Faith No More Released 'Angel Dust' 29 Years Ago
The Story of how the astounding and inspiring album Angel Dust was recorded. Written with the help of the band, referencing interviews with the five members and those who were involved.
1991 The Beginning
As they entered 1991 Faith No More were celebrated musicians, band of the year for many including RIP and Kerrang! magazine. Promoting their acclaimed album The Real Thing had kept the band out on the road for two years and attention from the press and fans alike had left them with little room to breathe never mind write new music. However their work schedule this year was much more relaxed with only a handful of shows. This allowed the band to step back from the chaos and formulate ideas for their next album.
Unlike TRT, which included ideas written as early as 1983, Angel Dust would comprise mainly of fresh material written specifically for this record.
Writing began during their first South America tour, three weeks after the band returned to San Francisco Bill Gould, Roddy Bottum and Mike Bordin entered the rehearsal studio to create what would become some of the most remarkable work of their careers. Bill had been hanging out with Jello Bafra and the Mexican death metal outfit Brujeria, whilst also taking inspiration from easy listening music. Whereas Roddy found inspiration from electronic pop and techno sounds. Of course Mike Patton never rests and he had become involved with the avant guarde scene. Spending time with John Zorn, performing with Naked City and recording the Mr. Bungle debut album. Influences cited by the band included Godflesh, Ween, Young Gods, The Sugarcubes and Henry Mancini's soundtracks. As the AD demos arrived, Patton found solitude to embark on various experiments finding inspiration to pen some of his most creative lyrics ever. Jim Martin found the new ideas difficult to work with and abandoned rehearsals for some r n' r in his truck.
Early versions of RV, Caffeine and The World Is Yours were added to the set list for a few shows on their return to Brazil and their first ever shows in Tokyo later in the year.
"The last record kind of cleared our minds out, and then we just started playing again, just started jamming new stuff, with bass lines and melodies and rhythms, and that's how it started. Keyboards, bass and drums, definitely. Most of the stuff started there, but there's also stuff that started with Mike Patton, there's also stuff that stared with Jim, but most of the permutations are keyboard-bass, keyboards drums, drums - keyboard, you know, it happens a lot that way, because we were the ones that were here, we were the ones that came to practise a lot and were really interested and really pushing forward and really kind of challenging ourselves." - Mike Bordin 1992
With a larger budget and more freedom allowed to them by the record company FNM took residence in Coast Recorders studio, San Francisco in December 1991. Matt Wallace returned to produce his fourth album with the band.
"He has a hands-off sort of thing with us and just lets us do what we want. which is really important. Since he's worked with us before he's just as much a candidate for torture as the rest of us and that's a comforting thing." - Mike Patton
"He tries to get a good sound, and I think that's what he ought to do. We hopefully have it reasonably together by the time we go into the studio, you know we have a reasonable idea of what we want to do, so I think it's harder for him to monkey with it. With five guys in the band that's enough monkeying. We worked on everything with him, and it's gotten better every time, it's much closer than it ever has been to sounding the way we feel we sound, it's not easy with the keyboards and guitar and a lot of bass and a lot of drums, it's not easy balancing them." - Mike Bordin
"From my perspective, as co-producer, engineer, and mixer, I was, in my own way, really distancing myself from the sonics of TRT as I felt that it was thin, over compressed, and had too much high end (although this all worked in our favor on radio and MTV). So, I endeavoured to try and create a much fuller, more natural sounding record." - Matt Wallace 2012
Matt found the recording of AD such a difficult experience that he had to take time off after the album was finished and distance himself form FNM, but he was proud of the result.
"At the end of Angel Dust, because it was such a difficult record to make, there was pretty severe acrimony within the band, certainly between everyone and Jim, and there were some really heated arguments. Roddy was having his own struggles with some addiction issues, we were at a recording studio that really wasn’t supportive at all, I had to basically produce, engineer, assistant engineer and answer the phones, and it was a really stressful record to make. So at the end of it I took off for a couple of months and said, “I’m done with this music thing for a while,” and at the end of that record I said to those guys, “Listen, I think it’s time for you to find a new producer, a new guitarist or both." - Matt Wallace 2015
FNM's intention was not necessarily to compose an album that would confuse fans, but an intelligent progression that would challenge themselves and the listener. However the result would be disconcerting for many. They confessed that they "learnt how to hear what was inside our heads and play it".
"I like being there every day when we record. I like being around a lot. But the bottom line is that it's a vote. The majority gets what they want in the studio or anywhere else." - Bill Gould 1992
"When it comes to writing songs, the material is something we do unconsciously. We're musicians and we're in a band and we write songs - it's not something that we analyse. It's hard to analyse what you do naturally, it's really kinda difficult. It's especially difficult to say it in an interesting way because it's a little too close. It seems natural, it's what we do naturally." - Bill Gould 1992
Alienating Your Public
"There will be no middle ground for this album. It's either gonna be absolutely huge or it'll be a total fucking flop." - Bill Gould 1992
To add to their already huge fan base (and put cash in the bank), the easiest thing to do would be for the band to continue in the same vein as The Real Thing with an album of 'Epic part 2's'. But this is FNM.....five incredibly unique individuals thrown together with explosive results and they have never done things easy. FNM have always enjoyed provoking a reaction whether it be positive or negative. When the crowd would chant for them to play their cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, they responded with a perfect rendition of The Commodores classic Easy instead, grinning down at the indigent masses. The diverse musical content of AD was an obvious departure from the album that had gained them that fan base. Which is exactly what the band intended, TRT had been forced into a pigeonhole and tagged 'funk metal' by the press who had no other way of classifying its unique sound. In some ways FNM deliberately tried to distance themselves from this and the crowd it had attracted by creating a record which was much more challenging, but for the most part it was simply the direction the music had naturally taken.
"This whole Funk Metal thing is really disgusting. The last thing I ever want to be in is a Funk Metal band - we're gonna try to be anything except that!.... I would say that any band which plays Funk Metal, I hate, and would safely say that most of the band feel the same way." - Bill Gould 1992
The band knew this disposal of a tried and tested successful songwriting formula would test their fan base, in fact they were sure that people would hate the new record and joked that it should be titled 'Alienating Your Public'.
"Probably this new stuff is a little weirder than our last record just to confuse our fans and alienate our public. At least that's what we've been accused of. It's not really an attempt to push any kind of point, it's just music that we wrote." - Roddy Bottum 1992
"I shouldn't say that we're happy to piss people off. It's just that we want to do what we want - and not necessarily what they expect. Anyone who expects this record to be The Real Thing Part II had better wake up! I know some fans who are already pissed off about it." - Mike Patton 1992
The band kept the music from record company execs at Slash until the mixing stage and when they finally heard AD they too were incredibly worried about the direction their investment had taken.
"The record company president came in the studio and said: “I hope nobody bought houses” All the air got sucked out of the room. That was one of those great moments when reality slaps you in the face. Some of my associates (had) bought houses." - Jim Martin 2012 "The record company got really scared when they heard the finished album. That was the only way we knew we'd done something right. If they'd liked it then something would be wrong. There were a lot of worried faces before we started mixing." - Roddy Bottum 1992
"Don't you think it's great to see someone twitch? You know, they get really nervous? That happened with our record company. They tried working on each of us individually, persuading us that we didn't know what we were doing. They said it would alienate fans of 'The Real Thing' Ideally they'd like another 'Epic' on there somewhere." - Mike Patton 1992
"They left us alone for the whole recording and then when we were just about to come to mix, there was suddenly this concern that they didn't know how to market it. They didn't really understand it and who did we think we were making a record like this! Basically, it's a cheap tactic to try and get you worried and feeling insecure about your own work, to have to justify your work to them. You shouldn't have to do that but by the same token, you have to work with these people because they sell your records, so they have to understand at least a smidgeon of what you're doing." - Mike Patton 1992
This indifference did not in any way perturb FNM, they were proud of AD.
"I think this record takes us a step further. It shows us as a more confident unit and [that] we're still learning and growing. This is a definite progression. This time we just wanted to make an even better record and not necessarily follow the guidelines that the press and others tried to lay on. We really tried to dig inside ourselves and bring something out that was challenging, confrontational and extremely unique. I'm very pleased with it." - Mike Bordin 1992
So what was so different? The album is more theatrical. The songs were fragmented, instead of following at traditional verse/chorus/middle eight structure each composition on the album was a journey often with several opposing sections where the music would radically change in a similar way to a classical overture. Yes there were still incredibly addictive melodies but also furious riffs, drones and schizophrenic shifts in mood. Roddy experimented with his sounds like never before and a host of samples from a varied sources. Guitar solos were limited, in some places the riffs were brutally exposed in others barely audible. The vocals were much more complex, Patton using his formidable vocal range to its full extent and his lyrics were more disturbing and contrived. The album was not a complete digression from its predecessor, it simply pushed the boundaries much further.
"We're the same band making another record, and if people say it sounds a little different then obviously we're doing something right. We're doing the same thing we always do, but we're making it interesting enough that people realise it." - Bill Gould 1992
"I would say 'Surprise! You're Dead' was one of the more extreme things on the last record. There are things on this that are so extreme in the opposite direction that I think they'll freak people out: also stuff in the same direction, but pushed way further. I mean. you can't really put your finger on what's disturbing about it and I think that is what's disturbing about it. so it's a good thing."
"I think we've stretched what we are to an absurd level this time, which is great. I think we would all be really happy if people took this record home and went, 'What the hell is this?!' I think that's gonna happen-- and I think that's a good thing. The record company tried to turn the screws a little tighter this time around, I have to admit. There are a lot of samples, which was one of the things that kinda freaked them out." He mimics a concerned exec: "'Gee, there's a lotta *sampling* on this! Don't you think a ROCK audience would be CONFUSED by this SAMPLING thing?'" - Mike Patton 1992
"It's just weirder. The record company said it was 'a little bit too far left-field' That means it's less rock. They also accused of us 'gratuitous sampling'". - Roddy Bottum 1992
"What was that great phrase they used? 'Too much role-playing in the vocals'? That was their fault anyway!" - Mike Patton 1992
The Metamorphosis Of Mike Patton
"A singer is the is the same as an actor. People Shouldn't take what singers say so seriously." - Roddy Bottum 1992
It's no secret that during the promotional tours of The Real Thing Patton found it difficult to adjust to his new way of life. His distaste for everything was apparent. He rubbed against his fellow band members and the press, behaving like a spoilt brat and constantly suggesting he was about to leave the band at any time to concentrate on Mr. Bungle.
"That was in the period I gave a lot of interviews that I shouldn't have given. I was fed up with Faith No More. Nobody bought our albums and we just kept touring. I was disillusioned. When you're touring, sometimes as a band you get the feeling you're living like rats. You're kept busy and stupid temporarily. You're treated like a pimp treats a whore. And if you don't want to be a part of that, it gets frustrating. We needed people to bang our heads against the wall. I wanted to crawl away. That's why I was delighted to record an album with Mr. Bungle. The interviews I did during that time were pretty negative. I said things like: Faith No More is like a job to me. Because I felt like that. But I don't think I portrayed myself correctly; It made me look like a spoilt son-of-a-bitch more than anything else."
"In the end I got what I wanted. And that's good, because being in two bands at the same time is great. It isn't a threat. It's more like a physical need: I found I had to do more. You eat a little too much and then you have to shit some more." - Mike Patton 1992
Over the course of 1991 a transformation began. His attitude became more relaxed, it seemed he had come to terms with being a part of FNM and was comfortable in his role. His hobbies became more mature, albeit still rather twisted.
"In a relationship, in the beginning, there's inhibitions. After a while, all of those things fall apart, and that's how you get comfortable with somebody. I think that's probably how it happened. You learn how to fart and cuss in front of them. That's healthy. The way the band operates, politically, is, whoever steps out of line, everyone pounces on him. So if you're constantly afraid of doing something, nothing gets done. When everybody gets a little more comfortable, you can pull out any idea, and it can be manipulated, raped, made fun of, whatever. But still ... that's OK. Because that's how shit gets created; I'm convinced of that." - Mike Patton 1993
"I never knew what kind of band it was. We became a hard rock band by default, it was an accident, but the beautiful thing was that we all knew. We could look at each other and say however bad it got, however much of a pet monkey we became, however much of a pet funk-metal rock band we were, there were 4 other guys who have to deal with it to. And each guy dealt with it in their own little way. There had never been any question of my staying in the band. We started writing the music for this album, and being a part of something so fundamental was what made sure of it for me. The Real Thing' had been like someone'else's music, someone else's band, it had felt like an obligatory thing. They hadn't needed a damn singer, it was just that they had to have a singer. That's why I was there, that's why Chuck was there, we weren't needed we were there." "Before this album I still threw ideas out, whether that be fool's courage or whatever, so I always had the courage. It was just the fact we started from the pot in the middle where everybody pees into it. We'd done our time, so it felt like we'd been in jail with someone for a while. Like a junkie, it doesn't matter whether you agree with someone's way of thought, what they do for a living or what they do in their spare time, it doesn't matter because whatever it was you were there. Proximity made it happen. And now, of course, we're kinda friends in a weird sort of way." - Mike Patton The Real Story 1994
The change in his appearance was also apparent and the first promo shots in 1992 proved that the hair metal poster boy was gone, and replaced with the look of a serious frontman.
However the most noticeable development was in his voice the funk derived nasal sound that had brought him so much attention on TRT had gone so was the rapping. We would hear his natural singing voice and the extremity of what he was capable of achieving with his vocal chords. Growls, screams, squeals, heavy breathing....the list is endless. Kerrang 431
Have you noticed how much more a part of FNM Mike Patton has now become? Patton's development seems to have escaped press probings. The piss-drinking, the tampon-munching, the lurches, the screams, the insults, the jokes, the lyrics, the dark side of 1989s pin-up. He has become the definition for mischievous, curious and warped youths worldwide, a man who will try anything just for, the hell of it. But the biggest strides Patton made were in actually becoming a happy member of Faith No More. When did this penny drop? "At first, the fruit wasn't ripe," trills Patton obliquely, "but it got riper and riper, and now it tastes really good. But the actual point at which everything finally clicked is hard to pin down. One thing about this band is that there's many things we've either not had the courage or the means to do before; but we're beginning to care less how we're perceived and to just get on with things." It's probably easier for him now, looking back, to work out why he was so antagonistic when he first joined FNM.
"The truth is, there were certain things I wanted to know about the band, and I also saw a lot of things I didn't wanna know, so I ignored them. Rather than confronting issues, I found it much easier to ignore them."
Was becoming the Metal pin-up kid of 1989 the sort of thing we're talking about? "Definitely!"
So your belligerence and antagonism were just to get you through? "That stuff was just instinct. When you enter a volatile situation, with the whole thing spiralling towards the toilet, you just stir it a little more. With this LP, we were all spiralling in the same direction at last."
Were you encouraged to express your weirder, more f**ked-up ideas on the record, such as on Malpractice and RV? "It's not really aggression, it's just feeling comfortable, being able to unload everything. There was just a better forum for extremes."
Did you re-invent yourself, with the new haircut, the uglier tones, the darker personae than in the smooth, white pretty boy of yore? "We'd better talk to the psychiatrist!"
So there was no conscious effort to say, f**k this, I'll never be a magazine pretty boy again'? "Nothing conscious. Certain things just happen naturally. When you've toured for two years and you're trapped in a time capsule, you come back f**ked up."
Was there this bitterness of 'missing your youth'? "No, it's just that you get to feel like a rat sometimes, because all you can do is run along with it, chasing the trail of cheese. In the end, you lose dignity - you really do. You end up convincing yourself that you have control when you just don't."
So why is it so much easier now than before? "Explaining that would be like sitting down with your Mom and explaining why you farted at the dinner table three years ago!"
Is it therapeutic dealing with characters in songs, getting your anger out? "No, because sometimes it isn't good to have that shit out in the open." He sighs deeply before smirking, "There's this myth about lyricists and singers, that they're always 'projecting their inner-most secrets', which is horse-shit. Singers are the WORST! They can't hide behind instruments..."
Matt Wallace was in awe of Patton's development, from TRT to AD.
"For me, the big change within Patton was that during The Real Thing, he was still not 100 percent committed to Faith No More, and this is my own reading, I could be wrong, but I think his way of protecting himself and feeling like he was still part of Bungle was that he took on almost a different persona on The Real Thing, which made it easy to say, “Yeah, I’m in this band, but I’m not really in it.” But once Angel Dust came around, Patton was much more involved in the genesis of the songs, he was there during the inception, during the writing, he was there guiding the arrangements, and I think he became much more involved and invested in that record. So at that point, I think he really came to the forefront of what he could do, which is use his voice as an instrument, sing fully and deeply and use every spectrum of his vocal range, and that was really exciting. And he was listening to a bunch of Tibetan chanting, Eskimo nose singing, all these things, and he’d bring these different ideas into the record within the context of a heavy rock, alternative, progressive band, he was bringing his ideas on how his vocals should go. And it was really forward-thinking, because a lot of bands, after that record, kind of followed in his footsteps, because Patton was unafraid to try different things, whether it was a different vocal approach or a different lyric, some of the lyrics are pretty challenging. I thought it was really stunning that he came to the forefront and grabbed the flag. That was a thrill, that whole record was a thrill to make." - Matt Wallace 2015
When he had joined FNM in 1988 the music for TRT was completed and he wrote the accompanying melodies and lyrics in the space of two weeks. During the groundwork for AD Patton was involved from the outset and his approach to lyric writing had developed.The invention of characters and role-play he had experimented with in the songs Edge Of the World and Zombie Eaters was now a fully fledged art form.
"I don't think we have an obligation to clarify ourselves through our lyrics. Or even take a standpoint. All five of us simply couldn't agree on any standpoint. If one of use gets a little too outspoken, he's probably lynched by the others. About the lyrics: it's almost a pity they're printed on the sleeve. Because the public expects a revelation. That the lyrics will say something about our past, our lives. And to make that kind of connection via some lyric is almost dangerous." - Mike Patton 1992
The Problem With Jim Martin
"I'm not trying to do anything different, I'm just trying to play these songs the way I see 'em, the way it should go. We're not reinventing ourselves, I'll tell you that, we're just going along as we can. Anything we play will pretty much sound like us, so don't let any of that 'doing something new' bullshit creep in because that's a load of f**king crap!" - Jim Martin 1992
FNM have always thrived from their conflicting personalities and ideas of what their music should sound like, this unlikely union has always produced wonderful results. During the making of IY tensions ran high between Chuck Mosley and the other band members, whilst on tour promoting TRT Mike B fell victim to the other members poking fun. Jim's attitude towards AD was strained from the beginning and he seemed disagreeable with everything from the songs, to the recording, to the album title. The fracture between him and the other four members began during the writing of AD. His father had died in the weeks before rehearsals started, the band moved their studio space from San Francisco to Oakland to accommodate him however Jim still decided not to attend. "It was frustrating, the bottom line was that Jim’s dad had died three weeks before we started making that record, and the guys in the band and myself were saying, “Why don’t we take a pause on this thing, let’s regroup in a few months, give you some time to grieve your dad and let that settle,” but he comes from a more macho approach to life and said, “No, don’t talk about my personal shit, we’re going to make this record.” So the band had a rehearsal place in Oakland, which was a trek for them because they were in San Francisco, and Jim just wasn’t available in a lot of ways." - Matt Wallace 2015
He would therefore work on his guitar parts in at home.
"It makes for a weird tension. He's working on stuff at home but you visualise everything, including the guitar, when you write the song. And then it comes back different to your perception - but if the person isn't there from day one they can't be expected to read your mind." - Bill Gould 1992
"Jim and I are absolute extremes. To enable the scales to keep balanced, the further I go in my direction, the further he has to go in his. If he stays where he is and I continue to go further, then things will go off-kilter. On the last album, he kinda stayed where he was: it wasn't only that he didn't produce a whole lot of material. So as things stand now, we're a little off-kilter but we'll work it out that. " - Roddy Bottum 1993
Due to his absence during the song writing Jim found it difficult to understand what direction the others were taking, he felt the music was "very contrived and I thought that the band was trying too hard. It took me a while to figure out where I was going to fit in". So much that Bill contributed guitar to some of the album.
"The only real struggle that we had was with the guitar parts. We sort of panicked because Jim wasn't really understanding some of the things that we were doing, so we did them ourselves. Some of the guitar parts, our bass player Bill played." - Mike Patton 1992
"The guitar parts are mine; that’s me playing guitar on all the tracks. I contributed much to the songwriting and arrangements. Bill added some fluff to 'Midlife Crisis' and 'Midnite Cowboy'."
"There was a lot of weird pressure to follow up The Real Thing, and as a consequence, the album AD was more contrived musically than I thought was necessary. I wanted more of the record to happen in the studio and Bill wanted every last tack nailed down before we went in. I wanted to spend time with it, management and the record company wanted to rush it out the door. " - Jim Martin 2012
"He kept calling the record “Gay Disco” - every time they’d play something, he’d say, [dismissively] “Eh, this is a bunch of gay disco.” And I’d say, [agitated:] “Dude if you put your fuckn’ big guitar in it, it won’t be quote-unquote ‘gay disco.’ I need you to jump onboard and do this.” So it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy for Jim, because he didn’t invest the way I was hoping he would. He’d do these guitar parts, and the band would come in the next day and they’d listen and the parts would be serious, but they wanted him to be Jim Martin and do his thing. So there were a lot of yelling matches and people disagreeing with each other. It was pretty ugly." - Matt Wallace 2015
The recording process was even more torturous, the rift between him and the band had escalated and tempers ran high.
"It's been an unpleasant experience from the very beginning! It's been very unpleasant, but not really much different to my experiences in making records with Faith No More before. It's always been a very unpleasant experience - a lot of people scrambling to get henchmen on their side to play silly games, to blow smoke on a situation." - Jim Martin 1992
"This album has taken so long to record... God, it's been almost eighteen months - you can't believe the torment I've been through man. It's not supposed to be like that, not supposed to be that hard. Took too damn long... I'm gonna make sure that doesn't happen again. I'm gonna take some recording gear out on the road with me soon as possible, and start working on new songs straightaway. See if I can come up with some real sick single again." - Jim Martin 1992
Not everything on AD offended Jim, he was very complimentary of Patton's vocals and lyrics. And even though the guitar is much less prominent than on previous FNM records it suits the overall flavour. When the guitar fights it way into the limelight it is in places extraordinarily ferocious and in others delightfully melodic. AD has very few solos, but the riffs are tremendous.
"When I'm involved in the writing of a song, I write for the guitar. I wish we always did it that way, but on this album a lot of keyboard parts were written first, so I "was actually trying to write my guitar lines to match—to "toughen" them, as you said. It's definitely challenging—and, after much noodling around, I usually end up using the simplest possible thing." - Jim Martin 1992
A Beautiful Name For A Hideous Drug
The title Angel Dust was Roddy's idea and was decided upon early on in the recording. There are no connections to the drug itself only that it is "just a really beautiful name for a really hideous drug." The album cover is a photograph of a snowy egret in pre flight by Werner Krutein and the reverse a cows head and meat hanging in an abattoir by Mark Burnstein. The title and these images illustrated the extremes of beauty and the grotesque mirrored in their music.
"It has more to do with: the band itself, the sound of the band, the sound of the record, the songs on the record, the title, and the cover, going from wide to narrow. The band I think has many elements, some heavy, some beautiful. The record is balanced I think between some things that are really aggressive and disturbing and then really soothing. The title of the record is something that if you didn't know what it was--if you didn't know about any drugs--it would sound beautiful. It's just something that seems beautiful but is horrible. The front cover is something beautiful, put it with the back cover and you've got something disturbing. That's what we wanted. The record cover and layout was designed by us and put together by us." - Mike Bordin 1992
At the time Jim was opposed to the title of the record but he explained further in 2012, also how he was responsible for the photo of the band's heads superimposed on Russian soldiers in Red Square.
"The idea was Roddy’s, and nobody else had anything to do with it either. He came in with a basic concept of a bird front, meat locker back, and Angel Dust for the title. The question was: “How do we get it (Roddy’s idea) to the record cover?” We lost control of the sleeve art on the last 2 releases. The Real Thing and Introduce Yourself were conceived and designed by “the record company” and we simply paid the bill. This was an opportunity of artistic expression and finally one of us had an idea everyone would go along with. I got in contact with Mark Leialoha to discuss the idea, he got Werner “Vern” Krutein involved because Werner ran a stock agency and was able to produce the necessary photographs allowing us to realize Roddy’s idea. I had the idea of the Russian army in the sleeve, inspired by The Pogues album “Rum Sodomy and The Lash” which I was really into at the time. I rode hard on that and made sure it happened the way WE wanted it to happen. There was a lot of squealing when it came time to pay the bill, but at the end of the day, we retained control of our resources, we were able to use our people, and we maintained creative control." - Jim Martin 2012
"It was just pure 'we don't want to sit for busts', you know? It's bullshit, man. That was a thing the record company really tried to foist on us. They really tried to fuck with our layout, and sent us these fucking pictures of us, just our heads. It was like this, they wanted us to have a poster inside the record consisted of our five heads on a black background, everything was black, the whole inside, and it's like, 'Fuck you.' We're going to make our cover, we made our record, we produced it our way, we wrote our songs, we played them our way, it sounds like us. We got our cover FINALLY, we got our artwork FINALLY, fuck you. If you let them do it, they'll do it. That's why they pay people in the art department, that's why they pay graphics people. And in some ways it can be really helpful, in some ways it can be really good. Ultimately, what I see I really like. We told them what we wanted, we actually got to the point where we had to sketch it out, but they made it real for us and I really appreciate that. We have five people, that's enough opinions, I said it about the producer, I'll say it about he record company, that's enough. We co-produced it, more so tone-wise than balance-wise, proportion-wise. We were all really concerned about the actual sound of the record., and that's really where you can make a difference. To me that Russian picture's like a Monty Python where you see a guy's head, a monster comes by and picks it up and Ptock! puts it somewhere. It's not 'We're the most important people in the world.'" - Mike Bordin 1992
Land Of Sunshine Working Title | The Funk Song
"I love it, it's really uplifting. Almost angelic." - Roddy Bottum 1992
The opening track from AD follows the FNM tradition for introducing their record with an upbeat and riotous burst of energy. The familiar funky repetitive bass line and off kilter drums are not dissimilar from previous albums.The keyboard riffs provide light relief from the harsh guitar tones putting us in mind of a carnival, which of course draws comparisons to Mr. Bungle. Patton describes the song as a "totally disgusting, grotesquely positive song" and even though the lyrics are joyful enough the vocal delivery is in sarcastic tones. The theme of the song sets the scene for the rest of the album which seems to be with growing old ungracefully. Patton has been quite open on how the lyrics for this song were written. It was conceived during a sleep deprivation experiment, in which Patton stayed awake for three days drinking coffee and immersing himself in late night TV shows and "bought bags and bags of fortune cookies".
"There's these late night TV programmes that you can watch in America, they're like seminars where they teach you how to think positively and strive for your goals. It's a huge scam, it's great. I tried really hard at that and I'm still working on it." - Mike Patton 1992
When asked if he was particularly proud of any lyrics on AD he said, "Maybe Land Of Sunshine because it talks about some of my favourite late-night TV heroes, guys like Anthony Robbins, the motivational speaker who does those half-hour commercials where he wants you to buy his whole seminar package, and of course, my real hero, Robert Tilton, the preacher. Nothing and no one can touch Robert Tilton! 20/20 did an expose on him, and he just blew 'em off. That's a very positive song." - Mike Patton 1992
"He's quite a guy. You may have seen the Dallas-based preacher: He asks you to put your hand on the television set and he'll heal you through the power of TV. using the demon spirit of television to cut off the devil's head . . . We're going to visit his church when we go to Dallas.!" - Mike Patton
Several lines from are lifted straight from aphorisms found in fortune cookies.
Life to you is a dashing bold adventure Sing and rejoice, fortune is smiling upon you You have a winning way so keep it You are an angel heading for a land of sunshine Pat yourself on the back and give yourself a handshake
And committed to the overall idea of positive thinking some lines are taken from personality tests written by founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard. Do you often sing or whistle just for the fun of it? Does life seem worthwhile? Does emotional music have quite an effect on you? Do you sometimes feel that your age is against you?
Caffeine Working Title | Triplet
"He actually sings, crooning style, on 'Caffeine,' sounding a bit like Sly Stone trapped in a little one-man submarine." - Music express 1992
A rather menacing sample from the animal pound of dogs howling introduces this complex song. The guitar is brutal, the keys atmospheric and dream-like, the drums roll effortlessly across the waltz time signature. Patton switches between snarls and blasts of .... with a harsh whisper here and there. The lyrics were again written during Patton's sleep deprivation experiment somewhere during day three he began to hallucinate and pay homage to the only stimulant he has admitted to using, "In Eureka you drink so much coffee, you try and make believe there's something to do." In fact in 1992 one rarely saw the singer without a coffee in his hand!
Midlife Crisis Working Title | Madonna
'On 'Midlife Crisis' Patton starts with a snide, sibilant rap, swoons upward in a jazzy, Al Jarreau-ish arc, then slugs it out in a close combat cut and thrust that's pure hardcore. The lyrics lash and lambaste some middle-class, lard ass, play-safe type who's built up a cocoon of security and comfort. The line 'Your menstruating heart' - doubtless aimed at 'wet liberals' and people who profess to care a lot - is deeply revealing. For FNM, feelings of tenderness, empathy and solidarity are threatening, female and fluid, a loathsome discharge.' - Melody Maker Bill spoke about the writing process of the song in 1998. "Everybody's responsible for this one. It was a keyboard part that started it....it was a period of time when everyone was waiting for us to come up with another record and promising us the world. All we had to do is what we do, but the way they saw we were a little defiant, which I think the lyrics reflect in a way. From my position I wanted to do a song that had only one note to the whole thing, but would still be a song. So I wanted it to have one bass part that never changed. It wasn't until we recorded it that our producer saw where I was trying to go, but at the time it seemed like shooting yourself in the foot y'know." - Bill Gould 1998
Patton gave us a little insight into the lyrics. "The song is based on a lot of observation and a lot of speculation. But in sort of a pointed way its kind of about Madonna...I think it was a particular time where I was being bombarded with her image on TV and in magazines and her whole schtick kind of speaks to me in that way...like she's going through some sort of problem. It seems she's getting a bit desperate." - Mike Patton 1992
RV Working Title | Country And Western
One of the most curious songs on the album, and one of the first to be written. A perfect country and western ditty twisted hideously to fit the FNM manner. "It started out as a piano thing I was doing, then Billy and I just started playing around with it and we finished it when we were on tour in Brazil and started playing it live." - Roddy Bottum 1992
The most obvious example of Patton inhabiting a character to deliver his lyrics, in this case disgusting, middle-aged and heavy-set trailer trash. "The words are really messed up, it's the white trash saga: You wake up. you do nothing and you talk a lot of shit .. . and that's what the song does. A lot of the tunes are like character sketches. I don't see anything wrong with that. A lot of people maybe will want to give me shit for that." - Mike Patton 1992
"R.V. means recreational vehicle. A typical part of American culture: people live in holiday caravans. We call them white trash. In America, everyone knows someone who lives in an R.V. These people are looked down upon, while everyone knows they're part of society. These people are usually fat, watch TV all day, and eat TV dinners. The song R.V. is almost a mark of honour to those pigs. My family's like that. The kind of people who stay inside these caravans all day and complain: nobody speaks English anymore. No one listens to them, they're only talking to themselves. The song is a profile of the average redneck mentality." - Mike Patton 1992
Smaller And Smaller Working Title | Arabian Song
All the incomparable and familiar FNM ingredients are present; catchy keyboard melodies and atmospheric strings, palpitating no-nonsense rhythms, grinding guitars and vocals that shift between singing and squeals. "I didn't really know what I was doing. The whole song sounded Middle Eastern to me, so I just noodled up and down the fretboard until I found the sound which I heard in my head. That's what I always do. I'm not a very schooled player." - Jim Martin 1992 There is a middle section loaded with samples, in particular wonderfully placed native Indian chanting. "....shameless culture rape. We decided to take an Indian chant and fuck it up, sort of a Dances With Wolves aesthetic." - Mike Patton 1992
Bill addressed the question as to why FNM were not particularly attached to this song and have never played the track live. "Well, to us, FNM is like two different bands; one exists to write and record music, the other is a live band that tries to make a 70-90 min set as powerful as possible. For some reason or another, we tend to gravitate towards what is called 'mid-tempo' in our writing...in other words, songs that are not fast, but not exactly ballads either. This is all great to listen to, but when it comes to playing live, too many mid-tempo songs make the set really boring, for us, and for the crowd. Believe, when it happens, it sucks!! Our worst nightmare is being in the middle of a set and losing momentum...at that point it becomes hard work and little fun. "Smaller and Smaller" while pretty grandiose in concept, always felt too long and too...plodding...to even consider doing live. And truth be told, we were never quite as attached to that one as some of the others...." - Bill Gould 2012
Everything's Ruined Working Title | The Carpenters Song
A wonderful song of contrasting moods, euphoric choruses and melancholy verse. Also one of the only songs on the record to feature a full length guitar solo. "There are some very strange songs on this record. A lot of them have a lot of despair in them, they're very disturbing. Everything's Ruined is a good example of that. It's one of the more straight-forward rockers we have on this album. Compare it to something like Surprise You're Dead from the last album. I think you'll see how we've changed. You can't put your finger on it, but it's there. We're getting better at playing what we're visualising." - Mike Patton 1992
Patton explained the working title's reference to easy-listening music. "One thing I've been doing is listening to a lot of mood music, easy listening. And I've taken a lot from that. The chorus of 'Everything's Ruined' reminds me of Sinatra, Jackie Gleason." - Mike Patton 1992
Malpractice Working Title | Patton's Song
"It kinda sounds like death metal movie music." - Mike Patton
A terrifying and cinematic composition written solely by Patton. His unusual songwriting technique of complex sections mixes chugging industrial metal riffs and an eerie music box. A perfect musical nightmare.
In 1992 Patton spoke about about his songwriting style working with FNM. "It was strange for me because I had spent every musical moment with the Bungle guys, and we have our own thing - we're Nintendo kids, so we get into a studio and there are all these little knobs,!and we've just gotta play with the dials and push the buttons. [Mr.Bungle] basically doesn't know how to write songs - they're like A-B-C-X! - so it was weird for me to try and put something over a song that was really linear, and very verse/chorus/verse/chorus. So I think I did what was really...obvious. That's fine, but since then, I've definitely vowed to spend a lot more time and put a lot more into anything I do." - Mike Patton 1992
The lyrics are some Gothic horror story of surgery played out by yet another of Patton's twisted characters. "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." - Mike Patton 1992
"I feel like I'm basically an actor in a play on that song, because Mike wrote it and I essentially had no input; I'm just playing his part. I usually write my own guitar parts, and I don't think I would have come up with anything quite like that." - Jim Martin
Kindergarten Working Title | F Sharp
A great example of FNM's songwriting twists by placing unexpected major to minor chords. The song has a wonderful bass solo in which we hear Bill twistings sounds into strange shapes. Following the reoccurring theme of age on this album, the lyrics take one back to the school playground.
Be Aggressive Working Title | I Swallow
Described by Bill as 'homoerotic Steppenwolf', with hallelujah Hammond organ, thumping bass lines and wah wah guitar. The chorus borrows lines from Sugarhill Gang's 1983 song Winner Is and quite perversely includes cheerleaders (girl friends of the band) chanting the now immortal lines 'B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E'.
"What I like about 'Be Aggressive' is that even though it's macho in a homosexual way, lots of FNM listeners probably imagine that it is a woman who is getting down on her knees and swallowing rather than a man. I guess it's easier for people to understand and deal with it that way." - Roddy Bottum 1992
The words were written by Roddy prior to him confirming his sexually publicly. And describe a graphic sexual encounter of fellatio. "I think we both kind of hated the song to the point where lyrics were needed and he didn't want to write them. So I gave it a go." - Roddy Bottum 1992
"Did you hear the lyrics on 'Be Aggressive'? What'd you think? Pretty fuckin' extreme, isn't it? Did you think it was a homoerotic song or something? That's what's gonna be good about it. I think certain people are gonna be really vocal about it, like 'What the hell is that?!' And others'll be so weirded out by it they won't say anything." - Roddy Bottum 1992
"Yeah! I mean, HELLO, WAKE UP! When we wrote that song we were all very aware of the lyrics, we had it all in check and then the issue has never come up. It's so funny, no-one ever even asked us about it. It's the same thing, we just expect a lot more from people." - Roddy Bottum 1993
Matt Wallace commented on his respect for Patton's delivery of these lyrics. "They would go in any direction, they weren’t a heavy rock or metal band, they did have that element to what they were doing, but then you go to “Be Aggressive,” there’s no heavy rock band I know that would sing that song in a million years because it’s a song about being gay, basically, and Patton would boldly go in those directions." - Matt Wallace 2015
A Small Victory Working Title | Japanese
"Seems to run Madame Butterfly through Metallica and Nile Rodgers." - Trouser Press
An ambitious and dramatic song the oriental keyboard and guitar duet sweeping in melodic spirals.The main vocal line is the closest to Patton TRT voice on AD. In the song there are several sections where the band's experimental genius stands out. These sections include an array of samples taken from many sources (including Right Said Fred, Diamanda Galás and The Wizard of Oz) that would be at home in any pop dance number.
"The break in 'A Small Victory' is very typical of using sound sources and being a more rhythmic keyboard player. In that particular song, the sound sources were things as opposed to programs, strings or pianos. Most of that stuff was recorded with a DAT player, just whilst wandering out and about, and then I put them into the keyboard itself." - Roddy Bottum
Patton revealed the song was about his relationship with his father, "My Dad's a coach right, so I guess about the first 16 years of my life all I thought about was winning."
Crack Hitler Working Title | Action Adventure
The closest to a movie theme tune FNM ever got! Patton's compressed, distorted megaphone effect would be imitated by every nu metal band to follow. The sample in the intro is famous Brazilian actress Iris Lettieri reading a flight announcement at the Rio de Janeiro-Galeão International Airport, with who's voice Patton fell in love with. She unsuccessfully attempted to sue the band after hearing the song.
"we sampled the voice of this woman who's pretty famous in Brazil. She announced flights for Varig Airlines, we all really liked the voice and she pretty much summed up our whole Brazilian experiences. So we taped her, used the voice and now she's suing us us for using her voice without permission." - Roddy Bottum 1992
The lyrics in this song are played out by another of Patton's characters, "It's about a crack dealer who became like Hitler who's actually black so that confuses the whole thing," describing how the drug effected him and it made him feel like Hitler may have! The song is example of how the band would develop the idea of song by visualising a scenario.
"We kind of all lived with the ideas - the genesis of the songs. So it was a lot easier for us to see where each song was going.For example, sometimes we'd think of a visual image for a song beforehand. Like we'd see, say, a crack dealer with a Hitler moustache wearing a Superman cap, running through an alley shooting policemen. You'd kind of come up with a musical Interpretation of the visual Image. That's kind of the way the band writes songs sometimes." - Mike Patton 1992
"There are a few songs on here that are like genre songs - they're cool because they're a certain thing. 'Crack Hitler' is like a sleazy version of the Emergency theme, like a '70s TV action show. It's got like a Shaft guitar line and siren samples. You picture five cops with guns chasin' a guy through an alley! It's like bad, bad disco - bad! Horrible!" - Mike Patton 1992
Jizzlobber Working Title | Jim's song
"It's a great song. A tortured-soul type of thing." - Mike Patton 1992
Jim Martin's bloodthirsty metal song is introduced with sounds of the swamp, the anthemic pound of drums and 'psycho' keyboard riff before Patton spits out words over one of Jim's most brutal guitar crunches ever recorded. The song ends with an epic church organ epilogue composed by Bill.
Jim explains the origin of the peculiar title.
"I just wanted to have a song of mine on the album, and I wanted to write something really horrible and ugly. The title is my idea of a joke, because I'm not really a fan of true guitar-jizz music. Of course, I can't play like Satriani or Vai any how. I feel like those guys are playing another instrument altogether." - Jim Martin 1992
The lyrics deal with Patton's recurring nightmare of being incarcerated.
"Well, it's about this fear I have of going to gaol. I know it's gonna happen someday... I've been there once, but I have a feeling I'm gonna go some day for a very long time." - Mike Patton 1992
"It was pretty much Billy's idea he's into easy listening, I like it too. It's again a really hyper beautiful piece that's a real challenge to put down. I think in a way some of softest music you hear in like elevators is also some of the heaviest. It's really profound and powerful in a way that loud rock can't be." - Roddy Bottum 1992
The last track on AD is an intoxicating cover version of John Barry's theme from the 1969 movie of the same name. Another departure from digital sounds, Roddy used an accordion to play the lead melody. Bill and Roddy often commented at the time that their next album would be elevator music in a similar style to this song.
"I'm really pleased with the cover we did of 'Midnight Cowboy', because that's taken us into one direction that we've never gone before. That's the way of the future, easy listening is where it's at. We're going to come out real soon with an EP of music for elevators." - Roddy Bottum 1992
"Midnight Cowboy to me, a friend told me this and I think it's appropriate. She sat down and heard the whole record, the first song she said was a pretty great opening track, it's energetic. And at the end when MC came on she said this was exactly like taking a really great roller coaster. The first song your starting off and zooming off, the end of the ride when you've been upside down and thrown up, comes back down and you're slowing down." - Mike Bordin 1992