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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Hot Metal | 1990

DIVIDED, BUT RULING

Valerie Potter


Mike Bordin, Billy Gould and Roddy Bottum talk about life in Faith No More - Valerie Potter acts as referee!


The first person I saw in the reception area of Faith No More’s hotel was keyboard player Roddy Bottum, sitting in a corner, smiling beatifically. Within minutes, he was joined by drummer Mike Bordin and bassist Billy Gould, clutching brown paper bags containing fruit. Although it was early afternoon, Faith No More had just been out for breakfast, having endured an arduous video shoot the day before.

Faced with an afternoon packed with interviews, guitarist Jim Martin and new vocalist Mike Patton had sensibly gone AWOL.


Like Kings X, Living Colour and Dan Reed Network, Faith No More belong to a new breed of rock band that is impossible to define, but which is bringing a fresh new dimension into conventional rock music.

Their latest album, The Real Thing, combines unlikely but complementary elements of rap, funk and thrash metal with a solid hard rock base, to form an overall sound that is intriguingly different from that of other contemporary rock bands.

When we were settled in the hotel lounge, and Mike and Billy were exploring the contents of their paper bags, l began firing the questions.


HM: How would you classify FNM's music?

Mike: "For the last three years, I've said we were a rock group. You could put your own adjective in front of it - funk, or soul, or weird, or Faith No More.”


The individual members of Faith No More come from very diverse musical backgrounds; Jim has played in metal bands, Mike P. fronted a funk band, Roddy was classically trained, while Mike B studied African rhythms and BIlly was influenced by punk.

HM: When FNM was first formed, was it with the intention of playing music that was outside the conventional boundaries of rock?

Billy: "We're all of us into a lot of different kinds of music - like, Jim seems like the heavy metal guys and Mike listens to reggae

- but it isn't really so extreme as it looks.

Everybody looks any way they want to look, and everybody listens to a lot of soul, and metal, and all kinds of stuff. In the years that we've been playing, we've got better at what we're doing, and it happens to be working out in the songs."


Mike: "What I was looking for, personally, was the heaviest sound that could be made. That was it.

Billy: "I always thought, when we first started playing, that our music was more like soundtracks and things like that than a touring rock band, y'know what I mean? | never ever thought we ve have guitar solos!

But I think it was because people started to play better, and had a bit of a mentality about making a living, and liked playing live, that it worked out the way it has, so it's the best way to go."

HM: Do you encounter many problems because people find it hard to classify your music?

Mike: "I'd say there's problems - sure! I'd say that there's some benefits too."

Billy: "Mostly, what we're finding is that we're encountering more of the problems than the benefits, because the benefits will come later when people stop trying to pigeonhole us and can accept us. But right now, we're just trying to get accepted and that's the hardest part. Like with the record company - what market are they going to put you in? The soul market with this song or the metal market with that song? And if people are unfamiliar with our material, they really have a hard time."

Mike: "Well, they just gotta listen to the whole darn record, and that can be a problem when somebody says, I'm looking for the new Whitesnake record - what is this?"


HM: You took a long time to follow up 1987's Introduce Yourself with The Real Thing. What caused the delay?

Roddy: "The Real Thing took a long time to come out. The record cover caused problems, and then the record company didn't want to put it out at a certain time because other records were coming out - it just went on and on. People kept saying,

'Faith No More have got a new singer - that's why it's taken so long', but we were finished at the end of January and it didn't come out 'til July."

Mike: "But it was probably our fault too.

We're pretty... er, slovenly, when it comes to artwork. I think that's really the one downside of having all these people with all these different tastes, because everybody says, '1 wanna fish, I wanna dog, I wanna picture of my grandmother on the record sleeve'! I think that's where the differences really come to a head in a bad way, because it takes so much time. In the end we had to send it out and have a third party do it."


HM: Kerrang! once described you as

"a band that thrives on inner conflict and turmoil". Do you agree with that description?

Billy: (firmly) "Yes! I do agree with it. I didn't agree with it before, but I kind of agree with it now."

Roddy: "I don't agree with it I don’t thrive on it!"

Billy: "We don't thrive on it, but I think it's a part of the band."

HM: Do you think that it forms a part of the band's creative force?


Roddy: "I think there's a lot of turmoil just because any touring band has problems on the road."

Mike: (to me) "Well, did you have your ideal day today? Has anything gone wrong and pissed you off? There you go! That's all it is.”

Roddy: "I don't think there's much inner conflict any more. We're getting along and working together a lot better."

Billy: “We have a road manager to yell at now…”

Mike: "That's one thing, we can now delegate it to somebody else and make him look like the bad guy.”


Roddy and Billy had started arguing in an undertone as to how long they had had their road manager. Mike waved his hand at them despairingly.

Mike: "A perfect example of the inner conflict and turmoil is going on right now on the couch.”

Roddy and Billy fell silent and glared at Mike.


Mike: "You get the idea..."

HM: (To dispel the frosty atmosphere that had descended). What holds the band together in the face of all your differences?

Billy: "We're all really stubborn, strong individuals and we all want to have our way.

That's probably why our music sounds unique too, but it also means it's a lot harder to come to decisions. But when we do come to a decision, because we have to and were all behind it, it's a really solid thing Everybody has real high standards about what they want, and when everybody agrees, it's a really good thing.”

HM: Was "inner conflict" the reason why your previous singer Chuck Moseley left the band!

Billy: "We weren't getting along... You see, where this 'inner conflict' thing came from was, we were doing a tour and we came out to England and had a couple of crucial interviews. They also happened to be nights that Chuck was particularly drunk and mad at us, and so it turned into a fight a couple of times and the reporters happened to be in the room, and so we became typecast. We also had a lot of problems - his voice wasn't getting much better..."

Roddy: "And his attitude was getting worse.”

Billy: "We wouldn't have been a band if he'd stayed, so we decided we had to make some changes. Mike Patton's got a really good musical sense, and he can sing everything well. He fits into our songs really well - while we were looking for a singer, we kept writing songs without vocals, and within a week and a half after he'd come in, he had the lyrics written perfectly. We felt really fortunate to find someone who worked well right away, so we didn't really lose much momentum."

HM: It seems to be very trendy to like Faith No More at the moment; you've received accolades from the likes of Metallica, Guns N' Roses and Def Leppard. How does it  feel to be in a hip band?

Billy: “Frustrating.”

Roddy: "Flattering!"

Mike: "It's both of those things."

Billy: "So, all these people like you - so what.”

Mike: "It's a weird thing, because every day now almost, it's a new band - you hear about another band that's saying that now…”

Billy: "Yeah - Motley Crue really like us now!"

Mike: "You just wonder - so what? What's the deal exactly?"

Billy: "It's great that they like us, and I'd really like to meet them, but if all these people know who we are...”

Roddy: "What are you saying? 'But still we're not selling records?'"

Billy: "Yes - it doesn't seem to make much sense, I guess."

Mike: "Maybe it's like the nose of the horse leading the tail; the musicians are the horse and the mass public are the tail, so eventually they'll come around. I think it's good that those kind of people are saying our name, because when they talk, a lot of people listen, and that's crucial - you can't buy that. It's good to get respect from musicians - leave it at that."


The next journalist in the interview queue was getting restive, so we wound up the discussion. Later that day, I bumped into Billy at the Marquee Club, and as we stood chatting, he said with a grin, "It was funny this afternoon. After you left, we all got into an argument - but I guess you saw that coming...”


'Inner conflict and turmoil', eh? Long may they continue to scrap!



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