FAITH NO MORE | July 1992 | Creem Magazine
Sequestered in Studio City's charming Scream Studios, Faith No More are furiously racing the clock to finish mixing their new album, Angel Dust. Bad enough that in four days vocalist Mike Patton heads out on tour with his other band, Mr. Bungle. But the record label's also clamouring for finished product. And so far they've only completed three songs.
CREEM Magazine | July 1992
Faith No More's Savage Democracy
By Erin Culley
You could easily imagine the shoulders of Patton, guitarist Jim Martin, bassist Billy Gould, keyboardist Roddy Bottum and drummer Mike Bordin stooped by the task at hand. Especially considering the challenge of having to follow up on their monumentally successful album The Real Thing. But the lackadaisical air in the studio today imparts no such notion. The pool table sees constant use, the TV blares an endless stream of noise, and band members straggle in and out of the control room to pick at the just-delivered Thai food.
FNM formed in 1982 as a "hippie hate band," according to their Jim Martin-penned bio. But it took eight years, 3 albums and the replacement of original singer Chuck Mosley with Mike Patton in early 89 to put them on the charts. Sparked by its hit MTV video for "Epic," The Real Thing bloomed late, went platinum, landed the band tours with Billy Idol, Robert Plant and Metallica and won them "1990 Band of the Year" awards from the likes of Rip and Music Express. And before Angel Dust is even released, they'll be heading to Europe to tour with Guns N' Roses.
Despite all the hoopla, though, the band has managed to remain as annoying/charming/sick-in-the-head as ever. Patton, stretched out on a well-worn couch, claims to be handling success by working at Blockbuster Video (and he does sport their employee shirt today), where he never fails to make suggestions to the customers. "And I always," he claims, "no matter who comes in, recommend John Waters."
The band has just finished watching Talk Soup - their new favorite TV program that runs all the spiciest snippets from the day's talk shows - and they blame this for any weird "mode" they might be in.
After deciding that any sort of interview would best be done in separate groups, Patton and Gould settle in on the studio's garish purple patio for the first round of questioning.
Haven't you guys felt any pressure making Angel Dust in light of the success of the Real Thing?
BG: We didn't feel any pressure writing songs because we didn't have any success before we wrote the last record, and we figured we'd just do what we did the last time. After the songs were written we started to record and then the pressure started coming from record company people and stuff who were more worried than we were. We're totally feeling pressure and we're getting pissed off 'cause people are trying to light fires under our asses and get us freaked out like we should be worried about something. They think we should be worried. [slips into adult/authority voice] We should know how serious this is and how many records we could be selling.
MP: Trying to get us worried, it's a real backwards thing.
BG: It's okay, the record's gonna be fine.
How does the new album compare to TRT?
MP: There's some really, really disturbing shit (laughs). I think what got a lot of record company people worried when they heard Angel Dust was that a lot of it wasn't linear. A lot of our last album was verse/chorus, you could really see where things were going. This time there's a lot of turns.
BG: A little more theatrical, like a Queen record. Tell me about the disturbing shit.
MP: It's just a lot heavier. Like, I guess someone would say that the most extreme thing on our last record was "Surprise You're Dead." This stuff is disturbing but not like that at all. I think someone who would listen to "Surprise" and think "Wow cool that's really heavy" would hear, say, the song Jim wrote called "Jizzlobber" and just go "No, man, NO!"
What about lyrically? Where are you coming from this time, Mike?
MP: Well, this time it's more like me writing. Before I'd hear like "From Out of Nowhere" on the last album and I'd say "Oh, okay, this should be a bitter lover song" and I'd invent a scenario that had nothing to do with me at all. This time I didn't do that at all.
You always wait for the band to write the music before you compose the lyrics?
MP: Oh yeah, yeah. Have to. I mean there's always ideas but I don't know how to construct a song around words.
So you're not some closet poet?
MP: (laughing) Fuck no!
Well, your lyrics are pretty interesting.
MP: I guess. But if you notice, to me I can tell that those songs (off TRT) were written in three weeks. Not in the fact that they're thrown together, but they're all from the perspective, like "Oh, poor this, poor that."
Oh, were you feeling very poor at the time?
MP: Well I was in my room all alone! I didn't know anybody, I'd just moved to the city and it was just like "Oh fuck man! What am I doing here?" This time I think it's a little more confrontational.
You guys toured forever for the last record.
BG: We could have kept touring 'cause the record didn't happen until after like a year of touring. When it picked up, we could have pushed it. The record company really wanted us to tour because they thought we could have sold a whole lot more records and we'd always been an opening band for people, so we could have actually made a lot of money because the record was at its peak, but it'd been 18 months on the road. If we'd have done that, we probably would have made some money but we probably would have hated the music and this record wouldn't be coming out now.
MP: We would have come back and been used car salesmen or something.
It must have been kind of frustrating for you guys, the record taking so long to hit.
BG: See the thing is, we knew we had a good album when we recorded it last time. I don't think we see it like it was a record that got huge because really it was a record that we worked our asses off on. At the end it became huge but that was kind of after we'd put in the bulk of our energy. It was like an epilogue. I think the real success thing, if it happens, will be now. This would be the successful record, if it's successful.
So, what do you think?
MP: I think it's gonna piss a lot of people off, and that's a success in itself (laughs).
BG: We're kind of thought about (by the press) as having started this thing: "Well you guys are really doing this new kind of music that's kind of funk, kind of rap and kind of metal" and it really kind of bothered us 'cause we never wanted to be in anything like that. Probably, if we'd have kept doing that, it would have been a pretty safe bet thing to do, and we're not really doing that. We're taking a lot more extremes. If some kid goes to buy the new record and thinks that they're gonna get "Epic" there are some songs that might be on key, but if they put on the wrong song, they're gonna take the record back, 'cause it's kind of ugly.
Angel Dust represents a conscious effort to get away from the rap/funk/metal tag then?
MP: When people say you're responsible for a whole pack of really shitty bands -- or not even shitty bands, but a shitty idea -- it doesn't make you want to be it.
BG: And you're in the forefront of it. This is what some record company people tell us: "You've created this thing, and you've created this thing of fans that are counting on you to fulfill this need in them. Don't change it because you're going to alienate them and piss them off." A lot of interviews I've done for this record are like "Aren't you worried about alienating your fans?" We didn't have any fans when we wrote the last fucking record. We're doing what we do.
MP: You can't worry about that stuff.
BG: We're just fucking musicians.
So why the title Angel Dust?
BG: It's two beautiful words but a real ugly thing. It's kind of what the record's like; it's got some real beauty in it and it's got some real ugliness in it. It's like the balance thing.
"Ugly" and "disturbing" seem to be coming up a lot when you describe the new record. Would you care to elaborate?
BG: Tell her about "Malpractice."
MP: Alright, there's this one song I wrote about a lady who goes to a surgeon and she's getting operated on and she realizes she likes the surgeon's hand inside of her. She doesn't even care about being cured, she just wants someone's hands inside of her -- she gets addicted to that.
You're right, that's pretty disturbing.
MP: I think there's one thing you can say about the disturbing songs and that's that you can't put your finger on why we would write a song like that. Like "Surprise You're Dead" -- wow, nightmare, scary! Big fucking deal. A lot of these songs, its just like someone that's in agony. I think a lot of people like to read lyrics and figure out, "Gee, really, what's going on here?" And a lot of interviewers will read lyrics and go, "So this happened to you when you were a child," like psychoanalyse lyrics. With these, it's going to be totally impossible, and I think that's great.
[Patton takes a phone call and then returns to tell Billy that they've been invited, along with former Mentor/resident L.A. sicko Il Duce, to Tom Araya's (vocalist/bassist for Slayer) this evening.]
BG: (laughing) Why don't you tell her what's going on!
MP: We're gonna swap video tapes, have a taping party.
BG: Sick fucked-up tapes.
MP: Great things.
I'm almost afraid to ask, but, what?
MP: A lot of shit-eating and stuff like that; dicks on meat hooks. Il Duce has a lot of animal porn, which is fine by me.
BG: (laughs) Plus you get to hang out with cultural icons! Heroes!
There's a quote from your bio which states "Whatever physical struggle they might have gone through is nothing compared to the mental torture and anguish they inflict upon each other." What exactly does that mean?
MP: I think that kind of says it all. We're kind of boring people and when you're bored you have to find lower and lower and more petty means of amusing yourselves. And that always means degrading someone.
BG: Yeah, the scapegoat phenomenon has been going on since the beginning of mankind. Having a scapegoat can be quite fun. Some of us get picked on more than others. We might be a democracy but we're not a welfare state.
MP: Savage democracy. We're basically cave men.
Any desire to go on a Robert Bly escapade to get in touch with that?
BG: It's funny you should mention that...
MP: 'Cause our guitar player, Jim, is thinking about going.
BG: He's been hanging out a lot with Ian Astbury from the Cult and he's really trying to convince him to go along.
Why, has Astbury gone?
MP: Oh, didn't you know? He and the singer for the Chili Peppers. Everyone who's even got a smidgen of Indian background, even if they don't have it they can say they do.
BG: You get to hang out in a sweat lodge and talk about men things, naked! As a matter of fact, we've got a song about something like that, Robert Bly.
MP: Well, it was called "I Swallow", but now it's called "Be Aggressive."
[We now go into the studio to hear a mix of an as yet untitled song. Its code name is "The Arabian Song" which certainly fits. The tune is grand, sweeping, and darkly Middle Eastern in tone. A few minutes later "Kindergarten," a slightly more upbeat tune, is played and then followed by the even livelier, yet strangely Japanese-sounding "Small Victory." The band's right. The Real Thing this ain't. Mike Bordin, Jim Martin (who's sporting a pair of shades over his glasses even though it's already dusk-- and a bandage on his hand where a metal plate has been removed) and Roddy Bottum (who also wears a cast on his arm, thanks to a recent trip over a cliff on his bike) now take up residence on the purple patio.]
So Jim, I heard a rumor that you're going on one of Robert Bly's Wildman outings with Ian Astbury.
JM: You've gotta be kidding me!
RB: What's that?
JM: Why would I do that?
RB: Who's Robert Bly? Is it like one of those outdoor things where you have to find your own food and stuff?
It's kind of like bonding in a sweat lodge and crying.
JM: Oh, men hugging and crying and stuff? Jesus fucking Christ!
MB: They make those fucking guys eat dirt!
JM: It sounds freaky and I don't want to do any freaky stuff like that.
RB: I wouldn't do it either.
MB: She's not asking you, she's asking Jim.
MB: I don't want to bond with males.
I take that as a "no," then.
MB: No, it sounds a little sexist. Where are the women?
RB: I think that's the point -- there aren't any.
JM: Would you like to hug and cry with sweaty, greasy women?
Well, no. So tell me about touring: you've been all over the world -- South America, Europe, England, Japan, the States, Australia -- any places in particular that stand out?
MB: They were cool in Japan.
RB: Yeah, to me that was fun in a different way. They weren't wild at all, they were just sitting there but it was fascinating. They just sit there and when you stop it's like clap, clap, clap and the minute you walk up to the microphone everyone just stops -- they're so attentive. I started to get into it the second night, just walk up to the microphone and go (opens his mouth) and silence.
Did you end up actually meeting any of them?
JM: Oh yeah! They're totally friendly, polite.
MB: So nice that you felt weird.
JM: Yeah, it felt like they were clean; you weren't afraid of catching anything from touching them.
Clean? That's a pretty warped observation. You're not a germ freak are you?
MB: (loud laughter) Good question! Now you're getting right down to the matter!
JM: Kind of. It's not that bad yet. Like I hate putting all my clothes in with somebody else's clothes and that kind of shit.
You must love being on a tour bus!
JM: It's all right but I always feel like I'm gonna get the flu or something. When I walk in and out of buildings I hate touching the door knobs and shit.
MB: Now do you understand why he'd never sit in a he-man sweat lodge?
I'm beginning to.
MB: I'm the kind of guy that walks around with open blisters with shit on his hands on tour.
JM: See, I hate being around him on tour.
RB: He lets dogs lick his hands. He thinks it's good for the wounds.
MB: It's good, it heals them.
JM: I can't deal with that. But I wasn't afraid of the Japanese at all. I just don't like touching anybody else's shit and I don't like them touching mine.
What about you Roddy?
RB: I don't care. I've lived a very filthy life at times so it doesn't bother me.
JM: I went to Roddy's, Bill's and Puffy's house one time when I first joined the band and I wouldn't sit down.
MB: I slept on the floor amongst all the rubbish. Roddy had mice living in his clothes at one point.
You've had an amazing amount of success, managed to travel around the world (without killing each other). How has this affected the goals or focus of FNM? Have they changed?
MB: They have to change. We're not gonna write the same song over and over. We're not gonna make the same record over and over. We won't do that. That would be stupid. The band's focus always changes. Yeah, and the fact that we had a great success is gonna be part of the new input that changes the focus -- but it's always changing.
Are you happy with where it's going?
MB: I think it's gonna be a great record. It's gonna be a record I'm proud of. And that to me is the pressure, to not put out something that's shitty.