FAITH NO MORE | May 1995 | Livewire
JUST A BUNCH OF NORMAL GUYS? Faith No More bassist Billy Gould and keyboardist Roddy Bottum discuss the new album, the state of drag in NYC, and animal porn in Gwaum!
By Kelly Barbieri
Yep, those sardonic souls FNM have re-emerged on the scene after a three year hiatus with their new album KFAD, FFAL. The disc has an almost anxiety-ridden aura around it. The reason for this, from what the band's bassist Billy Gould told Live Wire when we caught up with him and keyboardist Roddy Bottum in sunny San Francisco, is because of all the tension that FNM ensued due to fluctuating members -- among other things -- released itself during the recording. [Excuse me, did that sentence make sense? I don't think so. I'm just typing it the way it appears. -S]
"The new album was a catharsis for us," Billy explains. "We made a record that was very liberating. I think we really learned how to use our power as a unit. I mean, I have a total submarine view of it, but I see it as more of a release type thing. There is a great amount of stress being let off in this album."
It became apparent to FNM during the Angel Dust tour that there was definitely going to be a split between the band and original guitarist Jim Martin. This led to a frantic round of musical guitarists -- including Mr. Bungle axeman Trey Spruance. Trey stayed in the band long enough to record KFAD. Unfortunately, he promptly bailed when he realized the time involved in being a full member of FNM.
"We tried out about fifty different people and Trey was the last guy we asked." Says Gould, "Patton was against the idea 'cause he used to be in a band with him. We asked him, 'Can he do the part?' and Patton said, 'Well of course he can do the part!' Then we kind of rationalized, 'Well, who cares what kind of guy he is as long as he can play the fuckin' songs!' So we used him and it turned out that Trey wasn't all that into touring; we found that out after the fact. He did do a great job on the album though. Then Dean Menta, who replaced Trey, was actually my roommate -- talk about close to home! He's a great guitar player as well, so everyone is feeling good about having him in the band."
FNM is looking at another one of their epic (no pun intended) 18-month tours which will take them through Europe to America and back again, only to have them then head off to Australia and Japan! Whew! I get exhausted just thinking about it.
"So do I!" laughs Billy. "I'm tired already and we haven't even started yet! We're really out of shape and we need to start working out. Our shows are pretty demanding, you just can't go from sitting around and eating dinner every night to performing. We'd drop dead of a heart attack or something!"
Live Wire: Why the hairy touring schedule?
Billy: We kind of have to do it. It might not be as necessary these days, 'cause I think that there are more bands that are different who are becoming successful, so I don't think we'll have to work as hard. But before, we never could rely on radio or any of the traditional means of promotion because we didn't fit into any kind of category. So we had to tour a lot instead. Now, we're still gonna tour a lot 'cause that's what we know, but hopefully it will be a little easier for people to accept us for what we are now.
LW: Do you like the fact that there are such diverse bands gaining popularity?
B: I think it's cool for us. We're the same band that we were five years ago, and hopefully we're growing, but it's good that the bands who are harder to classify are becoming popular; maybe people aren't being so hung up on what category you fit into.
LW: Was it a problem not being easily classified in the past?
B: We are always having a problem with that. People are always trying to tell us what we are, or they just sit there confused. For example: the record company. They sit there like, 'We don't know what the fuck to do with you guys!' Basically with the music business in the early 90s or the 80s, you had hard rock as a category, dance was a category. When you were able to be fit into a box, they pumped it through the proper channels, otherwise they were lost. Now it seems there are more bands crossing over several areas and that's cool. It means that people's tastes are reflecting what they listen to and they seem to want a little bit of variety. That just makes my job easier, 'cause now whatever I think is cool - if the quality is good - will be accepted for what it is. Does that make sense?
LW: Totally. Do you like what's happening with the punk rock trend?
B: A lot of people are bitter about it. They're like 'Aw, Green Day, this shit was happening 15 years ago.' Yeah, and 15 years ago a lot of those bands sucked! I was there! I like Green Day. They're really into what they're doing. I came to the realization in 1982 that punk rock was dead, it was over. So anything that's around now is nostalgia or just good music. I'm not emotionally connected to the concept of punk rock like I used to be, so I really couldn't give a fuck. I would rather hear Rancid on the radio than Whitesnake. When we broke with the Real Thing, Whitesnake and Poison were our peers. I'm so happy that now we have Soundgarden and Stone Temple Pilots. I had to tour with the other bands, I know what the difference is!
LW: You didn't have a good time touring with those bands?
B: It sucked touring with them! The aesthetic is totally different now. We're coming out of an era when the rock musician was seen as a genius -- a womanizing, car-driving asshole. I've always despised that. After all, I came from the punk thing where it was all more real. Now, at least, these people in bands are more normal and the movement is totally against the attitude. It was a drag before. When we were on tour, people thought we were just a bunch of negative assholes because we were having to deal with having a certain amount of manners with people we had nothing in common with. If a band like Warrant said we were their favorite band, and they came up to our show to hang out with us, it was cool if they were nice guys. But, I wasn't gonna say that I liked Warrant, you know? And because I don't want to say that, I don't want to be thought of as a negative person, I'm just not into it! Now it seems that the showbiz aspect has finally tapered off a bit, thank god!
LW: What do you think causes the classic rock star ego problem?
B: Not to sound like an arrogant asshole, but I think that a lot of musicians have really low IQs, a lot of the ones I've met, anyway. What happened was that the industry was selling a myth of musician as hero. Supposedly, a musician is supposed to be a person that has all the things that the average person doesn't have. Most people live like dogs -- they work their ass off for almost nothing. What they're being sold is a package of someone that lives a life they can't have, but they can live it through the records that a band are putting out. The problem arises when the musicians start to believe that the myth they created actually exists and that they have an obligation to live up to the myth. Some musicians start thinking they have this god-given gift and all they're really doing is selling something that doesn't exist. The whole thing is really shameful. It's just so calculated. A cultural thing like music is something that affects people in an emotional way, it shouldn't be made to lead people around like cattle. If you believe in the music, you put that first and let everything else follow. You gotta let the music have that chance.
LW: It is a problem getting the band back in the groove since it's been three years between albums?
Roddy: It's been a long time, it's sort of like starting over. The new guitar player, new songs, a new sound. I think that everyone is in a much different mindset. I think we're all coming from a much different place and it's been such a long time since we toured that it's just going to be different.
LW: What were some of the influences on the band's sound this time?
R: The new guitar player had a lot to do with our direction on this record. I wasn't as involved with the writing, so there are more guitars and we had a new mixer that sculpted the sound.
LW: How long did KFAD take to record?
B: The album was recorded in three months. We were in Woodstock recording it, and there was absolutely nothing else to do, so time kind of dragged. We're not real into sitting in a recording studio for eight months. We write and arrange the stuff before we go in, so everything is ready. We like to be self-reliant, we arrange our own songs and like to be prepared. We don't want to spend tons of money in the studio "creating". It took eight or nine months to get the songs ready, but four months of that time was spent trying to find a new guitar player and trying to work things out with the old one. That never happened, we're still having some problems.
LW: Did you enjoy the recording process?
R: Well yeah! I love New York! Every New Yorker I talk to says "Aw, I hate it, I wanna leave ..." People complain more in NY than anywhere else, but I love it there. I love the fact that there is just so much ... everything. You can just walk out in the middle of the night and it's just like OK, let's go ... You can do anything at any hour and everything is available at anytime. I went down to the city every free minute I had when we were recording.
LW: What did you do in the city?
R: I visited a lot of friends. Went to a lot of shows. I saw a lot of really cool drag shows that were pretty great. Drag is a whole different thing in NYC; it's so chic!
LW: I heard something about funky b-sides for your singles, what's the story; any drag numbers?
B: The b-sides that we did were three cover songs that were actually recorded at my house. There's "The Joke" by the Bee Gees, there's a song by a band called The Brothers Four called "Greenfields", and "Spanish Eyes" by Al Martino! They all sound really good, I'm really into it! We were in this bar in Gwaum, god, it was so twisted! You see, Gwaum is like a rock in the middle of the ocean; they have like two million snakes per mile -- they have so many snakes that they have killed all the birds, they have no more birds in all of Gwaum. So, we're sitting in this bar and they have posters of hard-core porn videos all over the wall. It was a regular bar, and they had animal porn on the wall! And we're like, 'What the hell is this?!', and in the corner of the room they had this karaoke machine and they were all singing the words "I started a joke ..." and there was this bouncing ball so they could follow the words. The lyrics were so pathetic and depressing that we just said 'We have to do this song!' It's the most miserable song I ever heard in my life!