RODDY BOTTUM 55 His history with Faith No More.

Today is Roddy Bottum's 55th birthday. To celebrate we are chronicling his 35 year long career with Faith No More (minus those 11 during their hiatus). 
Though out his own personal trials and tribulations Roddy has been an essential part of FNM's sound, changing perceptions of keyboard players in alternative rock music, promoting understanding and acceptance of homosexuality and being an inspiration for many.
"I've been Roddy since I was a kid. It's a nickname, but it’s on my driver's license. It’s all I've ever been called, but it is a super-funny name. Can you imagine having that name growing up in school? 'Roddy Bottum' read aloud in front of a bunch of kids? It was a tough one, very character-building." - Roddy 2015 

Roswell Christopher Bottum III was born on July 1st 1963 in Los Angeles, California. Roddy grew up the prosperous Hancock Park district of Los Angeles and attended Loyola High a Catholic school with neighbour Bill Gould. He studied Classical piano from a very early age, his mother would make him practise for two hours every morning. The moneyed Hollywood surroundings meant Roddy would mix with celebrities form an early age, he even baby sat for Rosanna Arquette's family. He and Bill's friendship often found them breaking the rules.

"Our neighbourhood was pretty sterile, very Hollywood. In some instances it was an exciting place and in others a dull one. But the chemistry of us getting together always meant mischief. We just always ended up causing trouble, climbing trees and throwing things at cars. We used to make bomb-threat calls too. I remember this one time, we made a bomb threat when we were 10 years old and called up a Safeway supermarket near my house. Then we were so cocky, we walked up to see what had happened there. Of course there was chaos, the bomb squad was there, people had been evacuated but we walked right up to the manager and said 'Hey, what's going on?'" - Roddy 1994

When he was 18 he relocated (with Bill) to attend San Francisco State university as a film student. In 1983 he joined Bill and Mike Bordin in the band Faith. No Man replacing Wade Worthington on keyboards. Courtney Love sang for FNM on several occasions over the next year and Roddy and Courtney were lovers who became life long friends.

"She was around for six months or so--quite a while, considering that we were switching around singers a whole lot at that point. [The music] was kinda along the lines of what we did on the first record. We would just play riffs over and over again-- we thought we were *so* inventive, [laughs] because we thought it was so driving and so heavy. But she was really good. She did a lot of screaming stuff, and we had a lot of slow melody stuff too. When she sang with us, she was punk rock; now she says she's always been punk rock, which is not true at all. After she left our band she was totally into--I mean, with a sense of humor, but really hardcore pop sorta stuff. We all were at that point--we used to do a cover of Van Halen's 'Jump.'" - Roddy 1992

Faith. No Man became Faith No More and Chuck Mosley was recruited as the band's front man. During Chuck Mosley's time in FNM the two became close and after Chuck was ousted they continued their relationship despite tensions with Chuck and the other members. Roddy co-wrote the lyrics to the song We Care A Lot for their debut album of the same name in 1985, due to his rap influences including Run DMC he helped to bring hip-hop into FNM's early sound. However Roddy's other influences such as Kraftwork and Elton John were essential to his keyboard technique. 

"A lot of that stuff was just me and Billy and Mike in this space we had in San Francisco. And we were really kind of like spiritual about what we would come up with. We had this whole concept of monotonous, hypnotic riffs that we would play over and over, which felt kind of cult-y at the time. We would literally spend hours creating these loops, and I remember the riff to "As The Worm Turns" was one of those things." - Roddy 2016

"My first keyboard that I used on We Care A Lot was an Oberheim, and that was such a key sound to what we were doing. I actually got that keyboard from this dude in L.A., we pooled all our money and bought this Oberheim from a guy named Dwayne Hitchens. He had just finished the score to Flashdance on that keyboard. And we thought that was hilarious, that we had the Flashdance keyboard. We were like, 'Oh this is magical.' It was so fucking funny. Now we played those shows in California with Chuck, and I was at this guitar store before the gigs checking out keyboards and I picked up this reissue of that old Oberheim that I had and I used that keyboard. The Oberheim is what S U R V I V E use, I believe, for the Stranger Things score as well." - Roddy  2016

Mike Patton joined FNM in late 1988 and he and Roddy discovered an instant connection.

On 1989's The Real Thing album his keyboard sounds added a more commercial pop side the FNM's music, indeed creating more accessible music which led to global success. 

During their 1991 South American tour Roddy kept a tape recorder on him to collect audio samples, some of which would be used on FNM's forth album Angel Dust. The record company accused the band of 'gratuitous sampling' and FNM ensighted a law suit from Iris Lettieri after using a sample of her reading a flight announcement at the Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport. Roddy co-wrote the lyrics to the song Be Aggressive which describes male oral sex .

"What I like about 'Be Aggressive' is that even though it's macho in a homosexual way, lots of FNM listeners probably imagine that it is a woman who is getting down on her knees and swallowing rather than a man. I guess it's easier for people to understand and deal with it that way." - Roddy 1993

Whilst on tour with Gun N' Roses he spoke openly to the press about his distaste for their treatment of 'groupies'.

"Knowing their beliefs and the sexist, racist, homophobic things they've said in the press, the fact that they were touring with us - a band with someone gay in it kind of tickled me. But talk about crass sexism... the actual experience was disgusting. On the road the band would send their video crew out to roam around in the audience during intermissions. They'd comer pretty girls in the audience, and everyone would scream and yell at her until she lifted up her blouse and showed her tits. [If she refused] The whole audience would boo her. It was awful. and it happened every night. And at each stop on the tour, before Guns N' Roses would come to a town, they would have their crew arrive a day early and find the local club, where they'd give strippers backstage passes. Every night, the whole scenario was like millions of stripper chicks just hanging out waiting to do one of the band, or a roadie or whoever." - Roddy 1992

In 1993 Roddy discussed his homosexuality in an article published by The Advocate. He explained that he had never hidden the fact that he was gay, only that the question had never arisen.

"The most interesting thing about rock 'n' roll is the mystery factory, the ambiguity, the whole 'what if...' factor. It's always fascinated me with bands. If someone'd asked me before if I was gay, I think I would have been absolutely honest about it. But, I was kind of willing to keep it a mystery, too. The way I see it, my band's career will probably go on for another five to 10 years, so I think it's probably good to stretch out the different aspects of what's going on behind the scenes." - Roddy 1993

After the touring of Angel Dust ended the band found that they had become disconnected with Jim Martin. His personality and musical direction were not suited to the other four any longer.

“There’s always been arguments about that – Jim’s always said he quit. He didn’t. I fired him by fax. It was the only way of getting hold of him! Getting rid of him was a real cleansing exercise. There’s no point keeping someone in the band who’s only there for the money or something. Jim wasn’t committed to what the band wanted to do. I’m good at sacking band members. And by fax was such a… 90s way of doing things.” - Roddy 2009

In 1994 Roddy suffered personal tragedies with the illness of his father and loss of close friend Kurt Cobain. Coupled with the fact he was struggling with heroine addiction this led to him contributing little to the writing and recording of FNM's fifth record King For A Day Fool For A Lifetime. However he recovered in time to tour the album often playing guitar. 

"It was definitely a weird time. There were rumours flying about all over the place about how we were going to break up, and we were all so burnt out it was kinda difficult to care. We'd been on the road for 18 months and all we wanted to do was to go home. There should have been relief that it was finally all going to be over But for me personally, I got a call from home saying that my dad had been taken into hospital suffering from problems with his stomach. At first we thought it was going to be nothing serious, but after a while it seemed like it might be cancer. It was, and my father died after the tour." - Roddy 1995

“But things for me personally were going to hell. I came out. I saw some friends die. I was with Courtney Love throughout Kurt’s final months ‘cos she was a close friend and at the same time my own father died. I just holed up and had a nervous breakdown basically. I just realised I had to chose my priorities very carefully. Things like honesty and passion and art. But whilst the album was being recorded, all of that is a real blur for me ‘cos of the shit I was going through at the time. And my heroin addiction didn’t help. And the suicide of two of my friends didn’t help. Nothing helped. Things had to reach a low before I could help myself. My first impulse was to leave. But I couldn’t just let it go, it was something I helped start, it’s very important to me.” - Roddy 2009

After a brief tour and another line-up change FNM returned in 1997 with Album Of The Year. This time Roddy threw himself back into the writing.

"I think we were trying to go back to the older Faith No More vibe with Album of the Year. It's like, King For A Day really took a twist and took us to this post-modern, angular, more rhythmically challenged weirdo rock. It was pretty heavy and there were less keyboards. So I think the intention for Album was to get back to what we started as. Plus, we were listening to a lot of Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, DJ Shadow at the time. We loved that shit." - Roddy 2016

However Roddy felt that the band was over. 

"At that point the Faith No More thing had run its course. I think we were all done with it. We were just going through some motions and we were at the end of a long tour going through these motions of playing a tour…. Everyone was sort of doing the different things and getting really cumbersome. It felt like, what's important? It felt like Faith No More was not." - Roddy 2015
Photo | Bobby Doherty
It was at Roddy's wedding in 2008 that FNM re-connected after not seeing each other for some time, and talk of reforming the band began.

"It was kind of the first time that three of us had been together in the same geographic space in at least 10 years. That sort of emotionally-charged atmosphere. Really, it was real intense in a real comfortable way. None of us wanted to see each other for a good long while. So 10 years later and to sit down in such an environment like that and have it be a comfortable, casual, easy-going place? We're still such a valid part in each other's lives, despite what went on and how difficult things became. Just even the acknowledgement of that, this is an OK thing. This is totally doable. Us being in a physical space together. It's doable. The wedding didn't work out."  - Roddy 2015

In 2014 after 5 years of touring old material FNM released their first new music in 18 years. The premiere single from 2015's Sol Invictus was Motherfucker , Roddy provided lead vocals for the first time in an FNM song. The music on the album heavily featured live piano and very little programmed synthesiser sounds unlike its predecessors.

"It felt like a really nice statement to put out into the public, to let people know we’re not playing any games. We don’t really care if it’s on the radio. It’s sort of offensive and playful and bold and maybe a little bit antagonistic. Just the word itself was a fun thing to put out there. But yeah, it’s totally different than the rest of the record. It’s me singing on it, which is a little bit different, and it’s really simple and stripped down. Something called “Motherfucker” just felt like a nice place for us to kick off a new chapter for Faith No More." - Roddy 2015

Photo | Jonathan Grassi

In 2016 FNM reissued their debut album We Care A Lot , the band played two shows to celebrate their early roots and Roddy was excited to be working with his friend Chuck once again.

"Faith No More is so much considered just a band of Mike Patton's, so it was fun to go further back to where we started this whole thing. It was really fun to revisit on every level, from looking at old pictures and coming up with memories of where we were at the time and how it all started. And just the album itself, there are a couple of songs from there that really trigger these aural memories for me like "Wow!" - Roddy 2016

Happy birthday Roddy!


Popular Posts