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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Making Music | October 1990

Faith, Hope - and parity.

Paul Quinn

Faith No More's drummer Mike Bordin tells Paul Quinn how to keep up with the rest of world when looking for a vocalist and hitting a kit.

IT'S A DIRTY job but someone's got to do it. Mike Bordin plays drums with Faith No More. He founded the band about nine years ago with bass player Bill Gould, and they were joined by keyboardist Roddy Bottum in 1983.

The trio then flirted with several guitarists before they settled on Mike's old mate, Jim Martin, he of the spectacles, beard and vicious Flying V.

"Settled", on second thoughts, is probably not the most apt phrase to use about Faith No More. This is a band that seems to thrive on turmoil.

Mike Bordin, munching popcorn as we talk, is pretty cool about it all. And why not? The band has survived, and is on the brink of huge success. In the past, singers, like guitarists, have come and gone. Baby faced Michael Patton is now the established frontman, but I first ask Mike about the predecessor, the notoriously difficult Chuck Mosely, with whom the band recorded their 1986 hit, 'We Care A Lot.'


Unfortunately, the fact that Mosely is currently suing the band for some enormous amount of money means that they re not meant to talk about him. All Mike will say is, “He had his good points, he was very clever at certain things..."

So we skip forward to the post-Chuck summer of 1988. Mike looks on the bright side: "Not having a singer helped divert our attention back onto playing," he states. But they still had to find a vocalist.

"When we were looking for singers before, it didn't really much matter if they could completely fantastically excellently sing - and tour - it was more just to get somebody with a compatibility, with the right attitude and feel. But this time there was a little bit more at stake. People had known the last singer, we had a record deal, we'd toured internationally, and we wanted to make a career, make a real go of it.

"Mike Patton came to the band's attention through a tape we'd received, probably two or three years before. He was the first person we tried out, and we just knew...we knew he was a great singer. We'd never really had anybody who considered himself a singer, who was experienced, and could do a lot with his voice.

Whereas Mosely's vocal style was a loose mix of Jaggerish swank and the goofiness of Jonathan Richman, ton's voice would fit more readily into a straight rock role - though you're never quite sure when he's going to swoop from adenoidal cherub growling demon.

They've still got their own brand of thrash funk/rap metal, but the new FTN are rather more rigid and intense-sounding - a bit less of the rabble-rousing chants and more of the melodic raunch. "It's a little more denned, as Mike puts it. Not that the changes can be put down entirely to Michael Patton.

"The tracks for the new album were already fairly well in hand." drummer Mike points out. "We played him what we had and he said. "Great, and went about putting lyrics to them. Roddy also so does Bill, but Mike's were so good, they needed nothing from anybody. I'm sure that every permutation will probably be involved in the next record, just because that's usually the way it works."

The songwriting is shared so as not to put the pressure on any one person. Mike has even taught Billy to play the drums, so they can communicate ideas easier.

"The groove for 'Epic' was straight and Bill. 'From Out Of Nowhere was me, Bill and Roddy; Bill wrote 'The Real Thing on his four-track; 'Surprise! You're Dead!' was all Jim..

What about your drums, then - what are they? "I've used Yamaha for the last seven or eight years," says Mike," - an old beat-up Recording Custom 9000 series kit. They're very large. I had to have them custom made at the time: they took concert toms and put on bottom heads and beveled them, and did a whole bunch of crap to them. The rack toms are 13x15 and 14x16, the floor tom is 16xlo, and the bass drum is 16x26. All birch drums, which I'm very partial to. I used to use Camco part of which became Tama, part Drum

Workshop. They were very nice, high quality, almost like studio drums, made in the early 1970s - much more refined than the clear plastic drums made at the time. But they were maple, and I just decided I didn't particularly like the maple tone,

"The only thing I use that's maple is a 6 1/2x14 ten-lug snare, which is really nice. I'm very happy with that depth, because it gives you a good deal of crack and high-end clarity when you tune it very tightly, but it's also deep enough to give you some balls. I've been learning this: if you take a drum, say a maple drum, there's a certain tone that it's naturally going to hit - there's a pitch that the shell is vibrating at. You can tune it low, high, whatever, but you can't really get a radically different pitch out of it. And that's why you have to pay real serious attention to the sound of your instrument when you're recording it, the tones that you start with.

Even though they say you can fix them, it's kind of bullshit. "Me and my tec were talking the other day and comparing drum shells to cymbals: maple drums and Paiste cymbals would be bells - a sharp, clear, ringing tone with not a lot of overtone. A birch drum would be a gong, with dark overtones, attack and decay, like the green, dark sound of Zildjian Ks."


Mike endorses Zildjian. Has he always been a fan? "I don't know if I should say it, but I used to use Paiste when I was learning to play. When I was young I broke so many Paistes it was insane - especially the crashes. I hit the drums hard, and I reverse the sticks. I wouldn't want to use extremely thick sticks - it would dimple the heads too much, I think."

He uses Vic Firth American Classics, with wooden tips, 'cos he's found, "Nylon tips get slippery in your hands. My drum tec takes a pair of pliers and strips all the varnish off up and down the stick, and then digs into the drumstick where my hand is, and barber poles all the way down, so it's very splintery, very rough. It's excellent for grip - better than tape."

The band has catholic tastes, from Black Sabbath through the Sex Pistols to The Bunnymen and Run DMC. But HM is where the heart is.

"We're not afraid to get a heavy, powerful sound going - we're really after that brain hammer, that crunch...

Because it moves people, it feels good. I hit the drums as hard as I physically can, because I think that's the sound they should have. If you start using triggers and samples you don't need to do that - you could use a bare finger. And I just love to play drums, more than most anything - except maybe eating or sleeping."

Those were his only two exceptions, I swear. Maybe it's not such a bad job after all.

"As for the others' gear. well, big Jim's Gibson V is something of a trade mark - "He's used them since the day I met him," says Mike.

"He also had a Les Paul at one point, he still may. I know he's always used Morley effects - he used to have a Power Wah Fuzz and Wah Volume, I think, and delays and flangers - but they seem to be breaking on him. He uses Mesa Boogie amps - he's got a huge rack

thing they roll in, all wired up and ready to go.

"Bill has a deal with Aria basses, which he loves dearly. [You may have gathered that the band is fairly well set-up with endorsements.] His amps are Peavey. He likes a big big sound - like the bass tone on 'Zombie Eaters' when it first kicks in, almost as if the cabinet's farting. I think he uses an overdrive pedal to kick up the volume, but in the old days he used to have cabinets that sounded like that - that's how it all started. I think he's got a noise-gate pedal to control the volume.

"I'm not sure what microphones the singer uses, but he breaks a lot of them.

Roddy uses two E-mu E-max keyboards, with Yamaha and Peavey amplification."

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