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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Metal Hammer | November 1998


THE DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY

Essi Berelian


One of the most original and talented bands of the last ten years, Faith No More, have called it a day. To commemorate their brilliance, a double album, 'Who Cares A Lot', is being released. Essi Berelian talks to Billy Gould about Mike Patton's organ collection, Mike Bordin's skinflint habits and the general insanity surrounding the band.


It's been a few months since the split happened and breaking it down, I can only describe it in general terms." Faith No More's Billy Gould looks pensive as he tries to express what it's like to have such a large part of your life suddenly disintegrate in spectacular fashion.

Things have since settled down somewhat for the good-humoured bass player; he's producing a number of different bands, there's a new Brujeria album coming together for the New Year and he's in the process of setting up his own world music label, dubbed Cool Arrow Records. So, seated in a sumptuous hotel bar, he seems remarkably at ease as he grapples with some of the more bizarre aspects of the last few months.


FNM were one of the most unusual, inventive and long lasting fixtures on the modern heavy music scene. There weren't many other bands that could manage the same fix of strangeness and aggression, and still temper it with a healthy dose of irony. But the real mystery here isn't why they split-it's how such a set of wildly creative but extremely volatile personalities managed to last for so long as a viable unit.


To say that they thrived on unpredictability would be a gross understatement. They were still promoting one of their strongest albums to date, last year's cunningly titled 'Album Of The Year', complete with a summer tour in the offing, when it all went pear-shaped. When you're faced with such a curious set of circumstances and contradictions, it's best to let someone who was in the thick of the action do the talking...


"We'd been in the recording-touring cycle with this band for about ten years and everybody, except myself, had side-projects. But none of them could receive their full attention because of all the touring and making records. It got to the point where we were just going to take a break so we wouldn't have to think about the band. That way, everyone could get out what they needed to get out... we could live like human beings and do our individual things to be healthy. But as the tour was ending... well, people got really insecure..." Billy thinks hard, trying to choose the right words to explain something that still appears to puzzle him a little even now.


"I have this theory to do with rejection in relationships where no one wants to see the other person in the relationship get one over on them if things become insecure. The insecure one generally wants to be the one doing the dumping, rather than the other way round. I was dealing with some people - not all of them - working under this feeling. I know I'm being diplomatic, but I don't really have hard feelings against these guys... "The ship wasn't really sinking, but it was perceived to be..." He thinks carefully before continuing: "Everybody fed off everybody else, to the point where it dissolved so fast, it was incredible. It came from lots of directions, not one particular guy. The real catalyst was the fact that we had to cancel the tour this summer. That was down to a business decision by somebody in the band..."


That wouldn't have anything to do with drummer Mike Bordin deciding to tour with Ozzy, would it?


Billy grins knowingly at the suggestion. "That would be a good thing to infer... you know, you hear these stories about the stupid indulgent things rock bands do and I never wanted to be in one of those bands. When it got to the point where we cancelled a tour for the reasons..."


He checks himself and changes tack: "...I mean, it wasn't even ideology, it was nothing that I can understand, but I think we all kind of realised that it was time.


"It would only be ugly and I couldn't see any good music coming out of a mindset like that... in the light of all that, I think that I'm happy with the decision that everybody made. My position was trying to keep it together for as long as possible. But then I had to see the way things were going and take it for what it was, and that was probably one of the more liberating things I've done in my life, definitely. What the hell, y'know? I never thought that would be my reaction, but it's a great thing! I don't even want to say anything bad about these guys... and I would have before!"


Looking back over the band's turbulent career, it does seem quite remarkable that they survived quite as long as they did. Almost from their inception, reports were rife that there was a huge amount of tension within the band; not just that they didn't get along, but that they actually hated each other.

The rumours and innuendos were fed, inadvertently, by the band's determination to confuse matters by openly mocking and ridiculing themselves. Song and album titles aside, they have a long history of jokey stunts and self-deprecating humour: the public pre-gig warm-up exercises, the weird outfits and the well-publicised bizarre hobbies. Humour that certain band members simply did not appreciate. No prizes for guessing we're talking about big, sick, ugly Jim Martin.


"The beauty of Jim was that he was coming from such a different world to us, it made things kinda interesting. But after a few years, the interesting part wasn't so fresh any more, it became troublesome...


"I think a lot of what we did, he didn't get. Not because he wasn't sharp enough, he's a very smart guy, he just came from a different cultural world. I think music, style and aesthetics stopped for him around 1973. We went through a whole punk and post-punk period, and I think he just listened to Black Sabbath all the way through. So when we started doing 'War Pigs', it meant something different to us than it did to him. To him, it was a badge of honour. To us, it was, er, kind of a badge of honour and something else too!" Billy laughs as he tries to get across the strangeness of dealing with a guitarist trapped in a time warp.


And it wasn't just that they were failing to

connect on a creative level; Martin was clearly

something of a loose cannon. For example, it

wasn't unknown for the man to simply walk out

on interviews, leaving the rest of the band to

continue without him. So much for a united front.


"Oh yeah, he'd do that all the time - he was a cocky sonofabitch! Look, imagine you're trying to start your car and someone's at the back siphoning out the gasoline. But he's the guy who's supposed to be working with you. It got very personal."


They held on to the sick and ugly one until

things became totally impossible and he was

jettisoned during the height of their popularity. A questionable business move at the best of times, it was purely a survival decision.

Ultimately, firing a band member because they don't have a sense of humour is a pretty tough thing to do, so who actually pulled the trigger?


"Er, I think I might have done it!" Billy smiles winsomely. "We'd started writing songs and it wasn't coming together. Once the personal connection had gone and it was just about music and that wasn't happening - well, it got dark and that was it."


Whilst we're on the subject of various individuals' idiosyncrasies, Mike Patton's coprophiliac tendencies are bound to feature - anyone remember the infamous turd-on-a-plate publicity shots? It's something that makes Billy chuckle simply at the thought.


"That happened during the 'Easy' period, I believe. To me, it makes perfect sense! He was a teen idol at the time, singing a Lionel Ritchie song! What else can you do?


"When you first really break, people want you to be the monkey; everybody loves the monkey, because it sells records and magazines. We were amused by the whole thing and so we became the monkeys, only with a capital M! I was a monkey too, but I was probably more guilty of encouraging Mike's condition..." But it wasn't just a love of number twos that Patton became notorious for. He developed a morbid penchant for visiting hospital pathology labs, where he collected redundant body parts in jars. A hobby too far, perhaps?


"Every stupid kid with a couple of nose rings and a nipple ring does shit like that! You can't really say that's weird, that's the norm. He used to collect stuff, but I don't really ask him about it. I've seen a few of the strange things he has - I know he's got a small baby in a jar. I mean, when I was a kid, I used to do stuff like that-it's something to do! I don't think there's anything wrong with that. I think kids should indulge their fantasies, no matter how sick they are. I don't know if he's still doing it, though...


"I think his obsession now is food, to be honest. He'll go out after a show and he'll eat, like, three meals. I don't know how he does it. He's a human phenomenon..." Billy really starts warming to the subject now.


"None of them are normal, y'know? Bordin, who tries to come across as the well-adjusted one, was the most insane out of all of us... The extremes of what he'll do to save money, for example, are legendary. We did a tour once where I think our allowance over the course of two months worked out to £525. He came back with £560! He made a profit! I'm serious! None of us could understand it at all. If, when our bus pulled in, there wasn't a record company person there to take us out for a meal, he'd sit on the bus and wait until they'd opened the club and he'd hit the deli tray! It was almost pathological! But, I mean, all of us were extreme at doing things like that. I don't even know what my strangeness is - I'll let someone else tell you about that!"


Try to imagine a bunch of weirdos in close proximity to each other for weeks on end, forced to live with each other under submarine conditions. How did they deal with the pressure, the inevitable cabin fever?


"Gossip about each other and fight a lot! It was funny, cos we always got along and there was tension at the same time. Up to the last show we did, we had a great time. I actually like these guys, but they're a pain in the ass! It was completely dysfunctional - we basically like each other, but we know each other well enough to hate each other too!


"Think about it this way: the last show we did in Portugal was a great show, we had a great time and we split up two days later! That should tell you everything you need to know right there..." Faith No More: a genuine paradox, right up to the final curtain.



BILLY GOULD'S TOP TEN TRACKS FROM 'WHO CARES A LOT'


WE CARE A LOT

"This one came out before 'Introduce Yourself'... it was a melody I had, but we worked it out at rehearsal. We didn't have any records out when we wrote the song; we were just rehearsing, trying to get gigs around town, and this was something that felt good. Also, the We Are The World' thing was big at the time and there was a lot of charity stuff going on. We didn't really think anyone would hear the song when we wrote it, it was just us having fun with the idea."


THE GENTLE ART OF MAKING ENEMIES

"This is a Patton song. It probably has something to do with the fact that we have a natural tendency to gravitate to mid tempo songs, and he'd get a little restless and want to do something a little more up tempo.

*At the time, we d fired our guitar player from the previous record... the one thing that really bothered us was, we had a way of writing where sounds were layered upon each other, but our upbringing was more loud, solid, direct music. We wanted to strip everything down completely til it was almost naked, so it had power but with no frills, no elaboration. And our old guitar player was this real visible guy. He had this beard, these glasses, and he was Mr Heavy Metal. The thing was, we wanted to make a record that would slam harder than anything else we'd done and we didn't need him to play guitar to do that, we could do that on our own. If anything, we wanted to slam more than ever..."


EPIC

'That was when we were writing The Real Thing' - we'd just fired our singer and it was a song that was pretty spontaneous.

Actually, it was like the release that came with losing Chuck (Moseley, original FNM vocalist)! I think with a lot of our albums, most of the inspiration comes with the relief of losing a member that's too painful to keep! It's like a sore that finally breaks, a storm that finally comes in.

"A lot of our songs start music first, lyrics later, and it was called 'Epic' as a kind of code word, because before the words came along, it was kind of like the parting of the Red Sea! It was a preposterous grandiose thing! Y know, we've always had a sort of campy, semi-serious approach to writing, with these big cinematic sounds.

"Patton wrote the words to it about a week after he joined the band. I remember him explaining it to me and I didn't know him very well, so I wasn't too sure what to make of it.

*We toured for about 18 months before Epic was even released as a single. It becoming a hit made a big impression on us, because it was something that we chose to release on our own instincts. It worked and it gave us a lot of confidence to do the next record...


MIDLIFE CRISIS

"Everybody's responsible for this one. It was a keyboard part that started it... it was a period of time when everyone was waiting for us to come up with another record and promising us the world. All we had to do was do what we do, but the way they saw it, we were a little defiant, which I think the lyrics reflect in a way.

'From my position, I wanted to do a song that had only one note to the whole thing, but it would still be a song. So I wanted it to have one bass part that never changed. It wasn't until we recorded it that our producer saw where I was trying to go, but at the time, it seemed like shooting yourself in the foot, y'know?"


EVIDENCE

'''On 'King For A Day...', if 'Digging The Grave' was the straight up punk song we'd never done, then 'Evidence' was the opposite extreme - a straight up r'n' b song. This was from Patton and myself. The hardest thing about doing a song like this is seeing yourself doing it, but when you see that you can, it's liberating. You look at yourself differently and you have a lot more ways you can go...

"With loud sounds, the songs don't get to breathe and if there's one thing we were really bad at, until this one, it was letting songs breathe - we were learning to work with dynamics a little bit."


LAST CUP OF SORROW

"This came from me a little bit... I would say it's a little more dub like, the bass line was very dub-ish. I think I heard something like this - just a very heavy, slow song, probably like a cross between some old dub records and something like Basement Five and a band like Chrome. They were an old San Fransisco band, kind of like punk that was very heavy metal, but dark and foreboding... very cinematic. It's depressing, but beautiful at the same time.

"As an album, it was our death record and it was something to feel, something we were going through. The words are from Patton, but I think we were all on the same page with this one."


STRIPSEARCH

"The kernel of that song came from John Hudson, our guitar player on the last album. Writing wise, we just weren't speaking the same language as Dean, the guitarist we were touring with... I had known John for years, and he said he could provide what were looking for... so he produced this midi file of an idea he'd had and it was pretty good. We changed it just a little bit, but it was his song.

"The most amazing thing was he wrote a song which worked with us and we didn't have to teach him to do it! Musically, we connected. I think he was the first guitar player we had where that happened."


FROM OUT OF NOWHERE

"Bordin, myself and Roddy wrote the music, Patton wrote the lyrics. This was done in the same period as 'Epic'. We were all rehearsing constantly in the studio - that was our life and that was basically it!"


I STARTED A JOKE

"A Bee Gees song - this has one of the most depressing lyrics we've ever heard. We finished a show and went to a strange bar where they were showing these hardcore porno videos on huge screens. It was like karaoke - they had this bouncing ball with the words underneath while someone's getting it in the ass! And it was this song! We'd never heard it before, so we're looking at the words and they're so bitter - we thought, What is this? We have to cover it - this is the story of our lives!' We recorded it in my basement... and got a cheesy demo sound!"


THIS GUYS IN LOVE WITH YOU (Bonus Disc)

"This is a cover of a Burt Bacharach song we did on MTV Australia about a year ago. This one came from Patton, he was really into it. It's a little bit of a perverse song, I guess. I mean, to say you like something and that it's perverted kinda go hand in hand for us!

"When you think about covers, they're something that takes your mind off the task of writing serious songs. Some of our songs are very heavy and take a lot out of you. If you do things like that all the time, I think you can lose your sense of humour.

Songs like this keep the balance..."



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