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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Select | August 1993

Last in, First Out?

Words Mary Anne Hobbs

Photos Steve Pyke

Say the words out loud ... Faith. No More. Last year's emergent US supergroup have pushed 'Angel Dust' around the globe for 12 months, and it's almost over. Tired, emotional and frayed at the edges, Faith No More are nearing the end of an important cycle. Difficult frontman and self-styled 'shit terrorist' Mike Patton smoulders silently while the rest of them talk behind his back ... When does the shit hit the fan?

Mike Patton is quitting Faith No More. That's it. Perhaps.

There is a hushed conversation between drummer Puffy and the band's manager Warren Entner. Apparently FNM are drawing up a legal charter, protecting the actual band unit, in case of serious internal conflict between members.

Well, you have pre-nuptial agreements -- why not something similar for bands? It's just the timing that seems unusual. After all, the last man in Mike Patton replaced original singer Chuck Mosley in January '89. Why not draw up such a contract then? And if it was unnecessary then, why should there be a need for it now?

A couple of hours later, Mike Patton is feeding me shit from a spoon: "Two things. First, I want to go see Iggy Pop. Right now. (Iggy is playing at the same festival FNM are to headline, just outside the former East Berlin.) Second, I don't want to do an interview. I'm in a really bad mood ... I don't feel I have anything to contribute."

Might it be possible to talk after Iggy's set?

Patton's response is low and cold. "I have made my decision. I am trying to be polite."

The role of Shit Terrorist that Patton has maximised since the release of the 'Angel Dust' album 12 months ago, is perhaps beginning to feel uncomfortable. The singer's inglorious antics during this period have been well documented: urinating in his own boot on stage and drinking it down before a capacity crowd; crapping in hotel hair dryers; polluting beverages backstage with his own excrement; acquiring all manner of contraband pornography. In fact the singer -- who said "a shit-eating video is so much cooler than watching two people kissing" last time I interviewed him -- is now travelling with what might comfortably be deemed an affectionate female friend.

It's difficult to ascertain whether the Shit Terrorist is a strap-on character, like Bono's MacPhisto, how much Patton could peel away, even if he wanted to, and whether he is actually proud of this image. Most critics, when faced with his litany of repellent hobbies, have tried to understand rather than chastise him. Patton might indeed have inspired the press intrigue that he wanted over the last 12 months, but at what price? There has been a fundamental change in the singer's appearance. His hair, which is usually fashioned after something you might fish out of a plughole, is freshly trimmed. His clothing is neat; conservative even. And the steel sleeper once hooked through his pierced eyebrow is gone. Has Patton already begun to scrub away the Shit Terrorist's stains? And if so, how much of FNM, by association, will go with it?

He doesn't want to talk about it. The singer has, according to his press officer, never refused to give an interview before. There is no question that Patton will be fatigued and virtually desperate to get home after a solid 12 months touring. But is he actually ready to walk out on the band? It's a thought. Surely after such a grueling period on the road, all members of any group must find very good reasons for staying together. FNM established themselves initially with Chuck Mosely, and they could feasibly be successfully without Patton again.

For his part, the singer has always said he loathed being singled out as a spokesman. But four interviews with each of the remaining band members are complete. And now it is Patton who doesn't want any part of it.

Of course 2 plus 2 doesn't necessarily equal 5. There is always the fact that FNM now have nothing left to sell. It's all well and good to spend time talking with journalists who will use leverage to get front covers when there's 'product' to shift. But this is the very end of a campaign, there's not even a crummy EP to flog. Nothing.

"Perhaps you could play up the sensitive artist angle," suggests one of the band's entourage. Oh yes, sensitive artist, craps in your Fanta while your back's turned...

And there's always the chance that I'm playing into Patton's hands. Perhaps this is precisely what he wants; a last chance to generate controversy and confusion before FNM's final European date on the 'Angel Dust' tour (they are scheduled to headline the Phoenix Festival on July 17). These are, after all, two of FNM's favorite commodities.

Journalists are frequently accused of conjuring conspiracy theories from thin air, but under these circumstances it would take a blind person not to notice that something is wrong in FNM.

Several hours before the Patton incident, and after the conversation with Entner takes place, Puffy is evasive on the simple question of whether the band will stay together.

"Who knows what's gonna happen? I don't know what's gonna happen. I expect a journalist to wanna try to fucking peek under the curtain. But I'm honestly not going to help you do that, because I know nothing. I know nothing."

Despite all this, I'm a fan of Faith No More. And for people like me, watching the media watching music over the last 12 months has been depressing.

U2 and Suede are now embracing the role of full-time media darlings. Brett, like Coronation Street's Audrey Roberts, has an ability to find energy in melodrama. Bono, meanwhile, has become a veritable male supermodel, largely a canvas for the oils of his collaborators. Both are skilled diplomats. But their music is shit.

A strong character in a band is appealing to journalists and fans alike. But there is something grotesque about Bono and Brett's preoccupation with super stardom and their intense vanity. It's increasingly difficult to relate to these absurd little men atop telescopic pedestals.

All around, people are discussing the death of music, and it's being reflected in real terms in plummeting sales of records, concert tickets and weekly music papers... because miniature icons have been made of these self-infatuated dandies whose actual music is at best aimless and hammy.

In the last 12 months, I have frequently needed reasons to re-discover my passion for music. And it has been FNM's 'Angel Dust' (an album for which the band have received comparatively scant recognition) that I have turned to again and again. It has not failed me yet.

Legend would have it that the visceral 'Angel Dust' was deemed "commercial suicide" by the band's record label Slash/London prior to release. It actually entered the UK album chart last June at number two, and has now sold over 2 million copies worldwide.

"A lot of that was like Bill, Roddy, and Patton writing 'shite' on the wall, running away and then looking to see who saw it," admits Puffy. "I honestly never thought it was commercial suicide. Lou Reed puts out 'Rock N' Roll Animal'. It was a nice hit record. Got him on the radio I'm sure. Then he puts out 'Metal Machine Music' and expects the same result. That I think is commercial suicide. The definition of insanity, even.

"When we released 'Angel Dust', we didn't want the same result we'd had with 'The Real Thing'. I don't think any of us could stand to go through another photo session with Mike Patton expected to play the role of Hunk of the Month for 12-year-olds."

'The Real Thing', Patton's first album with Faith No More, was released in June 89. This gleaming machine-drilled stockade of potential singles sold consistently throughout Europe, and was finally recognised in the US after MTV dropped the 'Epic' video into heavy rotation. The band were well into their second year on the road at this point. 'Angel Dust' is altogether deviant by comparison, a generic mutant with metal, funk, disco and country among its basic component parts; crack, cock sucking and all manner of crisis on Patton's lyrical agenda.

It was Patton who actually embodied the shift between the buoyant 'Real Thing' album and the freakish, infernal 'Angel Dust'. All other members of FNM confirmed the stress Patton had endured as a result of two years touring 'The Real Thing', which had left him both psychologically and physically scarred. When he joined the band, Patton was a sunny-natured, sober kid, who might confess to masturbating at a push but had never actually been away from home. He was ill-prepared for even the little things, like the type of psychotic fan mail he was to receive as FNM's first pin-up.

"If somebody takes the time to write to you, put a stamp on the envelope and mail it, there has to be a reason. You have to know it," he told me when we last met.

"I've had someone write to me -- I hate my parents. I'm in an institution. I'm thinking about killing myself and I probably will. What are you going to do about it? Things like -- I've got to take care of an invalid for the rest of my life and I've got a trust fund to blow, so I'm going to buy presents for you. Or -- My beloved master, I'll do anything you say. Read this story I wrote about you beating me. It's amazing how people can take a little bit of your music -- which has nothing to do with anything -- and twist it into their lives ... Jesus fucking Christ."

Little things add up.

At the point of 'Angel Dust's release, Patton had entirely re-invented himself, become willfully self-abusive, both on stage and off -- developing a genuine interest in S&M. He spoke about anal fixation, he said that a shit-eating video could bring tears to his eyes, he began developing the Shit Terrorist character in earnest.

"I don't know what happened to me," he said at the time. "I'd say touring as much as we did, becoming a stimulation junkie, developing a very high threshold for pain and a very low attention span, would tie anyone in a knot."

There is no doubt that Patton is now nearing the end of an (un)natural cycle again.

Backstage at the Bielefelde Stadthalle, there are cheerful discussions about the previous evening's excesses: "Wie geht deine nase?" (How's your nose?) That type of thing.

Meanwhile, Warren Entner, a most gracious fellow and a keen golfer, who also manages Rage Against the Machine and L7, is divulging a little personal history.

Entner spent the 60s playing guitar in an obscure combo named The Grass Roots and, allegedly, taught FNM's Jim Martin everything he knows.

Jim is the type of character who might have been offered a starring role in Penelope Spheeris' study of the Californian metal scene, Decline of the Western Civilization. The guitarist actually bought Journey's back catalogue on CD to take on tour. His heroes include Superman, John Wayne, and several gunfighter balladeers. Jim would go to war for his country, and opposes gun control in the US: "Why should I want another one of my rights taken away from me? Hell, I'm not even allowed to smoke anywhere these days!"

Even though the guitarist is now balding along his centre parting, and will occasionally wear three pairs of glasses at one time ("Jim Martin is so old it takes him three hours to shit," observes one of the road crew) he has a notorious appetite for groupies.

"Yup. The main thing in life is to eat food, occupy your time and have somewhere to bury your bone," he confirms.

Not worried about AIDS at all?

"Of course. That would be a heck of a thing to take home and spread around your family."

Jim still lives with his mother.

All five of FNM are radically different in character. However, Jim and keyboard player Roddy Bottum are the absolute antithesis of one another. Macho and homo respectively. So how does Jim feel about Roddy's recent decision to talk to the press about his sexuality?

"I didn't feel anything. It's a personal thing. None of us ever gave him a hard time about it. Whatssisname, from that fucking heavy metal band ... Rob... "

Halford? (Judas Priest singer)

"Well, he's supposed to be gay, isn't he? People still go to see Judas Priest concerts. If Roddy wants to announce something in the press then it's up to him. I don't feel anything about it."

Last month the heavy metal parish magazine Kerrang printed an article that dealt candidly with Roddy's sexuality. The piece was first published by San Francisco based gay magazine The Advocate. For Kerrang -- an organ best known for its naive but blinding sexism (with columns like 'Gaggin' for a Shaggin') and basic reinforcement of rock stereotypes and cliches -- the piece was revolutionary.

Jon Hotten, then editor, who decided to publish this article, says: "I wanted to challenge readers, to make them think about the fact that there might be gay people in metal. I don't believe sexuality should be an issue at all, but the fact is, nobody in metal has ever come out and spoken about being gay before. It was a really brave thing for Roddy to do, because you could always get the odd idiot going, Oh right, that's it, I'm not having anything to do with poofs. But I was genuinely surprised by the amount of letters we got about that piece, all of which were really, really positive."

Roddy appears both glad and mildly apprehensive about Kerrang's decision to run the article.

"It's probably a really good thing," he says.

What reaction have you had from people since you decided to go public about your sexuality?

"I don't think I've really talked to anyone about it. I think people tend to ignore it. It embarrasses people, makes them feel uncomfortable. But that's fine because my original position was that it was no big deal anyway. Why should anybody want to talk about what I do with my dick in my spare time?"

Had you told your parents before you spoke to the press?

"Sure, yeah. They're open-minded people. Good people. They dealt with it OK. I mean, in the way you'd expect your parents to deal with it. We come from different generations. It is difficult for older people to come to terms with homosexuality because it was so chastised when they were growing up."

Were you confident that your fans would respond with the same understanding that you'd expect from your friends?

"Yeah. People that identify with our music, I think that they deserve a lot of credibility. I don't really think they'd give a shit. And I can only compare the people I think are seeing my band with the kind of people I would feel comfortable talking with. That's the only way I can deal with it. On those terms."

Do you think that by coming out you will also help those kids in similar hetero-dominated environments who are struggling with their sexuality?

"Yeah. Definitely. That was in my mind. If you're gay and that's an issue, it probably does make it easier to know that someone you respect and admire is too. I don't know if I'm fit to be any kind of a role model though!"

There is another small point. Pre-Roddy, keyboard players in hard rock groups were often hidden behind a curtain onstage. Some bands have even been known to install monitors in the dressing room and insisted that their keyboard player perform backstage!

Roddy smiles the smile of a bashful pioneer: "That whole keyboard player thing, it just adds to the charm, doesn't it?"

Day two at the festival just outside the former East Berlin, where the most popular local radio station plays yodelling around the clock. The (deep breath) Freilichtbuhne Whlheide Ampitheatre is not dissimilar to the type of arena that was constructed for Hitler's rallies. Primitive terracing built into a man-made valley extends in a 180 degree arc around the stage. The crowd on the level ground directly in front of the stage lip have enormous energy and mosh as if they are springing from trampolines in one of those yoghurt commercials.

Backstage, a member of the Anthrax crew is acquainting three teenage girls with ancient Western protocol observed when wishing to obtain a backstage pass. And Suicidal Tendencies are practising aerobics (or possibly ritual foreplay) in front of attentive female onlookers. Probably standard behaviour at a metal-fest.

Bass player Billy Gould is sat on the grass. Let's ask him why FNM should stay together ...

"Did you ask the rest of them this question?"


"What was their response?"

Puffy said: "There's only one reason to stay together. To make better music than the last time. As long as the band are interested in being creative, as long as we can reach up under our shirts, grab a squeeze and feel that something is still beating, then we have every reason to continue to play music together."

Roddy claims he's now more interested in FNM than ever before. "I think everyone felt pretty confident on this tour. And now I'd like to see us really stretch. I'd like to see FNM do something real experimental, like writing a classic Top 40 pop single."

Jim appears to calculate with his cock: "Take into consideration the prestige of the band. The power to attract women and a reasonably pleasurable lifestyle. You've gotta be out of your nut to throw something like that away. You can be sure Jim Martin will see this thing through. No matter how long it takes."

Billy grins and considers his response. "I think it was more a question of why do we stay together after The Real Thing. I don't think any of us were prepared for that two year period on the road. The Real Thing tour I look back on as a lotta hell. The record wasn't successful right up until the end. When the success came we were too tired, too shell shocked to be able to appreciate it and, God we hated those songs so fucking much.

"I really didn't want to go through it again. 'Angel Dust' was hard to write. And it was even harder for us to get ourselves together to go and tour again. But we knew the record had the potential to really do something, and this time I think we've all played well, and really enjoyed the songs.

"Now I think we're all feeling a need to reinvent FNM. But it's a natural thing, like equilibrium I guess. The boat rolls to one side and you have to counteract to the other. I think we all feel a need to shift again."

Then the Patton incident happens. In the final moments of a two-day period with the band, the singer refuses to talk. Patton's timing, if deliberate, is impeccable. Suddenly there's no opportunity to ask the rest of the band what the hell is going on. Time only to accept terse apologies before the bus lurches off the site.

Which forces me to speculate about the significance of the contract that Puffy and Entner were discussing. About Patton's mind-set, and the motives for his behaviour.

There is one other thing.

Patton and Roddy were asked if they'd like to dress in drag to illustrate this feature. Roddy seemed to relish the idea. Patton said he'd think about it. The shoot didn't happen.

There is a chance that Patton was sorely offended by the suggestion. But it's unthinkable that you couldn't broach such an idea with the singer who talked candidly in our last interview about dressing up in a Darth Vader suit and having people piss on him.

No future? It's impossible to be absolutely final about such a durable group. FNM bounced back from the brink when they lost Chuck Mosley in 88, and again after the crippling Real Thing tour in 91. Warren Entner has found a surrogate FNM in Rage Against the Machine who are poised and ready to foster the FNM audience while the band decide whether their sores will in fact, scab over again.

But it looks like not even Mike Patton knows where Mike Patton is going now.

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