FAITH NO MORE | RIP IT UP | July 1992
Rip It Up | Issue No.180
By Tony Miller
This isn't how I imagined Mike Patton. The frantic maniac clad in a McDonalds uniform who drove an Auckland crowd into a slam dancing, stage diving frenzy now sniffles miserably down the line from London, overcome by allergies, exhaustion and the "goddamm shit English weather". But Mike Patton and Faith No More haven't got much else to be unhappy about.
They were a band lucky enough to fall into the elusive "right place, right time" situation. Just as record companies were looking for the next sound to sell to middle America, FNM exchanged then lead singer Chuck Mosely's punk snarls for Patton's more accessible funk rap vocals. The "next big thing" turned out to be The Real Thing released in 1989 and FNM's left-of-field style landed them in the mainstream charts. A band previously motivated by the punk anti-success ethic were hit solidly by the fast-moving success train. Many old fans cried sell out, but the reality was that FNM and bans like Metallica opened the world's ears to a harder, heavier sound previously confined to the metal marker and pretty much on their own terms. Yet this isn't praise Patton readily accepts.
"I'd hate to hold up the flag and say we lead the rock revolution of whatever, because I don't want to lead any movement. Leaders are always the first to get beheaded and even if that were right we aren't leading it anymore. We don't even know if we've survived."
FNM bassist Bill Gould is quoted in Melody Maker as saying "Ha ha ha, lots of kids bought the last album on the strength of 'Epic' and didn't like it. Ha ha ha, they're not going to like this one much either." But Patton isn't worried that the diversity of Angel Dust could alienate the audience.
"After two and a half years playing the same songs we had to change, we were tearing our hair out with boredom. A lot of The Real Thing was written in linear fashion and so we wanted Angel Dust to reflect the musical extremes we come from. We got better at cutting corners and saying 'fuck you', basically."
Saying 'Fuck you' to the world?
"Mostly, because people are too lazy when they listen to music. The heavy metal culture, which really embraced our last record, is about the most conservative crowd there is - way more so than a pop crowd. It seems like they almost have a handbook of things to do, so we were acting weird and saying 'hey look at us!' trying to provoke them. I respect a band who challenges you to listen - too many bands don't take risks, which is something we've got real good at. Now we're saying 'fuck you' to ourselves just as much. Learning how to write songs better means throwing out conceptions of what you can and can't do, challenging yourself and what you've done before. The record company wanted another version of The Real Thing with a new cover basically, so we gave them something totally different. If they'd like it, it would have been wrong - it's better to have them nervous and twitching."
So I guess you could say you're sacred of labels like Seattle and being viewed as a product?
"Yeah, Seattle seems to have become a marketing tool, which is bullshit, because only a few of those bands come from there. Bands from Nebraska sound like Nirvana now. Seattle's a dismal place anyway, I've only heard a few good bands from there. Record companies put product labels on us because it's the easiest way to pay their mortgages. The whole industry is based around what there's going to be tomorrow, the new thing, because that's more desirable than the old. So a band that makes the music of the moment - you have to be sceptical as to whether they will last. Avoiding labels is long term survival."
This Seattle sound, or whatever, seems to have pretty much killed off the old leather pants style rocker - at least in New Zealand.
"Well you guys are lucky. They don't die in the States, they just mutate. To me there's a big equals sign between them and bands like Pearl Jam. They may look different, but they sound the same - scum are survivalists. We've been on tour a while so I can speak from experience - a cockroach is always a cockroach."
Talking of such, how's touring with Guns neuroses?
"We never have any contact at all. They seem to live in a whole different world so I can't relate to them. I can tell you funny stories and that's all."
"A juicy tit bit I heard the other day was that Warren Beatty was fucking Axel's girlfriend. I think he knows because we had a show cancelled the other day and maybe - just maybe - that had something to do with it."
Was the album's name (Angel Dust) inspired by narcotics?
"Not directly. The two words just sound nice together, but evoke the image of a horrible drug. We got the picture for the cover (a soft blue airbrushed swan) from the cover of the Mystic Mood Orchestra's album 101 Strings. Again it's a kind of provocative thing."
Have you acid tested the new songs on the album?
"They're the majority of our set now, but it's kind of hard to see how they go down with the G n'R crowd. What matters is what we want to sound like. People think that a mid-song switch from metal to country is a very calculated thing, generally it's accidental. We listen to fucked up shit and we can't make sense of it so our music doesn't make sense either. I don't except any song to last, though it's nice if they do - too many people try to be profound. People expect that of singers, but that's bullshit. I live for momentary satisfaction and temporary gratification. Sure, that's incredibly trivial. So?"