LA's crudest, lewdest sons Faith No More return to these fair shores this week for a tour that promises equal measures of magic, metal and mayhem. Ian Gittins discovers why the band punched each other out last time they left here and the thin line between the man and the maniac.
Melody maker | May 11th 1988
Dressed To Kill
To help me out of a spot— because, lets face it, it is a dirty job — Faith No More are about to describe themselves for us. Round the table, left to right. Chuck, as singer, main man and loudest voice, is going to do the honours. So lets see what we're dealing with.
Chuck: "Well, we have a skinhead guy, a peace and love hippy redneck guy, a punker guy, a mohawk guy and a regular guy."
Jim: "Who's the peace and love guy?"
Mike: "That's you!"
Chuck: "You're the hippy redneck."
Jim: "Oh, no way man! Peace and Love ain't hippy redneckl"
Bill: "Well, how about if I be that guy?"
Jim: "But you're not."
Hold it. There seems to be some argument here. Faith No More are known as a band who can pull a quarrel out of thin air, turn on a sixpence and disagree like crazy. We know this. But if you're going to do it, let's turn it to some useful end. You were over here last in January, playing gigs. Rumour has it that on the plane back to the States you had an enormous row that almost led to the whole band breaking up for good. What was going on?
Jim: "Chuck was trying to take a gun on the plane and we were tr/ina to talk him out of it."
Roddy: "And he pulled the gun on Jim."
What? How did you get it through customs?
Chuck: "I got it right through. It was one of those new plastic ones."
Jim: "Then when we got on the plane I was mad at Chuck cos he got it through, so I got him when he was going to the bathroom, and ..."
"Well, nothing. Actually man, it's a total fabrication."
Everyone laughs. Okay. Here we go.
THEY'RE dressed to kill, alright. When I get to meet Faith No More, Roddy, the six foot plus, mellow skinhead, is resplendent in what looks like a Tibetan monk's dressing gown, a neat white kimono.
Chuck is wearing a suit which only an impossibly loud, American tourist on the way to Big Ben could stomach, over a kipper tie, white plastic waistcoat and all topped with a blonde Marilyn Monroe wig. Billy, Mike and HM axeman Jim are more soberly attired, but no sweat. They'll have their turn Faith No More make an absolutely superb racket.
Their debut LP "Introduce Yourself", which landed over here last year, was the most wigged-out, gleeful spurt of perverse activity for aeons. From the snorted sarkiness of their single and anthem "We Care A Lot", an exploitation of the space between any of us and the act of charity, it pursued the base side of human nature with a hard precision. Faith No More gave the impression they weren't blown away by life's surfaces and were all the better for it. "Introduce Yourself" took off from some gut-wrenching severe bass lines, ground out by keen Bassist Billy, and carved mean patterns all over its bared torso. As Hendrix disciple, Jim spat out spiteful guitar lines, closing down spaces he didn't need to. Chuck's words ranged from ranting distaste at all he touched to a delicate, deranged pleading with the world to make space for him.
Now, there's a current trend to ignore the people actually making music like this, to concentrate on the properties of the sound, deconstruct the layers and strata of the shifting mass. As David Stubbs said, plectrums over leather trousers. Well, fine and dandy as this is, with Faith No More it just can't work. They're extremists, and every touch of them is why this music is exactly the way it is. Its no abstract dabbling in the politics of sound, but a tortured mess as involved and at odds as they find themselves with each other.
Nobody else would want to make this noise. Faith No More's music is about boasting, braggadocio and basslines. Its about them, and writing about their jokes and angers isn't an easy diversion from coming to terms with the shifts and spasms of the music. As with Happy Mondays, its the chips on their shoulders, the odd ideas, the strange obsessions that create their sound. "Introduce Yourself" is the tangled, knotted Faith No More in music, no more or less. And its great.
READING that last piece on you, you don't seem to like each other too much.
Roddy: "Oh, that was a rotten night."
Mike: "That was a ROTTEN night!"
Chuck: "We were totally fucked, all drunk."
Jim: "Except you."
Roddy: "Yeah, Chuck was straight, but..."
Chuck: "I was sober but everyone else was drunk!"
Billy: "We were all picking on Chuck."
Chuck: "It just happens sometimes. People just explode."
So normally you're bosom pals, the best of friends?
Jim: "We're not best friends at all."
Chuck: "We all have our own best friends at home."
Bill ponders: "We figure the key to success is all successful bands pretty much hate each other and show up to the gigs and act like they're friends. If we do that, we might be successful."
There's certainly an edge, a tension — a whole web of tensions — in the volatile play of your banter. Do you find friction helps you work?
Roddy: "Definitely. Any emotion at all is good inspiration."
Billy: "A lot of the time I get mad of somebody for doing something really stupid, but then they've done it anyway and I've realised that what they did was maybe a pretty good idea."
Mike: "That's rare in this band, though."
Billy. "No, not really! I don't think so."
More to the point. Faith No More gain from being composed of five headstrong individuals pulling away at crazy angles. Songs like "Blood" are all conflict and raw edges, anger and disturbance translated by emphatic guitars into frustrated fire. It's no dilution, but a way of getting further out. Are you all extreme people?
Roddy: "We're all extremely different from each other."
Chuck: "We like different things, have different friends..."
Jim: "We're all extreme communists."
Billy: "But in a strange way."
Jim isn't enjoying the interview. He decides to make a stand.
"Look at us, man. Fucking look at us and see fucking extremes right there, just by looking."
Roddy: "I have no hair. He has long hair. He has dreadlocked hair. He has naff hair. He's some, er..."
Jim: "Superman hair."
Chuck: "No! Hair has nothing to do with anythingl"
SINCE the dirty racket which Faith No More kick up has everything to do with their personalities, the stubborn urge they have to get their view across, it's fair to see the band as an outlet for the more pent-up parts of their psyche, a means of clearing out the trash. How true is this?
Mike: "A lot! 100 per cent for me. It releases something that otherwise wouldn't be released."
Roddy: "Especially on tour, when we're playing every night. That's pretty much it, get up there and get
it out every night..."
Chuck: "Pretty much all it burns up for me are calories."
Chuck is starting to spread a small, but noticeable. gut. Jim looks at it with some disdain He's not happy.
Roddy: "Yeah, Chuck treats playing as some part of aerobics exercise!"
So is being up there intense, or humorous?
Chuck: "I like humour."
Jim: "I like intensity."
Chuck: "I like intensity, I like humour. But if the crowd's energetic then you burn up more calories."
Jim: "I make sure I dump more calories in myself than I burn up, put it that way."
Jim: "I drink beer."
Chuck: "He gets drunk every night"
Jim: "I'm not interested in burning off calories, man. You're doing that and the rest of us are playing intense!"
If you weren't in this band, and couldn't use Faith No More to pour your excess and waste into, how would you do it? What other expression is there?
Chuck: "When I have more money I'm gonna get a dirt bike and start riding the dirt again."
Roddy: "I'd like to be out solo in the mountains."
Chuck: "I used to like moto-cross a lot when I was a little kid. Then I got rock N roll and marijuana and lost all my motorcycles..."
Jim: "Put on weight."
Chuck: "...put on weight, got my skateboard stolen, couldn't afford to buy another one, then I started playing in a band and.."
Jim: "Started thinking about fucking calories."
THE words which Faith No More drop into their angular frenzy of sound rub tightly against the tensions of the music. 'Anne's Song', for example, their new single, is a pounding metal beat over which Chuck holds a crazy conversation, neither with himself nor anyone else. "I can do anything with her," he concludes proudly, having worked through a chain of events we never get to see. Like most of their wanderings. Faith No More conceal the actual level of events, only showing us the mental process reflecting what s going on.
The currency of Faith No More's troubled music implies that you are all anxious about how things are, making sense of what lies around, finding a sense of urgency and focus among it all. It's on an edge, looking for values where this friction you thrive on can make sense, come into its own. But sprawled round me now, you all seem so laid-back, at ease. What is it like in your heads?
Chuck points to Mike. "He's tense."
Billy: "He's not tense, man, you're tense. You're fucking tense..."
Jim: "You're the most tense guy I've ever known."
Chuck: "Yeah, I'm pretty high-strung."
Billy: "You're very high-strung!"
Chuck: "I've gota lot of nervous energy."
Billy: "So stop picking on Mike."
Chuck: "I'm not picking on him, I'm just saying.. "
Billy: "He's not tense. He's just sitting reading a magazine."
Chuck: "Alright, now he's pretty calm.. "
Billy: "No man, he's like it a lot of times!"
Jim: "Look at his face! (Poor Mike is fully bemused.) "Ah-hahahahahaha! Ah, fuck"
Wherever it comes from, 'Introduce Yourself' has an air of menace, of suspended strength and release, which is hard to come to terms with. Do you all see it as being on some kind of extreme?
Chuck: "Well, it's good where most records are extremely shitty."
Billy: "I think we put a lot of power into it, that kind of extreme. But I don't think its a heavy metal record."
Roddy: "It's real different. I don't think anything sounds like us."
Billy: ''What's hard for us is we play them and they sound like totally normal songs to us. Then people here say to us, 'Man, I heard you on Radio 1! It's such weird shit to play with all that other shit. And to us, it
doesn't sound weird.."
Jim: "But you've got to listen to all the other shit that's on Radio 1."
Billy: "Fuck! I love George Michael! I admit it!"
Jim: ''Wow, Billy! That's the thing they're gonna print right next to your picture!"
THE way Faith No More take each other to task, launch themselves at their songs, head for odd extremes, implies that the group is a very serious concern for you. Is it the most important thing in your lives?
Mike: "For me, yeah. Has been for some time. There's other shit going on, but .."
Jim: "Why be in this band if its not the most important thing?"
Roddy: "I spend the most time in my life on this band."
Chuck is thinking carefully. "It's not the most important thing in my life, but it's my priority."
Roddy: "Yeah, that's the way to put it."
Jim: "Well, its not the fucking way for me to put it, that's for sure."
Does it never get in the way of your lives?
Mike: "I have a girlfriend, and I tend to miss her."
Chuck: "Yeah, me too. I don't like leaving her."
Roddy: "But when we started, we knew what to expect. We always hoped we'd be able to travel like this, playing music all over the USA and Europe."
When you travel, do your fans differ greatly? Do you appeal to the same people here as at home?
Chuck: "In England there are lot more metal fans.The States is more skaters and disco fans, punks..."
Billy: "In the States, they put out 'We Care A Lot' as a 12 inch dance single, so a lot of disco fans came to see us."
Jim: "We scared them to hell."
Billy: "But some of them liked it. They started growing their hair long."
Does Faith No More just give you all a chance to go crazy?
Mike: "I hope so."
Jim: "Everyone should go fucking crazy."
Chuck: "Mayhem is always kinda more fun."
Billy: "We all go crazy when we're not working."
Mike: "That's a bad kind of crazy. It eats you away cos it's fucking internal, not external. Your mind sinks
into the gutter."
Jim: "My mind sinbks into my stomach."
Somehow, you all seem born to, make the mental metal mayhem that is the core of Faith No More. Can you imagine what you'd do if you weren't part of it all?
Jim: "I used to work on fire alarms.'
Mike: "I was a baker."
Roddy: "I'd deliver shit."
Chuck: "I was a motorbike messenger for a while. I used to like moving furniture, then I started working with alcoholics and they made me do all the work."
Billy: "I've got this thing with steady jobs, y'know. I can't do it right, just can't. I always fucked up. My body's not constructed for it. I'd forget things, space out. I used to try, but.."
I know. It wasn't worth it. Not like this.
FAITH NO MORE haven't a clue what they're doing, except they need to do it and if they don't they'll be sorry. So they follow an impulse and end up making this tortured mayhem into some kind of beauty. Chuck, Jim, Roddy, Billy and Mike may not be quite the lunatic cartoon we saw them as last time they were here. They couldn't be. But they're not too far away. They're touring the whole land starting this week.
Any words for the fans?
Jim: "If you all don't come, I'll pee on your mother next time she's giving me head!"