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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Kerrang! killawatt | June 1992


Steffan Chirazi

Roddy Bottum - FNM's unique keyboard player works hard to come with new sounds to prevent the band ever fitting into any pigeonhole. Here he tells Steffan Chirazi how his efforts have got the band into legal trouble (!) and might one day, er, drive them into the kitchen...

Like the band's music, FNM keyboard player Roddy Bottum's style has never been what you might call orthodox. Although classically trained at an early age, he has ever since strived to make his instrument do something different. Here, he tells Steffan Chirazi that can mean anything from employing Techno-style sound loops, to sampling saucepans and Brazilian airline announcers...

FNM are one of this era's most important success stories. Their sound - and unconscious carefree fusion of rock, metal, pop and rap - broke through the nation via MTV's endless rotation of the track 'Epic' from the band's third LP 'TRT'. That platter's success (two-and-a-half million sales in the USA alone) proved that you don't need a uniform 'pigeonholed' sound to be a massive commercial hit.

Their latest album 'AD' (another platinum certified success story), has seen FNM further prove it's musical versatility with a range of genre- busting cuts, from the thick metal-esque rage of 'Jizzlobber' to the poppy strains of 'A Small Victory'.

A premier reason of FNM's unique blended sound, is keyboardist Roddy Bottum. From his childhood days in Los Angeles, Roddy was always interested in music.

"My mom got me into piano lessons when I was young. She herself played a lot at home. I only ever played classical piano for years, until I moved up to the Bay Area when I was 18 and started hanging out with Billy Gould."

Early days of experimentation with what he refers to as 'a cheap Juno keyboard' kept Bottum's creativity wandering ever-further. Indeed, for the era he grew up in, it's amazing that Bottum emerged scar-free from the times when keyboards equally stodgy Rick Wakeman-style progressive '70s pomp. A combination of his early classical piano training, and an astute interest in the use of samples and modern technology, saved him from the Hammon organ et al.

"I never ever liked any of the 'cheesy' stiff like Moog synthesisers, it always sounded stupid to me." remembers Bottum. "I liked Kraftwerk a whole lot, they were one of the first real influences. And when I first heard The Young Gods, they were just amazing. Also, early on,I was able to relate to Elton John when I got into rock stuff because he used a lot of piano in his music."

"I get really turned on by current influences," he continues, "what I'm listening to. Recently that meant a lot of the Techno stuff that's going on, that whole basis of taking a sound and looping it, using that as a sound source and getting the accidents that occur, those strange arbitrary noises. Those are very important to what I do, as often the best stuff comes from messing around like that."

"These days I've been using computers a lot, in particular this program called 'Studiovision' which allows me to use 99 tracks with sequencing. I have my EMAX 2 keyboard with a hard disc and then I have this CD-ROM player with a sound source that just collects sounds and I put these down over a drum beat."

The 'AD' album saw Bottum throw in a bunch of everyday forgettable noises, and turn them into beautifully textured pieces.

"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."

As Bottum goes to explain, sampling may very well have to become a more sinister and clandestine affair as lawyers and cheap-shots come out shooting in increasing numbers.

"It's certainly reaching that point. In another song of the album called 'Crack Hitler', 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."

Does this mean a whole new approach when it comes to writing new material?

"You just have to be really careful when it comes to copyrights and sound. The other alternative is to become sneakier so far as disguising what sounds you use. But ultimately, if I'm forced to bang a few pots and pans and record those for a sound source, that'd be fine, because with continuous looping anything can happen..."

As for the FNM sound, Bottum describes it as being "all about five people coming in with their own very strong ideas and blending them together."

For example, if I got the 'pop' extremes with my stuff and Jim goes to the 'Metal' extremes with his stuff then you're going to have some challenging music. But it's all about keeping up your extreme stance, making sure you never dilute your ideas for anything."

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