MIKE BORDIN 56 His history with FAITH NO MORE
Puffy has part of the fabric of FNM's sound since the very beginning. The voice of reason and the unique rhythmic soul of the band.
Michael Andrew 'Puffy' Bordin was born on November 27 1962 in San Francisco. Puffy has always been a music fanantic and his first obsession was with Creedence Clearwater Revival. After family trauma at an early age he used music to escape, his early heroes were all guitarists such as Jimi Hendrix, Tony lommi, Jimmy Page and Ritchie Blackmore.
“I was ten years old, just getting into music, when my mother died. I could have gotten mean and bitter and things might’ve wound up very differently for me. But one of the bands that I gravitated to was Black Sabbath. Their music wasn’t being played on the radio, it wasn’t on jukeboxes at the pizzeria – you had to go to a friend’s house and discover it in the basement. It was an underground thing, which made it more special. It’s no joke that Black Sabbath saved my life. I always dreamed of meeting Ozzy and telling him that.” - Puffy 2010
"I was thirteen years old. It was 1975 and I was sitting in my friend Cliff Burton’s bedroom and he said, “Hey man, I’m going to play bass.” And I said, “Okay, I’ll play drums.” It was a total knee-jerk reaction. It was completely unthought-out. And from the moment I started playing it kind of took over for me. It was an obsession, but it was positive. It was something that kept me out of trouble and defined those middle years where I could’ve gone way off the rails and gone the wrong direction." - Puffy 2015
A second major turning point for Puffy was seeing The Sex Pistols at Winterland in 1977.
Cliff and Puffy's first band, Fry By Night, also featured Eddie Chacon who would later find fame as one half of the pop duo Charles and Eddie.
Their next band was EZ Street whose leader and guitarist was Jim Martin and which took it's name from a strip-club in San Mateo .
Puffy part didn't last long as he was sent to boarding school in Menlo Park for 'behavioural problems', it was here he became serious about studying and playing the drums.
His first drum teacher encouraged him to listen to jazz such as The Tony Williams Lifetime rather than metal. Puffy went to university in college in Berkeley and threw himself into it whole-heartedly, learning the basics from renowned drum guru Chuck Brown, who also taught Michael Shrieve and Terry Bozzio. Brown was a great influence on Puffy's unorthodox style and taught to drum with a right-handed kit.
"I did that for a year or two and it was nothing to do with the drumset, it was a dude from Ghana who was really cool, just this little guy - and man, every single limb, more than one rhythm could come out of each limb, plus his dancing, singing and he just had everything, he had rhythm everywhere. And the way that they stack the rhythms and put them against each other was really something for me. He was the real deal, and the coolest thing ultimately in the long run - and it goes back to us talking about Bill, and him recording the music also as a bandmate, a rhythm section guy knowing what we need - Bill and Roddy at that time were roommates and they were also at school, they knew each other from LA. I would go back to their place and I would show those guys what that dude was teaching me almost every day." - Puffy 2015
He studied African percussion in school with a Ghanaian teacher C.K. Ladzepko who couldn't play a drum kit but he could play 30 different instruments with his hands, feet and elbows and sing different rhythms. This tuition and bands such as Echo and The Bunnymen and Killing Joke helped Mike break away from traditional techniques.
In 1981 Puffy answered the same ad as Bill Gould and both became members of Sharp Young Men, with Mike Morris (guitar/vox) and Wade Worthington (keyboards). The band became Faith. No Man, Worthington left and was replaced by Bill's childhood friend Roddy Bottum. Bordin, Gould and Bottum became a unit and replaced Morris with Mark Bowen, who stayed with them for a year. For a while the band tried different singers until Chuck Mosley became their permanent frontman. Cliff suggested Jim Martin to fill the guitarist position after Bowen's departure.
"...we all kind of learned a language together and we were the only ones who really spoke it. Because they were learning what I learned but not only what I learned but how I learned it. It wasn't like they were taking the same class from that same guy and getting something different out of it I was saying, 'The guy said this or we did that, check this out. I think Roddy at the beginning, his melodies were very syncopated, pretty simple but very syncopated, but we were all playing percussion to each other, all syncopating with each other around the rhythm, we were all speaking the same damn language. Regardless of what happened in the class, you take a little chunk of that plant out of there and stick it somewhere else and it grows into something." - Puffy 2015
At this time Mike sported an Afro hairstyle and was given the nickname 'Puffy' by Jim which stuck.
On September 27th 1986 Puffy's friend of 10 years Cliff Burton was killed in a bus accident, this made Puffy more determined to succeed as a musician to honour his friend.
Like Gould, Puffy began to find Chuck's drunkenness was hindering the band. On October 4th 1986 FNM played a show at Humboldt state university in Arcata, it was Puffy who received a copy of Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny from Trey Spruance.
"We played the college up there with Chuck. It was a small college. But there were only like three people in the audience [laughs]. And after the show, this guy comes up to us and says, 'Hey man, I'm really glad you played, thank you for coming. But you understand, school is not in session yet which is why nobody is here.' So we played up there when school is on vacation. But I'm talking to this guy and he was like, 'I got this band, here take my tape.' And that was Trey, and the band was Mr. Bungle, and the album he gave us was The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. He gives me the tape and we play it later doing whatever we were doing, and Jim loves it, because it sounds like Slayer, it sounds like speed metal with death growls and all this crazy stuff. And I'll never forget it; Jim turns around and says to us, 'This guy has got to be this giant fat guy with all the power that he's got in his voice!' And time goes by, and then when we were looking for a new singer, Jim was like, 'Let's get that big fat guy from Mr. Bungle!' But the funny thing is, we saw them again when we did a tour of 20 or 30 shows with the Chili Peppers back in the day. It was actually Hillel's last tour, it was very interesting.
So this tour comes to San Francisco and we're playing The Fillmore, and I see Mike Patton. So I go to him, 'Hey, Jim really likes you and you should sing in our band.' But then Mike says to me, 'Oh we don't sound like that anymore.' [laughs] So he gives me another demo tape, which was Bowel of Chiley, and it was like fucking Madness meets James Bond. It was this secret super spy ska music, and it was awesome. And I was like, 'Oh dude, I'm so glad you don't sound like that anymore, because who wants to be one dimensional?' And he was like, 'Yeah, man.' That was the one thing that gave him maybe even a second of thinking about joining our band, that we would be available or open to evolution. Because I didn't say, 'Oh fuck that, you gotta sound like The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, because that's what you do!' I just think in that regard right there, that's really the thing that happened with Mr. Bungle. They evolved, and we applauded it. Well, three of the four guys in the band applauded it [laughs]. And by the time we were considering him to replace Chuck, he was already on to something else [laughs]." - Puffy 2016
However it wasn't until two years later that Mike Patton became FNMs lead singer. When the band were on the hunt for a new singer Puffy asked Slash from Guns N' Roses to distribute an ad throughout their network, which he didn't do.
In the early 90s Puffy was often the object of the band's ridicule during interviews due to his intense personality. He maintained close relationships with members of Metallica and in 1989 FNM joined them on a tour of the States.
"Well, F**k! Metallica are the best, they've been the best for a long time - and the fact that they go out and play for two hours-plus every night proves that fact. It was a huge gift them giving us the tour. It was great of course, getting up in front of huge crowds with real stages, real sound, real lights. It was a test, y'know, playing for a band like that. Their fans are rabid, just as I'm a rabid Metallica fan. So we had to go up there every night and kick ass as hard as we could in our own way, we couldn't let our guard down or puss out in any fashion. "It was a huge learning experience for us all, one of my lessons was to just go for it every night without any preconceptions. I think we all learnt to look the audience in the eye far more, which is something Metallica are superb at." - Puffy 1990
FNM again toured with Metallica in 1992 and he often made clear his disapproval of the way his fellow band members spoke of their contemporaries, particularly of Guns N' Roses.
When FNM split in 1998 the band famously (and comically) blamed Puffy, "Puffy started it" who they claimed had left to joined Ozzy Osbourne.
"For a guy like me to play with Ozzy and run with him for that long, honestly that's the craziest thing of all. When you think about what happened in that time, the TV show he did, his wife got cancer, he almost died on that quad bike, all these crazy things happen the whole time. And I gave him the best I had every fuckin day and I'm proud of that. The music he's made in his lifetime had such a powerful impact on my life. To be able to give something to him like that and you know, worked my ass off behind him every night gladly, to me it's like kind of saying thank you." - Puffy 2016
Puffy of course left his job of 10 years with Ozzy to re-group with FNM in 2009.
"We didn’t have a big plan. We just got together in a rehearsal room and it felt good, so we did some shows. And when the shows started getting into the couple dozen, and the band started getting pretty strong, we were like, “Okay, now either we’re done, or we’re going to have something else to say.” Because if you don’t have something new to say and you just keep carrying on, it becomes nostalgic. Nobody was here to do nostalgia. No one was here to recreate a time when we had less gray hair and more brain cells, you know? [laughs]
So new music came. It came honestly, it came gradually, and in my opinion, it came correctly. A lot of people will do it the opposite: “Well, you’re doing a reunion tour, you’ve got to have a new album to promote.” But if you haven’t played together in fifteen years, how the hell are you supposed to be comfortable with each other? We have our own language and it’s not only musical—it’s emotional and physical, as well. It’s a unique thing and we had to give it time to work. And that’s what happened. It’s been a crazy, cool gift to have a second chance to do this again with more experience and more perspective under our collective belts." - Puffy 2016
"...that’s what live music should be; it should be physical, it should be in your face, it should be compelling and energetic and powerful. Otherwise, you might as well sit at home and watch it on your computer. I want some hair on it where it needs to be." - Puffy 2015
"It always kind of has been. You know, starting with Cliff—what a gift. Playing with Robert [Trujillo] and the great Geezer Butler, who’s the king of everybody—again, what a gift. But with Bill there’s just this weird language that we use to relate with one another. And I don’t think that particular language is very common, it’s unique to who we are as a rhythm section. And when it works well, in a collaborative sense, it’s really great because the result is more than just two people. It’s like the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And like I said, to get a second chance to play with Bill and all the guys—it’s just so special. I really treasure it." - Puffy 2016