The dance floor heavy metal of FAITH NO MORE makes them one of the prime contenders for '88 and the lyrics of vocalist Chuck Mosley penetrate deep into the human psyche. NEIL PERRY meets up with the Californian quintet on the Atlanta leg of their American tour. Making tracks MARY SCANLON.
Sounds Magazine | 23.01.1988 | Neil Perry
Hear My Train A'comin'
Faith No More's wiry drummer, Mike Bordin, cuts himself off in mid-sentence as he surrenders to the dominating roar and clank of a huge locomotive which crawls past just a few yards away. From dusk to dawn you can hear the goods trains, ponderous heavy metal behemoths, as they punctuate the night with mournful wails from their horns. Mike watches as container after container rattles by, thick dyed dreadlocks bouncing as he walks, his mind more concerned with downing a few pre-gig drinks.
"We got stuck here for ten days once," he resumes, "but we never ran out of guitar picks. We'd sit by the rails, putting coins on. Man, the train squashes 'em. flattens 'em right out.. ."
The last wheels roll by, shaking the foundations of this modern American city. Trains or no trains, when you're in a band called Faith No More ten days is a long time.
Late November '87, and the Californian based quintet have just arrived in Atlanta, Georgia, one date on a six week US tour supporting zany homegrown funksters The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 'Introduce Yourself', Faith No More's second LP (their debut unavailable in the UK) was released over here last October. A breathtaking harmonisation of molten metal guitar, deadly dance rhythms and poignant, pointed lyrics it was the sound of a band with no precedent. Introduce yourself, with a threat and a promise.
Faith No More like playing in Atlanta. Much of the city was razed to the ground in the American Civil War, and - during the band's two day visit - smoke colours the sweet Georgia air once again, as Atlanta State Penitentiary is burned during the third day at a prisoners' riot. It was poetic justice indeed that the town's brothel was one of the few buildings to survive the Civil War unscathed and logical that when the world's oldest profession moved out rock 'n' rod should move in.
Now it's a graffiti covered club called The Metroplex, and as far as Faith No More are concerned it is a spiritual home and their hotel for the night. They still have to prove themselves to their financiers before such a luxury as bed and breakfast is provided. As midnight approaches. Faith No More take the stage to what looks like a capacity crowd inside the dingy Metroplex.
Live, they are energy, movement, malice. Within the space of two songs there is more sweat and lust and desire in the air than the building's former clientele could have mustered up in a week. Singer Chuck Mosley croons, cries and howls over juggernaut rhythms, exploding riffs and strands of hypnotic synth. From the opening 'Chinese Arithmetic' - a love song of dark splendour - to the closing insanity of Black Sabbath's classic 'War Pigs', the gathered Atlanta fans make a concerted attempt to injure themselves. As one so succinctly puts it, "F***, man! That band kick ass!"
As the Chili Peppers boom above their heads, Faith No More - minus Chuck - gather in a dusty cellar. There's guitarist Jim Martin, professional drunk and party animal, Furry Freak Brother meets the ghost of Zappa past, Mr Deranged; keyboards player Roddy Bottum, the watcher, tall, handsome and dry, Mr Unflappable; bassist Billy Gould, amino-acid, pill popping soul-food fan, Mr Spaceball and drummer Mike, dark hawk features, wary and - as the others insist on pointing out gleefully - prone to bouts of deep bitterness, Mr Revenge.
The band's history is the usual convoluted tale of comings and goings and various dodgy outfits, although Jim and Mike were in a band with the late Cliff Burton in his pre-Metallica days; it was he who gave vital encouragement and liquor when Faith No More took serious shape several years ago, and now this gaggle of disparate individuals find things are beginning to happen.
Roddy leans against a pillar while the others sit, Jim swiftly relieving a beer can of its contents before speaking, eyes playful.
"There's a story, the story, And you've got to tell it because I'm not qualified."
But just as the going looked good after ten minutes of jokes, accusations and unhinged laughter-Jim berates Mike for knocking the tape recorder with his foot, and they fly into a brief and irrelevant verbal battle. Roddy and Billy look on, amused.
"It's because we're sitting in this van every day hating each other," says Roddy, "and when we play it all comes out. We're not really nice people or anything,.. we just try real hard."
Roddy occasionally helps Chuck out with the lyrics, such as on the twisted social conscience anthem 'We Care A Lot', a fine line between sincerity and sarcasm. "Yeah, are you full of shit or what?" chides Jim, eager to hear an explanation. "It is absolutely verbatim, liberal," says Roddy, unruffled. "It goes to the borders of what you would and wouldn't care about. It's what I cared about, at that time."
Billy sits cross-legged on his chair, scratching at an exposed knee in jeans made more of air than denim. "On MTV there's certain videos I watch.. ." he says before trailing off, having possibly forgotten what he meant to say next. "Lack of sense of humour, that really
pisses me off - that's good inspiration," continues Roddy. "People who are too stuck up to have a good time. They can laugh at us or with us, I don't really care."
"F*** it man, there is no laughter!" screams Jim, his corkscrew mane jiggling wildly.
"Billy, Mike and Roddy got together cos they were feeling down, so they could pool their strength and feel like big shots and laugh at measly shit. They asked Chuck to sing, who said. Just one show, which shows you how easily Chuck can be sucked in. .. He's yours
depending on how well you tell the story.
"I was in a shitty faggot rock band who sang about their dicks (Jim's previous bands include Pigs Of Death, Agents Of Misfortune and Vicious Hatred), I went to a Faith No More show and it was a pretty weird, ugly experience. I figured they could use my help."
And yet for all their flippancy, sleeping rough and touring the States for six weeks in a cramped hire-van - with just Joe the all-purpose roadie to help out is not something you take on without some sort of faith.
"We are absolutely f***ing serious! " Jim explains, with his best wide-eyed face on. "I really hate it when I go to do something," he continues, "and I'm stopped cold by some measly shit. Like, you go to fix the pipe and you haven't got the wrench! But we want to play bad enough, we'll do whatever we have to, you just go on stage and hurt yourself. I just want the heaviest sound possible. Oh, and unlimited everything. . , for ever."
Jim and Mike claim absolute ignorance where Chuck's lyrics are concerned, and neither intend to change, both (un)happily immersed in their chosen roles.
"Chuck's vocals aren't in my monitor? on stage, that's for sure," deadpans Mike. "I learnt drums from this guy, he had this philosophy, he gave me a different way of looking at drumming. I put a lot of hatred into it."
Goaded by Jim, he sighs irritably Before Continuing. "The story? Well. . . things are a lot worse than they seem, you're all deluding yourselves, you may as well give it up. Slide down the ladder, give it all up."
"You see, Mike's a bitter tittle man," says Jim, "but that's the first time I've heard that. I'm frightened! Chuck's pretty riled up all the time but he's like a poodle — highly strung."
Roddy then tells of his and Bill's Catholic school upbringing, an experience they found so unpleasant that the two still find time, when at home, to pay the old nuns a visit, heads filled with thoughts of tyre-slashing vengeance.
"I still hate them enough to go and torture them. Faith No More. . . it comes down to a lot of frustration."
"I don't think there's any moral lesson to be learned from us," says Billy, grinning slightly. "We're pretty rotten people really. Assholes."
Separating the truth from the humour is all part of the game, part of the band's voodoo charm. Watching these four screwy but hungry musicians - together one of the most exciting rock bands to emerge from America, period - cope with their oddball coupling is a story worth telling.
"You know, it's a real pity you can't travel in the truck with us," says Mike, as the lure of the bar becomes too great to ignore any longer. "Yeah," enthuses Jim? "then you could really feel the bitterness. How bad do you want to suffer?"
Mid-morning after the night before, and Chuck Mosley sits alone in The Metroplex, maybe wishing he'd stopped partying earlier and grabbed more than two hours sleep. He sucks on the soggy remains of a joint, trying to take the edge off the day, before ploughing through a sea of beer cans and paper plates in search of a more comfortable place to feel grotty.
"Man, these rock stars who do coke for ten years, get shit-faced drunk every night and still get up and play. They get called assholes but I call them supermen - I couldn't do it."
Chuck Mosley, cool but mischievous, keen on loud tartan suits, with features which could easily be described as beautiful: Mr Sensitive.
He slumps by an upstairs porthole window and looks down on the railway line, behind the club at another monster engine creeping along the track. Part American Indian, part Jewish, Chuck was raised by foster parents, his first interest in music being a desire to play the Batman theme on a piano when he was four years old.
"My natural parents? My Mum was 17. my Dad was 20—they lived in the valley, one of the white communities in LA. He was a musician, and her family had a Jewish doth business. This was 1959. one of the worst times to have an inter-racial kid.
"I don't know how much they were in love, that's why I'd like to meet them. So they don't go through life with a problem in the back of their heads."
Chuck's lyrics are a trip into the human psyche, and more often than not they deal with relationships, where the distinction between love and hate it is next to nothing. Onstage he will intimidate to get a reaction, his solo acoustic spot the night before being a perfect wind-up for the band's eventual electric detonation. "'Chinese Arithmetic', that's an obsession song. 'The Crab Song' they're different stories, stuff that people are thinking a lot conversations. The lyrics often come from listening to the music - like 'Death March', that had the music and title before the words.
"A friend of mine, doing a lot of drugs, just went out in the ocean and drowned. I used to be on the beach all the time and I got the feeling that he was so f***ed up when he drowned that he doesn't even realise he's dead. He's out there, still swimming around. 'Death March' is someone talking to their dead lover, the soul lingering on."
In common with the rest of the band, Chuck is more than quick to point out his own failings as well as those of his colleagues. "I'm probably capable of the worst things. I get really hard when people kiss up to me. I turn it around, I'm real mean. Anything can be true, I'll give them five different answers. But if I do something real bad I'll tell people, so it's off my chest. I was the class clown and all that shit, I don't have much confidence but i can act like I do. I'm too freaked out to have a girlfriend for a long time because of a love gone bad, gone sour. Like a scaredy-cat, I get possessive, paranoid.
"Like this saving the world stuff, the only attitude I know is from personal experience."
It was Roddy who suggested that without his hour on stage every night, Chuck would flip. He suddenly forgets his Budweiser sponsored headache, and quickly dismisses the bassist's accusations. "Shit! That's bullshit Bill doesn't know what he'd do, Mike would abuse
his girlfriend - mentally, without even touching her - Jim would abuse everybody's girlfriends, physically and mentally. Roddy would go out, have a good time. I'd go skating, go to Europe see my friends. Play in my other band, ha!
"Jim will tell you, my bitterness is that I gave up another band to be in this one for promises of millions just around the corner. Not that I was stupid enough to believe it, my only other option was moving furniture. And Mike, Bill and even Roddy will worry way too much about my shit when it comes to studio time."
It's as if Faith No More is an endurance test, a big game of chicken; a fatalistic beast founded on mutual mistrust and alcohol abuse that should have chewed its own head off before a song was ever written.
"Everyone's totally different," laughs Chuck, "even though we fight I'm closest to Jim because I can't stand phoney politician types. Roddy has a high, high, high boiling point. They hold their anger in too much. Jim lets it out on a regular basis, Mike will hold it in for ever- He is bitter, he wants to bring you down into his doldrums.
"Mike and Billy are so tense! When I first Joined this band Billy would just rock out - I just bang my head because I don't know what else to do - and now he bangs his head. He stands like this (feet turned out, heels together, legs bent), his butt is so tight you can see his cheeks. Tight sphincter rock 'n roll!
"He wants to construct things, he wants discipline. He's funny and I really love him. He's perpetually tortured by demons."
As for whatever holds this zoo together. Chuck spends a while staring out of the window before answering. "Oppression. There is no soul. . . a band without a brain. If there's a soul it's a fight that guides me. It's people's miserable lives and stuff, mine included, when it's miserable it's a joke.
"I'm proud of being part American Indian but I've got bitterness towards blacks as much as towards whites. I'm half Jewish but I hate Jews. I give out my love and hate equally."
By midday Faith No More had emerged from The Metroplex, and it was the same band who made the most of the November sunshine, letting off fireworks and leaping onto passing trains before heading off to find some essential soul food. Faith No More have a good time they party, they fight, sometimes they laugh until it hurts - they are the furious sound of five worlds colliding. That's the story.