Faith No More, who headline the Phoenix festival this weekend, have been slashing and burning their way across the globe for a year and a half. Which is why they're in such a foul mood right now, insulting their (German) fans and generally behaving like all abominably behaved rock bands should. THE STUD BROTHERS catch up with them in Denmark and discover how not even 16 months of constant touring has affected Mike Patton and co's "bionic pride" in FNM. Dane that peculiar You want it all(but you can't have it)
Melody Maker | Issue July 17, 1993
In Faith We Trust by Steve Gullick
"Oh my God!" Says Mike Patton, weary, but not yey angry. He's staring, with slight disgust, out of the front window of the band's tour bus. "Oh my God!" he repeats.
All we can see are rows of pricey-looking orange and white tents stretching into the distance. That, and the usual gaggle of scruffy teenagers who spend their festivals encamped outside the backstage area in the faint but near-religious hope of seeing one of their heroes as he hurtles past, splattering them with mud.
The arse-end of the bus is still stuck in the HOLY OF HOLYS and Patton's looking more and more pissed off. His eyes have settled on three nondescript-looking kids in Metallica T-shirts. As far as Mike's concerned, they're on the wrong side of the fence. "Fuck you!" he shouts. "These bastards, fucking Germans!"
Except that these fucking Germans have the necessary red passes. So they are entitled, at least theoretically, to go wherever the fuck they like.
How about it Mike?
"These fucking Germans, they don't do anything. They came to probably three weeks of consecutive shows in Germany. Which is ok right? But they were like, "Oh, we don't have any money, can you put us on the list?" Hey, I understand, I'll do that for a while. Then it was like, "Can we come backstage?" Sure, come back. You won't like it for long, it's not entertaining..."
The kids come closer to the bus. From this position, looking down at them from above, Patton's animated irritation (not quite anger) gives way to lofty contempt.
"There they are!" he says haughtily. "Are ya happy to see me, you piece of shit? Ha, ha, ha! You made it! Hi guys, hi!"
He gives them the finger. Americans can swear, almost as well with their hands as they can with their mouths, almost as well as Italians. The Big Finger. It's bloody rude. The kids are undeterred, perhaps even encouraged. They give Patton the Little Twiddly Finger and play a complicated solo on air guitar. "Wah, wah, waaah!" they mouth.
"How did they get those passes?" asks Patton. "How do these people do it? What are you?" He turns to us. "Anyway, these losers here," he points at the gormless goons still doing the Hendrix, "just keep coming, doing nothing, saying nothing. It was like we had to perform for them in our own dressing-room. I mean fuck you! I don't understand what they want. I can't imagine we'd be interesting, one night after another, for 30 nights. No band would be interesting that many times. I'm sorry, nobody's that good."
For Patton, unstinting loyalty is no more than a euphemism for sycophancy. And he reacts with appropriate disgust. The thing is, it has no effect on his fans.-or, at any rate, not the desired effect. Meet Cher and you'd expect her to be brief but polite, Phil Collins would be chirpy and chatty. Meet Faith No More and you'd expect, want, to be pissed on from a great height, a golden shower from rock'n'roll heaven. Faith No More it seems, may well be hamstrung by their reputation as total bastards.
NO DANE, NO PAIN
We're in Odense, Denmark for the Midtfyns festival. We wouldn't normally describe festivals since most of them smell the same (patchouli and stale veggie burger), look the same (a dreadlock away from being illegally chaotic) and, given the fact that the same people always play all of them, sound the same. But this is Denmark and they do things a little differently here. To begin with, it's clean, or at least as clean as a field could be with 60,000 people in it. And where we might have, say, another bar, they have backgammon tents, big 50-table ones, and outdoor chess. And they have amateur martial arts displays where beefy-looking Vikings, dressed like American footballers, whack the crap out of one another with floppy rubber truncheons-indisputably a refreshing change from fire-eaters and clowns on stilts.
Best of all, though, they have child labour. Kids as young as six are paid a pittance to collect the beer bottles left behind by adults-Danish adults still sadly lack the courage to throw their empties at Lenny Kravitz.
All of this impresses FNM who are students, even connoisseurs, of the bizzare. We go to a Danish blues bar in a Danish mall. Proof that it's a blues bar is supplied by a huge papier mache' black man. Weird shit. Next door, chubby, ungainly youngsters dance the night away to "Eye Of The Tiger". Next door again, the Danish equivalent of Serge Gainsbourg is doing his thing. It's all either daftly explicit or indiscriminate in the way only Continentals can be about music, clothes, etc.
"Weird shit," says Roddy.
BABES IN BOYLAND
The following day, Puffy, FNM's drummer, alias Tim Gauguin, real name Mike Bordin, tells us about weird things and bad things. Puffy, quiet and laid back, has probably not done as many bad things as the rest of the band. Then again, it's fair to assume that, having spent the greater part of 10 years on the road with four other guys, you'll have done your fair share. "They're a million bad things you can do," says Puffy. "Just go to the Book Of Bad Things and pick five." Let's pick just one.
At the moment FNM are doing the Bad Thing, The Bad Thing they're most famous for, most notorious for-relishing the misfortune of others, taking a holiday in other people's misery. In this particular case, a long, bubbly, jacuzzi-style wallow.
They've been doing this ever since they started. Remember "We Care A Lot", that vicious monument to sniggering indifference, rapped with such unsettling cynics, aimed posthumously at the moral vagaries and fakery of Live Aid. Or last years slick, sick dig at pinkoes and peaceniks in "Midlife Crisis". "You menstruating heart," sneered Patton uniquely sadistic disdain.
The Bad Thing they're doing at the moment is, even by their own liberal standards, Pretty Damn Bad. They're passing round a magazine as ragged, well-thumbed and prized as an adolescents first porn mag. It's Time Magazine and in it there's the piece, the prize.
The prize piece concerns the former Soviet Union's new capitalist economy. Contrary to popular opinion, Billy Gould, FNM's bassist tells us, the ex-commies haven't just been hanging around, holding their dongs, waiting for Walkmans to drop from the sky. No, sirree. They've been hard at it, holding other people's dongs. Children's, to be precise. Billy, who can normally out-sick the sickest, could recite the piece parrot-fashion, but he won't. He wants, by subtle vocal inflections and well-timed looks of astonishment, to afford it it's full horror and jet-black humour.
Two children, Billy explains, male, aged between seven and eight, are being sold outside the Bolshoi Theatre. Sold by their own father. Plus (and this is a nice touch) he dresses them up like little girls. Canny Daddy's going for the small but profitable double-deviant market. A picture shows the boys/pretty little girls in cutesy floral dresses and a little au natural make-up. Daddy's smiling at the cameras. There's another man present. The caption is short, but sweet: "Haggling with a regular customer."
Roddy listens with casual interest as Billy goes into the upsetting minutiae. Then he leans back nodding.
"And the thing is," he says bay way of an epilogue, or maybe a show stealer, "The kids aren't fully developed, so they bleed every time. Every customer thinks he's getting a virgin."
We're reminded of a T-shirt we once saw. The slogan ran,"Give us your children. What we can't fuck, we eat".
Incisive. Well-timed too.
Billy looks sick. Out-sicked.
"That's so fucked up," he says, with undisguised admiration.
THE REAL THING
Faith No more have a million horror stories like this. Particularly Roddy, Billy and Patton. In part, we're sure, this is the consequence of desperately trying to fill the idle hours between one venue and another (this tour has already lasted 16 months). Most bands settle for silence and a Sega Megadrive.
For FNM it's more. As their name so explicitly suggests, they're driven by disgust. "Driven" is the word. If they were mere cynics, they'd be no more or less than a better-than-average bar-room raconteur.
We've seen FNM a dozen times and never once have we seen them on auto-pilot, just going through the motions. Never once have they been lazy or slipshod. Never once have they appeared less than a band. There's no real ego here (and at Midtfyns they're sharing a stage with Kravitz and Hutchence, the real cynics, the truly ruthless pragmatists). Just a collective power. They may be disgusted, or horrifically amused, but they are moved. And moving. Puffy tells it like it is.
"I think we're consistent and extremely strong and aggressive live. I don't think we have arrogance, I think we have pride, pride maybe that's gotten out of control, bionic pride. It's the only thing that makes you bust your balls every night for 16 months. Anything else, the chicks, the cocaine, even the money, is not enough. We'd really have to slip a few gears to think like that. If we have two bad gigs in a row, we're like,"Oh man, we suck, we're wasting our time and everyone else's"
"You have to have that laser-guided fire, you have to be proud of what you do, do something that's challenging, because you can't go back and do it again. You have to do your own thing and really, really compete with yourself. Because that's the only fucking yardstick that can help push you forward."
LIVE AND LET DIE
Each of FNM, being very different people, have their own yardsticks. Mike Patton claims that, for him, quality isn't measured by the quantity of bile he spews out and has spewed out for the last sixteen months. Rather, it has to do with feeling and movement. You should've seen him at Midtfyns.
He was a flaming dervish, mad with something, a cute and crazy kid reducing the stage in a route-march of ever-decreasing circles. He buckled involuntarily at the waist, pucking his and other's sickness. And what's more, when he got off stage he was worried.. He had the terrible feeling he didn't lose it enough. Like, completely.
"I don't think about anything onstage," Patton says. "Definitely for me it's usually about an absence of thought. And usually I don't remember anything afterwards, I just get told what I've done. Sometimes it's just like passing out for and hour or so.
"I always thought that if you're able to have a coherent thought or complete sentence onstage then you're in the wrong job. For me, it's always been the opposite. It's kind of like waking up in the middle of the night and running through a storm, naked. You come back. What happened? I don't know. You don't think, you just open your ears-thoughts enter and process themselves."
And that's the way we saw it at Midtfyns. Roddy chopping, stabbing the keyboards then wandering off, meditatively, and then back and WHAM! Jim, the furious, fabulous furry freak brother, very metal with a hairy heart (and he still lives with him mom). Bill, the genuine shoegazer, the guy that makes staring at the tip of your fat foot seem lost, intense and cool, not shy and unassuming like you have no right to be there (fakers!).
"I wanna be myself, not say what I am," says Patton. "A singer laying his heart out on the table is a played-out thing. Just cutting out a piece of your heart, to me, isn't that exciting. There are other things to give, it doesn't always have to be your innermost fucking secret, you know? The idea that singers and lyricists always have to be giving, pouring out some deep emotion, is just another fucking fairy-tale. Sometimes one of the most exciting things is a cold, calculated nothing. That's another side, you know?"
"Some people would say that's not so honest, but what's so fucking honest about singing? And, anyway, who said I have to be an honest guy like everyone else?"
"I guess the idea is that, as a singer, you're supposed to inherit a lot of responsibilities, but I never thought of myself as that important. None of us are that type of artist. When I see a picture of myself I cringe, I don't get a hard-on."
"We just do it, the rest I hate."
A CREDIT TO THE NATION
This week FNM play Britain's newest festival, Phoenix. FNM like Britain, they reckon it's been good to them. But they're just too damn ornery to say so.
However, the judicious, thoughtful, graceful and gracious Puffy would like to give it a go.
"Maybe you could do me a favour," he says. "I was trying to figure out a way to, like, say thanks to the UK for being really good to us. I'm not a microphone-talker so I was thinking of maybe holding up a sign at Phoenix saying,'Hey! Thanks a lot' But if I did that I think I'd have to join in with the others and stone myself. I don't know. I don't deal in better or best, comparing things in that way, but I think the UK has been good to us consistently and longer than anywhere else. I fucking appreciate it, I really do. We all do."
They said something nice about you!
FAITH IN FLAMES
FNM fly into the UK this week for their Phoenix appearance amid controversy following a poster campaign in Australia claiming singer Mike Patton is a woman basher and with news that bassist Billy Gould has been left with permanent burn scars after he set his head on fire celebrating his birthday.
Patton has been the subject of a poster campaign after a backstage incident following a FNM show in Wollngong, just outside Sydney.
As the band were relaxing backstage, a girl came up to Patton, and, before he could move away, handcuffed herself to his wrist!
Patton spent the next two hours chained to the girl while roadies and members of the band tried to free them. After two hours, the cuffs came off. When the girl then refused to leave Patton alone, he pushed her away. She tripped and fell on the floor. The following day, feminists organized a poster campaign throughout the city, with pictures of the singer headed by the words, "Patton is a woman basher".
The band's problems continued in Melbourne when bassist Billy Gould, celebrating his 30th birthday, inadvertently set fire to his head with some birthday candles. Roadies smothered his head with wet towels and Gould was taken to the hospital. He was released after medical attention.