FAITH NO MORE | FACES MAGAZINE | June 1995
Faces | June 1995
By Peter Atkinson
After brushing the dust off themselves off after a three year absence, the band prove a little faith for a day, grants you more for a lifetime.
Two days after the 49ers made mincemeat out of the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl, San Francisco is getting back to normal-for the most part. The celebrating is done and the parties are over, but as FNM bassist Billy Gould notes, "the vomit is still on the streets." And perhaps some blood, too.
"There was some stabbings, I guess out of the happiness. I know when I'm in a good mood I like to go out and stab people," he laughs.
Gould was lucky enough to avoid any puking or stabbing incidents during the brief stretch, he was home around Super Bowl time. Indeed, he and his FNM mates had little time to relax at all, much less stick a knife in someone out of the elation from the 'Niners wing, as they readied for the release of the band's fifth album KFAD, FFAL and a European tour, as well as breaking in their second new guitar player in a year, Dean Menta (who replaced Trey Spruance, who replaced Jim Martin).
"Pretty much from my waking hours to my sleeping hours my time is going to be completely occupied with work," said Gould who, with Menta, keyboardist Roddy Bottum, drummer Mike "Puffy" Bordin and singer Mike Patton, was looking at working this sort of a schedule for the next year-and-a-half, the typical amount of time FNM spends on the road for an album.
The band has been off the road and out of the spotlight for quite a while, it's last album AD having been released in 1992. Gould is well aware of the situation, and, in fact, somewhat concerned.
"Do people still remember who we are?" he wonders. "It's been three years. Several trends have come and gone, grunge is over already, it wasn't even happening when we were on the road."
FNM scared off a few fans with AD, a disturbing and deliberately ugly follow-up to the funk mentally TRT, the album which made the band overnight sensations after a seven-year career when MTV jumped all over the single "Epic." KFAD serves as something of an olive branch, although it's still a difficult listen.
On one end are "Get Out," "Cuckoo For Caca," "What A Day" and the first single "Digging The Grave," some of the most straight ahead rock songs FNM has done with their crunching riffs and simple, driving rhythms. On the other is the band at it's nuttiest or most unconventional. "Star A.D." swings like a cheesy Vegas production number, "Evidence" is a white-boy soul, "Take This Bottle" could hold it's own with any "My woman left me and I want to die" country tune, and "Just A Man features gospel-style backup vocals and a deliciously trite soliloquy mid song.
During an animated phone interview, Gould talked about KFAD, the inspirations and motivations of one of rock's most challenging bands, and the constant battle waged between FNM, the business and the audience over the music. He also spoke of guitar players new and old and what would possess a band to first cover a Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" and then The Commodores' "Easy."
FACES: Who is Dean Menta, and where did he come from?
BILLY GOULD: He's an old friend of the band, he actually toured with us as a crew member. He played guitar at soundcheck because sometimes Jim (Martin) wouldn't come to soundcheck. It turns out he's a really good guitar player.
F: Is he "the guy" or just filling in?
BG: No, we're looking at him as "the guy." I think we'd feel kind of embarrassed to have some fill-in member kind of thing, that's kind of sleazy. When I was skipping school and ditching work, I was doing it to play in a real band, so I don't want to give that up. Dean knows what he's getting into and that makes me feel good. Basically what you're doing is like going into the jungle together, you have to depend on each other to survive and I know he can handle it.
F: What happened to Trey Spruance, wasn't he supposed to be "the guy?"
BG: Yeah, and actually I think he thought he was too good and we really didn't have any personal problems with him. We definitely didn't have any musical problems because he did a great job on the album. I think he freaked out about the touring, how much commitment the band requires. Touring is what really made our band, and the way we see it, it's not going to come easy doing the music that we do, so we gotta make it work. When you tour the way we do, it's not for everybody. It's hard f*cking work.
F: Since Tregy (some spelling, huh?) is in Mr. Bungle with Mike Patton, did his leaving cause any friction between them?
BG: It's not a problem with Patton, Trey's still in Mr. Bungle. Mr. Bungle's kind of comfortable, they can put out an album every three years, do two weeks of touring, and that's it. It's more of a fun hobby. But this band is our thing, this is our life.
F: Before that, how long was their friction with Jim Martin?
BG: Almost three years. We tried to work it out from before we were writing AD. That problem continued through the tour all the way to trying to write this record, and it was ridiculous. We exhausted every possible means to work it out. Finally we just said, what more can you do?
F: What was his problem?
BG: I don't know, He's claimed that we didn't let him do his thing, we wouldn't let him use his guitar enough. But if you listen to this record, there's a lot more guitar than we ever had. That's what we've always wanted, so who knows what the reasons were?
F: KFAD's got some pretty strange stuff on it.
BG: There's also some stuff that sounds really tolerable because it's deliberately tacky. Like "Just A Man," that's a tacky song. There's things there that when we were first doing them it felt like we were swallowing a big pill. Like, "Oh my God, who would do something like this?" But that's the fun of it, too.
F: Something like "Star A.D.," it sounds like the intro to some awards show?
BG: Exactly, that was the idea. The guitar solo is like Saturday Night Live, that's the vibe. It's so funny because we try to explain to people that we write songs visually. We think of scenes and that's exactly what we wanted to do. We kind of amuse ourselves and that's cool because it means we're growing as musicians.
F: There's also a lot more mellow songs on the record.
BG: We're just trying to write in different ways. I think you just get as much power in a melody as you can out of just straight ahead discordant chord-bashing rock. There's a different kind of tension. If there is a something I can be critical about our past records is, there isn't as much dynamics and there isn't a lot of slow, subtle tension. I really do want to learn how to do that as an artist and be able to develop that ability. We all do.
F: Is unconventionality something you strive for?
BG: We're just unconventional because we're being ourselves and everybody's got a fingerprint that's different. I don't think that's even an intention to be different. I think our differences come out just by us expressing ourselves.
F: But what about doing "Easy?"
BG: Everything is in context, though. Because before we were doing "War Pigs" and the meathead factor got really high at our concerts. A bunch of big fat buffoons in leather jackets wanted to hear "War Pigs" and see this heavy metal band. We needed to counterbalance that.
I think people really appreciate the fact of having conflicting information where you're always having variety everything's always being put in a new light, or they really hat having that subjected on them. Either way is fine by me. If they really hate it, at least we're interacting with the people. So we're not just some little form of entertainment like a TV show that you turn on and off and walk away.
F: What is FNM's motivation?
BG: Communication is important. I don't think a lot of bands really do communicate. I'd go to concerts and it would be like, "Hey, how's everybody doing, we're gonna rock tonight." People, they drink their beer, smoke their pot and then go home no wiser, no stupider. When assholes talk like that, they're making bucks using people. They're pushing buttons, manipulating people into a desired response and walking away with the money.
I like going to shows and playing in a band. So for me, I want something to happen. I want to excite myself. When I go to a show, I want somebody to kick my ass one way or another. I want to be challenged. I want to go to an event. So I like it when we do make reactions because I feel like something's happening, like it isn't business.