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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Melody Maker | August 1997


It's Prague, 1997, and FAITH NO MORE are waxing lyrical about history and, er, prog rock. The men in black are back, so let's rawk

CZECH it out: the gang's all here and contrary to the way some of the immodestly-titled, immodestly good "Album Of The Year" was recorded, Faith No More are all in one place at once. Standing in front of a Skoda outside Prague's Sky Club, in suits, since you asked. OK, roll call: Mike Bordin: just spent 30-odd hours on a plane back from the birth of his first child. And still awake.

Billy Gould: a fountain of information on the best spots to visit in Prague (he's been coming here since 1991).

Jim Hudson: new Faith No More guitarist. (Yes, again.) "He wanted it!" Billy insists. "We didn't hold a gun to his head!" Says less than any Quietest Band Member ever.

Roddy Bottum: immaculately dressed, boyishly handsome sometime Imperial Teen. Lately swimming for exercise... to Alcatraz and back.

Mike Patton: the 29-year-old Jack Nicholson wishes he'd been. Handsomely equipped with prickly, irresistible sarcasm.

Coulda-been, shoulda-been movie star, to judge from the video for new single "Last Cup Of Sorrow", in which Patton plays James Stewart to Jennifer Jason Leigh's Kim Novak in a great “Vertigo" takeoff. Smirks “I'll buy that for a dollar" when you say something less-than-usually-stupid. Does not mention poo even once. Tomas Garrigue Masaryk: dead president. Not exactly here in person but died in this Czechoslovak state in 1918, and is the cover star of "Album Of The Year".

THE more you think about Faith No More, the weirder it gets. Like the fact that, despite being an American rock band, they like going to places like Prague, whose praises they sing with the fact that they hate almost everything about the "rawk" world - their spelling - that embraced them around the time of "Epic". Like the fact that they find themselves, at times, looking out at audiences and thinking, as Roddy says,

"How did we end up on a stage playing to them?" Gigs where, as Mike Patton says, "it's like a sporting event. Who's winning…and 'yay'. No matter what, ‘yay'. Drink. and 'yay'."

Like the fact that "Album Of The Year" might have been recorded in pieces as each of the notoriously busy band members stopped in to Billy Gould's basement studio to contribute, but it hangs together like an Armani suit. Like the fact that it has bleeping, stuttering, subversively phased keyboards courtesy of a post-rock aficionado (Bottum). And a gorgeously smoldering piano masterpiece in "She Loves Me Not" that reminds you Patton's might be the best (and best-kept-secret) soul voice in American music. And songs like "Collision" and "Pristina" that sound strangely... well... basically, if it weren't for the Roli Mosimann co-production credit, you might never have realised how much this allegedly Grunge! Funk! Rap! Metal! Dude! band sound like The Young Gods.


"Is it quiet enough in here?" Mike Patton leans a slicked-back head forward and inquires solicitously after my tape recorder.

"Hey." Patton whips his head back towards the rest of the band, crew, and anyone else in Prague.

"Shut the f*** up!"

Erm, thank you. So, Roli Mosimann. I didn't think the Young Gods collaborator would've been a natural choice.

"Well, we knew their stuff and knew why it sounded as good as it did: a lot of it's his responsibility," Patton says briskly. Most of the time, Patton talks the way a young Frank Sinatra did when with a glass of wine and a cigarette with a deadly-accurate thumb and forefinger. "We knew he'd be an easy guy to work with, and we thought the same things were tacky and the same things were great."

"His whole technological stance was pretty different to what we'd done before," adds Roddy Bottum. "We did a lot of editing, rearranged stuff on the computer."

“What a rock band usually does, of course," Mike observes, "is go into a room, look at each other, shout one two three four and record it onto tape and overdub on top of it. The amazing thing about computer recording is that although you might even record it the same way, if it's inside this computer, basically the music is a bunch of numbers and you can reorganise and jumble up those numbers to an infinite degree. It's beautiful."

"We've done what we've been doing for so long," says Bottum of the band's decade-plus history, "that any twist on what we do is welcome."

Still. I thought all that studio-effects stuff might be a bit poncey. Roddy smiles pityingly. “Well, we have keyboards…”

“…So we're already un-American!" concludes

Mike with his best "Goodfellas" laugh. "Har har har! We're already fairies..."

Well, I suppose it's better than being prog rock... but hang on, didn't Rolling Stone, alone of major music publications, not only damn "Album Of The Year" but call it just that?

"That was cool!" Roddy exclaims. "That

was the one good thing they said - ‘synth laced prog rock'.”

“I think they meant that as an insult," Mike smirks. Gosh, what prog rock do you like?

"Oh, no, I don't really listen to it," Roddy replies hastily. "I guess I could see trying it out, since like Space Needle, Trans Am, Labradford. Anyway, the type of people that listen to us are willing to be f***ed with."

"They may not know when or how or if it's happening at that particular moment, but..."

Mike considers. "And other people just think we're a heavy metal band. Which is fine, because they're being f***ed with, too. We're not.

"Actually, there's something definitely really sick about prog rock," he adds suddenly.

This is the highest Mike Patton compliment. "It's so perverted. If you listen to an old Genesis or Gentle Giant record, that shit is way out of control. It's great! If that killed punk, great, more power to it!" He snickers evilly.

Erm, wasn't it the other way around? Punk killed prog rock? Mike says nothing, he just snickers.

AT some points, of course - notably after the Modest Commercial Success of this album's predecessor "King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime" - it was thought that Faith No More might have killed themselves off.

"We've always had band problems," says Billy, smiling cheerily. "And we have almost broken up, especially after this record. But after every record we've pretty much almost broken up. If you look in Melody Maker, back when Chuck [Moseley, vocalist replaced by Patton] was in the band on our first tour, there was a thing in the Maker about how the band wouldn't be together in three months."

"And there was that thing about the incident at the airport with a gun," he adds blithely.

Oh, yes, that old thing.

"I think the thing was that in the States, 'King For A Day... was a 'sales disappointment, so if you look like you're on your way down, people will kick you a little harder.

As far as we're concerned it's been very interesting, cos we're learning as we're going along, and each album's different. I don't want to be rambling on about the business, but if you look at the perception in the States, it's like ‘They had this hit with 'Epic', and that's it, and they've been f***ed ever since.'"

"It's not really geared for anything more than that one shot in the cannon," Mike Bordin adds. "If it lands in the net once, great."

"King For A Day..." has been described as a frustrated, hateful record. “Well, I was frustrated at the time," says Bottum.

"And I hate him," adds Mike Patton helpfully, grinning.

Ah, but if that were true, could you joke about it?

"Sure," retorts Mike smoothly.

"Usually. You would tell me, wouldn't you?" he asks Roddy.

"I don't think I would, honestly,"

Roddy replies.

"Well, would," Mike gives an irresistibly smirky smile. "But I think I'm kind of an asshole." So when you split up, why will it be?

"It'll be because the music sounds like shit," retorts Patton.

How will you know?

"Oh, you know. Of course, some bands know and they just keep doing it. Some of them are stupid enough that they don't know. We may be stupid but I think one thing I'm becoming a little more attentive to in my later years is quality control.

And if it's not up to standard, it's not worth doing. In fact, if you don't like it, why bother."

"It's like this," says Gould when l ask him the same question. "If you take some acid... not that we do, or ever have, or ever condone it," he grins. "But if we took acid right here, we'd be saying we're gonna go wherever the evening takes us. We might not like where we go but we'll definitely be entertained. And the way the band started, it was like, We're just going to do this and see what happens.'"

And the dead presidents?

"Masaryk was cool," says Billy, passing up the chance to talk about- hey! hip rap-influenced double entendre! - money and returning to the man on the outside of "Album Of The Year"

“He was the guy who united Czech and Slovakia from bits of the Hapsburg Empire: he was the man. He was also a hyper-capitalist, but when he died, the whole country mourned his death. And there was a real connection with this record," he adds.

Would it help if I spoke Czech?

"Not a connection politically,"

Billy continues. "But with the feeling people here have when they look back at that time, which seemed like a golden age. They're still mourning his death now, and that's like this record. It's a certain thing that we were, a certain thing that we lived in, that was really good, but it's dead."

Erm, so is this a eulogy?

"It's not. It's just a feeling." If he means it's over for Faith No More, Billy Gould's almost saying it. Almost... but not quite. And he's smiling.

"It'll all be new," he promises.

"Now we've just got to follow where it goes."

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