Faith No More - Kerrang! Issue 535, March 3rd 1995
Every band goes through a crisis. Someone leaves, someone f**ks up, someone dies. Something happens to make the rest of the band wonder if it's worth carrying on. Faith No More thought about splitting up in 1993.
Royal Flush by Mike Peake
They'd just finished a rock-till-ya-drop, not entirely pleasant world tour supporting their 'Angel Dust' LP. Four of the band were,to put bluntly, pig sick of the fifth man - Jim Martin - and keyboard player Roddy Bottum was going through his own private hell with a bunch of personal problems. So, band front man Mike Patton, bassist Bill Gould and drummer Mike 'Puffy' Bordin talked about calling it a day. Those words - 'splitting' - were actually mentioned. After all, what lay ahead for the increasingly malcontent San Franciscan five-piece? Another f**king album. More touring, touring, touring. All this and the band were - to coin a phrase falling to pieces.
What would have been easier than saying, 'f**k it. We've made some money, we've had some fun, let's lay this f**ker to rest'.
Anything would have been easier. So Faith No More came close, very close, to splitting up back in 1993. What happened instead has been well documented. They ganged up on Jim Martin and kicked the beardy-weirdo axe god the hell out of the band. They insist it was the best thing that they've ever done. But since that fateful December '93 day when Jim was given the boot. Faith No More have been pretty cagey about his dismissal. They've never really opened up.
Not until now...
Faith No More formed in San Francisco in 1980 and fooled around with several singers (including, amazingly enough, Courtney Love) before settling on Chuck Mosley in 1983. Mosley left in 1988 and, after a brief stint with Reggae punksters Bad Brains, formed his own band, Cement. Mr. Bungle Singer Mike Patton then joined Faith No More and the ensuing album, 'The Real Thing', turned the band into a household name.
In December 1993, Jim Martin was sacked, and was replaced by Mr Bungle axeman Trey Spruance, who worked with the band on one album - the imminent 'King For A Day... Fool For A Lifetime'. Spruance left during Christmas 1994 and was replaced by Dean Menta - a former FNM roadie. Which brings us right up to date.
Faith No More, minus Menta, are in Venice in a hotel that overlooks one of the city's main waterways. St Mark's Square is about 400 yards west, and there are plenty of tourists despite the miserable weather. Things are pretty relaxed in the FNM camp, as Patton, Bordin, Bottum and Gould spend a few days touring the city and talking to journalists about their new album. But talk of Jim Martin is unavoidable. 'King For A Lifetime...' is a rebirth. An awakening. And it wouldn't have been possible if everything had stayed as it was.
Mike Patton looks comically like a kid as he sits on a low chair behind a high table in the hotel lounge. Any writer will tell you he's not much fun to interview - by his own admission he's "not very good at it" - but he offers his full attention. He orders some espresso coffees.
"After the 'Angel Dust' tour we didn't know if we were gonna be a band any more," he reveals. "We didn't want to do split up, and I think now that it would have been a stupid thing to do.
"But for a coupla years we didn't confront any of the things that were wrong in our band. When you leave things to fester like that, it doesn't do any good." Adds Bill Gould, who's swapped his long locks for a goatee beard since he was last under the spotlight: "If we'd have kept on with Jim we would have broken up. In the end, Jim actually got the message that he was out of the band via a fax machine! None of us even wanted to talk to him."
Drummer Mike Bordin: "This time in the studio, it was 100 per cent better. And it wasn't just because Jim wasn't there. It was Billy, Mike and Roddy and me. Let's get to work!"
For God's sake -what was so bad about Jim?!
"Well, that's a tough one," shrugs Bordin. "Why do people get divorced? Is it one thing? You just know.
"We all felt that we could be better. We could feel it in our hearts. Yeah, maybe we were driving along at 90mph, but we knew there were a couple more gears up there somewhere so we could really f**kin' push it up. And I feel that we have.
"Jim's a character, he's endearing, but I'm just over it. We were lucky to get 'Angel Dust' to turnout as well as it did. It was f**kin' difficult. It was f**kin' painful! There were two camps working at cross purposes, and that ain't good."
It's been said that you had it in for Jim for years.
"Whatever anyone says, we actually wanted to hear what Jim could contribute to these new songs and we really suspended judgement until then. We told him to bring some songs in and gave him some of ours to deal with."
Did he do it?
"Yeah, but it just didn't feel right. It felt like more of the same. Now, instead of one f**king difficult, strange, schizo-type record, maybe two really good records will come out of this. I really think that we made a record that's great, and when Jim gets full steam ahead he will make the picture out of his own vision."
"Jim was a very vocal, very visual person," reckons Gould. "He was an image - but that's where it stopped, so when Jim left nothing really changed. Jim wasn't involved with the music nearly as much as people think.
"He's the kind of person who takes well to the media. If I was his manager, I know I could sell him like a cartoon character. The rest of us are less likely to market our personalities and are more inclined to sell the music."
Is there anything at all that you missed about Jim in the studio?
Bordin:"No, nothing at all."
Gould: "Nothing, man. It's over, We'd tried for years to sort things out and we were f**kin' exhausted."
Patton: "Maybe his cigar smoke."
Trends come fads go. FNM have been missing-in-action for what seems like forever.
"I didn't mind that," says Bordin. "I was just desperate to get the album done right."
"It's hard to take a break," Gould counters. "The big thing was wondering if we were gonna put a record out at all.
"A lot of people were advising us that Jim has a very public image and that we shouldn't jeopardise everything by making changes. 'Find a way to work with him, don't do anything stupid...' So we had to deal with all this shit. Then Roddy's Dad dies and some of his friends died too. He was a good friend of Kurt Cobain, so that shook him up."
But you were at least able to take stock of what you've achieved in the past five years. Your initial success came from out of nowhere. "We were falling to pieces!" Bordin laughs. "We were too busy to even notice when 'The Real Thing' broke. It was exciting, but we were busy being on tour when things really started hitting. I'm glad we didn't get to see MTV!
"Having success thrust upon you is weird. You say, 'Hang on, I'm only doing what I do'. People then think you're ungrateful.
"Look at Eddie Vedder What's wrong with that guy? He's the voice of a generation and he doesn't wanna do it! He doesn't wanna lead me out of the wilderness or make my life better or get me laid more often or fix my car!"
Patton: "I don't remember if I enjoyed that time. To me, that period probably won't make sense for a while. It was almost like a big joke. There really wasn't any pressure, it was just like. 'Huh?' A lot of question marks. You don't learn until you start giving to people who want a piece of you, and then, suddenly, there's nothing left."
What about all the, er... girls?
"Yeah. Once again, you learn the hard way. You make a million f**king mistakes. But you learn. If you don't, you're a casualty. One more casualty.
"People always expect you to complain about your success. To feel guilty for it. That's probably the worst thing about it.
"If it was that bad, why didn't we all kill ourselves? This poo-pooing of success is very over-rated. We could have come back and made a noise album, and then we'd have been all happy, right?"
Gould: "Back then we were perceived as a gimmick: a mixture of Metal and Funk and we had this pretty-boy singer We found it really repulsive. We started getting tapes from bands who were Heavy Metal Funk bands and they were saying we were their main influence! It was horrible!
" 'Angel Dust' was a way for us to stretch our arms out and hold on to our identity. When Patton cut his hair and changed how he looked, it was seen as very negative. What he was actually doing was a positive thing keeping his own identity in control and not becoming like a piece of McDonalds hamburger People thought we had a bad attitude."
But it must have been good when the money started rolling in?
Patton: "I was very young back then, so it was strange. It didn't really seem real. I didn't do the usual Rock star thing and blow it left, right and centre - I put it in a f**kin' bank! Put it in a f**kin' bank and still lived with my parents to save rent! I did buy a car"
A flashy one?
"No, just a normal car."
"Not so sensible -I wrecked it!"
"The money didn't start till the 'Real Thing' tour was over," adds Gould. "It takes a year or so. We had a Platinum record, we were touring everywhere for two years and everyone was acting as if we were all millionaires. All this when you haven't even got your first pay cheque yet! It was very frustrating."
How much was your first big cheque?
"It was for $20,000 each - and that was an amazing day. But it's not all that much considering what we'd achieved.
"If I knew then what I know now, I think I'd think twice about going into the music business. It's a very hard way to make a living, even at our level. For what we make and what we do, we're middle class Americans, really.
"I'm sure all your readers think we're multi-millionaires. It's hard. It really isn't you think."
Five years after 'The Real Thing', Faith No Mo re are happier than ever. And they are almost embarrassingly enthusiastic about their new LP, which merges hook-happy, super-heavy FNM classics-to-be with a bunch of adventurous off the wall compositions..
Patton: "I can tell right now that we're gonna have a good time touring these songs live. In the past that wasn't always the case."
"The new record is like being hit with a f**kin fist, with one finger sticking out!" beams Bordin. "I think this is a really f**kin' special record. I'm honestly, sincerely, really proud of it.
"This is the best record we've ever done. But it doesn't just come outta your button a plate. The songs, the performance, the recording process, the tones, the mix, the mastering. It's a whole bunch of shit that makes a good album."
Gould: "It's heavier, it's more direct and it's the first record where we had the guitar the way we wanted it. We always knew the potential we had, but everything was always a fight. Now it feels like we're a dog who's been let off the leash."
Considering all that's been said about Jim, Trey Spruance must have seemed like an angel?
Patton: "He was great. And it was a convenient thing to do. I know how he works, he knows how I work. Once we'd settled in with Trey, the writing process went really quick."
But he didn't last long...
"Yeah, but I wanted to give it every possibility for the situation to grow. I wasn't surprised when Trey made up his mind to leave, because it would have happened sooner or later-and if it had happened later it would have been ugly. Now we're separated it's definitely for the better, and it's not affected my relationship with him on a personal level either. I gotta record with him again soon for the new Mr Bungle record."
Is there any concern that because of all the turmoil surrounding 'King For A Day...' - which features an axe man who won't be seen on tour - that it won't be perceived as a bona fide FNM LP?
Patton: "Maybe but I don't think the majority of people will give a shit. I mean, the guitar's gonna sound good and it'll stop there. I mean, I've had people mistake me for Chuck Mosley! So that's the end of that!"
Bordin: "The fact that he won't play these songs live doesn't matter, I because these are our songs."
Gould: "I look forward to the day where we can write an album with a guitarist who can contribute as much as ; we can. A guitar player we don't have to fight with." '
What would new kid Dean Menta have to do to be out of the band?
Patton: "Stop being Dean! Right now, I we've rehearsed for a month and recorded a few B-sides and that's it. It's very hard to guess how it will develop. But in terms of the band I feel more i comfortable than I have for a while.
"Now I don't have to worry about turning my head this way so I don't see that guy, or feel forced to ignore something because I don't wanna fight anybody."
Bordin: "The 'Angel Dust' tour was indispensable because we met Dean. He saw what we went through and respected that. He took two years of his life to hang out with us so we would know him, because he wanted to be in this band.
"He said he's been been waiting for three years for this opportunity and he sure as hell isn't gonna f**k it up. I respect that."