FAITH NO MORE | January/February 1993 | Hot Metal
Faith No More's faithfully classic cover of the Commodores' cheesy '70s hit Easy sat pretty at #3 in the UK charts and is about to take the roof off the US Top 100. Faith No More, on the other hand, do not. The wonderfully goofy little piss fights and mud flinging that we've always revelled in with Faith No More have ceased - this problem is more.
Hot Metal | January/February 1993 | Steffan Chirazi
It Ain't Easy
Put simply, the current trouble goes back to the making of Angel Dust, when there were creative differences that led to guitarist Jim Martin not involving himself (or being involved, depending on where you hear your facts) as much as usual in the album. An unwillingness to confront the issue has left the rift creeping wider ever since... and here we are. Jim Martin and the other four.
My initial plan for this piece was to put them in the back lounges and have them piss fight their way through everything; blood, guts and all. When drummer 'Puffy' Bordin heard this, about 45 minutes before they took the stage at San Francisco's Warfield Theatre, he blew a gasket. "Not the right time, not now! Not now we cannot do it now. We have six months left to tour and we're doing okay now so we will not fuck it up. We'll take care of things at the tour's end," he roared. It was a violent, passionate stream of worry from one of the most intense human beings I have ever met. So get this straight; Faith No More's latest dispute is tong-term and low-key.
Uneventful but as powerful as hell.
Rriinng! Wakey wakey, rise and shine! Have you ail noticed how much more a part of FNM Mike Patton has become during this album and tour? Mike's development from frontman to semi-genius seems to have escaped pens and papers internationally.
The piss drinking, the tampon munching, the lurches, the screams, the insults, the jokes, the lyrics, the dark side of 1989 pin-up hot pop-poop. He has become the definitive mischievous, curious and warped youth. A man who will try anything just to try it, who will do anything just to do it. But maybe the biggest 'do it' for Mike was actually becoming a happy member of Faith No More.
When during; the album's recording did the penny finale drop? "It's pretty simple," he replies. "At first the fruit wasn't ripe but it's got riper and riper and now it tastes really good. Of course the direction of the songs had something do with it, but the actual point at which it clicked is hard to pin down. One thing about this band is that there's many things we've either not had the courage or the means to do, but I think we're beginning to care less how it's perceived and just get on with things, Just do 'em!"
It's probably easier for Mike now, looking back, to surmise why he was so antagonistic when he first joined FNM. "Well, I could have adapted real easily - but the truth is I didn't really wanna join, I wanted to know about the band in my own way. There were certain things I wanted to know and I saw a lot of things I didn't wanna know so I ignored them. Rather than dealing with them and confronting issues, I found it much easier to ignore them."
Was becoming the pin-up kid for '89 the sort of thing we're talking about? "Yeah, definitely, everything. I mean, when you're green, hell! I didn't care, I didn't give a shit, and if somebody wanted to yank me down the street by my balls then great, because I'd never been yanked before."
So the general belligerence and antagonism was just to get through things? "No, definitely not to get through it. That stuff wasn't for a specific end or reaction, it was just instinct. Even with 'inter-band relationships', it was pure instinct. I mean, when you enter a volatile situation anyway, with the thing spiralling towards the toilet, you just stir it a little more. I guess with this album we were all spiralling in the same direction," Mike adds; with a shrug of his shoulders.
Did you find encouragement to express some of your weirder and more fucked up ideas, such as the aggressive 'Malpractice' and the twisted 'RV' ?
"It's not really aggression more than it's just feeling comfortable being able to unload everything, shit everything rather than filtering It. There was just a better forum for extremes."
Did you feel that, to a degree, you reinvented yourself with the haircut, the uglier tones, the darker personas than the smooth white pretty boy of yore? I mean who the hell is the RV pig?
"Ha ha, whadya mean, that's autobiographical... I dunno, we'd better talk to the psychiatrist," he replies.
So there was no conscious effort of 'fuck this, I'll never be a Sassy magazine pretty boy again'?
"No, nothing conscious, and anyway, I love Sassy magazine.Certain things just happen naturally When you've toured for two years and you're trapped in a time capsule like that you come back fucked up. It's just you really get to feel like a rat sometimes, because all you can do is run along with it, chasing the trail of cheese. That's all you end up feeling like. In the end you lose dignity, you really do. So you end up convincing yourself, 'Goddamnit, I have control here', when you obviously don't."
Why is it so much easier now than before? "I dunno, that's a relationship question. Explaining it would be like sitting down with Mom and explaining why you farted at the dinner table three years ago."
Is it therapeutic dealing with character's like the RV pig in song form, getting the anger out? "No, because sometimes it isn't a plague, sometimes it isn't a disease, and it isn't good to have that shit out in the open off your chest. Why should you show anyone any of that shit?"
He sighs deeply before smirking. "There's this deep myth about lyricists and singers, that they're always 'projecting their inner-most secrets', which is horseshit, totally romantic bullshit! Singers are the worst. They can't hide behind instruments."
A funny thing happened when I was at the LA Palladium watching FNM fuck with the 'hippest a coolest' Beverly Hills flannel decked twerpies; I saw Chuck Mosely. the band's ex-singer. He bigger now. more brutish, and sporting a shabby beard, He was sweating a tot. We Care A Lot (one of the songs Chuck co-wrote souley with keyboardist Roddy Bottum) was playing.
I asked him how he was, and he told me okay ~ except that no-one ever gave him enough fucking respect and fuck this and fuck that and fuck the other lot that matter, and did he sound bitter? Fuck yeah! He's a father now, and also has what is said to be a great band called Cement. Yet still he was there, at The Palladium. investing time and energy on torturing himself to a state of malevolent anger. Some people need that pleasure of pain to get on by in life.
Along with Puffy, bassist Billy Gould carries the weight of Faith No More on his shoulders (by choice, at no extra cost). Do they think the problems with Big Jim Martin, like a faulty engine, can be repaired?
"Sure, anything's possible..." Puffy says.
"Stranger things have happened..." Billy ventures. "In another way I don't really know that anything right now is faulty, because we're playing as well and consistently as ever and that's what matters right now." Puffy offers.
Why is the consistency so much greater?
"Because we still have the potential to put on great live shows and make great records," Billy replies.
"That's why I think it's a bit of a misnomer to say 'faulty engine', which is why you have to choose how you frame this whole situation very carefully. Yes it does matter, yes it is concerning a lot of things, and there's a lot of people who said these things that will really get upset by what you say. So you have to frame it carefully. All I would say is that we are concerned with getting better, we would be fucked if we didn't try to improve ourselves, and the next record will also be an improvement. And that love my car, of course I do. I wanna fix it up and make it great. There's no question about it." Puffy says.
The making of Angel Dust seemed fraught with tension and pressure to follow up.
"No no, we were running parts of the running race with a bum leg!" Billy exclaims unsubtly. ''Basically, it s like a puzzle, you've got a square peg and a round hole and it isn't fitting, and you gel frustrated. We would not have put the record out if it didn't work, but we managed to put it off, I mean we ended up scrapping lots of songs to make sure."
Surely in the old small days artistic freedom was easier because you weren't a major band .
"Listen, listen, listen. As far as the 'artistic freedom' goes and all that bullshit, nobody heard our album until it was finished." Billy says.
But isn't there this subconscious pressure telling all concerned, '2 million last time. 2 million...'. Didn't someone from your label make the statement. 'I hope you lot haven't bought houses' after hearing this album for the first time?
"Yeah, that's true, but it was after the album was done and anyway, there's always pressure, With The Real Thing we had the pressure of making the record as soon as possible. Just so we could get our fucking union scale and pay rent and eat food, y'know. There's always something, if you have no money it's the money you can get from making an album, if you go on tour there's a per diem everyday - it all becomes the same thing," he finishes.
It seems like there's not as much humour or general wackiness evident these days "For the first few years you put humour first, everything's a big joke and so on. But then you look back and see that the humour is overshadowing other things, and you realise it can't be that way all the time. There's so many things about this band that have never made it to print or photos, people haven't seen there's a lot of dimensions here. It's easy to talk about what a bunch of smart arses we are, how our 'funky grooves' or 'metal' clashes - there's so many single angles that it can get a little tiring." Billy says.
"We are very focused on making our hour and a half the best we can, or getting the job done properly, and in that sense maybe we're the ones who are worse off." Puffy adds. "Because we have a standard that we now hold ourselves to, and if we don't make that standard we got really pissed off. We're headlining and we've all grown into this sense of responsibility that there are people who buy tickets a month in advance, who plan 'to see our show."
One thing Faith No More haven't outgrown is a good moan. While Epic was breaking them last tour they were whining about 'being successful but not having money yet', seemingly sceptical of their success. This time there was the infamous 'Axl bashing'. I mean, if you hate it that much. Then surely you leave?
"It wasn't that bad for the first couple of months, but after four months and being contracted to it... there were lots of little things. I mean we were treated really well throughout, we can't complain about that at all." Billy says of their Guns N Roses supports. "It's like this. For the past 10 years we've been playing as professionals. We get offered to be on this huge tour, stadiums and everything and we figure that this is where it all leads to, the highest point. But to be on that level you have to want to be on that level. Subconsciously you think of things in stages, levels of touring, and you tour at the biggest level and it's a disappointment because you see a lot of unreal things, a lot of bullshit. And, whether it's conscious or not, you wonder to yourself, is this where I'm headed? Is this where it all leads to? To this bullshit?" Billy offers.
"But that isn't true. The conditioning of this industry is that that's where you go, to head for that level as opposed to doing something that you're comfortable and happy with at whatever level. It you headline stadiums you've gotta want to do that, which is great if you're into it, but I think we learn that we aren't the type of people who could do something like that."
As he sips his round bag cuppa in more serene surroundings than a tour bus, I ask Roddy about his expanding roll in FNM. both musically and visually.
"I think it was everybody's job on this last album to stretch, for everyone to take a step forward. I don't see anything I'm doing now as being any greater or more than before, but of course I had to come out and forward even more, which is something you take for granted. We have to do that with every album," Roddy explains.
Indeed, 'tis Rod that puts the pop mto Faith No More - "That's the stuff I listen to more than anyone else in the band," he says. Roddy is the pop and Jim is the metal, two extremes that have co-habited with superb results. Until now? What's Roddy's view on the Jim affair?
"Jim and I are absolute extremes and the balance will always be there, but to enable the scales to keep balance, the further I go in my direction the further he has to go in his. If he stays where he is and I continue to go further, then things will go off kilter. I would hope that next time he'd come up with even bigger riffs. On the last album I didn't see moving so much in his direction, he kinda stayed where he was - and not only that, but he didn't produce a whole lot of material. So as it stands right now it is a little off kilter, but we'll just have to work it out."
Opposites being what they are, Roddy has quite a different view on the current live shows to Jim (as you'll read later).
"I'm extremely happy with the shows there's more aggression than ever before. Mike's performance has improved so much, and the intensity level has upped to a point where we take it much more seriously." he says.
So have Faith No More grown from boys to men [sounds like a good name for a dodgy band]?
"I suppose that's somewhat accurate." Roddy replies, "I mean our initial success with The Real Thing was so unexpected that you kinda have to laugh at it. Laughing at everything's your only guard And you can only do that for so long before you start looking like an idiot. We did it tor a long
time, we laughed at our success and then we realised that by laughing at our success we were laughing at all the people who'd bought our records. When we started to realise that things had to change ."
Was there intense embarrassment that, to Dave in Wagga. 2 million albums puts you in the same basket as Mr Big or whatever?
"Almost Embarrassing, yeah. It's your biggest hope and your biggest expectation and fear, all of them. Suddenly you're not as 'underground' anymore, so you lose out there. You've sold a lot of records so Dave in Wagga is listening to you and you're not what you used to be - this 'cherished thing' for the 'in' few - you're this big exposed band. More than embarrassment and discomfort, I think it just look some adjusting to."
Adjustments which still haven't quiet kicked in. Moaning on The Real Thing about this and that, the rigours of fame (sob) and now whinging about playing to 40,000 people a night. I thought this band had learnt that lesson once. Why didn't you just leave it it was so ugly?
"I guess it was discomfort again," Roddy replies. "We weren't into that whole scene, it wasn't what we were about. But you're right, we were stupid and we should've just spit. It would've been the gentlemanly thing to do."
Are you an easy target for the press? You seem to be pretty easy to wind up.
"I don't think people see us as being intelligent and sarcastic when they do that, they see us more as being stupid, idiots who will say anything and put their feet in their mouths. If I was a journalist and I saw what we'd said in print, I'd probably assume we were idiots."
But the pop sensibilities combined with the intense sarcasm is what ended up producing a cover hit. 'Pop' Roddy's the one to explain why this is so. "The motivation was kinda to fuck with people." He laughs. "We'd been covering Easy the same time as we were doing War Pigs, and kids would literally expect us to do War Pigs. So being the arseholes we are, when we hear people screaming for War Pigs. It's a case of going in the absolute furthest opposite direction. Easy was the cheesiest pop song we could think of - in America it was a staple of the '70s, whereas in Australia and the UK it isn't as well known, I mean. If we hear people shout for something that hard. we aren't going to give it to them," he chuckles.
Martin sits, as ever, like an old man. He fiddles and tweaks with a scanner, prying into other people's affairs as the bus steams for Santa Barbara. "Hey... wait a minute. It's yer old lady and she's got a guy in the house and they're... oooh oooh, ha ha ha..,"
He has become an aural voyeur, hoping to catch a wild sexphone thing or at the very least a decent argument It's perhaps the most convincing argument yet that cetlutar phones shouldn't be used tor important calls because it isn't long before this man links up his scanner with a tape recorder.
Cagey, a touch aggravated. I ask Jim about Easy, a song he doesn't like. "Yeah. I never really did like that song. I mean, it's okay I guess. I didn't even wanna record it, but we elected to do so... But I suppose, as far as it being the biggest song about to be added to our albums, CDs, tapes - to the best of my knowledge that's what's gonna happen..." he laughs.
After all these months on tour, can he still get his jollies off onstage? "Hmm... infrequently it has to be said," the behemoth replies honestly enough. "Maybe once a week."
Is it just the monotony of touring, or are we back to the 'it' factor that's going to need fixing?
"We're back to the 'it' factor. Hopefully when we do the next record we can work it out and get back on track."
I put it to Big Jim that this is more serious than the usual wacky, black FNM humour, that 'it' sees him as the epicentre of something big and nasty, that maybe he should come forward and try to work 'it' out.
"I dunno. I don't know what 'it' is. I mean I can speculate as to what 'it' is, but there's nothing that can be nailed down as such."
In a sense Jim's just as reluctant to get involved in piss fighting as the other four band members, choosing instead a passage of verbal mirrors to bounce off the obvious point: that he is currently an unpopular FNMer who doesn't want to confront the issues head on any more than anyone else. That time will come.
He does seem disconnected from the rest of the band - he's in the back lounge while they're in the front. He doesn't know how they really feel, he is left speculating. No camaraderie in the workplace. Those have to be hard working conditions.
"The best thing to do is look at things with your own two eyes. I look at things with mine and make the best sense of what t see," he offers cryptically.
It seems as if, on stage at least, the band are doing their best shows ever though.
"Well, that's for someone who's out front to say. To me onstage doesn't always seem that way, it seemed that there was maybe more raw energy coming off the stage in the past. But you see, that's for me - for Mike Patton there's probably a lot more energy than ever before..."
Well, when you stand and look at them......
"Look at who?"
The rest of the band.
"I really don't tend to took at them that much, y'know."
Isn't there this delicate chemistry that requires interaction to make things what they are?
"Probably, but it's nothing we know anything about. It's maybe down to the combination of people. This is the thing, as a unit you may have chemistry, but individuality you may have fuck all. Maybe a band who loses a member would be doomed."