FAITH NO MORE | RIP Magazine | April 1993
Faith No More are on the road perpetually, it seems, and that's perfectly fine with them. It's their natural habitat, where they're at their best, and Billy Gould says he's having a good time. The buoyant bassist is sitting in a London hotel, discoursing on the pleasures of his band's recent jaunt through Germany.
RIP Magazine | April 1993
"It was excellent," he says. "We were in Berlin the day the big demonstration happened [when 300,000 people marched to protest the recent uprising of Nazism in the country]. I haven't seen any skinheads myself, but everyone's been talkin' about them, and I think the whole country's pretty concerned about it. It's heavier than I thought it was."
Billy stops, seemingly reluctant to get into a political discussion, but it's also clear that he's a keen student of world affairs. Despite the tensions in Europe in recent months, he loves touring there—unlike a number of American musicians.
"I would much rather tour Europe than anywhere else," he says, firmly. "Well, I love South America, but Europe's fantastic. I think pretty much everybody in the band feels that way. I like the atmosphere. I think people like the finer things in life a little more here. I can't really describe it, but I like being here. I like the people I meet. Sometimes when we tour the States, I have a hard time me find something to do."
While in Europe, Billy says, "I love learning different languages. You can be in one country one day, and there's a whole different history and a whole different culture, and then there's a completely flip-side point of view the next day in another country, with a completely different angle, a completely different attitude. It's really interesting to see that."
Billy's on a roll now, and while cautious to avoid hurting the feelings of the people back home, he nevertheless has a few thoughts on America.
"America has a really large population, and it's basically a fairly wealthy population by world standards. It's the market everybody in the world tries to sell to. In the record business, 88% of the record-buying public lives in the States. everywhere. Nowhere else really matters. Americans being consumers, they're used to being advertised to. Even the political elections were really more like advertisements than anything else. I think it goes the same with music. From childhood Americans are pitched to; they take in advertisements. For instance, we've had a problem with people trying to categorize our music. I think music categorization has its basis in marketing and how you can sell things to people. If you sell things to people in certain channels, they start thinking in those channels. In Europe they're not as hype-conscious, because there's not as much money. It's a definite different attitude toward the things you do and what you do with yourself."
The selling of Faith No More (which includes singer Mike Patton, guitarist Jim Martin, keyboardist Roddy Bottum, and drummer Mike "Puffy" Bordin) has been a complex and somewhat bizarre story in America over the past several years. When their cult status blossomed into mainstream glory with the success of "Epic" and The Real Thing, Faith's iconoclastic musical style and eccentric cast of characters was suddenly a commercial commodity. There was a time a while back when it seemed that they were performing "Epic" on some generic TV awards show every other week. I ask Billy if that kind of mega-exposure can be detrimental to a ; band in some ways.
"Probably, at some point," he says, thoughtfully. "I guess if you're selling records, you don't really think about that so much. We were really lucky to get 'Epic' ' as far as it got. For a band as strange as us, every little bit of exposure...I mean, the reason we toured for two years is that we needed every little bit of help we could get. It's obvious, with the way Angel Dust is going, that we're not a slick, commercial band, but we'll take it wherever we can get it. There's such a thing as media overkill, but we're unique enough to where it's still a good thing for us to get out as much as possible."
Billy's probably right. Angel Dust, their fourth album, has not, as this is being written, sold even half of what The Real Thing did. One theory is that many of the fans who propelled the latter record past the two-millionsales mark were simply riding on the wave of "Epic's" status as the most unusual hit single of its time. Angel Dust, which is a denser, more deliberately offbeat work than The Real Thing, may have scared off those K-Mart shoppers looking for the next "Epic."
"I don't think that's so," says Billy. "This record has the potential to do well, because in Europe it's been incredible. We've played for crowds of seven or eight thousand some nights. The potential is there, and I think there's gotta be a human sympathy for this music, you know?" He laughs. "But who knows why it's not happening the same. Maybe 'Epic' was just a thing of its time. It came at the right time, and it was what it was."
While Billy admits he has no clear perspeclive on the band's success, he does have a strong view of the current album.
"It's more eclectic," he says, "but we learned how to play a little better, and we learned how to think about what we're doing a little better. We have a lot of friends coming to our shows that came five years ago—I still see my same friends— and I know that if we were doing something really shitty, they wouldn't be coming. Selling records is kind of an abstract thing that you read about in Billboard magazine. The shows are my reality, and the shows, for me, are getting bigger and bigger. We're playing really strong, and that's really the only way I can look at it."
Billy enjoys playing every day because "it's like an athletic thing. I can feel myself getting stronger and stronger. It's like working out. I also like touring in general, because I have free time to do things I like, like read, play guitar and write. It's disposable time that I don't have at home. At home I'm always fixing things, running errands, doing shit like that. It takes most of the day just to keep my head above water. On the road pretty much the only thing I have to do is play the show, and I can put all my energies into that. But in the meantime I'm trying to learn Spanish, for instance. It's cool to have the time to do something like that."
And, of course, to do important things like interviews. "Yeah, right!" Billy laughs. "That's my favorite part!"
He grows thoughtful again as the conversation winds down. "This interview thing is kinda weird. I don't know how people perceive us, but we're at a level now where people think we've made it and that they can pick us apart. It happens to everybody, and it's really strange. People really like to try to find the weak link in the chain and expose it for everybody."
It's the inevitable press backlash. "Yeah," he agrees, "but it's not a real direct backlash, like, 'This band sucks.' It's more like, 'Let's look at their weaknesses.'"
One weakness the press has exploited to a certain degree is the band's reported animosity for each other. Billy shrugs it off. "We fight, and we have real problems—probably just like any other band," he says. "The first time we came to England, about six years ago, our first interview, we got in a big fight. The interviewer just sat there with his tape recorder on. The next day we saw the paper, and it was a really interesting article, because we just fought! But it Kinda worked, and I think it's been an angle people have been eager to use.I haven't seen a lot of articles about our music, but I have seen a lot about our attitude and about how we fight. For some journalists, that's the easy way out."
The price of success? Maybe. But Faith No More will deal with it. This is a band that never takes the easy way out.