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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Metal Maniacs | December 1992

What You Eat

Peter Moses

I was not much of a FNM enthusiast, but I'd met Mike Bordin once after a Ritz show of theirs here in NYC and got along with him quite well, and Angel Dust had impressed me with its many interesting songs. So it was, off to the ritzy Roger Smith Hotel to meet in their plush suite for a talk with dreadlocked drummer Bordin.

I told him I perceived distinct ties between Angel Dust and The Real Thing, contrary to the popular belief that the two are worlds apart. "I think the press says that. To me it's not a radically different record. To me it's a better record. To me the song are kind of written a little bit better; more interesting development of them. You say one thing, and then you say another thing, and hopefully it's a logical progression of ideas." There is a continuity to the whole record, with songs connecting in a way similar to, say, a Zappa record, though there is silence between each track. Also, the beginning of "Land of Sunshine" sounds tome like a faux "From out of Nowhere" for the first few beats. "That's interesting, that's something I never would have thought of. Both of them I think are really good opening tracks on a record, because they do come kind of brash and 'whaa!!' and try to get your attention, and that to me is like the sequencing, and how you lay out the record, like you said about Zappa and how they're connected. That's so important, because you can have ten or thirteen really great songs, but you can sequence them in a way that would be very difficult to listen to, or you can sequence them in a way that it really flows together, and before you know it you've listened to the whole record and it's satisfying. I think each record has a flow. I think once you listen to the records as records, they can also be put as a connective steps on a path."

Speaking of paths, it seems that FNM is following two simultaneously: the heavy eclectic and the more stream-lined "popistic." "I think that you could say that about the last record, though, too. I think to compare the last record to the one before it, the heavy parts were heavier, more aggressive, but the melodic parts were also more melodic, and to me that's the balance; that's what makes this band a little bit interesting, it's not just the five guys that {taps leg rhythmically} do that at the right time, it's kind of balanced; there's a couple of different elements that'll hold each other in check, and on some songs on this record it's more leaning towards here, the heavier maybe, and on some songs it's more leaning towards here, the cleaner, but overall it's definitely still us trying to push it, trying to develop it, trying to prod it along in certain ways."

Has one of those five guys, er, "bungled" things for the others? "I think it affected us in a really good way, because when we came off touring for a year and a half or so, it was like the magic slate was completely covered in writing; there was not any more room for any more writing on that slate, so we all went and said all right, and erased everything, and started writing new stuff. Mike Patton, in his way--I think he's blessed with, to me, tremendous creativity--I really think it was necessary for him to do that, because that was his way of going Pshewt! and erasing all this. It's something he needs to do; it's an outlet. They don't do anything that we do, we don't do anything that they do, to me it is very different. It's his high school chums, he's hung with them for a long time. And what I mean is, I think allowing him to do what he felt he needed to do and express what he needed to express that he wasn't expressing with us helped him to refresh everything, relieve some pressure, clear his head, and come back to this record feeling good about us for not really fucking with him for doing that, for giving him the respect and trust to go and do it, and coming back and being enthusiastic about this. That's all you can say. My only contention about him doing that always was as long as it doesn't interfere or cut into what he's doing with us, as long as it doesn't make him compromise what he does with us, his time is his own and more power to him. To me he came to this record refreshed, enthusiastic, ready to work, and the work that he did, I'm really proud of that work, I'm proud to be involved with it, because I think he did a damn good job.

FNM wrote the new record "in San Francisco at home, when we were finally finished touring. The last record kind of cleared our minds out, and then we just started playing again, just started jamming new stuff, with bass lines and melodies and rhythms, and that's how it started." Hmm, sounds like bass, keyboards and drums, the three original members..."Keyboards, bass and drums, definitely. Most of the stuff started there, but there's also stuff that started with Mike Patton, there's also stuff that stared with Jim, but most of the permutations are keyboard-bass, keyboards-drums, drums-keyboard, you know, it happens a lot that way, because we were the ones that were here, we were the ones that came to practice a lot and were really interested and really pushing forward and really kind of challenging ourselves." I asked if this is the type of music they expected to be playing when looking ahead in 1982, the band's year of inception. "When we started it was much more simplistic, me and Roddy and Bill. There's a song on the last record that's descriptive of what we were then, the song 'Zombie Eaters', where the bass line starts: 'Bam, Bam, Chk, Chk, Chk', that was one of the original things we did, we did it for about twenty minutes at a time. That was what we did. Bauhaus used to do it in their day; it was like a skip, it was like a piece of music cycling itself over and over, very simple, just like a small chunk. And that's what we were after, I think, to try and get at something that wasn't really being got at then, with all the...there was Husker Du there, and there was early R.E.M., a lot of that jangly kind of psychedelic Replacements sort of...not really getting at what we felt could be gotten at. And so, to answer the question, 'no' because it's developed now more to a point of not just an interesting part that was being repeated, but hopefully a bunch of interesting parts that are stacked next to each other that then take you on an interesting trip, so hopefully we're getting better at writing good songs."

With many bands, a producer can be "instrumental" in the editing and restructuring of songs, often to the dismay of the bands. What about ol' Matt Wallace there? "He doesn't do it any more, he used to try and we resisted it, and now he doesn't try, now he tries to get a good sound, and I think that's what he ought to do. We hopefully have it reasonably together by the time we go into the studio, you know we have a reasonable idea of what we want to do, so I think it's harder for him to monkey with it. With five guys in the band that's enough monkeying. We worked on everything with him, and it's gotten better every time, it's much closer than it ever has been to sounding the way we feel we sound, it's not easy with the keyboards and guitar and a lot of bass and a lot of drums, it's not easy balancing them. We try to get a realistic sound, we don't want a super human sound by any means, we don't want it to sound like...that kick drum that sounds like that {clicks fingers}. Everything on that album drum-wise is real, there's no samples, there's no digital effects. We made our own reverb, we ran all of our tracks through an extremely live room and miced the ambience; we made our own ambience. It was really important. It's extremely organic; it's an extremely real sound, what you hear is what we did, and I'm very proud of that also. What I was going to say about Matt and getting better at sounding like us, it also has to do with the way you write songs. The parts that you construct have got to leave enough room for everybody to breathe, and that's also the progression of hopefully writing better songs, getting better at what we do. It's all kind of interconnected."

You might be wondering how FNM got on the big GN'R/Metallica ticket. "We were invited. I grew up with Cliff and we used to play instruments together before either of us were in bands. We actually knew each other before either of us played instruments. He was my weed dealer, and we'd just talk about music and go to concerts and party--nothing major, just kids, this was in seventh grade. He said one day 'I'm gonna play bass' and I said 'alright, well I'll play drums.' That's literally how it was. We then joined a band Jim Martin had, because he was from the same area, and Jim and Cliff became inseparable, and this was again about fifteen years old, sixteen years old, and here we are. That's where our connection really truly started, and then he obviously joined the band, and left us. Too bad, we miss him. We toured with GN'R in Europe. One of the very first tours we did off the last record, when nobody knew about it--it came out in June I think, or May--was with Metallica in July, to pretty much apathetic responses everywhere, which is to be expected, because Metallica has some of the most loyal fans, especially at that time. It was a good test, you know, it kind of gave us some thick skin. They invited us. It really had nothing to do with us wanting it, it had to do with them wanting us. For me, usually, a tour consists of playing gigs and depending on how your record's doing you're either playing in smaller places or bigger places, but then trying to sneak off and go the a baseball game and seeing all the stadiums, you know? And now we're playing in the Astro Dome. It's absolutely hilarious, it's unreal. We'll see all the places first hand, we'll shit on the toilets of all the better stadiums." Indeed, as they are shit upon with bad sound and a half hour set.

In case you didn't know, FNM is in close competition with Boston for the Least Frequently Released Albums Award. "It may not seem obvious, but the reason why we do that is we're on tour the rest of the time. We put out a record, it didn't hit, it didn't get American or even world-wide acceptance by many people until almost eight months after it came out. It's simple, we don't sit at home on our ass. We jumped the gun on this record by a month with this Guns tour. That's why we took it, because we wanted to play. This German reviewer wrote 'These guys are assholes, they put out a record every three years and sit on their ass and don't do anything.' And we went to Germany seven different times on the last record, no shit seven times, where was he? We wrote enough material for a double album, we wrote twenty songs. It was a great luxury; we've never had that luxury before."

Of course I couldn't help but ask Mike if the back cover, the "meat" photo, indicates a vegetarian statement. "It has nothing to do with that. It has more to do with: the band itself, the sound of the band, the sound of the record, the songs on the record, the title, and the cover, going from wide to narrow. The band I think has many elements, some heavy, some beautiful. The record is balanced I think between some things that are really aggressive and disturbing and then really soothing. The title of the record is something that if you didn't know what it was--if you didn't know about any drugs--it would sound beautiful. It's just something that seems beautiful but is horrible. The front cover is something beautiful, put it with the back cover and you've got something disturbing. That's what we wanted. The record cover and layout was designed by us and put together by us. {In the lyrics} the big letters, those are his {Mike Patton's}, he had to fight for that. All the songs I think really confront you in certain ways and provoke you to think." One peculiar feature of the new record is the picture of Russian soldiers with FNM's faced dropped in. "It was just pure 'we don't want to sit for busts', you know? It's bullshit, man. That was a thing the record company really tried to foist on us. They really tried to fuck with our layout, and sent us these fucking pictures of us, just our heads. It was like this, they wanted us to have a poster inside the record consisted of our five heads on a black background, everything was black, the whole inside, and it's like, 'Fuck you.' We're going to make our cover, we made our record, we produced it our way, we wrote our songs, we played them our way, it sounds like us. We got our cover FINALLY, we got our artwork FINALLY, fuck you. If you let them do it, they'll do it. That's why they pay people in the art department, that's why they pay graphics people. And in some ways it can be really helpful, in some ways it can be really good. Ultimately, what I see I really like. We told them what we wanted, we actually got to the point where we had to sketch it out, but they made it real for us and I really appreciate that. We have five people, that's enough opinions, I said it about the producer, I'll say it about he record company, that's enough. We co-produced it, more so tone-wise than balance-wise, proportion-wise. We were all really concerned about the actual sound of the record., and that's really where you can make a difference. To me that Russian picture's like a Monty Python where you see a guy's head, a monster comes by and picks it up and Ptock! puts it somewhere. It's not 'We're the most important people in the world.'"

How does one's enthusiasm hold up for 10 years? "I feel like we've got a long way to go, to be quite honest with you, but I'm ecstatic because I feel like we've got something to say, and if we ever are lucky enough to get there I think when we look back we will say it's been a really cool trip that we've taken people on, it hasn't been just...Statue of Liberty, whatever, you know, the main stupid things, it's been interesting, and I really feel that we actually do have something to say, it's up to everyone else to listen or not."

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