Revealing interview with Mike Patton from 1992 with some insight
into the lyrics on 'Angel Dust'.
Recently, Faith No More's repulsive fourth album, Angel
Dust, was released. To the displeasure of the rock establishment, this
revolting product of bombast, symphonica, and hardrock went up the charts like
a comet all over the world. An interview with singer Mike Patton, a chameleon
in a field of fritters.
If U2's Bono says pop music should become primitive and wild
again and parodies a rock star, something's going on. And something is going
on! A much too great predictability. Everything that was developed in the past,
has been divided in genre boxes. Once, surveyability was needed to direct the
public to the CD market, but now the same CD market suffers from it. The public
is getting saturated and there's no ready-to-go new adventure. Artists have
learned to adapt. Out of fear to loose their audiences they have unlearned to
seek musical adventure beyond "their" boxes, "their"
genres, "their" market segments. And because laziness and complacency
go hand in hand, they have developed the annoying quality to take themselves
much too seriously. All those rappers, singer/songwriters, housers,
hardcore-grinders, and whatever, they keep preaching for their own church. All
of them so damn sure of themselves, each his own bible under his arm, full of
truth, like elders of obscure communions. But, excessive seriousness, religious
conviction, and seeking financial security are the worst enemies of playfulness
and creativity. It's not easy to admit, but pop music is becoming a rigid
medium, with no place for freedom, eccentricity, and against-the-grainness. And
if Bono recognizes this, it is to be expected that soon the public will not
want the fast food the record industry is feeding them.
This is the problem that faces the pop music of the 90s: how
to freshen things up? Open things up? How to get rid of all those tangling
conditions? Answer: mock the old and look for newmusical freedom. There's one
group who have taken the front stage on this: Faith No More. Their music
provokes, banters, puts you on the wrong foot, balances on the brim of
tastelessness, and basically does what has not been done before.
There is little reason to remember the night Holland lost to
Denmark through penalty shots [this was the European soccer championship of
'92, FL]. Except that Faith No More played the Paradiso when Schmeigel stopped
Van Basten's fatal run. "Did you guys loose?," singer Mike Patton
teased the audience. A kind of national hangover hung across the room. People
weren't happy, in the words of Mike Patton the day after, "a bit fed
up." An yes, he did fight a guy who came on stage. It shouldn't have
happened, but it's a fact that the guy shouldn't have been there at that time (I know some people who know this guy. He was an avid FNM fan, but sold his
entire collection of FNM albums memorabilia after the incident, FL). After
that, while the band played an almost endless bombastic instrumental salvo (Woodpecker From Mars, FL), he laid on the floor like dead for minutes on end.
"I couldn't go anywhere, so I decided to take a rest." And when the
room was boiling and bad vibes were in the air in the form of countless heated
stagedivers, the band played a neat soul ballad by The Commodores, Easy.
"Let's pretend we're visiting our grandmothers. Let's all be very polite
now," Patton spoke to the crowd [you can check the actual words in the
video from this gig that circulates, FL]. Noteworthy: Mike does know how to
sing ("If it ever gets to the point where I find it necessary to prove my
singing abilities...I would like someone to bash me in the face and stop
me"). And when Easy was finished: "Now let's pretend we're at a
Slayer concert and fuckin' break everything." After which the hardcore
violence started again. "No man, I wasn't angry," Mike evaluates the
gig. "I had a great time."
Why did you call your album Angel Dust? Is the band on
Not that I am aware of. No good drugs anyhow. No no. We were
delighted by the idea that angel dust is a horrible drug that makes you
aggressive and paranoid. And the title together with the picture of a
beautiful, restful bird, that you would normally see on an easy-listening
sleeve. That contrast has a disturbing effect on people. The average rock fan
will put a sleeve like that aside: bluh, I don't want to listen to this. That's
what we like best.
There is a very divergent `country song' on the album: R.V.
What is it about?
R.V. means recreational vehicle. A typical part of American
culture: people live in holiday caravans. We call them white trash. In America,
everyone knows someone who lives in an R.V. These people are looked down upon,
while everyone knows they're part of society. These people are usually fat,
watch TV all day, and eat TV dinners. The song R.V. is almost a mark of honour
to those pigs. My family's like that. The kind of people who stay inside these
caravans all day and complain: nobody speaks English anymore. No one listens to
them, they're only talking to themselves. The song is a profile of the average
It was immediately called your Tom Waits song. Any problems
with that comparison?
Not at all. Tom Waits is great.
And Jizzlobber, what is that about?
`Jizz' means sperm, and `to lob' means to throw (remember
this was originally for a Dutch audience, FL). The title is comic, but hasn't
got anything to do with the rest of the lyrics.
It is the song in which you speak about `dirty mattresses.'
We thought about sperm immediately.
Well, the song is more about being caged than anything else.
It definitely is not an orgasmic song. But the title is okay. Fine image: sperm
flying through the air. Triumphant.
A while ago your (hobby) band Mr. Bungle released an album (a giant flop). You said in an interview: I want to go with Mr. Bungle. I don't
want to be in a band that is going downhill any longer. But now you're here
I might have said something like that, but it all seems a
bit exaggerated. That was in the period I gave a lot of interviews that I
shouldn't have given. I was fed up with Faith No More. Nobody bought our albums
and we just kept touring. I was disillusioned. When you're touring, sometimes
as a band you get the feeling you're living like rats. You're kept busy and
stupid temporarily. You're treated like a pimp treats a whore. And if you don't
want to be a part of that, it gets frustrating. We needed people to bang our
heads against the wall. I wanted to crawl away. That's why I was delighted to
record an album with Mr. Bungle. The interviews I did during that time were
pretty negative. I said things like: Faith No More is like a job to me. Because
I felt like that. But I don't think I portrayed myself correctly; It made me
look like a teased son-of-a-bitch more than anything else.
But you never thought: I quit Faith No More and go on with
I had responsibilities towards the record company, because
they were worried. Worried that I would leave the sinking ship. To convince
them that that was not my intention I had to defend myself in what looked like
a law suit. In the end I got what I wanted. And that's good, because being in
two bands at the same time is great. It isn't a threat. It's more like a
physical need: I found I had to do more. You eat a little too much and then you
have to shit some more.
It seems to us that the bands of which it was said a few
years ago that they would determine the future of rock music, bands like Red
Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica, have set out to sail a safe course. Therefore,
we had expected the new Faith No More album to feature at least one commercial
rock ballad. But no.
That's the most pathetic thing you see other bands do; tog
et entangled in their own success formula. If you see bands do that...it's
hopeless. It's no good for anyone in any way. I mean: they fill their pockets
for some two years and then...The only way to keep Faith No More together is to
motivate ourselves. And you can only do that by experimenting. We stay happy
that way. If you don't do that you become a sun-burnt rich bastard, a
Is that the idea behind Faith No More? To stay elusive?
Faith No More doesn't seem to be so much as a crossover band, but more a
collage of all kinds of styles. As a listener you never know what you're up to.
It just happens like that, without us being aware of it. All
five of us are rather stubborn personalities. So we all know exactly what we're
up to. Most of the time, musicians get too fucked up when they listen to too
much music at the same time. They get over-stimulated and the end result is
garbage. Curiously enough, it turns out good for us mostly. I guess it's our
Do you use the lyrics as a connecting element? Do you use
them to make clear what Faith No More is about?
I don't think we have an obligation to clarify ourselves
through our lyrics. Or even take a standpoint. All five of us simply couldn't
agree on any standpoint. If one of use gets a little too outspoken, he's
probably lynched by the others. About the lyrics: it's almost a pitty they're
printed on the sleeve. Because the public expects a revelation. That the lyrics
will say something about our past, our lives. And to make that kind of
connection via some lyric is almost dangerous.
That's what we want to get at: to us, Faith No More is a
band that deliberately doesn't provide any clarity, both musically and
lyrically. You don't give the audience the opportunity to identify with you.
Isn't that the idea behind the band?
The reason we appear like that is that we're bored easily.
We have to entertain ourselves. And give the audience a challenge. That's
important to me. People shouldn't feel at ease about what they hear. Therefore,
it is almost our duty to provoke.
Is that where the element of parody gets into the concept?
The rock press often reproached Faith No More of
`tastelessness'. You would ridicule rock 'n' roll.
I think people who look at us as a joke band take an
extremely superior point of view. They look down on us and say: Oh my God, it's
nothing. They're snobs. Maybe critics ought to be snobbish, it's their job. But
I don't have to agree with them just because of that. I think it's easy to see
it as an insult when a band uses parodying elements. They get confused about
it. They think: does this band really mean this? Or not? They don't know, get
frustrated, and the next thing you know is they don't want to have anything to
do with you. I know that feeling: when bands leave me insecure...it's
frustrating. And that's exactly what I like. For me it's one of the few things
that are fun: you should be confused. You should think: what the hell is going
During your performance in London you advised the audience
to smoke crack.
Yeah. It's one of those things...as a singer you are in a
position of power. You're a media figure. You have an obligation towards your
audience. You have the responsibility to be positive. That's trendy these days,
it sells. When I advise people to smoke crack it's only a reaction to that
trend. I only want to make clear that I never want to be the spokesman for
whatever cause. Sometimes the only way to get your point across is being
negative. What's wrong with that? As a matter of fact, it's only getting really
interesting when everyone has a crack pipe with them at our next show. But all
joking apart, you just shouldn't go on stage thinking you're a king. That would
be really boring. The best shows we've done were under the worst conditions. At
places where no on wanted to see us. We were supporting Metallica, somewhere in
Utah. It's swarming with Mormons there. They hated us. Threw bottles. Spat at
us. Fourteen, fifteen thousand people. Then I made a remark about Mormons and
they hated us even more. Then our bass player played a fifteen minute solo. One
note, dang dang dang. Bottles flew over our heads. War. But those
circumstances, when you don't feel at ease, are often the most inspiring.
And how inspiring is it to be a support act to Guns 'n
Better than I thought. I'd thought our presence there would
be totally misplaced. We said: we may not like GNR, we may not like playing in
open air stadiums in broad daylight, where we sound like shit and look like
shit on a much too large stage that wasn't built for us, and we may not like
the fact that people are paying too much money for a ticket...that's all true.
But the fact is: it's a very good opportunity to reach a large audience that
otherwise wouldn't have come to see us. And that's good. The other side of it
is that we want to headline again. It will happen in October. Playing with a
roof over our heads. We're at our best like that.
Faith No More's lyrics often seem to be written from a
child's perspective. Is that important to you? Does it keep you fresh,
Well, I don't know what exactly is childish about this
band...whether it's the lyrics, or parody, it stems from the fact we enjoy
But we don't ask how childish the band is, we ask how
important the child's point of view is to your music?
Hard to say. I think most of us have had a lousy youth, and
maybe we are still stuck in it. [Long silence]. I think we are fascinated by
little cuddly things. We're like old ladies: we like cuddly toys. Strange thing
is, the only things I can get really upset about, are tiny trivialities, things
I shouldn't get upset about at all. But it happens, and that is childish.
Whether you explain it positively or negatively, it remains childish. To tell
you the truth, I suspect I got stuck in the anal phase. It's all about shit,
assholes, etc. I think we all got stuck in peculiar phases.
You keep changing the way you look, that's for sure.
It's because I am bored. You're touring. You have a lot of
days off. So you get bored. We found something to it: haircuts. Haircuts that
kill! We give one another new haircuts. To fool around with the way you look is
great. To give yourself a new face every once in a while.
Childish! Easily Bored! Another look each time!
Boredom stems from watching TV too much.
Children get bored easily too. Your music changes shape so
often you can listen to it as if you were a two-year old yourself.
Isn't that a bit over-romanticized? I don't think we give
people that much! I think we arouse primitive urges.
Two-year olds exist by the grave of their primitive urges.
Absolutely. But you have to be careful to say you feel like
a two-year old listening to our music. There are listeners who have been raped
as a child. They sure don't want to be two years old again.
What do you think of people having Mike Patton posters in
I've been in a room like that once and it scared the hell
out of me.
Translated and transcribed by Frankco Lamerikx.
"And interview from the Dutch Magazine OOR that
provides some insight in the apparent reasons behind Faith No More. Mike is
very co-operative for a change. If you find of his sayings awkward, it's
probably due to my limited translating capabilities."
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