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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Sonics | December 1992

BEFORE YOU INTERVIEW FAITH NO MORE, EVERYONE IN THE KNOW will tell you how different the members are from one another. Keyboardist Roddy Bottum has 10 years of classical training, bassist Billy Gould cites the Sex Pistols as a formative influence, drummer Mike Bordin has studied African rhythms and, in his spare time, vocalist Mike Patton fronts Mr Bungle, a combo whose style is an insane mixture of Zappa and Funkadelic.

So, when Jim Martin, the outfit's metal-edged guitar man tells you he prefers writing 'Scottish drinking songs' to rock riffs and wants to record a folk album you have to conclude that the group are either a bunch of real weirdos or a walking advertisement for 'strength through diversity'. But Scottish drinking songs?

"Well, I'm beginning to feel that acoustic music is a lot more interesting than rock," says Martin. "Frankly, my favourite band right now is the Pogues. I've got a copy of Rum, Sodomy And The Lash and I listen to it more than anything else in my collection.

"Funnily enough, it was that film about Ned Kelly with Mick Jagger in it which switched me onto folk/Irish music in a big way. I saw it years ago and a couple of the old tunes just stuck in my mind — I even picked put Blame It On The Kellys. Since then, I've learned to play the mandolin and written a whole heap of tunes — can't say I can ever imagine anyone wanting to hear them though. Still, I'm gonna record them some time soon even if it's just for my own pleasure. I'll probably throw in a few American country songs as well; a lot of the old ones have real style and a certain integrity all of their own."

And this is the man who's described in the Faith No More Biography as a guitarist "...weaned on Black Sabbath and similarly corrosive outfits"?

"Well, it's true to some extent — but I like and play a whole range of music. Back in 1985. I was looking to be in a new band (Jim's former band Vicious Hatred had just viciously hated itself out of existence) and Mike Bordin (FNMs drummer) contacted me. They'd been trying out guitarists with little or no luck, I'd played with Mike a few years before and it seemed kinda cool to work with him again — so I went along and got the gig."

So was the new job a whole lot different from your previous band?

"Hell yes — Faith No More were heaps louder! Also, I was used to playing my own songs, so I had to learn to fit into an outfit — and it was very different. Everyone came from different musical backgrounds and, as we were all fairly strong individuals, we had to learn to combine our styles. I learned to co-operate a lot more than I'd had to in previous bands."

In those days, how did you go about integrating such diverse elements as rap, reggae, funk and metal? Was it a case of jamming and seeing what fitted or did you have pre-formed ideas about song structure?

"I don't think we set out to do anything other than be in a band. There was no plan — our sound evolved 'cos that was the only way we could all play in the same room and feel good about it. We knew we liked the energy and the fusion sound so we just kept playing."

Following the band's initial success with the 1986 release of We Care A Lot and a subsequent US tour, Faith No More re-recorded We Care A Lot with updated lyrics for their debut on Slash records in 1987. The band went on the road again, playing an average of six nights a week with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in support. Singer Chuck Mosley quit during the European leg of the tour and after a short reprise, the band 'found' a vocalist in 21 year old Mike Patton.

They then recorded The Real Thing and hit the road once again with a world tour. Then it was more touring and, finally, the group got around to writing for the recently released album Angel Dust.

The last few years have been pretty hectic for the group. Where do you get the time for songwriting?

"No-one ever tries to write on the road — everyone you talk to says it's impossible. Well, I figured they were talking a lot of bull and I get piss bored on the road — so I made me up a special writer's flight case; I figured I'd have more than enough time to come up with some music. In the case I put my old TEAC 4-track, a DAT recorder, one of those Zoom 9002 effect units, a mic, a couple of special Audio Research speakers (which have built-in amplifiers) and a few other bits and pieces. I had the whole lot hooked up together and I figured I was being pretty smart. Well, the case has been with me on the road since May and I've only managed to do four sessions! In Europe I had a problem with plugs and then when we got back to the States for the last part of the Guns N'Roses tour there's no room on the bus for the case — it has to travel in the truck with all the other gear and it was usually hidden under a three ton lighting rig. Now we have a bigger bus so its back with me. At least there's a chance I'll get some writing done — my motivation's there — it's the gear that's usually not."

Over the years, you seem to have mostly stuck with the Flying V. What's the attraction? Is it the look or the feel?

"I bought the black V in 1979. The neck is my personal favourite and that's the main reason why I play one. The original guts weren't so hot and I spent a long time getting them right. The V seems to naturally have a fatter sound than any other Gibson or Fender and while I could put the same pick-ups in any guitar I doubt that I still get the same tone.

I've broken the head stock off my V three times — each time in a different place. Thankfully I've got a good guitar maker on my side!

The first modification I made was to get a Bigsby bar for it and fit a DiMarzio Super Distortion pick-up. Then I got rid of the stock pick guard and nut cover and got Stars Guitars in San Fransisco to make me up some brass ones — which I eventually had chrome plated. Then I got rid of the Bigsby and had a Taylor pro-series trem fitted — I thought about a Floyd Rose but I didn't want to cut a hole right through the guitar. Drilling holes between the neck and the head stock felt like a bad idea too. Next I got rid of the DiMarzio and the stock humbucker I had left in the neck position and put a Seymour Duncan Live Wire in the bridge position and an EMG 60 at the neck. This last round of modification finally got the guitar sounding right. The Seymour is the hottest dirtiest pick-up you can get and EMG 60 is really clean."

Other guitars owned by Jim Martin include: a white 'copy' of his black V (basically another V with the same guts as the black one); a Les Paul Deluxe (which he likes to use with a wah pedal); a 70's Strat (used mostly for slide); a Gibson ES175 F-hole dreadnought; an El Hambra Spanish acoustic; an Epiphone Zenith acoustic, a 1920 Dobro of unknown manufacture and his mother's old Harmony F-hole. Martin strings them all with GHS Boomers (10-48s).

Jim also owns three banjos, a couple of mandolins and a hurdy-gurdy — a medieval stringed instmment that's played by turning a handle. He likes to play traditional bagpipe music on this in his spare time... seriously.

Many of these instruments (the guitars at least) are featured on Angel Dust.

Do you use the same set-up for recording as you do for live work?

"In the studio, I use a Mesa Boogie Mark 3 but I prefer the Mark 4 for live; it seems to be a bit more versatile. I run the Boogie head through an Eventide H3000 Ultra Harmoniser into a Boogie power amp and on into a couple of cabs. In the studio, I set up two cabinets — which are running in stereo from the amp but are separated by a partition between them — this gives the stereo real definition. Then we close mic 'em and put in a couple of room mics."

You seem to use a lot of effects. How do you create that definitive Faith No More sound?

"My amp I tend to run with lots of highs, lots of bottoms and very few mids. Then I have the master volume real low and crank up the other volume stage to give it a lot of crunch.

"Hendrix turned me onto effects and Floyd's guitar sounds inspired me — I've never looked back since. The only effect I don't really go for is reverb, I'd rather use echo or chorus. I've got this great old 120 Volt Morley Power Wah Fuzz which you plug straight into the wall socket. I used to use three of them in a row. Now I use just one — but I also have a Morley Volume Compressor and an Echo chorus Vibrato in line.

Unfortunately, it's really hard to get parts for them now and not that many people really know how to work on them. Personally, I think they're the best pedals anyone has ever come up with. I tend to buy any good ones I come across.

"At home I've got another three Power Wah Fuzzes, a Power Wah Boost, a Volume Compressor, a Pro Phasor, an Echo Chorus Vibrato and this other huge one that's an echo something — sounds like it's got a spinning oil can in it. Morleys are really special, nothing beats them. Putting the Morleys in combination with the chorus, echo and flanging capabilities of the Eventide just gives me the wildest combination of sounds."

So, how did you approach the recording of the new album?

"Although we pretty well knew what were gonna do when we went into the studio, I tried very hard not to over rehearse myself; I still wanted to catch that off-the-cuff feeling on the record; I love spontaneity. Everyone else was really concerned with precision — me? I'm a bit of a terrorist. Sure, the rhythm section's gotta be right there but the guitars are meant to breathe a bit and add some of that real human feeling over the top."

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