Roddy Bottum is a heavy metal star. He is also gay. In a field of music where homosexuality is at best ignored, and at worst insulted, FAITH NO MORE's keyboard man is the first gay Metal star to speak candidly about his sexuality. A Gay Rock shocker, or the first of many to open the closet? US writer LANCE LOUD (seriously!) is in the pink...
Kerrang! | Issue 444 | 22.05.1993
Glad To Be Gay
Roddy Bottum. A name like that would be pretty hard to bring off if you weren't gay. "It's a good name, isn't it?" he laughs. "It's actually Roswell J Christopher Bottum The
To those readers who assumed that every Rock star lives a wild life surrounded by bimbo groupies, it might come as a surprise to learn that Roddy Bottum is gay. The easy-going, 28-year-old keyboard player co-founded Faith No More 10 years ago. Throughout rock 'n' roll's 40 year history, this music has provided a rebellious outlet for disaffected youth everywhere. But, while other musical genres - notably Disco and even Pop - have encouraged gay artistes, Heavy Metal has remained firmly hetero.
Or has it? No one really knows, because no Heavy Metal star has ever come out and declared their homosexuality. Until now. Bottum's decision to go public was a crucial moment. When I approached Bottum through his management to do this interview (originally for publication in the US gay magazine The Advocate), he was never anything other than enthusiastic. After all those years in the closet, weren't you in the least bit nervous? "Actually, well... yeah, it -made me nervous. From the perspective that this was going to be revealed in England. The tabloids over there are notorious for sensational junk. I was afraid I'd end up cast in this inflammatory light. I didn't want them talking about me being gay like it was anything to be ashamed of, or something that I'd been hiding."
And when it came out in print?
"I didn't feel bad at all that it had; I was happy with that. The only thing I had second thoughts about was the choice of country it came out in.
"I would think just as many people would be attracted to a gay icon in a rock 'n' roll atmosphere. But... no, that probably isn't the case. As far as rock 'n' roll goes, there is still the stereotyped heterosexual scenario of teenage girls falling in love with macho guitar heroes. But there's just as much homosexual infatuation in Rock music as heterosexual - it's about time that it's recognised.
"I think everyone in the world - whether they admit it or not has both sexualities in them... it's just that the special people let the homosexual elements surface."
WHAT SORT of reaction have you had to your revelation?
"Well, it's pretty recent news, so it hasn't had time to sink in yet with our fans. It's this interview that's the real test. I think we do have a real macho kind of fan - young, hairy boys who wear a lot of leather - so it's going to be real interesting to see how open-minded the Rock world has become."
Why didn't you talk about being gay without being asked?
"The most interesting thing about rock 'n' roll is the mystery factory, the ambiguity, the whole 'what if...' factor. It's always fascinated me with bands. If someone'd asked me before if I was gay, I think I would have been absolutely honest about it. But, I was kind of willing to keep it a mystery, too. The way I see it, my band's career will probably go on for another five to 10 years, so I think it's probably good to stretch out the different aspects of what's going on behind the scenes."
Speaking from your Sensibility as a gay man in the predominantly heterosexual and at times homophobic world of Heavy Metal, does it ever get hard to take?
"It's pretty difficult. I mean, if there is any crass, disgusting machoism in the music business, it comes from the Heavy Metal side of things.
"As a band on the road on the Heavy Metal circuit, we're subjected to a lot of really ugly things that go down. The whole groupie aspect is such a sexist throwback to a bygone era. It's pretty disgusting to be considered that type of band, when that's the association."
HOW DID touring with Guns N' Roses go for you?
"Knowing their beliefs and the sexist, racist, homophobic things they've said in the press, the fact that they were touring with us - a band with someone gay in it kind of tickled me. But talk about crass sexism... the actual experience was disgusting. "On the road. the band would send their video crew out to roam around in the audience during intermissions. They'd comer pretty girls in the audience, and everyone would scream and yell at her until she lifted up her blouse and showed her tits."
And if she refused?
"The whole audience would boo her. It was awful. and it happened every night. And at each stop on the tour, before Guns N' Roses would come to a town, they would have their crew arrive a day early and find the local club, where they'd give strippers backstage passes.Every night, the whole scenario was like millions of stripper chicks just hanging out waiting to do one of the band, or a roadie or whoever.
"It was so sleazy. We left every night right after we played. The only time I ever talked to Axl was the night our band had to stay after Guns N' Roses' set to get a tongue-lashing from him."
"Halfway through the tour, we realised it wasn't the kind of scene we wanted to be involved in. We'd been talking shit in the press about Axl, and he got wind of it.
"So one night, we had to stick around and have a meeting with him after the concert. He was really upset and talked to us for an hour.
"At the end of it, one of his people came into Axl's trailer and said, 'Axl, come on, I want to show you something'. So Axl gets up, all serious, and says to us, 'Come on' - we'd just been raked over the coals and felt obliged to play along - so we all had to follow him.
"We went into this other trailer. It was filled with guys but dead silent, no one's saying a thing. Everyone was looking at something going on in the back. We're following Axl like idiots, but as we all get closer to the back we see what everyone's looking at - lying on a bench are these two really out-of-it women, stark naked. One was eating the other out, but it was anything but sexy. The girl who was being eaten out... she looked like she was dead - just lying there.
"It was so creepy. And absolutely silent. All you could hear was the whirr of the video camera. Axl walked right up in front and we freaked out. Mike (Patton) started yelling, 'Oh my God! I cannot believe you people would do this!'. Everyone just shushed us, and we all just left immediately."
WHAT'S THE most cliched question you get asked about being gay?
"Getting asked how it feels to be gay and play in a straight macho band."
Since you posed it, answer it!
"I think it's a good thing. It's really cool to be playing around with the usually strictly hetero Hard Rock stereotype."
Roddy was recently on a FM radio show in Los Angeles when a kid called in and asked about it over the air.
"Yeah, he said he was reading BAM magazine and read that I was gay. He wanted to know if it was true."
What did you tell him?
"I think I said something like, 'Yeah, men, women, animals I'm pretty much open to anything!
"But as far as the kids in the audience go, I honestly don't think it really affects them the way that it used to. The majority of kids these days are out to prove they really are open-minded and willing to accept people for what they are. They want to prove they're not shocked by anything. Of course, there are homophobic hate-mongers, fag-bashers and all that, but those are the minority, not the majority... at least, I think so."
And what about your fellow musicians?
"As far as musicians go, none haven't been cool about it. If it's come up, it's never been anything that's shocked anyone. We toured with Babes In Toyland, and they all knew and it was no big deal. We played with Helmet too, and it was no big deal there either. I honestly think things are a lot more open nowadays in that respect."
How did your band handle the news?
"actually, we never really discussed it."
You never had anyone to confide in, in the band, who knew your sexual preference?
That must have been uncomfortable in the endless months on the road. "Mike (Patton) and I kind of have that relationship we talked about our sexual exploits. When he joined the band, I said 'listen, you know I'm gay right?'. And he said, 'Yeah, I kinda figured'. From there on out, we would talk about things - tell each other what we were up to."
What about the other band members?
"Their attitude was 'Do what you gotta do', but I think they felt it might have been better to talk about it with someone who would treat the subject a little more seriously."
TRUE OR false: when the time is right for a person to come out, he, or she intuitively knows it?
"It wasn't intuition for me. I had a long-standing pact with myself that whoever asked me first, I would tell them."
"Now - since I've talked about it in the press - I tend to see the prejudice that's being levelled against homosexuals these days. Before, I tended to think of it as a gossipy sort of thing. 'Oh, he's gay', you know? Now, I think of being openly gay as a political statement. Something that, in some small way, furthers the gay rights movement."
As far as gay role models go, who are they in rock 'n' roll?
"Boy George - I respect him. If King Missile gets more successful, then I think that Chris Xefos would be a really powerful role model. Bob Mould of Sugar is good. And Gary Floyd, the singer of Sister Double Happiness, he's really out, and really a good person for kids just coming out to look up to."
And how do you rate in the role model department ?
"I think that I'll make a very positive role model. I'm not fazed by the whole sexuality issue. I'm not going to treat it as a huge deal. Being gay is a really casual thing to me, and I think it's important for kids to keep in mind that they should be proud of it but keep it in perspective.
"I hope that, if I'm considered a gay role model, it will show kids that sexuality is only one part of their lives, not everything. And, I hope they'll learn not to be tormented by what other people think."
DO YOU think there's any connection between creativity and sexual persuasion?
"In a real subtle way, yeah. Our guitar player (Jim Martin) is the most macho, heterosexual figure in our band, and it reflects in his playing. So to combat that, to reach the balance that gets the sound we strive for, a feminine side has to come into what we're doing.
"Can that be construed as homosexual? Probably. But it's really important, as far as the yin and the yang goes, to combat the male bombast with the real sort of feminine and humorous side."
You're friends with Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love: did you talk to them about going public with your sexuality?
"I talked to Courtney about it."
What advice did she give you?
"None. She only talks about herself, her life. Her basic response was, 'Well, that's nice, but Kurt's gonna be on the cover of The Advocate'. And Kurt... he's one of my very best friends. But as for his Advocate interview, he can talk about his homosexuality or bisexuality or bestiality or whatever as much as he wants, cos he's so publicly married that it doesn't make that much difference.
"Everyone thinks he's part of the hetero world - I'd imagine he's the most publicly married man in the world right now! But he's a good person, a good inspiration. Just the fact that he was on the cover of that magazine was a very powerful statement."
WHICH ROCK stars have you slept with?
"Well, I slept with Courtney... Courtney and I used to go out together."
How was it?
Pause, "l didn't marry her."
Which Rock star would you like to sleep with?
"Kurt Cobain, of course!"
Do you have any reservations about what you're doing now?
"Yes... even right now, I'd like to say that I'm totally together about it, but at the same time, it does kinda freak me out. From now on, any time my name is brought up, my sexual
preference will be one of the first things discussed. That's the way people are - I know, I'm guilty of it, too!"
Do you think your gayness will affect FNM's audience either positively or negatively?
"Faith No More have made a career out of confusing people. I think it's going to test people, in a real positive way, cos this is reality, this isn't just some goofy song. All of a sudden,
this is fact. I think it will be a real test for kids.
"Most bands have one thing to sell - we've always sold confusion. And as far as marketing is concerned, confusion is a pretty difficult thing to sell."
Who will be most shocked by your coming out?
"I think the young macho element of our fans in England. They're young enough and isolated enough to be shocked. To all of a sudden be confronted with this news that one of the band members is gay, it would be shocking."
Did you take for granted that people would react negatively if they heard the news?
"I'd like to think no one would be shocked. But, unfortunately, some people will be."
Have you done any lyric writing for the band?
"In the past, I've done lyrics for a song or two on each record. On our last record, I did the lyrics for the homo-erotic song on the record, 'Be Aggressive'."
Oh. is that the one about... "Swallowing... it's about swallowing. Ha ha!"