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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Metal CD | Vol 1 No 2 1992

The Whip Comes Down

Mark Blake

UNEASY - described in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary as 'disturbed or uncomfortable in body or mind' Or in this case that strange sensation you experience when you realise that all is not as it should be.

America's premier aggro-rockers Faith No More are halfway through their European headlining tour, creating a musical disturbance across the continent with fellow London Records signings L7 in tow. And yet despite an overnight stay included in their tour schedule, the Intercontinental Hotel in Hannover Germany is devoid of their presence.

Uneasy - in this instance, that feeling experienced when standing in a deserted hotel on an overcast Saturday afternoon with a photographer and press officer waiting to interview a band that haven't showed up.

In true Faith No More style, the mystery intensifies and the plot thickens. By dusk the band's road crew have began to arrive; droves of hair and leather appearing in the plush lobby and drawing curious stares from a party of ballroom dancers booked in for the evening. The band's whereabouts, however, remain unknown. The smart money is that they've met up with friends in Hamburg - the scene of the previous night's show - and decided to stay.

Nobody expects them to make an appearance before tomorrow, so we settle in for a long night.

As darkness settles, the hotel barman who sports a remarkable black eye ("from my girlfriend, she voz very angry"), warms to the

task of serving us. Drink flows and the halfway decent records are located and played on the bar's jukebox. It is then, and only then, that a crew member reveals the suspected whereabouts of Faith No More's keyboard player Roddy Bottum: "Roddy went to an S&M party on a boat in Hamburg."

Uneasy - the sensation experienced when you fear that your interviewee is getting his ass whipped somewhere, and perhaps enjoying it...

Three quarters of L7 appear on Sunday afternoon, and bring with them the news that Faith No More stayed the night in Hamburg and will be driving straight to the evening's venue.

Our tip-off was also correct for flame-haired bass player Jennifer Finch reveals that, yes, Roddy did go to an S&M party last night and L7's drummer Dee Plakas went with him. The rest of L7 accompany us to the Music Hall, a large arena-sized venue located on what looks like an industrial estate in Hannover L7 are enjoying this tour, but are willing to admit that the tag 'support' band doesn't sit comfortably with them. Imposed exile on a bus for months on end has also left its mark. They're homesick and Jennifer reveals details of last night's strange dream: "I dreamt I was cuddling some puppies and crying. What does that mean?" Inside the Music Hall we discover that the venue is as bizarre in shape and design as the music touted by the missing headliners. A gigantic circus-style tent has been erected inside the building. The big top's ceiling is hung with a net full of helium-filled balloons and a wooden VIP enclosure has been built to the left of the stage. At the back of the hall are pool tables, a disco-style dancefloor and, stranger still, a fountain. The Hannover music hall appears to be both a spit-and-sawdust mosh pit and a nightclub.

Backstage, Faith No More are still nowhere to be found. Pearl Jam's 'Ten' warbles away in the background and Jennifer continues with L7's catalogue of road-tales, including her theories on our absent friends.

"You know, Faith No More are nice people.

Jim (Martin - FNM's guitarist) craves attention

and I don't think he gets a lot of it. We like to take care of him. Sometimes I stroke his beard.

He likes that."

Somebody asks to see Jennifer's tattoo and she obligingly pulls off her shirt to reveal an elaborate Indian ink design stretching across both shoulder blades and covering most of her back. Later, they laugh at London Records' act of sending a limousine to pick them up from the airport at the start of their recent UK tour, worried that it wasn't in keeping with their

"punk roots" While Jennifer tells of the band's original (male) drummer currently languishing in a US prison after "flipping out" and emptying round after round of ammunition from an automatic rifle in his house. "He just shot the place up," shrugs the bass player "And it bugged us because he had the whole front page in the local newspaper and the band only got a tiny mention."

Almost on cue, current drummer Dee Plakas

breezes into view with the ever-smiling figure of Faith No More's Roddy Bottum shuffling along behind. Roddy has clearly succumbed to tour madness. He now sports meticulously sculptured sideburns, a pencil-thin gigolo's moustache and the tiniest tuft of a beard. He looks like Salvador Dali or a First World War German pilot.

"Hi, I'm Roddy. Hey, where is everybody?"

In Faith No More's otherwise deserted dressing room, Roddy picks at a plate of food and leans across the table to speak. The white T-shirt beneath his open jacket carries a picture of an over-muscled and decidedly teutonic looking male above the stark slogan, 'International Leather Scene' The flesh at the side of his left eyebrow has been pierced and hung with a small silver ring.

"Do you like it? I've had this for about a month. I went to this guy's house in Detroit to have it done. It was just the seediest little place. His family were all sat in this tiny room eating TV dinners, and he led me downstairs to this basement which looked like some kind of torture chamber "

Roddy, like the rest of Faith No More, finds anything out of the ordinary completely fascinating. "This party I went to last night was fun, but very twisted," he whispers. "It was the biggest S&M party in Germany. They had this very strict dress code so I went along in just my underwear and a leather jacket. But there were people there that were completely naked and others wearing leather chaps with nothing underneath. People were getting pierced on stage and somebody told me they had fist-fucking going on up there, but I never saw it." He recounts the details enthusiastically, all the time smiling and giggling. "Some of these people are unbelievable. I found it very interesting."

Roddy is a former film production student from Los Angeles who has known Faith No

More's bass guitarist Bill Gould since they were both ten years old. "We grew up together We both came from similar families. But I'm a lot more intelligent than he is. Billy actually hasn't changed at all since then. When we were kids we were into mindless, dangerous pranks. We used to throw shit at cars from tall buildings. Once we even called up the Safeway near my house and told them there was a bomb there . Sure enough, when we walked round to the shop, the bomb squad was there and the police were clearing the building.

Billy felt guilty and was too scared to get close, but I walked right up to the manager and asked him what was going on. I don't do that stuff anymore, but Billy's still into making crank phone calls and stuff like that."

According to Roddy, this latest tour has been their best yet. "The shows with Guns N' Roses were strange, because it really wasn't our gig and there were so many days in-between concerts. We had nothing to do with them and as far as I know they never watched our show, although we did hear that they used to watch us on the TV monitors in the dressing room.

"As a band I think we're getting on better these days. Rumours went around about how we all hated each other because we weren't afraid to have a fight when there happened to be a journalist around, and for a while there were journalists around every time we had a fight and they exploited that."

Faith No More seem to wallow in the perverse and the confusing. They remain an enigma, an image-maker's nightmare, and perhaps one of the few rock bands in existence willing to take a few risks and piss people off by failing to live up to their expectations. Roddy proffers his own theory as to the band's greatest strength: "Our sense of weirdness is of paramount importance to this band and that comes across in our music. I think the thing that Faith No More do best is fuck with people's

minds. Confusion is the central theme of this band. Every band has a persona.

Like the Red Hot Chili Peppers have this macho, dick-rock image. They're like a little fraternity, all hanging out together and celebrating their dicks. That's their persona and being completely weird is ours. That's what this band is all about."

Although, at this moment in time,

Faith No More are a band that's still missing. L7 finally take to the stage having delayed their performance by fifteen minutes to allow the headliner's extra time to show up. They kick up a storm like the Ramones with a shot of ostrogen.

Singer Donita Sparks dedicates the night's

performance to all those "standing up against fascism", in recognition of the anti-nazi rally in Berlin earlier that day. Yet it's a twenty-five minute set that seems to be over almost as soon as it's began.

You can almost smell the relief backstage when the remaining members of Faith No More finally materialise. Only bass guitarist Bill Gould looks phased by the gruelling journey from Hamburg which has taken them four hours longer than it should have. With only fifteen minutes to go before show-time, the band make some last-minute preparations. Drummer Mike Bordin enlists a roadie to help him tether the matted dreadlocks that now reach his waist. Singer Mike Patton, sporting an identical eyebrow piercing to Roddy, skulks into the kitchen looking for refreshment while Jim Martin ambles backwards and forwards, greeting people in a softly spoken voice while crew members extend their relief at his arrival: "That was some delay, Jim. What a pain in the ass."

Jim shrugs. "What's the difference between hanging around in a car and hanging around here?"

Anything and everything the world throws at

Jim Martin appears to pass him by. "Jim is an old man," explains Roddy. "He looks older, acts older and thinks older He's a real individual. He likes to hang about by himself and he still lives with his mom." The only member of the band to indulge in the stereotypical activities of a rock band on tour, Martin is Faith No More's supposed rock'n'roll animal. According to Roddy, "It's in his culture."

Today, however, Jim is subdued, polite and more interested in a bowl of soup than a beer The former graduate with a degree in electrical engineering is also intrigued by the Music Hall's unusual structure. "This is an interesting facility. Apparently they used to build submarines here during the war This is a very unusual place," he tells me later.

Ten minutes later, and Mike Patton is crouched down low at the lip of the stage as if in pain. He is howling, screaming and cajoling himself through the set's opening song,

'Caffeine' Like most of the band's set it's drawn from the recent 'Angel Dust' album, a record that's shaping up nicely as one of the best rock releases this year According to

Roddy, "Mike is now a changed man. He joined this band in his formative years and he took in a whole lot in a very short space of time. He's come out the other side as a much better person."

Bouncing through the almost lightweight

'Falling To Pieces', the band slide into 'Land Of Sunshine' and the warped hit single 'Midlife

Crisis' There has been no communication with the audience as yet and it hardly seems necessary. The late arrival and delays seems to have charged Faith No More with a new found sense of urgency. During the shuddering, slightly disturbed strains of

'As The Worm Turns', Roddy dances away from his keyboards.

He has removed his trousers before going on stage and Hannover is treated to the sight of a pair of baggy, off-white Y-fronts, rapidly soaking with sweat.

With a battering ram of 'Surprise You're Dead', 'Be Aggressive' and Introduce Yourself', it seems as if Faith No More are reluctant to loiter too long with 'The Real Thing' album; the band's ground-breaking third record.

"For the most part that element of being selfish is what we are all about," admits Roddy. "We won't play something if we don't want to and we are now sick of playing some of the songs on that album."

They relent, however, by dusting down the hit single 'Epic', Gould and Bordin's rhythm section tightening the crunching funk anthem and giving it a massive shot of extra vitriol and added power. Even 'From Out Of Nowhere', added as a last-minute encore, sounds charged and mildly unpleasant, like the best of Faith No More's music.

"We're considering making an album of muzak," says Roddy, mysteriously. "The effect and the power of it is highly appealing. It can be a very hypnotic medium and it will be a challenge to do something powerful without a loud guitar and that obvious crunch."

As a final touch, the band tear into an almost unrecognisable Dead Kennedys cover, full of loud guitar and a very obvious crunch.

Roddy is unphased by any thought that the band might have a reputation to live up to or a style to adhere to. Right now Faith No More are almost untouchable but quite prepared to screw up their chances and risk everything for something new and different.

"Will we still be together in ten years time?

No. In five years? Yes, I think so. But I do hope that if we reached that stage that some old bands are now at that somebody would have the humanity to kill us."

After the show, above the murmur of conversation Roddy's voice can still be heard across the room. He is surrounded by friends,

crew members and half of L7, while slapping his hand slowly and repeatedly across his bare arm by way of demonstration. "That's all you could hear all night. These kind of weird slapping noises coming from the darkness and the sounds of people sighing after each slap.

All these people being spanked. It was amazing..."

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