Apparently, this year is a good moment to talk about Faith No More. On August 19th, a special re-edition of 'We Care A Lot' was released. This is their first album from 1985, and recently other new and extended editions of 'King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime' (95) and 'Album Of The Year' (97) are being distributed in diverse formats as well. In spite of this year’s retrospective nature of releases, Billy Gould doesn’t consider it a nostalgic period. On the contrary, they are ready to tackle new musical challenges.
Taking you back to the beginnings of the band, what was going on in your head when Faith No More shaped its sound and defined itself as a group?
(Thinks) Well, it is a very wide question. In 1984 or 1985 we didn’t really know who we were, but we knew what we wanted. It was a time at which we wouldn’t get to do concerts easily, we weren’t rated, nobody cared about us. We had friends, yes, they came to see us and there was a little scene, but we weren’t capable of going on tour and those things you want to do as a musician. At the same time, somehow, we knew there was this something in our possession, although we didn’t exactly know what it was. My position was: “I’m not really sure where this is going, but I wanna take it as far as I can”. That was my perspective, but it isn’t something I’d had deep thoughts about, although I did have some certainties, of course. I wanted this to be the kind of music that can be felt in a profound, powerful, strong way… and the bass had to sound right. Those sorts of things, technical things, were present.
How different is it for you to listen to 'We Care A Lot' today rather than when having made it in 1985?
There are no surprises. I’m not discovering anything new as far as the songs go, I know every bit of them. But distance does make this a completely different experience. When you grow older, you find the way to forgive yourself (chuckles). In this case, that’s how it works because one of the reasons why this record wasn’t reedited in previous years was that it made me a little embarrassed. It’s an album made by enthusiastic but unsophisticated people. I guess it’s been enough time since then to appreciate one’s limitations and not feel shame about them.
You presented the record playing live with Chuck Mosley on vocals. How was that?
It was a challenge because we didn’t know how it would turn out or what it would feel like, since the other times Chuck had joined us onstage it hadn’t been optimal. Despite bearing every detail in mind to make it go well, we still didn’t know what to expect. We didn’t intend to make this a huge Faith No More show either. We introduced it as Chuck Mosley & Friends, so whoever came could have a good experience, with a cool surprise without taking it as a big event or anything historic. Once the energy flowed and the pressure ceased, we did it. Later, people started commenting. We wanted to reconnect to do something unusual. And in that sense, it worked exactly as we had planned it.
The day after your first show you tweeted “Fuck the haters. That is all”. I assume it was for those who spoke badly about Chuck on social networks, comparing him to Mike Patton.
Yes, you know, it’s curious and partly true. With a thirty-three year-old band, we’ve always had people telling us what to do. And also people sticking up for us like “this is what you are”. And us... we responded and explained our intentions. Then we started to have fans who appreciated us for what we did, for doing what we felt and not what we supposedly had to do. Reaching this point today and seeing people, some of them fans of ours, punishing us for having Chuck singing in the band makes me wonder: “Who the hell are these people? How can our own fans adopt the same attitude as that of the idiots who questioned my band at the very beginning?” It’s sheer crap. They can’t put Chuck in a defensive position because they have nothing to defend themselves against. He’s the original singer! (laughs) So, maybe there was a bit of drama, but I didn’t get too upset. It was more like “this is who we are and this is what we do, and if you don’t like it you can go fuck yourself”. I just felt it was necessary to express it.
A day after you posted a picture of Patton and Mosley together on Facebook. Do you think you can now enjoy a good relationship with each other, after learning from conflictive periods from the past?
Yes, and I think it’s even simpler: we all realised this wouldn’t last forever. In spite of the hard times and bad feelings, we felt trapped into the group, with no way out. We understood that we had spent too much time apart. Personally, now I don’t feel any pressure at all.
For the release of 'We Care A Lot' you had the innovative idea of inviting fans from different cities around the world to listen to your record exclusively a day before it came out. How did that come up?
My intention was to bring closure to what we did when we were touring and promoting that record, at the time when nobody knew about us. We would generally arrive early at the venues and give out shirts for free to the people working there. We would make friends. At that moment we didn’t earn much money, sometimes a couple of bucks, sometimes ten, but it was a lot of fun. People were very welcoming with us, they would invite us to their places, introduce us to their friends, etcetera. So in a way, I wanted to bring that feeling back through this idea: going to a pub, playing the record and getting drunk. We can do it here and in many other places, we can communicate and the plan wasn’t to make a formal launch out of this and have people concentrate on how it sounds, but to throw a party where Faith No More invite people to get drunk as the record’s being played.
You consider yourself a musician, but you’re more than that: you’re a producer, the owner of your own label, but above all, you are a cultural figure that connects with people from many different places and makes them connect with each other...
Yes, I agree with that. As a musician, I’ve been lucky enough to tour a lot and get to visit places I would miss if I had to stay in my own country forever. There’s no turning back from this. It’s like tasting a really good cup of coffee and enjoying its flavour: you won’t want to have regular coffee ever again. I grew up in California, a wonderful place to live in many ways, but if had to stay here forever, considering my personality, I would get very depressed. Some things can be done much better in other places: more pleasantly, where people have different attitudes towards work ethics, music, food… I’d miss all that.
You usually share news about politics from all over the world but not so much from your own country. How do you see North America today?
Very sad and depressing. There are two issues taking place here; one of them has been going on for a long time already: on the one hand, people have been living isolated and “locked in”. The media treats them as if they were the centre of the universe. I think the country that I live in is kind of separated from the rest of the world and that’s why we have the presidents or candidates we have. On the other hand, corruption is just appalling.
What are your thoughts on the upcoming elections?
Whoever wins will have a lot of trouble governing given that half of the country is against them. There will be demonstrations held on both sides. I hate to say this, but hard times await us.
Back to the music, could one say that Faith No More is a nonconformist group when it comes to finding their sounds?
I don’t think it’s about being conformists or nonconformists. I believe it’s about being happy with your work, creating your own personal space where you can express yourself however you want. There’s a very conservative side to the music business where expectations are usually met. I’m not sure what it’s like nowadays, but one used to make good money by selling products, and the more defined they were, the more likely you were to “win”. We never had that perspective. Our approach to music is more fan-like. We wanted to feel inspired and excited about the records we’d be making, same as with the records we were fond of when we were young. The system we all know is naturally pretty conformist itself, so it’s really about expressing yourself in a way that won’t be affected by that latent conformism.
Amongst all the members of the band, there are infinite parallel projects which are very different from one another. Do you believe the Faith No More fans are capable of understanding this sort of “musical galaxy”?
No, and I don’t think they should be. I think they can hate many of the things we do in a parallel way. It’s like food, not everybody likes the same meals. I’m a bit concerned about those who like everything (laughs). I don’t intend to take advantage of being the bass guitarist in Faith No More to favour other parallel projects at all.
How do you feel about the re-editions of 'Album Of The Year' and 'King For A Day'?
There are many positive aspects. It’s not us who are releasing them again, it’s the label. But it’s good to see that it still generates interest among people. They were complicated at that moment and it makes me think about how they survived as time went by, which makes me very happy. What I really like about these launches is that they have a more artistic point of view than that of the original versions. We were not that involved as far as sound is concerned, but Roddy did write some stuff and what really matters to us when it comes to publishing a retrospective is to do it the way we want it to be read. It’s cool that we’ve put everything in the right context from our own perspective.
With all these re-editions it may be a good moment to ask: what’s your favourite Faith No More record?
(Thinks) There isn’t just one. They are all very different and they’re the best we were able to do at each moment in particular. They were all our favourites when we made them. And as soon as we finished them we stopped listening to them, so it’s really something I can’t answer. Once more, it’s like food. We can share likings, but one day I can feel like having steak and you can feel like having fish.
After these three re-editions, one could think Faith No More is entering a “dangerously nostalgic” time. Am I right or will there be new music in the near future?
Well, I can’t see it that way given that these two re-editions from the nineties haven’t really been our decision. They definitely give the impression that we’re feeling nostalgic, but actually we are not. As regards the future, what I mean to say is that we can’t control our band right now. As soon as we have something to say, we’ll say it. The first ones to know are usually our friends.
Many different musicians have been a part of Faith No More through the years. How is it that you’ve managed to build a consistent career starting from some sort of dysfunctional musical family?
(Thinks) I guess there wasn’t a plan. We just trusted what we believed, and the odds were in our favour many times. Our art and intentions appeared at the right time. They wouldn’t have functioned under a strict plan, it was many things combined favourably that made it work.
Are you working on any new projects right now, Billy?
Yes, I am. I just finished re-editing “We Care A Lot” last week and that was very hard work. I’ll take a week off and then see what happens next. I’m going to be working with the chilean band Cómo Asesinar a Felipes once more. There is also a movie in which I’m going to get involved. Very interesting, but it’s still too soon to discuss it. And who knows what else might come?
What can you say about Cómo Asesinar a Felipes’s new record?
I haven’t listened to it yet. I’ll be in Chile for some days working on the pre-production with them. Then they will come over to record here. I feel a lot of curiosity about what they might bring now that they no longer use keyboards, which used to be a fundamental part of their sound. I love this band, it’s unique, and they sound like themselves. They’re a “nowhere” group, one of those bands I really appreciate working with. I love their spirit when it comes to taking risks.
You lived in Barcelona for a while. Why did you decide to live there and why did you leave?
I love Barcelona. I lived there for a year. That was back in 2001 and it happened because my wife had lost her job here in the US, and we thought it was a good moment to live wherever we wanted, get out of this country. The whole “dot com” thing was very latent in San Francisco and we were not interested in it. It was great to spend time there and we left because we decided to see other parts of Europe, so we lived in France for some time as well and then, since I started getting involved in some productions, we went back home. I hadn’t returned to Barcelona until this summer!
How did you come across 7 Notas 7 Colores, who have been under your label internationally?
I met them in Granada in 1997. They told me they couldn’t find a way to release their records in the US or South America, and it was right then that I was beginning to work on my label Koolarrow, so it was the perfect opportunity to get them involved. Their record became our second reference.
You have taken part in many projects and collaborations, but not always as a classic band bass guitarist like you do in Faith No More. Is this a function you save for your own band?
Yes, I think so. In any case, no matter what kind of music I make, you’re likely to hear something in the style of Faith No More in it, since the way I create music and ideas starts from a very clear basis. I can’t do much about that. It’s basically how I’ve learned to play and write. I love doing other kinds of things, like when I played with Porn or Jello Biafra. Those projects get me out of my comfort zone and make me do stuff I don’t normally do. It’s good exercise for all my muscles. But whenever I write, you’ll always hear something related to FNM, whether you like it or not.
By Ariano Mazzeo
Original arcticle published at MONDO SONORO in Spanish
Kindly translated for us by Lucia Catalina.