FAITH NO MORE | METAL HAMMER | December 1997
METAL HAMMER | DECEMBER 1997
They're Calling Us This Heavy Metal Band And It's Killing Me
Responds Billy Gould to the reaction 'Album Of The Year' has received Stateside. During their recent tour of Australia, Murray Engleheart tried to pacify Faith No More's bass guitarist.
When Mike Patton dedicated Faith No More's version of 'Easy' to the mad axeman who's been running around the King's Cross area of inner Sydney, he might not have realised that one of his very own number could well have been in the nutter's twisted sights.
"We missed him by an hour the other night", says bassist Billy Gould. "Adam, our tour manager, and I were walking around, looking for something to do. It was a Saturday night and the cab driver let us off at King's Cross. He goes, 'You better watch out-there's an axe murderer running around here. And we re saying, 'Oh yeah, right.' And he goes, 'No, he killed a guy right here!' and he pointed at this corner where he let us off. I was kind of joking, going, 'Wow, I'm impressed that Australia has axe murderers. I thought it was only America that had that market.
"'I was looking for my friend's house, so we were walking around, going, 'Where's the axe murderer?' and laughing. The next day, I read the paper and he struck again, right where we were, like an hour later."
Although Faith No More aren't Cannibal Corpse or Deicide - despite Gould's connection with the not so mysterious Brujeria-the gruesome context of those attacks works in a parallel universe to them. Faith No More are the closest thing that rock 'n'roll has to a murder circus. And not just because it's vital that those onstage watch out for Patton's self imposed body slams or because of the sheer intensity of the music, which was further heightened after one of the band's Sydney shows when Patton played a deafeningly loud experimental gig with Japanese noise master Merzabow.
Live, Faith No More are almost sonic psychological warfare. "I think probably the one thing we have in common is that we're all pretty dark," considers Gould, "and we try to take the edge off that as much as possible so we can communicate with everybody else."
As a result, all types of moths are attracted to the FNM flame. "We have a few stalkers that stick
their heads up every once in a while. There s a couple of freaks in the States, and there's one in
Germany. Just the random freak.There was one in particular who was trying to dig up the personal details of new guitarist Jon Hudson via the Internet, until the band intercepted the process. "She's a counsellor for kids, which is amazing. She's a trip Jet's put it that way."
Is that sort of thing just an extension of the old groupie phenomenon? "I think it has to do with the shit-eating thing!" he laughs. "Patton did some interviews where (he'd get asked), 'What do you do in your spare time?' He'd say, joking, 'I eat shit'. But there's certain people that will key in on that and they start coming out, start becoming visible"
So who's been your strangest, most surprising fan?
"There was a time when The Real Thing was doing really well, and Puffy got a message from Steve Perry of Journey on his answering machine that went on for like 20 minutes. 'Hey dude! What's going on? I really want you to play in my band, man!' This 20 minute raving message."
Is there one person in the band that the dark mood pivots off? "No, we all have our weird things, but they're different to each other. I think that's where we have something in common. Our aesthetic is more geared towards that kind of thing. We always want the same mood, but maybe how we want to do it, we can disagree with. There's things that somebody will do that another person will find in really bad taste musically, differences of opinion, but everybody kind of wants the same thing. I think our strong point comes when we can all see the same vision. The hardest thing is figuring out where you want (a song) to go. Once everybody can decide, it's just a matter of doing it."
The band's internal tension might cause problems, but as Gould agrees, it seems to work creatively.
"In the long run it does, because we come together. When we put an album out, it's because we've found that middle ground and we overcame the tension it took to get there."
Faith No More have never struck me as having a Bon Jovi-like blood brotherhood going, but that friction seems to work. When I suggest that the creative process that comes out of any internal combustion is bigger than the sum of its parts, Gould concurs.
"Exactly. It's just the way it is. It's lobbying, it/s fighting, it's kicking, sometimes it's agreeing, depending on what people ate for lunch that day. Stubborn people, five stubborn people with their own vision, and at the end of it, everybody has to compromise a little bit."
How important is friendship in the processes of the band? "Not that important," he says quietly.
"Pleasantness is important, but friendship isn't You've got to work together, you know?" he adds finally. "You don't have to like the person. That's like asking too much, you know? I would imagine Fleetwood Mac really hate each other. I mean the/d have to, all the shit they've been through, screwing each other. I'd love to see them on stage together, though. It makes me feel like I don't have it so bad."
What's got to be in place for a FNM show? "You can get a great nights sleep and be in perfect shape and be ready to go, then somebody will say one offhanded remark to our singer that's going to put him in a bad mood, and that could change the way the show goes. There are so many variables. We've done shows that should have been great and were just horrible. and there's nothing you can do. The harder you try, the worse you're making it."
Is there a core person in FNM that's indispensable, that everything hangs on creatively or otherwise? "I guess you wouldn't know until they leave. The drummer and the keyboard player and myself have been playing together for 15 years, so I would think that if either of them were gone, it would hard to call it Faith No More, because it wouldn't sound like us."
Has your bond with them altered in that period?
"A lot of things have happened in 15 years. It's become more complex," he answers.
Do you find that you buddy up with someone, then move on to someone else? "Well, the way we do our business is a democracy. Everybody has to vote on whatever we do and there's always lobbying going on. There's always somebody taking an alliance with some guy so they can win over this little agenda that they're pushing. That's basically how we operate!"
"Depending on the day, I could walk downstairs, see our drummer and turn and walk the other way. Or, if something's happening that day that's in his interests for example," he laughs again, "he'll come and start talking to me about how cool the weather was at the beach yesterday! It's the way we work."
Have you a closeness that allows some sort of onstage telepathy? "Yeah, but that has nothing to do with personal relationships; it has to do with musical relationships. I think if I didn't have a musical relationship with any single person in this band, they probably would have walked off a long time ago. I think the musical relationship has kept this band going."
Speaking of which, Gould had heard part of former guitarist Jim Martin's new album, 'Milk And Blood' via the Internet, but expressed no opinions. The album contains a cover of FNM's 'Surprise You7re Dead', which sees Martin still maintaining some sort of umbilical cord to the FNM mothership.
"Well, that's one attitude to take. To me, it seems like a very businesslike attitude. If somebody's out there and they ve got a momentum going and you have a connection with that, you're going to try and latch onto that momentum. Doing a Faith No More cover is obviously going to bring back the comparisons and bring up the fact that we're touring an album right now. That's one way to go about things, I guess."
Do you ever run into him? "No, not really. He lives on the other side of the San Francisco Bay."
Back in June, the band took a month off from their current world tour to get some rest away from hotel rooms and the band's internal dynamic.
Sorta. Billy worked everyday. "I did a remix for a Bside of this record, Pristina. I made it a really super mellow cocktail mix. I'm happy with the way it came out I always heard it like that in my head anyway, so it was kind of cool to do it."
Romance and cocktails are not something that could be associated with 'Album Of The Year'. In fact, with its hugely orchestrated sound, it freeze frames FNM as what Killing Joke, one of the band's key early influences, could have become.
"I'm glad you get that out of it, because reviews In the States especially are calling us this heavy metal band, and it's killing me! It's like, where are they getting this from?" he laughs. "The music business, we all know, is kind of ridiculous compared to other businesses and there's millions of stories about it, but the fact is that sometimes it's the only direction people have. I mean» kids that don't go to school, they listen to music, they read music magazines, and this is the thing that's educating people.
"If the history isn't right and there isn't a lot of care and pride put into the shit that's coming out, it's really going to reflect badly in the next few years. You'll get someone who'll say, 'Oh yeah, Social Distortion are just ripping off Green Day'! And not only will the writer, and probably the readers, believe it, but they'll be making money as a reviewer. The people spilling out the information don't know what they're talking about. It makes everything totally schizophrenic."
To the subject of the suits the band wore in the 'Ashes To Ashes' video. The wardrobe change m was not, as first thought, the whim of any director.
"That's our thing, man." says Gould with a chuckle. "I think we all realised that everybody needs a thing, and that'll be our thing."
A mobster connection perhaps? "I didn't think about it like that!" he laughs. "You get older, your priorities change. You can't hide the pieces of grey and the wrinkles any more, so you've got to start dressing nice."