Select Magazine | Issue August 1992
A Real Ugly Experience.
STORY BY MARK PUTTERFORD
PHOTOS BY IAN LAWTON
IF THERE WAS ANY SUBSTANCE IN THE THEORY OF BEAUTY SLEEP, THEN FAITH No More would surely require a fix of Rip Van Winkle proportions.
You'd have to call them 'sartorially challenged', or perhaps 'aesthetically underprivileged', but in the liberated vocabulary of a distant society they might well be referred to as 'scruffy bastards'. Singer Mike Patton is the least beautiful of all. Inside the billowing cocoon of a huge catering marquee planted behind the stage area of Gateshead Stadium he shuffles from table to table in the most stomach-wrenching pair of leather knickerbockers imaginable, bought, he boasts, at an Iranian flea market in Paris and hewn from such crusty hide that "it feels like I've got half a dead cow wrapped around my balls". On his feet are boots a brickie wouldn't be seen dead in, on his back a tea towel masquerading as a T-shirt, on his head enough grease to fry a Full English Breakfast. As he approaches, a sixth sense urges you to train your eyes on your shoes, in case he thrusts a slimy palm under your nose and grunts something about "the price of a cuppa, guv?". "Guuuu-UUUU-OOOO-ooood!" is in fact his opening gambit when he eventually arrives, the celestial refrain stretching through a jaw-breaking yawn.
"I'm so tired, man. I mean, doing nuthin' kinda knocks me out, and we've had so much time off on this tour it's disgusting. There's, like, a week off between each show and when we do get to play it's only for 45 minutes. And it takes us five songs to warm up, then we've only got three songs left! It sucks..."
His drawl tails off into the dingy basement of boredom, but sympathy doesn't come easy. Within 15 minutes Patton and his band will be onstage before 20,000 raving Geordies promoting their current album ('Angel Dust') which is fully expected to transcend the multi-platinum triumph of 1989's 'The Real Thing' and propel these San Francisco drop-outs into the stadium-hopping slipstream of hosts Guns N'Roses themselves. It is, after all, just three years since he joined the band (their 1987 debut album 'Introduce Yourself' featured original singer Chuck Mosley) yet, in the aftermath of 'The Real Thing' and the MTV-cracking success of the 'Epic' single, the boy's set to become a millionaire. Who knows, he might soon be able to afford a regular supply of Wash & Go...
ON THE CHROME-GRATED CATWALK MOMENTS later, Patton tries to banish his boredom with a few BUPA-taunting somersaults. As Faith No More lurch with slapdash abandon into the thundering strains of 'Caffeine' and the Tyneside throng - fresh from the exertions of openers Soundgarden - surge and froth like a sea of Newcastle Brown, Patton throws himself head over heels to the floor like he's engaged in Judo combat with the Invisible Man, staggering to his feet to spit and belch at the front row before slamming his back on the deck once more with a sickening thud. He looks like he's enjoying himself at last.
Like Patton, who often looks as though his arms have had an argument with his legs and are determined to do their own thing, each member of the band could well be performing in a completely separate sphere. Guitarist Big Sick Ugly Jim Martin, a king-of-hillbilly Guy Fawkes who actually does wear his spectacles over the top of his sunglasses, chugs away with neo-Sabbath inclinations on an inevitably black Flying V. Keyboard player Roddy Bottum, proudly wearing a T-shirt embossed with the legend 'MARKY MARK', bobs and weaves like a Kriss Kross brat. And the rhythm section of bassist Bill Gould and drummer Mike Bordin twists and tugs its way from thrash to country and western, barely acknowledging each other along the way.
But this is cultured chaos, clockwork disarray, a schizophrenic symphony where seductive melodies court hideous guitar riffs, where the bass sound tightens slowly around your neck and chilling keyboard atmospherics suggest you keep one eye over your shoulder. This isn't metal, this is Faith No More. This is also only 5.45pm... The 10pm curfew at Gateshead Stadium (where you keep expecting Brendan Foster to come hurtling around the comer) has meant that Faith No More have to go on in blazing sunshine, and it's clear conditions are hardly conducive for a classic.
But as the band chum through 'The Real Thing', recent hit single 'Midlife Crisis' and 'We Care A Lot' towards the guts of the set, they fall into a measured stride which once again seems at odds with their apparently disjointed delivery. This, after all, is the only place you'll encounter the deadpan theme from the 1969 film Midnight Cowboy rubbing shoulders with a vicious spurt of hyperblur like 'Introduce Yourself'. And thus, what better as an encore than an alarmingly authentic version of 'The Commodores' super-smoochy smash, 'Easy'?
It's 6.30pm by the time Mike Patton slams himself into the stage floor one final time, and within a minute Faith No More are slumped across the leather sofas of a dressing room tastefully equipped with a sumptuous spread of food and several crates of ice-cold lager. They hardly need a dressing room as none of them wear anything onstage other than what they've had on all week, but if they needed a quiet place to pluck out their ear plugs (essential FNM stagewear), this specially adapted locker room, complete with potted plants and moody lighting effects, might as well be it.
The conversation, like almost everything with this band, leaps from one extreme to another Princess Diana, birth abnormalities, Spain, tunafish sandwiches, the Beastie Boys, com circles, radiation, ketamine, bestiality - it's difficult to keep up. Yet diarrhoea remains the recurring theme, the result of a bout of mass food poisoning caused, everyone suspects, by a cook who was spotted returning to duty from the lav without washing her hands. "I've just lost half my intestines!" wails Mark the tour manager from a nearby cubicle, strides visibly bunched around his ankles.
"C'mon Mark. Let's hear you hit that pan real hard," yells an excited Patton, "I want to hear that mutha echo." "Squirt for me baby, squirt." squeals the dreadlocked Mike Bordin, snatching lan Lawton's camera and holding it over the top of the cubicle
door for a few paparazzi-style snaps. "I almost squirted tonight onstage," confesses Bill Gould. "It was real buttock-clenching time for a while there. Shit, I hope Axl doesn't have the same problem tonight, what with him wearing those tight, white pants an' all..."
"Hey," Mike Bordin exclaims, "didn't Axl speak to Jim yesterday?"
"Naw, I think it was Patton," says Bill, "I think he said, Huhrrrmmmnn as he flashed past with his minders."
"Oh, I heard it was more like, Rrrraaahhggg actually," adds Roddy. "Naw, I'm pretty sure it was, Huhrrrmmmnn," protests Bill. "Some guy said to Patton, Hey, Mike, Axl just spoke to you, and Patton was like, He did?"
BY AND LARGE, FNM FEEL THEY'VE BEEN TREATED well on this European trek with Guns N'Roses, although there's hardly been plenty of opportunities to hang out with their illustrious compatriots. As Bill says: "Touring with Axl has been like touring with Michael Jackson - although I think I've seen Michael Jackson more times on this tour than I have Axl."
You get the feeling that the FNM chaps haven't exactly had the time of their lives on the trip. Roddy was so bored after the Wembley Stadium show that he went to a Spiral Tribe rave in Blubberhouses, West Yorkshire, to help Select with its 'research'.
"We're not the kind of band that's made for this kind of stadium show," explains Bill. "It's just not what Faith No More is about. It may be good from a business point of view because our record has just come out, and what better way to promote it than to get on a big tour like this? But if we had our way we wouldn't be doing this; I'd rather do ten nights at the Newcastle Mayfair than one at Gateshead Stadium.
"I mean, it's cool to be out there in front of a lot of people, but man, the sound is shit, the place is too big, the crowd is a fuckin' mile away... It just lends itself to more of a cabaret act, the kind of band who want to indulge in all that theatrical bullshit, with costume changes every other song. I mean, we do change our clothes too, but usually only once a month."
The whole sickly circus that surrounds any GN'R activity has made life pretty difficult to bear for Faith No More as well. Ask any of the band how they feel being at the eye of the hurricane and chances are the enquiry will be met with an expression which suggests someone nearby has passed wind.
"When is this interview going to be printed?" asks Bill with a nervous laugh. "You see, I have to watch what I say...but hey, fuck that, just print this: I hate the whole circus thing, we all hate it. But at the moment we don't have the power to do what we want to do, so we still have to eat a little bit of shit. (Seems were back to the catering lady again) We almost have the power to control what we do, but not quite, so we're just gritting our teeth and getting through it best we can.
"Every band in the world might think they want to open for Guns N'Roses, but lemme tell you, it's been a real ugly personal experience, having to deal with all the shit that surrounds this fuckin circus. I've always hated that aspect of rock music and I've never wanted to be part of it, so to find myself being associated with a tour this big kinda sucks."
"Besides," Roddy pipes up, "I'm getting more and more confused about who's who in Guns N'Roses, and it's blowing my mind. There's Dizzy and Iggy and Lizzy and Tizzy and Gilby and Giddy... Shit man, onstage now there's a horn section, two chick back-up singers, two keyboard players, an airline pilot, a basketball coach, a coupla car mechanics..."
This list is interrupted by tour manager Mark, bowels now under control, poking his head around the door to announce that 'Angel Dust' has hit the number two spot in the UK album charts, only being kept off the summit by Lionel Richie's greatest hits album.
"Slag the bastard off onstage," suggests Mark, an Australian. "Nah, we'll probably dedicate 'Easy' to him,"
grins Bill, upholding the band's tradition for contrariness.
That tendency even goes as far as the artwork for 'Angel Dust', the front cover highlighting the beauty of an exotic bird, the back a grisly photograph of a butcher's shop window, depicting the head of a cow hanging among plucked and decapitated chickens on meat hooks. "'Angel Dust' leaves itself open to both angelic and demonic connotations," says Bill, "so we wanted to balance the beautiful with the sick. It's not a statement for vegetarianism or anything, its really just a reflection of the music, a visual representation of what our music is all about; some of it's nice, some of it's fuckin ugly.
IN THE BACKGROUND, GUNS N'ROSES CAN BE HEARD launching into 'Live And Let Die', and those still hanging in the FNM dressing room exchange silent smirks. They're gonna have to put up with all of this until October, as, shortly after the European tour ends, an all-conquering bill of Guns, Metallica and FNM is set to mop up the States throughout the rest of the summer and autumn. But then they're free to do what the hell they want to do, which will probably mean headlining a European tour of their own before Christmas, with someone like The Young Gods supporting.
"This is really just the beginning for us," sighs Bill. "Last time we toured with 'The Real Thing' I left home at the age of 26 and got back when I was 28. I found some of my friends had moved away, some had got married, some had had kids... I had a hard time dealing with that. This time I'm 29, and I know I'm gonna be on the road until I'm 31. Fuck, I don't even wanna think about it..."
Mike Patton shuffles back into the room with a pint of coffee in a transparent plastic container and welcome news that it's almost time to get on the bus for the long haul to London, where they'll crash the night before heading on to some Godforsaken German hell-hole.
Guns N'Roses will be flying down in their private jet, Axl probably on a magic carpet. But that doesn't bother Faith No More, least of all the explosion-in-an-Oxfam-shop figure of young Patton who, after all, is just as happy playing with and promoting his other part-time band, the mysterious Mr Bungle.
"I can't see this band going that way," he grins, "we'd probably go the other way and end up hitchin' rides to each town with truck drivers or something."
Patton paws his little goatee beard and smiles, as if someone has just tossed ten pence into his cup. Somehow, you cant imagine him flashing by, surrounded by bodyguards with only a "Huhrrnnmmnn" (or perhaps a "Rrrraaahhggg") for his fellow tourists, in a few years time. But then, such is the sick, schizo world of Faith No More, that maybe he will...