FAITH NO MORE | Riff Raff | July 1992
RIFF RAFF | July 1992
SHEENING FOR GLORY
MARK LIDDELL TRACKS DOWN FAITH NO MORE DRUMMER
MIKE BORDIN AND FINDS OUT WHY ANGEL DUST IS EVEN BETTER THAN THE REAL THING!
Sometimes life's a beach, more often than not it's a bitch. Thing is, due to FAITH NO MORE's pussy-tight schedule and their record company's masterful organisation, I've been given two hours notice to get my butt down to Hilton Towers and do a bloody interview.
I arrive at the towering monstrosity and it isn't even clear who I am supposed to interview. Once in the coffee lounge of the hotel, it transpires that I'll be speaking to drummer Mike Bordin. But before the momentous summit meeting between our illustrious selfs, I chinwag with bassist Billy Gould and vocalist Mike Patton. Fatten, swigging blackcurrant and cider, suggests I wind up their dreadlocked drummer by telling him I was really freaked out by their new album 'Angel Dust' and that I don't think it will sell.
Bordin arrives... I inform him, that I've only had two listens to their record, at their album preview party in a Fulham recording studio. Hardly the ideal preparation but... I could have gotten hold of their four-track sampler but
I tell him that I find them, unusually, unrepresentative of the music. Bordin agreed....
"Fuck you, that's bullshit!"
Unless he's a good actor, he seems to mean it.
Bordin, as far as media attention/expression goes, is not the most vocal member of Faith No More but he does seem approachable and willing to talk. And in a band like this, with their emphasis on heavy, rhythmic instrumentation, he's a very important part of their sound. With that in mind, was he also heavily involved with the inception of their songs?
"It's hard for me to say," he says, frowning.
"The music works and grows from basic drums and keyboards. I knew these songs when they were only just mainly instrumental. So, I love 'em." Clearly, it's hard for someone in his position to get a perspective on the finished masterwork.
Since the interview, I've acquired a copy of ‘Angel Dust'. It lacks the commercial sparkle of The Real Thing'. But is it better? Well, it's different. It certainly doesn't possess gems like 'Epic' and 'From Out Of Nowhere', that broke the band through to the mainstream while still retaining a vibrant, idiosyncratic core. 'Angel Dust' is the sound of a band pleasing themselves. Veering scatologically, through the extremes, as in the country waltz of 'RV, where Patton adopts a deep, gravelly vocal, akin to TOM WAITES, and the punchy, streetwise 'Be Aggressive', which perversely climaxes in an overblown, baroque flourish. On occasions they show their knack, for widescreen swelling melodies as in
'Everything's Ruined'. But all too often their throw-in-everything, including Hell's Kitchen style, produces an almost infuriating mixture of thrashy, discordant melodies. Aural constipation, no less. However, it's not totally unpalatable, if only for the eccentric colour they lend to those particular songs.
In an interview with Riff Raff, EXTREME made similar points when reacting to being lumped in the same Funk/Metal pigeonhole as Faith No More. They claimed that their crossover style, unlike Faith No More, wasn't contrived it had fluidity - Rock with a big groove. Something I put to Bordin.
"I can see that," he admits. "To me, what they're saying is valid. But it's a microscopic approach. It's really looking at it in very high detail."
Bordin explains that there is a point to what they do, and it's all part of the journey that gets them to their destination.
"It's like you get into your car," he begins, using an analogy. "You back it out of your drive way. You drive away. You drive down the street...make a left turn... Those are unrelated things, right? You know because that's the trip to the fucking grocery. So, that's how it's related. It's not just the same thing. If you go to the grocery, you wouldn't say 'you get in your car, you get in your car..You wouldn't go anywhere. That's why it's just as invalid to say that we are, Funk/Thrash/Metal, whatever, band. Because that's like saying..." His eyes focus on my purple sweater, "...you're a guy that always wears purple shirts. Maybe you do! But if you're famous for wearing that [Yes he is - Ed], are you gonna want to wear that all the time? No."
"We're a well rounded deal." Bordin continues. "We've got stuff to offer. I'm very proud of the fact that we go all over the place because of many different things. We can write a song that's like one thing. But the challenge is to write a bunch of good songs."
It s like a friend of mine, who was in METALLICA (referring to Cliff Burton-RIP). He told me, ten years ago, what you do is great. But don't ever forget to push yourselves into growing and evolving and challenging yourselves to do more. That's what it's all about," he says emphatically, before issuing a public health warning. "Because if you n don't, your guts stop digesting."
What we can glean from Bordin's slightly unfocussed comments is that as far as Faith No More are concerned, it's a hit or miss affair. And if you do chance upon it, something memorable and tangible can occur - a transient order appears.
I make the observation that their home city of San Francisco seems to breed or encourage this chancey, independent type of approach, as opposed to say LA where the music business is located.
"Yeah, Frisco's still on the West Coast. It's t very livable and there's a nice standard of living, and whatever its problems, it's very centred. Sometimes more interesting things grow in the shade, whereas the sunlight can kick it things out. So, I kinda think that San it Francisco's a little bit more shaded (and he's not just referring to the cooler climate) where s, the sunlight of the industry doesn't really hit it so much. So, more interesting more individualistic things do happen."
As five individuals, Faith No More, are sharply contrasting personalities, but none of them fits your average Rock N'Roll hedonist stereotype.
That's a lifestyle that Bordin for one claims to keep his distance from, when pressed on the difficulty of resisting the temptations of fame and success. After all you're only human.
“That's a cop out, though. You're only human too, man.'
He says in the prickly tone of a man who's had his feathers ruffled. "The guy that drives the fucking garbage truck is only human. Does that mean something different to him than me? No. It shouldn't. I've got a girlfriend at home. I don't fuck around. I also don't drink alot - I don't drink! I have my own shit that I do...stuff that makes me keep my mind good enough, physically strong enough to fucking play good every night. That's why I'm here. If I was not interested in doing that, I would not be here. That's the fucking long and short of it."
Renowned for not seeing eye to eye with each other, Faith No More don't exactly exude the vibe of one big happy family, all lads together. So, what of the others, well the extrovert Patton and the more introverted guitarist Big Ugly Jim? Bordin on Patton...
“When we needed him, he was there. He was there to work on the music. He was enthusiastic. He likes what he's doing. I'm not gonna tell him what he can do in his spare time, because then, theoretically, he's away from Faith No More."
I mention Patton's madcap MR BUNGLE outing. Now that he's got that out of his system, has he calmed down? His reply is, er, to the point.
Quite revealing if only for what he doesn't say.
Bordin on Big Jim...
“He can be a disagreeable guy. He doesn't get out much. He doesn't like to be hanging around with people. That's the way he is. He's not gonna bother about it."
I assume then, that Faith No More's differences are their strengths. Snorting in the 'Angel Dust' record, I ask him if he's worried about losing fans with their current MTV non-friendly stance. Bordin views it as a you win some, loose some situation, just as it was with The Real Thing'. And adds...
"That's one thing I am not really concerned about. My only concern is, presenting it in an almost neutral light, so that people decide for themselves. And journalists, especially here, they do colour things because it's their job to state their opinion. Most of the time rightly but sometimes it can get a little bit nasty.”
I detect a minor note of diplomacy on his last point.
Although it does seem, translating the Rock, speak that he finds the promoting of a new record as a bit of a chore. It's a hard life, eh?
Not being a contrary sort of fellow, like Mike Patton, what he does have to say about 'Angel Dust' is not too specific and up beat.
"For this one it was great to erase the chartboard and start a new one. In some ways maybe the motivations for those two records were similar but coming from different places. After, two years, you just wanna forget all you've done. just do anything. You just have to see what works. And this is what ended up on record 'cos these are the ones we thought turned out best. I'm proud of it. It's better than the last record...it's strange..."
In June, Faith No More are special guests at GUNS N' ROSES Wembley stadium show. Apart from hoping Axl and Co. erase memories of last year's lack lustre appearance at the same stadium, it will be interesting to see how Faith No More cope with a stadium gig, filled predominantly with mainstream Rock fans. Bordin, looks forward to the challenge.
“To have a new record broadcast in front of that many people is tremendous, a tremendous opportunity to be able to play this brandof music. We spent a lot of time making the music, writing it. This is what it is. Here it is. We're absolutely able to play in front of anybody. But we're not going to change our approach for anybody."
No point in compromising, you might fall between two stools. And you'll probably be motivated by your underdog tag.
"It will make us kick a lot harder," he
promises. "We've done that. We toured with Metallica when their album 'And Justice For All' was just the greatest thing at the time. Our record had just come out, two months earlier, and nobody knew...nobody cared. But you learn from that."
Right, said I. We care. We care a lot...
FAITH NO MORE 'Angel Dust' Slash
Following up the ground breaking The Real Thing' was never going to be easy, and in a sense FAITH NO MORE haven't tried. 'Angel Dust' harks back to Introduce Yourself, bass heavy songs laden with keyboards. In a way this makes The Real Thing's soaring beauty seem a one off. There's nothing here to match the sonic exhilaration of From Out Of Nowhere or the rap assassination of Epic. This is a much more 'in yer face' album musicatly and follows the direction they took with The Perfect Crime, their contribution to Bill And Ted's Bogus Journey. Mike Patton's vocals are used much more as an instrument, and at times he sounds frighteningly like Simon Le Bon. Small Victory is typical of this. Solid melody, bass on low register, and a guitar line that wouldn't sound out of place as the main theme to a cowboy movie. RV sounds like the Faiths have been listening to TOM WAITS, or maybe PRIMUS, as does Crack Hitler Be, Aggressive could be THE FALL jamming with BABES IN TOYLAND, while Malpractice is this album's Surprise, You're Dead.
Nowhere do they reach their previous heights of emotional intensity. They still give an aggressive attitude, but they don't leave you breathless at the end of each song, like you've just free fallen from 10,000 feet.
'Angel Dust' is still an excellent album though. Maybe 'The Real Thing' was almost too good, and they will be judged too harshly because of it. They are still probably the best Hard Rock band in the world, it's just that this could have been so much better...