'Album Of The Year' 23 - Making The Album
The Story of how Album Of The Year was recorded. Written with the help of the band, referencing interviews with the five members and those who were involved.
Album of the Year, an end and a beginning.
Faith No More toured their fifth album King For A Day for only seven months, no time at all compared to the two years plus they were on the road promoting The Real Thing. This tour was cut short so that the band could get back into the studio and work on their next record.
"Usually we put out a record every three years, and then we tour it to death for a year or so until we're sick of each other. The last thing we want to do after a tour is go right back into the studio, so on the last tour we decided to cut it short, stop while we were ahead, and get back into the studio and crank out another album while we had some momentum." - Bill Gould 1997
However as per usual with FNM, things did not go to plan. The core members, Bill Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin went into the rehearsal room with ideas and soon found that was no creative connection with guitarist Dean Menta.
"We rehearsed, but we weren't coming up with anything that any of us liked. It was a drag because Dean, our guitar player at the time was really good live, but you never know if the chemistry is right until you start writing together. We tried to write for six months, but it was just a frustrating thing." - Bill Gould 1997
Mike Patton showed little enthusiasm for the songs that had been written, finding them a little too 'poppy'.
"I was really pissed off about it. He's more inclined to not do something that's a little poppier. The first songs that we wrote, I was really happy with because they were really simple, sort of, effortless. in like that; I don't like temp changes and time changes. It's just confusing and it doesn't speak to me in any pure way. At the time he kind of wasn't into doing it. I imagine if I really pushed it, I could have got him to do something to those songs. But at the same time, if it isn't effortless for him, then I would really rather he didn't anyway." - Roddy Bottum 1997
"We wrote something like 12 songs, and of those 12, we probably axed eight of 'em. They're still around, they're good, but they were leaning a certain way that we didn't want things to lean towards. They were...they were just a little bit too nice. They were pop songs, but there wasn't enough feeling, enough balls." - Bill Gould 1997
And after months with no satisfactory results the band became dispirited and for the first time in their history each individual pursued artistic endeavours outside of FNM's ranks.
Patton returned to the road with Mr. Bungle to promote their 1995 album Disco Volante, a tour that would extend into most of 1996. Mike B was asked to join his childhood musical idol, Ozzy Osbourne for the Retirement Sucks tour. Roddy co-founded the band Star 69, who would of course become Imperial Teen and release their debut album Seasick in May 1996. Bill took a sabbatical spending a few months travelling in Europe, he alone was left to work on the album and keep FNM from an untimely end.
"We have another guitarist. I really wish I could say that "this is the MAN!" and that everything's beautiful, but we've said that three fucking times already. I don't know any longer - it's either us or the guitarists. What I do know is that guitarists stink."-Mike Patton 1997
Mike Morris, Jim Martin, Trey Spruance..... FNM have struggled to maintain the position of guitar player since their inception. Due to artistic differences in 1996 Dean returned to his band DUH and FNM were again looking to fill the post.
Jon Hudson played guitar for Oakland based industrial / keyboard band Systems Collapse a band who (by his own admission) hadn't achieved much success and only recorded demos.
"I was in a band in San Francisco called Systems Collapse, and the keyboard player knew Bill and the other guys, so I met Bill when Faith No More was out touring The Real Thing. It was becoming apparent that things weren't working out with Jim after the Angel Dust tours, so I wasn't surprised when they agreed to part ways. Later, Bill sent me some of the demo stuff for King For A Day. I recorded some ideas and sent them in. They were auditioning different guitar players at the time, and they obviously decided to work with Trey, which I think was a good call; he was perfect for that record. "I was pretty familiar with the band and Bill's sense of direction in terms of song writing and his approach with guitars. So, by the time he called me in early 1996, and said, 'We're in the middle of coming up with material for this next record - we were wondering if you'd give it another shot?', that was the perfect opportunity for me. "You have to be in the right place at the right time - you have to consider yourself very fortunate when an opportunity comes up. People can say, 'You have to have talent.' Sure, that's important, but there's no shortage of very talented people. You have to remember that if you do have these opportunities, you're lucky." - Jon Hudson 2015
Jon found the band disjointed and he could sense finality in the air with this album.
"I viewed everything as an opportunity. I could see the pressure of trying to deliver another great record was wearing on some of the guys because they were putting their energies into other areas or projects. I felt like this might be their last record, so I wanted to make sure I enjoyed it as much as I could." - Jon Hudson 2015
Although at this time the guitar parts in FNM's music had become a function rather than an integral part of their sound, Jon did contribute to the songwriting on this record.
"We wrote some songs after he joined and he brought some of his own songs that he worked on for himself and then we started to to work on them together. That was really cool." - Bill Gould 1997
Five Become One
So with the line-up complete in early 1997 the band finally got the chance to reconvene and they began to refine a sound that pleased all five members. They found direction and embarked on creating a more consistent album than KFAD, an album that was more natural to them as a unit.
"We did try to keep a little more consistency because we did realize that not only are we writing it, but people have to listen to it, too. But I think the quality is right up there with anything we've done." - Bill Gould 1997
"It's got more feelings and balance than our previous albums. Possibly it's darker too. I don't think we developed too much from album to album before. But now it's easy to trace [a development]." - Mike Patton 1997
They were inspired by the current musical trends in trip hop and computer aided compositions.
"I think the intention for Album was to get back to what we started as. Plus, we were listening to a lot of Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, DJ Shadow at the time. We loved that shit." - Roddy Bottum 2016
The songwriting process this time around came much easier than it had in years. Using Ashes to Ashes as an example.
"The bulk of that song was written the first week. We arranged it here, and then we sent Patton a tape. He was in Italy, but he came up with the lyrics and the singing right away. It was one of those songs that just clicked - one of those songs that we do most naturally. That's our sound." - Bill Gould 1997
When Patton returned from his home in Italy he brought with him two complete songs to add to the album.
"He wrote them in about a day. He was really inspired. I remember him coming over here one day, we did some stuff, and then he went home, wrote the songs, recorded them, and gave them to me the next day. He'd written everything: the drums, guitar, bass, and the lyrics." - Bill Gould 1997
Naked In Front Of The Computer
Faith No More decided this time that they would handle the production of the album themselves . Basic tracks for the first dozen songs were recorded at Brilliant Studios in San Francisco, the band kept this from the record company to avoid any complications.
"If you tell a record company you're going to produce your own record, they usually don't like it. So we told them we were going to make 'demos' of these songs, but we knew all along that we wanted to keep them as final tracks." - Bill Gould 1997
"It just turned out to be that way. We didn't need a producer. We haven't been into the studio very long and then Roddy had to go on tour with imperial teen again. During that time we recorded other stuff and when everyone was back again the record was nearly finished so we could start mixing. I'm the one who was always there, I knew the recordings in all steps...so I became the producer." - Bill Gould 1997
"And then we started back from square one, repeating the same [songwriting and recording] process. After the second time, we had something like 20 songs to choose from, and we started to realize, 'Hey, we're pretty much there.' So, in a stealth-like way, recorded our album without anybody really knowing we were doing it ourselves."- Bill Gould 1997
After all the material was recorded the band then retreated to Bill's basement for editing and decided they needed a fresh pair of ears to help achieve the final sound of the album. They enlisted the talents of the Swans drummer turned producer Roli Mosimann. Bill essentially recorded and produced the album while Roli processed and edited the songs using computer technology.
"Roli is the guy who did the Young Gods stuff, and he really added an interesting dimension. He's coming from an angle that we haven't explored before, which is a little bit more on the technology side. There's a little bit of programming, but the songs are still really heavy. The programming just puts the sound in a new light." - Bill Gould 1997
"Until now we everytime we did an album...we recorded that on tape and mixed it then..roli changed our point of view. he copied all the stuff to the computer and we started to edit it then. we didn't do to much of that...we just really fucked up one song in the computer. most we did were little things that really improved much. and roli also mixed the album and his extreme mixing style was really good for us." - Bill Gould 1997
"A good example of Roli's editing was the song 'Mouth to Mouth.' It wasn't sounding right to us at all. It was almost a throwaway song. But Roli really liked that one, so he ended up taking the [acoustic] drums in the choruses and moving them to the verses in Pro Tools. It gave the song a whole new life." - Bill Gould 1997
Collision "A lot of the really cool sounds in this song that sound like guitar are actually keyboard string sounds running through a [Tech 21] SansAmp. You can really mangle keyboard sounds with a SansAmp; you can get some amazing dark, ugly textures."
"The odd rhythmic element in the verses. was written by our new guitar player. The verses are built around a 4+6/10 riff, and the choruses are a straight 4/4. The Spanish-speaking voices you hear later in the song are from a short-wave radio. That was Patton's idea. He has a short-wave he takes on tour. I've got one too, and you can get some really cool, eerie stuff. I noticed on the Nine inch Nails record they used a little bit of that too." - Bill Gould 1997
Stripsearch "The kernel of that song came from John Hudson, our guitar player on the last album. Writing wise, we just weren't speaking the same language as Dean, the guitarist we were touring with, I had known John for years, and he said he could provide what were looking for... so he produced this midi file of an idea he'd had and it was pretty good. We changed it just a little bit, but it was his song. The most amazing thing was he wrote a song which worked with us and we didn't have to teach him to do it! Musically we connected. I think he was the first guitar player we had where that happened." - Bill Gould 1998
"The loop in the beginning made such a difference. Before we put it in, the song sounded more like Queensryche. But after the loop, it sounded more like Portishead or something. It gave it a darker, different slant. It didn't sound like a rock band anymore. This song was also a study in layers. Getting keyboard layers to really fit can be hard. You can have five different modules, each with its own piano or string sound, but for a certain song there's always one that fits in like a glove. So we did a lot of searching for the fight kinds of electronic sounds." - Bill Gould 1997
"The percussive noise effect in the intro is Patton making noises with his mouth. My favorite part on the whole record, is the simplest thing...and that's the bleeps [in the intro of this song]. It was just a simple tone that we tapered down so it sounded like an SOS, or Morse code." - Roddy Bottum 1997
Last Cup of Sorrow "This came from me a little bit... I would say it's a little more dub like, the bass line was very dub-ish. I think I heard something like this - just a very heavy, slow song, probably like a cross between some old dub records and something like Basement Five and a band like Chrome. They were an old San Francisco band, kind of like punk that was very heavy metal, but dark and foreboding... very cinematic. Ifs depressing, but beautiful at the same time. As an album, it was our death record and it was something to feel, something we were going through. The words are from Patton, but I think we were all on the same page with this one."
- Bill Gould 1998
"The toy piano idea basically started as a loop in Studio Vision, where I was playing bass and guitar. The piano was added as a rhythm element. That's all it was: rhythm. Pitchbends with a little bit of delay can be great for giving that certain unsettling feeling.Mike can do a lot of wild things with his voice, for one. But, yeah, he sang through an old Telefunken tube mic and we compressed the living shit out of it." - Bill Gould 1997
Naked in Front of the Computer "Actually, this song is about email. Patton is kind of obsessed with the idea of how people can communicate and have relationships over the computer without talking or ever meeting. So this is an extreme version of that concept. Funny thing is...the image of someone sitting naked in front of a computer might not have made sense to people a few years ago, but now everybody knows what it means. It's become part of our culture." - Bill Gould 1997
"Its about my frustrations while surfing the Internet. I won't tell you more. I think that too many people think too much about my lyrics. I am more a person who works with the sound of a word than with its meaning. Often i just choose the words because of the rhythm not because of the meaning. It was important for me that the album has a general mood that can be found in all songs and that it doesn't go in too many directions like we did in the past." - Mike Patton 1997
Helpless "The organ you hear in the verses "isn't a real organ. It's a JV-1080 patch called '50s Organ. The one thing I've noticed about the Roland modules...they might sound kind of slick on their own, but when you put 'em in with the band, they tend to sit really well in the mix. I think the guys who do the sound design at Roland are very aware of how things fit with other instruments. Anyway, that organ blended so well with the other instruments. You know it's there - it really adds, but it doesn't stand out. It's not harsh. It doesn't strike your attention that it's organ, but it really compliments the melody." - Bill Gould 1997
Mouth to Mouth "This song has an interesting story. Last year I went to Albania. I got an old car, and I drove through the country - a country that's been isolated from the world for like 30 years. So I went in there, and one thing I noticed were a lot of thug-type guys running around in leather jackets with ghetto blasters, but they weren't listening to heavy metal music: it was this loud Arabic music, and it was really inspiring." - Bill Gould 1997
She Loves Me Not "This song almost didn't make it on the record. We almost didn't even record vocals for it because it's so different from all of the other songs. I wrote this song, and I was almost embarrassed to play it for anybody in the band because it's so soft - but at the same time it's a good song. It's like a Boyz II Men song of something. I didn't play it for anybody for, like, a half a year, and then finally I played it for Puffy. He thought we should give it a try, so I gave it to Patton, and he said, 'I wrote words, but they're pretty over-the-top.' But we went forward with it, and he really sang his ass off." - Bill Gould 1997
Got That Feeling "This is a Mike Patton 100-percent original. Basically it's a song about a guy who's a compulsive gambler. I think it would make an amazing video." - Bill Gould 1997
Paths of Glory "This song is all about a mood. It's not: 'Entertain me.' It's a vibe." - Bill Gould 1997 Pristina "This song took quite a bit of work in the studio because there are so many big open chords of distorted guitar, which doesn't leave much room for anything else. You've got room for drums, vocals, and maybe a deep bass, but trying to get the strings to cut through was a challenge. We spent a lot of time EQing and working with them to get hem placed just right." - Bill Gould 1997
The album cover was down to Bill who had become intrigued with European history on his travels. The front cover is a photograph of the first president of independent Czechoslovakia Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.
"Actually the man was an old president of Czechoslovakia who died in the '30's, but his significance is more symbolic than political. He was a very aristocratic president at a time when Czechoslovakia was one of the richest countries in the world. His funeral was HUGE (they are the shots on the album artwork) and his death took place on the eve of WW2. If there is any symbolic importance, it is the depiction of the death of a 'golden age.'" - Bill Gould 2002
As the principal founding father of Czechoslovakia, Masaryk was regarded in a way similar to the way George Washington is regarded in the United States.Even to this day, Czechs and Slovaks alike regard him as a symbol of democracy.
The liner notes for the album depict a funeral with the words pravda vítězí (truth prevails) adorning the coffin. The statement is the motto of the Czech Republic and is seen as a symbol of democracy.
Roddy Bottum On Album Of The Year
Going into Album of the Year felt like a changing of the guard. In a technological sense, and in an ownership sense. We'd been doing what we'd been doing for a long time - recording five records, touring for more than a decade. The production had gotten bigger, the stakes had gotten higher and the playing field was changing. Suddenly, making a record on our own was completely and realistically doable. Billy was kind of the first in our camp to get savvy with the Pro Tools setup, and as a result, a good part of AOTY was made in Billy's basement. We did all the tracking at Brilliant Studios and Razor's Edge in SF, but the editing and production were done on our own. It was our first step in taking back what was ours in a technical sense. Kind of ironic that it was our final record....at the time, anyway. We all knew where it was going, the writing was most definitely on the wall - we were all branching out, everyone had a side project, and it felt like FNM was becoming harder and harder just to schedule. Collectively, unconsciously, individually and as a group, we were acting out. Dressing in black suits for the tour, referencing a funeral, the death of the band, the audacious titling of the record, we were fucking with our own destiny. We were definitely referencing our musical roots as well, going back to the melancholy, the sombre, the monotonous loops, the brooding keyboards. Last Cup Of Sorrow, Ashes To Ashes, Jon's involvement and writing in songs like Stripsearch and Collision; in retrospect it feels really strong and an undeniably prolific chapter in what we ultimately set out to do. It might have been a hard pill to swallow for our fans and critics who kept looking to us for a radical change, which of course was understandable... we'd changed so many times. Maybe the change this time around was more of a 'behind the scenes' change. The way we recorded, Billy and the basement, bringing in Roli Mossiman, writing with Jon. Internally, to us it was radical. Roli had worked with Young Gods, a band we loved. He worked a lot with computers. He came in to help track and record, but stuck around to help mix. A testament to his work, we all liked him a lot and appreciated what he brought. Looking back, it seems like a good album to the world with, because it was almost a full circle return to the core of what FNM was. Of course, we had no idea at the time that we'd revisit it, it was the last thing on anybodies mind. We all needed to leave it and walk away, and not look back for a long time. The amount of angst we'd shared as a group of friends was devastating. I don't know how we survived as young people doing what we did. Friends writing together, creating together, making business decisions together, living together, 24/7 for the most part. Looking back on it, they were truly special days of our lives, particularly at the end, when the seams were busting, and the glass had overflowed. The spillage was Album of the Year, and it was an end and a beginning.