FAITH NO MORE | 28.04.1990 | Sounds
Sounds Magazine | 28.04.1990
Words | Ann Scanlon
Set against a garish parade of five n dime peep shows and all-night strip joints. San Francisco's Stone club looks pretty insignificant. From the outside a modest billboard seems to be its only discerning feature, while the interior's low ceiling and black decor brings alarming comparisons with London's Camden Dingwalls.
But by early evening the line of people that's prepared to stretch down along Broadway suggests that The Stone has a life of its own.
Tonight, there's life indeed as Faith No More play the second of two sold-out shows in their hometown. All human life is here, as they blend the trad and thrash sides of metal and fire it up with rap, funk, jazz and most things in between. By the time they blast through the now traditional inanity or Black Sabbath's 'War Pigs' - their axe-power double by the sudden appearance of Metallica's James Hetfield appearance - The Stone's been reduced to a heaving, airless pit.
What could have been a classic performance was, however, marred by poor sound and even war» organisation; problems which FNM tour manager-cum-sound engineer-cum everything else (who, two nights later was told that his services were no longer required) felt to his cost. Earlier in the day, even keyboardist Roddy Bottum - a man who epitomises Californian cool - had reached exasperation point,
"We've been here for three and a half hours waiting to do a sound check," he complained, and all of a sudden they've pulled out the PA and they're bringing in a new one to we don't even get a sound check. This is a really big show for us, this it like the biggest one we've played by ourselves in San Francisco for six months m, and this is the shit we are dealing with."
Faith No More are used to dealing with shit. They've had eight years of crap sound, worse gigs and endless hours in the back of tiny vans. When bassist Bill Gould declared recently that the band are "almost as adaptable as cockroaches" he had a point.
"When I first started playing with Mike (Bordin, drums) and Roddy," he begins, "It was at a particular time in our life when things were probably worse than they've ever been. l even took my bass to the pawn shop - y'know, 50 buck because I wasn't eating, We were all staying in this one house, which was a dump. I had a falling out with this girlfriend of mine and at the same time Mike had one with his.
"We were about 21 -years-old so a lot of things seemed very important at the time, and music was pretty much the only thing we did that was really enjoyable. And l think that had a lot to do with why we are as dedicated as we are now and why we've been touring as long as we' have, because the very core of the group centres around knowing that we have nothing better going on in our lives.
"So it's not difficult to make the sacrifices that other people might find hard because, personally, it's just like putting something into something so that something will come back to you."
Things first started to tumble when Faith No More recruited singer Chuck Mosley and guitarist James B Martin. who had once played in a band with Metallica's late bassist Cliff Burton and had reckoned that Faith No More could use his help. "I just wanted to play guitar," he says now, "heavy guitar and shit. I figured that's what I'm going to do no matter what!"
The band slung out their first LP, 'We Care A Lot" in 1986, but it wasn't until two years later when they released 'Introduce Yourself' and spent the next six weeks supporting The Red Hot Chili Peppers who boasted a similar fusion of funk and metal - that they came to national attention.
Chuck was eventually kicked out of the band in the summer of '88 and replaced by the more conventional rock vox of Mike Patton. With Patton, FNM recorded 'The Real Thing' and it was then that things really began to move.
Currently mid-way through their second British tour of the year (which began with an invitation to have tea with the American ambassador in Belfast and will culminate in two London shows at Hammersmith Odeon and Brixton Academy). Faith No More have also made their Top Of The Pops debut with 'From Out Of Nowhere'.
But despite nine months of non-stop touring, the band's US profile has been more sluggish. They were, however, nominated for a Grammy award in the Heavy Metal category of American national music awards and recently won a Bammy for Best Club Band in San
Francisco's Bay Area.
"When 'The Real Thing' first came out we were touring but it wasn't selling," explains Roddy. "So we had to keep touring to try and make it sell. After that last tour (with Voivoid and Soundgarden) we were winding down, thinking that it would be a good thing to probably start a new record.
"But when we came back to America (after their British tour in February) we started selling a lot of records. So all of a sudden it's like we have no choice, we've got to keep touring and see this record out. And we'll have to keep touring at long as it keeps selling.. .it could be a long time."
Like most of the best bands, Faith No More were born out of anger, hatred and frustration.
In the days when Chuck fronted the band, this didn't Just manifest itself in the music but in physical confrontations between certain characters.
"We're all kind of tense and aggressive people." reckons Bill, "and we don't hide from aggression and tension in the way a lot of people like to. I'm kind of fascinated by violence and we all share that in common, a fascination and an enjoyment - a certain sadistic streak.
"It has nothing to do with how we relate to each other, except that when you're dealing with two people who are like that there's always gonna be a time when you'll butt heads,"
That said, he is adamant that the tension which the band seemed to feed off during their 'Introduce Yourself' period was never anything other than negative. "I think tension was an unfortunate bi-product of our chemistry, but I don't think it really spurred the music on. I think the anger in the music came from the way we related to the outside world, it had nothing to do with the way we related to each other. Because I tell you, on this last record there was a minimum of tension, we were getting along really well - more so than we do now even - yet it's pretty harsh in certain spots.
"In my opinion," he continued on the subject of their departed singer. "Chuck was more like a lead weight that we were pulling along. And a lot of the anger that came out of that had to do with the frustration of knowing you were getting somewhere, but you were doing somebody else's work for them too. And we don't have that with Mike Patton, so it's like a burden has been lifted. We still fight all the time - no doubt about it - but at least we're all
doing our own job."
If any single member of Faith No More personifies the anger they were once famous for, then its Mike Bordin - who attacks his drum kit like someone who has several lifetimes of pent-up bitterness inside them. "Sure, there's anger," he shrugs- "I mean when you get up and hit ten drums as physically hard as you can for an hour until you want to pass out each night, you gonna get psyched up. That's what it's all about."
As far at the other frustrations go, Roddy displays no visible tears from the f**ked-up school days that he shared with Bill in an LA convent. While Bill himself has simply channelled his childhood ambition to be a mass murderer into an insatiable lust for life.
Jim Martin is more of an enigma ~ managing to combine general nonchalance with the ability to drink like a demented sailor. Besides blowing his amps apart in Faith No More, he's been known to unleash his frustration in The Spastic Children - a band which also boasts James Hetfield and Jason Newsted, but who have recently been forced even further underground when unwelcome press attention turned a secret gig at San Francisco's Stone into a sell-out. Quoting a disillusioned Faith No More/Metallica fan who had witnessed the sorry spectacle. Jim dismisses Children as "just a bunch f**kin' drunks".
Of all the band it's Jim who has the most definite image. With his loud specs, long frizzy hair and beard he's usually portrayed as some kind of cartoon figure - anything from a Furry Freak variation on Frank Zappa to a sexist rock pig. An image which, depending on your sense of humour (and your eyesight), it given greater substance by the words Shut Up Bitch printed on his T-shirt.
"I depends on what you've read," he laughs. "Now I noticed in one article that was done recently that I was indeed sexist but you have to take the whole article into context.
"I think I'm pretty reasonable, I like to joke around, but I don't want to step on anybody's toes unless they're putting them in the way. That article was more colourful, shall we say, than the truth and that was just one article. Now if you can name another one portraying me as sexist."
What about the last Sounds piece featuring Pamela Dês Beers "the bargain basement groupie so inherently rock 'n' roll that it takes Big Jim to rise to her challenge".
"That didn't make me out to be a sexist." he insists. "It made me more of a victim."
Jim might be a Faith No More oddball, both as a character and a songwriter (Roddy. Bill and Mike tend to collaborate first), but Michael Patton has to be the group's outsider.
Although he was recruited before the band recorded 'The Real Thing'. his Job was simply to come up with nine sets of lyrics.
"They bad all the music written and I just wrote the words," he says, "so it's more like a weird collaboration than me actually being in the band. The next album might work the same way in fact that's what I'm counting on. I'm sure I won't have a great deal to do with It."
At 22, Patton it very much the brat In Faith No More's pack - and when he's not working with them (which, these days, is rarely) he's making "murderous carnival music" with five of his Californian mates. What difference has It made to Faith No More having you as a singer rather than Chuck?
"They have a harder time getting drugs, " he smiles "I dunno, but I guess I gave everyone a lot less in common. When you're new you never really feel old- it's never gonna be like I was in the band in the first place. I suppose I'm just coming in a little more sideways than they are."
As far at Faith No More's music goes it doesn't seem to make much difference who is fronting the band, but in terms of stage presence and word power Patton is an obvious asset. For him, the best thing about being in Faith No More is the feeling of confidence it has inspired.
"Well, it's certainly not money," he smiles. "The best thing it being able to play in front of lots of people and feeling confident - definitely confidence. The more successful we are, the more uncomfortable I feel. Not like irresponsible and dumb and drug using, more like just clueless."
Being a lead singer in a band, he isn't exactly discouraged from feeling that way. Indeed, 'Zombie Eaters' could almost have been addressed to the whole star-making business; "Hug me and kiss me /Then wipe my butt and piss me / I'm helpless / I'm flawless /Give me, l need my toys"
"I never thought of it that way but that's totally right. I can see myself getting that way, I'm not now, but I'm pretty much a scatterbrain so it would be easy to fall into it. Sometimes being in this band makes my worst traits - absentmindedness, whatever - worse, but it was all in there before I joined Faith No More. I'm a frustrated individual, goddamn it!"
At least he's got one thing in common with the others.
By slogging round the club circuit for so long. Faith No More have attracted a large and increasingly incongruous following, while 'The Real Thing' has earned them the admiration and widespread envy of their peers. But ask them about success. however comparative, so far and they'll mumble only about the "room for improvement" - this is, after all, a bunch of people who by their own admissions include a potential wino, dealer, cocktail pianist, psychopath and porn movie producer in their number.
"You read about yourself in magazines." says Bill, "you hear rock star people like you and it's kind of like a dream. It's like an unreality, because the reality of it is that in a few minutes time you're gonna have to play a show for an hour and a half and sweat about five gallons of Water.
"But Spinal Tap came out about six years ago, y'know. It's a joke - musicians are the low life of the music business, the lowest rung on the ladder. Personal attention and flattery is a bunch of shit and a waste of time."
On Faith No More's last visit to England, however. Bill was disconcerted to find that most people "didn't want to hang out and show me round town, they wanted my autograph". As someone who grew up in Hollywood, it all seems like too much bullshit.
"A lot of my friends' parents were movie stars and I wasn't much impressed with Hollywood. We'd go out to dinner and tourists would come up going, Ooh, let me take a picture of you and I'd think. Stupid idiot, why'd they want to do that - it's just my friend's dad."
Mike Patton feels the same way about off-stage attention. "Autographs don't actually bother me. but it embarrasses the shit out of me. I understand people who are fans or whatever - cos I'm a fan. I mean if I saw Roger Rabbit walking down the street I'd freak out, but I can't help being fidgety about the whole thing."
For Bill, at least, the best thing about being in a band like Faith No More is being able to create a sense of event. "There's the audience and there's us, but everyone's going crazy at the same time. And I think bands like the Grateful Dead - however much I hate their music, and I definitely hate them - have done a really fine job with their audience, making themselves human and their shows fun.
"They're trying to create an event where anything can happen - rather than paying to go see a rock show, asking a girl to come out on a date, buying a little bit of cocaine, buy her
drinks, buy her a T-shirt and then take her home and try and get laid by her. You can't buy an experience, you have to experience it."
While most bands are attempting to transfer the dancefloor into the clubs, Faith No More are simply packing it with an arena-sized punch.
"The best thing about success?" muses Jim. "Being able to keep working. If you're not successful you don't get to work anymore - you gotta go back and try again."
Faith No More are almost there.