dean Menta is a s close to being a permanent member as possible, they continue to remain rock's most anxiety ridden bunch, lan Winwood approaches Mike Patton and Roddy Bottum with caution.
The last time Faith No More appeared in Britain was in 1993, at the end of their 18 month world wide 'Angel Dust' tour. The place was the Phoenix festival in Stratford Upon Avon, where the band were headlining Saturday night in front of a cumulative audience of around 50,000 people, great.
The Phoenix performance, to the casual eye, might have suggested a triumphant climax for a successful band at the end of a massive world tour. Only it wasn't like that at all. Faith No More were shattered, strung out burnt out from the grind of the road and the grief of each of the band members getting on the others' nerves. Particularly Big, Sick, Ugly and soon to be gone Jim Martin. That FNM by this point weren't really getting on (and were certainly not functioning as a unit) was hardly the industries best kept secret. Their performance that night was - and let's be generous - pedestrian; with the friction between the members being quite plain to see (particularly their wayward guitarist who during their rendition of Commodores song 'Easy', only appeared onstage for his solo). Rumours were rife regarding the band's imminent demise, and FNM looked like they didn't give a shit.
"That period was one of the worst periods for this band," concurs the band's keyboard player Roddy Bottum. "It was definitely a weird time. There were rumours flying about all over the place about how we were going to break up, and we were all so burnt out it was kinda difficult to care. We'd been on the road for 18 months and all we wanted to do was to go home. There should have been relief that it was finally all going to be over But for me personally, I got a call from home saying that my dad had been taken into hospital suffering from problems with his stomach. At first we thought it was going to be nothing serious, but after a while it seemed like it might be cancer. It was, and my father died after the tour."
Mike Patton, Faith No More vocalist infant terrible, puts it like this: "The band at that point were not functioning as a unit obviously. Something had to give. Either we were all going to go or Jim had to go. You see us all here today, so obviously it was Jim."
Just short of two years later and Faith No More are back. 'King For A Day...Fool For A 'Lifetime' is the title of their new album, and the tour to support it (which could take two years out of each member's life, depending on the record's success) is just underway. Faith No More have chosen to start their tour in an intimate way in the UK, playing clubs which usually feature on their forthcoming events roster bands touring first albums and sad old has-beens trotting out their greatest hits just one more time. Needless to say, it's a sell out. Tonight they're in Northampton, at the small and pokey (and, it should be said, overfull) Roadmenders club. It's been snowing recently, and even to an Englander the temperature is too close to freezing for comfort. It seems an inauspicious start to a tour for the Kings of chaos.
"In many ways this is a new beginning for us," says Bottum. "We thought it would be a good idea to get back to the intimacy of the clubs, back to the types of place we played right back when we started. We have a new album, a new producer (Andy Wallace, who is the replacement but not the brother of Matt Wallace), and a new guitarist (Dean Menta, formerly Roddy's keyboard technician, who replaced Trey Spruance from Mr Bungle who, in turn, replaced Jim Martin). This type of tour seemed like the right thing to do."
'King For A Day...Fool For A Lifetime' might well be Faith No More's finest album thus far uniting Faith No More the songwriters with
Faith No More the sonic cacophonists. The record certainly combines the band's best elements from the occasionally all-too-catchy 'The Real Thing' and the noise-for-noise's-sake excesses of 'Angel Dust' and shows, more than anything else, what fine songwriters this band can actually be.
And just how contemporary they can actually be as well. At a time when the rate for bands dropping out of favour and becoming passe increases all the while, Faith No More four years after the breakthrough hit 'Epic' still have an air of cool about them. This can
be seen in the audience tonight. The 400 or so people who attend the show tonight run the gamut from Metallica shirts to Elastica shirts and all the shirts in-between (although for the exorbitant price of £16 they can all unite in a red 'King For A Day...' tour T-shirt) that show how the band's wilfully bizarre spirit has ensured that they stay on the right side of the fashion police. Tonight's audience seems open minded, more interested in what the music sounds like rather than what pigeonhole to place it in. I put it to the band that, prior to
Nirvana (although admittedly to a lesser extent), bands like Faith No More and Jane's Addiction - bands that played rock music with alternative credentials, or vice-versa if you prefer - paved the way for the current, increasingly colourful thing that is mainstream music today.
Mike Patton is unequivocal: "No, I don't think that's true. I don't think that's that case. It was Nirvana that did that. Nirvana had the multi-Platinum album. It was Nirvana that had the crossover hits. It was Nirvana that blew open all of the doors."
Roddy Bottum (who politely opted to be interviewed separately to Patton for this piece) is more thoughtful. "The mainstream is definitely a better place to be in than when we first broke through," is his belief. "Although how much, if anything, that has to do with us I couldn't say. But especially in America that's true. In England and Europe it was always a little bit different, you always had things like Crass appearing on the indie charts and stuff like that. But in America it was always a little stale. I mean, when we broke through, bands like Whitesnake and Poison were considered to be our contemporaries! We were seen in the same light as Whitesnake! And whilst I don't particularly like the Offspring - although I do like Rancid a great deal - I would much rather share a stage with them than with Poison."
Tonight, Faith No More aren't sharing a stage with anybody. This is just a break-'em-in tour of two-bit venues in two-bit towns. But a Faith No More tour of more intimate venues does not necessarily mean Faith No More as a band are on more intimate terms. When
pushed, the group claim that things are easier between them these days; but then this band are not particularly easy people to interview. Both Bottum and Patton are perfectly polite, but the pair are hardly forthcoming about things the journalists would like to know. Things like: Do Faith No More get along these days? And apparently the answer is, to a certain extent, yes.
"One of the good things that came out of the whole experience with Jim (at the end of the 'Angel Dust' tour) was that we learned the art of communication," believes Patton, "the art of talking to each other We learned how to function as a unit."
And is it perfect now? "No, it's not perfect," he admits. "There are areas where we can improve. There's always areas that can be improved upon."
A lot has been made of the fact that Faith No More are a group of musicians rather than a group of friends, and that having five large personalities who don't always gel on a personal level in one band had caused the group problems in the past. I asked Patton what his feelings were when he thought of the possibility of having to spend the next two years on the road with this band. "My feelings are 'Whatever'" he states, flatly. "You do what you have to do, and touring like this is what you have to do in this business."
Do you wish it were any other way? "There's no point, there isn't any other way."
But certainly in your case, it seems like a pretty unnatural way to live. "Oh yeah," agrees Patton, "it's a completely insane way to live. Totally unnatural."
That seems like a high price to pay just so you can make a living making music. Patton regards me for a moment as if I'm a cretin: "This is what we have to do," he says again.
Faith No More are often seen as rock'n'roll's most oddball operation. No small feat there. From drinking piss out of shoes, to going in for pierced body parts; from fighting and kicking out band members, to good ol' creative friction. One has to wonder whether life in the band could possibly be as tumultuous as it seemed to an outsider
"No, of course not," deadpans Patton. "The press always likes to hype these things up. Most of the time it's just mundane, routine things such as this. You can dress an old sock up any way you like, but in the end it's still going to be just an old sock."
John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten) once said that the one thing an outsider - or a writer could never understand is the soul-eroding boredom that is involved in being in a band. "Yeah," says Patton, smiling slowly. "That's exactly right."
There have been rumours that this tour will be the last one, and that the band wilt break up at the end of it. "That's impossible to tell," believes Patton. "Who's to say how we'll feel at the end of this tour, or after three or four years even. That's just stupid speculation."
However, somewhere between the end of the last tour and the release of the new album, Roddy Bottum did toy with the idea of leaving Faith No More. He lets this slip innocuously when I ask him just how much the band means to him; how much of a hole in his life
there would be following the break-up of this band.
"Well I do think there'd be a pretty big hole," he says. "I mean, it takes up a lot of my time and I've been involved with this for quite some time now, so yeah, it would probably make a big difference to me.
"I actually thought about this before we went in to record the new record, about leaving the band and stopping touring, and just being involved with various projects at home. But I decided not to."
Was it just a thought that merely crossed your mind, or did you seriously consider it?
"No, I seriously considered it," he says. "But in the end I decided to stay on." Why? He breathes a long sigh... "I guess mainly because the band isn't where I want it to be yet, isn't at a point where I'd be happy to leave. This band is like a 12-year-old kid, and I wouldn't be comfortable leaving a 12-year old kid behind."
On the album sleeve to 'King For A Day...' Faith No More are credited as being only a four-piece, with the guitars credited to the then guitarist (and Du Pont heir) Trey Spruance, who is also a member of Patton's other group Mr Bungle. Spruance has now left the group
(with rumours saying that it was Patton who advised against having him in the band; that Spruance was just a spoilt rich kid who would have caused as much trouble as Jim Martin) and has been replaced by one of Faith No More's road crew, Dean Menta. I asked Bottum whether they intended to make Menta a full-time member of the band?
"Yes, eventually," is the answer "If things work out then Dean will become a fully fledged member of the band."
Did you find the prospect of filling Martin's shoes in any way daunting? To many people he was the most charismatic member of the band. "Not daunting, no," is Bottum's response. "Actually, I had some friends who thought that Jim was the odd one out in the band. They thought it strange that we had this bearded, hunting, redneck-type guy with us. They thought we appeared much more like a band with Jim gone."
Why didn't Trey Spruance work out? "There wasn't anything acrimonious about it, he just didn't want to commit himself full-time to the band," says Bottum. "He didn't want to commit himself to touring and stuff like that. There's no big story behind it or anything, he was just happier being involved in his own thing at home. We realised that, and we were happy with that."
Is it easy joining a band like Faith No More? "No it isn't," laughs
Bottum. And the reason? "It's a very chaotic group, with lots of anxiety and insecurity.There's a lot of sniping and talking behind people's back and stuff like that. Plus, we're a very tight-knit and insular group of people that works in its own way. I myself can be very erratic in my moods and can be difficult to communicate with. So no," he laughs, "it isn't easy."
Not knowing about Faith No More for a number of years, joining them for a chat for a number of minutes was difficult enough. Faith No More are more than happy to break the golden rule of music journalism which says: it doesn't matter what they say as long as they say enough of it. I left the interview feeling a little pissed off and more than a little concerned as to how I would get a piece out of this...
Two hours later and I was watching the band on stage, playing songs from previous albums ('Epic' 'Easy', 'Be Aggressive') and new songs ('Get Out', 'Evidence', 'Digging The Grave') before an audience who were - and this is definitely an understatement absolutely enthralled. Faith No More were Kings for a night and, on the strength of this performance anyway, Kings Tor the rest of their lives - however long that may turn out to be. They are at their best when they let the music do the squawking.