Deep in the American heartland, sicko speed metal sensationalists FAITH NO MORE are coming to terms with serious success the groupies, the glad-handers and the merely gonzoid. Does this threaten to topple even their own highly-developed sense of the depraved? GAVIN MARTIN takes a deep breath and joins FNM's tour bus for a frightening, lightning trip through the rank underbelly of MTV star-tripping.
NME | 14.07.1990 | Gavin Martin
Faith, Grope and Profanity
Welcome to the warzone in Tucson, Arizona. Inside a club called Muddboggs, Faith No More are unleashing the full range of their mega-metal artillery and the caged-in crowd are responding appropriately.
The battle line has been drawn four rows from the front of lhe stage, where the slam dancers and would-be stage invaders come in range of the gleeful musde-bound bouncer blockade. Every time a flailing, hysteria!
youth is hoisted out of the trenches and pushed towards the front by his buddies, the bouncers respond with bear-like paws and shit-eating grins pushing, shoving and throwing the helpless ones back into the violent fray. This can be a dangerous business. Earlier this year at the Astoria in London, the Faith No More assault had barely started when the crowd broke through the stage barriers, delaying the show while new defences were built. Accidents are commonplace when the group played their hometown San Francisco earlier in the (cutely named) Fat Bastard Tour, one of these dance warriors crashed down so hard on top of one of singer Mike Patton's friends that he broke three ribs and lost his bowel control. Well, that's one way to clear the crowd.
The group don't actively incite the mob - but neither do they try to calm them down. They're waging a war of their own. Faith No More attack on all fronts, lacing their speedcore detonations with splinters of glistening melody, jolts of rapped urgency, dark brooding jazz ballads and atmospheric samples. They may be from the same broad musical church that produced Metallica and GnR but FNM do not have either the former's tunnel vision nor the latter's anti-musical rants.
The product of five distinctly different characters and eight years of fine tuning. Faith No
More's music is a futuristic challenge to both metal insiders and outsiders. With the introduction of new singer and lyricist Patton, their latest album 'The Real Thing' is a whirlpool of emotional reach, rancour and desperation studded with weird, tormented and lascinating imagery. Cover versions include Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs', Technotronic's 'Pump Up The Jam' and The Commodores' 'Easy'- afair indication of the boundaries broken by the band.
Already established in Britain and Europe, the group are starting to make an impression in the American heartland, with MTV playing their latest single 'Epic' on heavy rotation. But that alone can't explain the riotous assembly in Muddboggs. The manageress at our motel had told me it used to be a-place to hear good R&B but the last time she went, there was "some sort of satanic group, with people offering their children up onstage to be blessed or cursed or something." She was probably hallucinating: I imagine thatpeople who live in Tucson's 100 degree desert hreat all year round have their brains constantly at boiling point. I also imagine that the young folk living in a town like this one remote, few places to hang out (except the Mall and there are moves afoot to prevent under-age types from loitering there) - suffer from the sort of stifling boredom that only some visceral rock 'n' roll can obliterate. Sure, they can buy their drugs (Tucson is a major growth area for cocaine and marijuana), they can even buy their sex (a stream of topless bars and strip joints can be found just off the freeway), but these are consumerist, sedentary past times . In a place likeTucson the feverish abandon displayed by the Muddboggs crowd isn't Just understandable, it's probably a human necessity. I think that both Mike Patton whose lyrics are often about or invocations for some sort of extreme, primal release-and drummer Mike Bordin, schooled in African polyrhythms and a believer in the fundamental importance of music in society, would agree. Tonight Patton seems to spend histime on stage attempting self-immolation. He comes on like a clockwork monster wound up to breaking point, lunges forward, stamps his feet, hangs the microphone from the rafters, swings it between his legs, tears off his souvenir London bobbie's helmet and mimes a furious jacking-off dance. Breathless and unable to swallow, he swigs from his water bottle but always ends up spurting it high into the crowd.
Eventually he dives into the swarm of warm, welcoming flesh and is passed around until he gets mauled by the frenzied ones. In Tucson he makes his leap during 'Zombie Eaters' - a typically double-edged Faith No More song. It begins softly and gently with the singer proclaiming pure, total, undying love for a lady. But halfway through it changes gear and the singer is revealed as a baby, all demanding, possibly malevolent, blackmailing its mother into catering for its every whim. When he's completely enveloped by the clawing, baying hounds. Just before they tear the microphone away, Patton lets out a blood-curdling, eardrum destroying scream, it comes at a pivotal point in the song and performance, a cry that's charged with all the misery, mastery and mystery of childbirth. For a split second the passion of the singer and the frustrated clamour of the crowd attains a defiant, exultant
LUCY WAS one of the few dance warriors that succeeded in her goal. In the Faith No More tour bus before the show, she talked excitedly about the possibility of stage diving. This was to be her first attempt and she wanted to do it right.
"You gotta be determined, fight. There's nothing we can do to help," said guitarist 'Big' Jim Martin.
And fight she did. Her strategy was faultless. When she came up against a bouncer, Lucy clung tight, holding him round his neck, bringing him into her sweaty embrace, it was unusual to see a petite young girl up there hanging on to a man monster and the crowd gave her added support, both vocal and physical. Wary of the attention, the bouncer's shiteating grin disappeared and kid gloves rather than bear-paws came into play. After a couple of failed attempts the bouncers turned a blind eye and Lucy got to do a couple of gymnastic somersaults into the crowd.
Afterwards she was thrilled, this was much more fun than her usual performance. Like quite a few of the girls gathered in the Faith No More tour bus before and after the show,
Lucy's usual performance took place in a topless dancing club on the outskirts of town. The previous night the group were free from engagements and, ensconced in a luxurious hotel (drinks on tap, barbecue patio and all night swimming pool) they decided to throw a party. Bassist Bill Gould, the group's anarchy obsessed serial murderer and drug conspiracy freak, classically trained keyboardist/bondage gear fetishist Roddy Bottum and gun-toting axeman and "rock 'n' roll party animal" Martin toured Tucson's topless bars, picking up friends along the way.
Many of these girls seem to be exhibitionists by both trade and nature. After a few beers one statuesque blonde has pulled off her top to demonstrate how she usually gets past the stage door, asking anyone in groping range if they want to feel her "honest to goodness 100 per cent genuine Tucson, Arizona tits". Jim Martin eyes the ware greedily. "That is what we like," he says. The extrovert behaviour of these giris, who later pose for photos in various states of undress, is puzzling. Apparently this is the expected and accepted way for
them to behave around MTV rock stars, it's the image that comes through in the teen mags and on the TV and they play out the role in full.
For several of them Tucson is Just a stopping-off spot on their way to Hollywood, where they hope to get even closer to their mythical rock 'n' roll wonderland. But being here inside this big touring bus with the beers, the bunks and the two TV lounges - a sign of a group with considerable status - is some sort of achievement, and they celebrate the only way they know how.
The band respond to it all with a mixture of mild relish (Jim) curiosity (Bill and Roddy), unease (Patton) and complete ignorance (Bordin) - as they troop in and out he's got his head down doing the LA Times crossword. After the show, there's an invitation to a party on the outskirts of town. A girl who boasts two nicknames "G-spot if you're a rocker, Pervert if you're a biker" and claims to keep an 11 -inch pet python in her bedroom-drives us there. But the pool proves too dirty for anyone to swim in, the beer supplies are low and Patton seems to be getting ready to explode as he becomes the centre of attention for groupies of both sexes. The male groupies don't want sex, they just want to hang out, slap your back, call you dude and tell you you're "totally cool" over and over again. Patton, as sober as ever, is only too glad when one of them offers him his car keys and he drives back to the tour bus.
Before he beds down for the 500 mile drive from Tucson to Albuquerque l ask him if he enjoyed himself.
"Are you joking?" he says. "That was a complete fucking nightmare."
The rest of the group tell me that drummer Mike Bordin is (a) completely paranoid (b) besotted with his fiance and (c) a Russian Jew who will probably end up settling in Israel. I'm told to badger him with questions during my stay. They call him 'Puffy', a nickname he detests. Mike probably seems weird to the rest of the group because he's their sanest, most stable member. He tells me that he didn't go to the party because, "in this game you can only chase the same wild goose around so often until you realise it's really not worth
For Jim Martin, however, it's all good fun and he gets photographed in a variety of poses. These girls collect their snapshots with rock stars and Jim's happy to oblige. Before leaving, one girl whispers the name of a famous British singer who is the subject of one of her favourite mementoes. She tells us she has a picture of him face down, bound to the bed with a large pork sausage sticking out of the place where the sun don't shine. During the journey to Albuquerque, Bill reflects on the group's new-found fans.
"Tonight was kind of strange, but ever since MTV started playing the video, that's been happening. We've had some really sick groupie types in spandex pants, which for our group is very uncommon. It's kind of hilarious, so unlike the way we are, we have to accept it because it's so unique. "Suddenly we're being accepted into the mainstream and mainstream attitudes are coming, so it's kind of hilarious. The rock thing, the groupie thing, is so unnatural that you have to laugh. I see them as victims of manipulation. They have to act and think a certain way, narrow down their interests. It's kind of sad."
By the time the coach pulls into a truck stop just outside Albuquerque the sun is rising and the band are tucked up in their bunks, except for Jim, who stays up drinking Jack Daniel's and watching Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy re-runs right through the night. He tells me that if he makes a lot of money he'll travel to southern Europe, do more hunting and fishing and add to his gun collection. Martin's a good ole boy born on the wrong side of the
Mason-Dixon line, so naturally he fantasises about guns. His dream car would be a large Cadillac or a Continental with machine guns hidden behind the headlights.
Just in case.
The gig at the Sunset Theatre in Albuquerque has a more restrained audience and the performance, though more polished, lacks the fire and tension of the previous evening.
But the scene around and about is, if anything, even more peculiar.
In the arts gallery adjacent to the theatre there's an exhibition by child abuse victims. And outside, the girls that have gathered to meet the tour coach are very young, too young to be hanging out with degenerate rock 'n' rollers. When they get on board the bus they insist on feeding anyone in spooning distance.
They've brought odd presents, fruit, cakes and cheese dips and they get very drunk and very maudlin very quickly. It's a little too weird for anyone to handle and eventually they are politely but firmly asked to leave.
We watch a TV programme featuring a group of American pre-teens preparing for plastic surgery, which is no less depressing. Here are more children of the free world
brainwashed by a mediated fantasy world queueing up to have growth hormones injected, fat sucked out of thighs and implants in their breasts. Next up there's Drew Barrymore, a celebrity drug casualty, who is being interrogated and flagellated by the odious Oprah Winfrey- a well established American way to seek forgiveness.
The band find it all highly amusing. This is their preserve after all: the sick excesses, raw nerves and hypocrisy never far from the surface of American life is a constant focus for their attention. They first came to prominence with 'We Care A Lot', a stinging riposte to the cosy complacency of post-Live Aid culture. On 'The Real Thing' theyhave sculpted a series of all embracing vignettes which go even deeper behind the facade, invoking images of dread, deviancy and sheer mindlessness. Bill Gould says the record succeeds because the band have learned to think about their music visually, but it also benefits from the searing, twisted,
howling, strangled vocals and tormented lyrics of Mike Patton.
Patton is the group's youngest member, a last minute replacement for Chuck Mosley who departed after too many drugs and too many fights threatened to tear the group apart. The group had expected "a fat greasy guy, another Jim" when they called up the singer of the obscenity obsessed outfit Mister Bungle. What they got was a young superfit, clean-cut Californian kid. But he's a health freak with a sick streak, a nondrinker who gets his kicks from pornography.
"I'm an avid collector. I have a few movies but it's mostly magazines because movies are too expensive. Where I live, me and my friends don't have much to do except go into liquor stores and see if we can steal some. Masturbation is a great thing to talk about, I love to bring it up whenever I first meet people, it's just the best topic, though some people are too scared to admit it. You can really get to know someone through masturbation. Me and my friends are pretty close back home."
You jerk off together? "We've never tried that, it would be a good thing to try onstage but I'd never do it with these guys because they're not avid hardcore jackers like me. But it would be perfect for Mister Bungle, a lot of our songs revolve around masturbation."
The strange thing is that, although Patton will talk avidly about his adventures in scuzzy peep show parlours from Holland to Hollywood, about his favourite porn movie stars, reaching a peak of excitement when he tells you about the tape he's received from a girl simulating masturbation, he can't handle the sort of female attention that's coming with the group's success.
"Ahhgh, I don't know what that is, I don't understand it. It's one of the things that you write about in your songs because you can't describe it. You know you hate it but there's really nothing you can do about it, you can't be an asshole. You just have to hold tight and go into a convulsion.
"Sometimes the crowds now seem like they're getting a little more stupid. Like groupies and all that bullshit would scare off a lot of people, including me if I went along to see a band. It's not the funniest environment."
You're scared by them? "Those kind of women, yeah. Scared and disgusted. I met this one girl when we toured with Voivoid and Soundgarden and she was on each tour bus giving crew members blow jobs. At the end of the night I said why, what do you do that all for and she told me she did it to make friends. She was real ugly, she said 'I don't have a lot of friends and this is the best way for me to meet people'. I started to laugh but she was completely serious, told me that she exchanged phone numbers, stayed in contact, a blow job's a pretty intimate thing. That's pretty depressing, entertaining but depressing if you think about it."
Do you ever get annoyed with the rest of the group's behaviour around those girls? "Not really. I just kind of shake my head because every guy has his preferences. The only guy that really disgusts me is Jim, it's funny but Jesus, anything goes for him, anything. What pisses me off is that word gets around that the band is like this and it's not true because what you have are five guys that are very different. But what can you do? Stand at the door and say girls, don't come in? Tonight I'm going to beat off?"
Patton keeps his hardcore porn fascination for Mister Bungle, who will re-group whenever he gets off the apparently never-ending tour. But his contributions to Faith No More are still weird and disturbing. 'Underwater Love' approaches necrophilia with funky, sinuous delight, 'Surprise! You're Dead' is a vampire's death kiss, tormenting his victim into the after-life. The way he giggles at the accusation proves it- Patton is a typical American sicko masquerading as a wholesome fresh-faced youth.
"Ok. I admit it. Necrophilia isn't definitely a fascination. I haven't been put in a situation where I could explore it, yet, but Karen Greenley is someone who interests me. She was this girl who went around mortuaries and got jobs as a caretaker. She'd take the nightshift and start having fun with corpses. She got caught but I think she got off by just paying a fine or something."
On 'Edge Of The World' he adopts a lounge bar croon and wild flight of imagination to explore the desire hidden behind a political sex scandal. A shadowy figure offers up candy and fatherly blandishments to a young girl, the enticements sound creepy, the voice like that of a tormented child molester.
"I wrote that in San Francisco. At the time there was a politician who got caught going to a brothel where 14-year-old giris were selling themselves, people took pictures and everything and he was caught completely redhanded. That was pretty inspiring for me and I got a good laugh out of it. The song's real sleazy too."
Patton says "stupid, retarded frustration" is often behind his lyrics. "Bitterness too. It's not something you think about, but since everyone in the band is so different that's one of the things we have in common. And there's a sense of humour that everyone in the band shares, we're pretty light-hearted most of the time. I guess that's important because there's so few things that do tie us together. If we weren't like this I guess I wouldn't be involved at all.
"l don't like things that are generic, be it music or people. It's just natural to us. We don't even think of ourselves as a Heavy Metal band, we don't identify with Jon Bon Jovi driving his fucking Corvette and having three girls sucking his dick while he's doing it."
And who pray tell do you Identify with?
"More like the bums walking around in the alley. Mass murderers, twisted people.. ."
From Albuquerque to Oklahoma is another ten hour overnight drive. Along the way we stop for an American disaster burrito - a veritable heart attack on a plate, a vision of American excess heaped high with tortillas, french fries, salad, salsa and guacamole. Over dinner. Bill and Roddy expand on future plans to open a restaurant with a medical theme serving dishes like cancerous growth, brain haemmorage and swollen liver. Bill talks about ulcers, his own (a legacy from the time Chuck Mosley was in the band) and that of an old fat man who used to live above Jim Martin. One day while on "the brick chair" his girth split open, the toilet cracked and blood seeped through the ceiling until the ambulance and fire brigade arrived to take his corpse away.
Oklahoma turns out to be such a non-happening town that people leave there to find excitement in Tucson. The group have a free day before playing tomorrow night. They spend it hanging around the Mall - Mike Patton and Roddy indulge their
passion for video games while Bill takes us on a detailed tour of the murder and conspiracy section of a book shop, introducing a cast of characters that undoubtedly provide inspiration for the FaithNo More freakshow. What he really wants to do is take us to see a movie, Henry: A Serial Killer, a documentary portrait of a guy who killed 200 women.
"It's not sensationalist in anyway. It shows you that for some people murder is a mundane, everyday thing like going to the bathroom or getting
It comes as no surprise to find that Oklahoma has no cinema showing the movie. What Oklahoma does have, however, is a local paper and at 3am, having spent a rather dispiriting evening watching old men watching topless dancers, Bill is looking through the classified ads trying to stir up some mischief in theheartland. Bill has recently purchased a new toy which helps the time fly away. It's a relatively simple little gizmo which allows him to record telephone conversations. When Bill's fingers do the walking, the talking is usually low-down and dirty enough to be a worthy companion piece to the infamous 'Red Tapes' - a bootleg of New York obscene phone calls which is a favourite Faith No More tour soundtrack. Listening back to the recordings you can almost feel sorry for the victims. First, he pretends to be the hotel clerk and dials a room number at random, a truck driver who's just checked into the hotel finds himself accused of hiring Joe - "a boy we keep around here for lonely guests" - and the poor guy's voice is trembling. He sounds frightened out of his wits, wondering what sort of hellhole he's come to. The classified ads provide more plum pickings.
There are people selling exotic fowl, sheep shearing equipment or looking for room mates.
Practiced in his art, Bill engages them in earnest conversation and leads them on a merry dance, finally shocking their patience and good nature (this is after all the early hours of Sunday morning) when he reveals his truly vile intentions ("tell me what do you do when you've sheared a sheep").
Earlier he had told me that Faith No More weren't political but did want to get into a position where they "could throw a spanner in the works, pull some gears when people least expect it". Their chances of getting to that position are still a little way off but in the meantime their furtive rumblings and wicked pranks should keep everyone on their guard. After eight years Faith No More are at a popularity make-or-break point. They've got their clutches into middle America and they don't seem as if they're about to let go.
Like the song says, it's a dirty job but someone's gotta do it. And they might just be sick enough to try.