The A to Z of Roddy Bottum
Faith No More’s keyboardist and all round multi talented artist Roddy Bottum is 59 today. We are celebrating with an alphabetical journey through some of his greatest projects and most fun moments.
A IS FOR ADVOCATE
The article Heavy Metal Homo was published in June 1993. For Roddy it wasn’t ‘coming out’ as he had never hidden his sexuality, but his interview with US journalist Lance Loud made him a role model for gay fans and set a precedent for other musicians within the metal world to speak out.
"I never thought it was that important. Since I went public I tend to see the prejudice that's being leveled against homosexuals. Before, I tended to think of it as a gossipy sort of a thing. Now I think of being openly gay as a political statement, something that in some small way furthers the gay rights movement."
B IS FOR BE AGGRESSIVE
Roddy has penned the lyrics for several FNM songs throughout the years but none of these is more personal than Be Aggressive. Mike Patton sings of male on male fellatio with conviction and bravado.
"What I like about 'Be Aggressive' is that even though it's macho in a homosexual way, lots of FNM listeners probably imagine that it is a woman who is getting down on her knees and swallowing rather than a man. I guess it's easier for people to understand and deal with it that way."
C IS FOR COURTNEY LOVE
Before FNM settled on Chuck Mosley as their permanent front man the band played shows with different singers. In 1984 Courtney Love filled the spot for approximately four to five months. However, Roddy had struck up a friendship with Love that would endure over the years, in fact Roddy still refers to her as his best friend. According to both they began as lovers but this was short lived. In 2005 the two worked together again when he called upon her vocal services for a song on the soundtrack to the movie Adam and Steve.
D IS FOR DINOSAUR JR
Roddy joined Dinosaur Jr on stage as they played the last of their seven 30th Anniversary shows in 2015.
"I got to play guitar with Dinosaur Jr tonight. I was invited. by J. a shining highlight in my life."
E IS FOR ELASTIC
Crickets is an electronic trio featuring Roddy, JD Samson, and Michael O'Neil. The group released their self-titled debut album in July 2020. The first single, Elastic, represents the band's experimental song writing nature, and is an attack on toxic masculinity.
F IS FOR FAMILY & FRIENDS
If you follow Roddy on his social media pages you will know that he is very close to his family. Roddy grew up with three sisters and was taught to play piano at an early age by his mom, who sadly passed away in 2020.
It seems that Roddy makes deep connections with people - which last. His friendship with Chuck Mosley is an example, it continued after Chuck left FNM all the way until he passed in 2017.
G IS FOR BILLY GOULD
One of Roddy's oldest friends is FNM bandmate Billy Gould. The two grew up as neighbours in the prosperous Hancock Park district of Los Angeles and attended Loyola High Catholic school together.
"Our neighbourhood was pretty sterile, very Hollywood. In some instances it was an exciting place and in others a dull one. But the chemistry of us getting together always meant mischief. We just always ended up causing trouble, climbing trees and throwing things at cars. We used to make bomb-threat calls too. I remember this one time, we made a bomb threat when we were 10 years old and called up a Safeway supermarket near my house. Then we were so cocky, we walked up to see what had happened there. Of course there was chaos, the bomb squad was there, people had been evacuated but we walked right up to the manager and said 'Hey, what's going on?'"
When Roddy was 18 he relocated (with Bill) to attend San Francisco State university as a film student. In 1983 he joined Bill and Mike Bordin in the band Faith. No Man replacing Wade Worthington on keyboards. Roddy, Bill and Mike changed the band name to Faith No More in 1984.
H IS FOR HIFIKLUB
In October 2020 French experimental rock trio, Hifiklub released Things That Were Lost in the Fire. Roddy delivers dreamy spoken-word over some very funky tunes.
"It was a crazy idea, to go to France and record. I said, ‘yes’ in a particularly adventurous mood and thought a French adventure would be a lot of fun. I didn’t know the guys very well, we’d only met once and though we’d worked on a smaller project before, a full record of spoken word seemed like an insane project to jump into. I love insanity."
I IS FOR I’M REED FISH
Roddy has composed music for several movie soundtracks Adam & Steve (2005), I'm Reed Fish (2006), What Goes Up (2009), Kabluey (2007) and Gigantic (2008). In 2010 he scored the documentary Hit So Hard about drummer Patty Schemel and Fred: The Movie for Nickelodeon. However in a recent interview Roddy suggested that soundtrack work had not been rewarding and encouraged him to follow different musical avenues.
J IS FOR JOEY HOLMAN
Roddy and Joey met when the later reached out about an Imperial Teen song that he liked. Joey attended a show and eventually the two traveled across California. On their journey they began writing music which would become the Man On Man album.
"It was an interesting journey writing music together. Though we're both musicians, we hadn't written together before we went to California. It's kind of a stretch. I always admire when couples do things together in any realm. Creatively though, it's especially intense. I've never created and written with a boyfriend before, so that was completely new. We had to develop a language and mutual respect and a way of listening that was different than just being in a band with friends. There are so many more levels and more nuances involved in a relationship."
K IS FOR KEY-TAR
Although Roddy has never used a key-tar on stage he is seen rocking a hand held synthesizer with comedy consequences in the low budget video for Everything's Ruined.
L IS FOR L7
The female grunge outfit joined FNM on the Angel Dust tour and quickly became friends with Roddy. There is some great footage of Roddy and Jennifer Finch hanging out on the ferry included on the documentary film L7 : Pretend We're Dead. Roddy also contributed to the song Riding with a Movie Star for L7's 1994 album Hungry For Stink.
M IS FOR MOTHERFUCKER
Only Faith No More would release their first new material in seventeen years and make sure it was unplayable on radio because of it's lyrical content. Between them, Roddy and Patton chant the phrase 'mother fucker' approximately twenty five times. The song is composed by Roddy and not only features his luxurious piano precision but it is the first song on a FNM album during which Roddy takes lead vocals.
"It felt like a really nice statement to put out into the public, to let people know we’re not playing any games. We don’t really care if it’s on the radio. It’s sort of offensive and playful and bold and maybe a little bit antagonistic. Just the word itself was a fun thing to put out there. But yeah, it’s totally different than the rest of the record. It’s me singing on it, which is a little bit different, and it’s really simple and stripped down. Something called “Motherfucker” just felt like a nice place for us to kick off a new chapter for Faith No More."
N IS FOR NASTIE BAND
In 2019 Roddy joined twin brothers David and Tradd Sanderson, and visual artist Frank Haines among others in the leather clad doom-metal group Nastie Band. They released their debut self-titled album in July of the same year.
"The Nastie Band is absolutely no rules whatsoever, it's all of us in a room, encouraging each other to stretch as far as we can go, there's no parameters and no rules. The more outlandish, crazy ideas, the better, that's what everyone aims for. It's an unspoken thing in terms of what we want to do, and once in a while it comes up, what we don't want to do, but it's mostly unspoken and comes out when we perform."
O IS FOR OPERA
In 2016 Roddy composed a mini-opera called The Ride, for the Experiments in Opera (EiO) Story Binge series. The opera was about two gay men from different generations who bicycle from San Francisco to Los Angeles for an AIDS charity, based on his real life experiences.
In 2017 he took Sasquatch: The Opera to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland for a full month. Sasquatch: The Opera tells the story of a hillbilly family who con tourists in search of the mythical monster known as Bigfoot, until the daughter, Dodder, meets him and falls in love.
P IS FOR PRINCE
During the nineties FNM were renowned for their unconventional and often hilarious interviewing technique. They would steer conversations away from their music and instead talk about the traps of being famous and unrelated subjects. In 1991 FNM shared the stage with the late pint sized pop star Prince at Rock In Rio II, Roddy broke through his heavy security line for a chat. Steffan Chirazi quizzed the keyboardist on their meeting in issue 329 of Kerrang! Magazine.
"A lot of people have told me he's really shy, but I just think he's really clever and crafty," furthers Bottum, the man who's got closer to him than any media for the last few years. "He looked like he was so fucking bored and he's chosen this place to be bored, which tells you he's looking for some company. So I didn't feel bad at all for going up and talking to him. I think I asked him how his show went and he just said 'Fine' - all - one - word answers - and I told I went to see him once at Wembley and I was so far away I couldn't see him at all.....I even told him that was the day in my life I realised I needed glasses!"
He didn't even react when you told him he was responsible for a major realisation about your personal health?
"No, not at all. "
What a bastard.
"Well I thought it might bring him out if his shell, but he just sort of liked at me and smiled. But I wouldn't say he's an arsehole."
Did you feel the aura?
"I smelt the magic. He smelt very purple, lavender maybe. A strong smell but subtle at the same time. Not masculine definitely, but what fragrance is? Almost feminine but more spacey....
"I did come away from the conversation regretting I didn't ask him a little more, that I didn't just unashamedly ask him something off the wall like how big his dick is. It might well have brought him out if his shell, caught him by surprise."
Do you think he's a space cadet?
"He seems a little spacey, but he's up something."
Q IS FOR QUARANTINE
The Covid 19 pandemic forced many musicians and artists out of work but Roddy used the time to create as much new music as possible. Man On Man being the main project. However Roddy also shared another twenty five solo compositions with us.
R IS FOR RUBY SPARKS
Blink and you will miss his him - but Roddy made his acting debut in the 2006 romantic comedy-drama Ruby Sparks alongside Paul Dino and Valerie Faris. Roddy plays a DJ and is on screen for ten seconds without a word.
S IS FOR SPARKS
In 1998 Faith No More and Sparks released a version of the 1974 hit This Town Ain't Big Enough For Both Of Us. Roddy has been a fan since 1975 when his first heard This Town on American Bandstand and was smitten. Roddy says that one of his career highlights was meeting Ron and Russell Mael for the first time. Sparks performed with FNM on two occasions and more recently Roddy appeared in the documentary Sparks Brothers directed by Edgar Wright.
“I get the sense that Sparks put a lot of thought into their presentation and how they come across. Faith No More does too. We started employing ways to (mess) with our audience early on."
T IS FOR TYREL
Roddy was cast as Dylan in the 2018 drama film Tyrel, written and directed by Chilean director Sebastián Silva.
"It was a weird process to go through. Actors are weird to me, I don't really trust people who do that professionally, or I hadn't before, it's like a weird game to play. The trickery of emotions and faking, it's a sort of simplified version of my take on it, but it was a weird place to go.
The director was one of my best friends, and I trusted that the situation was going to go well, and it did. Caleb Landry-Jones is amazing, and Chris Abbott, Michael Cera, Jason Mitchell, they're all at the top of their game and really good at what they do, so following their cues was pretty easy, actually. I'd do it again for sure. After I did that movie, if someone asked me what I did, I'd say I was an actor, it just made me laugh."
U IS FOR UNDERWEAR
Our man loves to pose in his underwear and why not, even at 58 he still has the figure. It would seem to have begun in 1989 when Ross Halfin captured the famous shot of FNM in their underwear for the cover of From Out Nowhere picture disc. Roddy would yank his pants down and perform in his y fronts during the Angel Dust Tour. More recently, and especially with Man On Man, Roddy strips down regularly in a photo shoot.
V IS FOR VIOLATING YOUTUBE POLICY
Man On Man released their debut video for the song Daddy which featured Roddy and Joey embracing and kissing in their underwear. In a message to the group shortly after the clip’s release, an employee for the platform said it had removed the video for violating “our sex and nudity policy.” After recognising that the video was not sexually explicit, and was promoting equality and diversity is was reinstated.
“Even if YouTube does value and promote diversity, the truth is, the industry is still playing by straight men’s rules. It’s devaluing when we see Google monopolize on our Pride but do so little to actually enhance and protect the LGBTQIA+ digital experience. We’re asking for an equitable playing field.”
W IS FOR WE CARE A LOT
Roddy co-wrote the lyrics to the song We Care A Lot for their debut album of the same name in 1985. Due to his rap influences including Run DMC he helped to bring hip-hop into FNM's early sound. However Roddy's other influences such as Kraftwork and Elton John were essential in developing his keyboard technique.
"My first keyboard that I used on We Care A Lot was an Oberheim, and that was such a key sound to what we were doing. I actually got that keyboard from this dude in L.A., we pooled all our money and bought this Oberheim from a guy named Dwayne Hitchens. He had just finished the score to Flashdance on that keyboard. And we thought that was hilarious, that we had the Flashdance keyboard. We were like, 'Oh this is magical.' It was so fucking funny. Now we played those shows in California with Chuck, and I was at this guitar store before the gigs checking out keyboards and I picked up this reissue of that old Oberheim that I had and I used that keyboard. The Oberheim is what S U R V I V E use, I believe, for the Stranger Things score as well."
X IS FOR EMAX
Roddy used his Oberheim on the first two albums. When his sounds developed he needed a more powerful keyboard and from 1989 to 1995 he switched to a E-mu Emax.
Y IS FOR YOO-HOO
In 1994/95 Roddy formed the indie pop band Imperial Teen (originally called Star 69) with Will Schwartz (guitar/vocals), Lynn Truell (drums/vocals), and Jone Stebbins (bass/vocals). In this band Roddy explored his pop song writing and performed guitar and vocals as well as keyboards. The song Yoo Hoo featured on the band’s second album What Is Not to Love released in 1998. The song featured on the soundtrack to Jawbreaker a 1999 American black comedy film starring Rose McGowan, who also appeared in the video for the song.
Z IS FOR ZOMBIE EATERS
Roddy single handedly made keyboards cool after the hair metal organ power chords of the eighties. By the time we got to The Real Thing Roddy had developed a distinctive style of creating atmosphere. Classic examples are Woodpecker From Mars and Zombie Eaters.