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  • Writer's pictureFaith No More Followers

Vox | August 1995

Saddle Sore

Words Steve Malins

Photos Ed Sirrs

They can barely tolerate each other, their fans are unhinged psychos and their hobbies are, well, unusual. Faith No More haven't lost their touch...

MIKE PATTON, Faith No More singer and reluctant guru to a schizophrenic following of girls, weirdos and middle-aged loners, strolls out of the backstage door of the Avalon Theatre, Boston. He walks through a group of fans, who stare and nudge each other silently but, much to his relief, remain rooted to the spot. Then, a girl at the fringe of the crowd steps out in front of him and shouts: "God, how come you weren't bombarded? I can't believe it." Patton ignores her and disappears inside a nearby sports bar, where he takes refuge among the locals, whose dulled eyes remain fixed on the baseball match flickering on the TV screen.

Patton's fame, small town American roots (he was born in Eureka, California, a town full of

"drunks, lumberjacks and hippies") and personal eccentricities attract a fair share of "psycho fans". Faith No More have successfully trashed their teen audience with the visceral angst of the band's 1992 album Angel Dust and the eclectic musicality of the recent King For A Day.. Fool For A Lifetime, but over the years, his self-destructive admirers have, according to Patton, "invested so much time getting to know you, they think you owe them". He continues: "I don't know what it is about us that attracts them, but it's amazing; there's really a type. Middle-aged, overweight, lonely sexual deviants, male and female. I'm not talking about the people who hang around outside after gigs; I'm talking about the people who really want to penetrate and fuck up your life. They call you, camp out, send you presents, write to your parents' house. It's fun and games until it gets physical. I had a nasty fight with a guy one day because he wanted to come into my house. I'd just got up and I was in my underwear, so I wasn't ready for this person. It's a long, ugly, complicated story, but I got my fucking ass kicked and I've still got the scars."

One woman even offered Patton her daughter.

“Yeah, that's happened," he cackles. "These older women send audio cassettes; they write fantasy sex stories. People with a lot of time on their hands and no friends. I want to start a label and release some of these tapes cos they're so fucking great." Draining a final gin and tonic 20 minutes before the eight o'clock show time, Patton braves a few stragglers and casually slips back inside the theatre to catch a glimpse of the audience. There are plenty of young faces in the crowd, though not all are devotees of the band-Faith No More's following in the States has dwindled since the frenzied heights of their 1990 hit single ‘Epic’, to a point where tonight's early slot is squeezed in before a local disco. Nevertheless, the 1,200-strong audience confirms the band's wide-ranging fanbase: square-shouldered, macho youths rub their torsos alongside teenage girls, hippies, college kids in band T-shirts and pot-bellied twentysomethings fattened by tacos and beer.

The ferocious power of Faith No More's drummer, Mike "Puffy" Bordin, provides much of the musical kick, but it's Patton who dominates the stage.

Bassist Billy Gould offers a squat, stocky contrast to the singer's constant movement, and keyboard player Roddy Bottum occasionally lies down and sleeps through a song, creating a static, diffident come-down to Patton's hyped-up performance.

NEXT morning Roddy is still hardly moving as he slumps in front of a cappuccino at the band's hotel. His sleepy, slow-talking affectation suggests a precocious diet of drugs and drink, though these days Roddy's only vices, according to Mike, are "sex and caffeine". The twin shocks of Kurt Cobain's suicide and his father's death from pancreatic cancer broke through Roddy's junkie inertia and after years of heroin abuse he's now a healthy but formidable hedonist.

Roddy rivals Patton as the band's most interesting character. As Courtney Love's ex-lover, he is scathing about the latest lurid cash-in on Love's past by her former “boyfriend" Michael Hornburg, whose novel, Bongwater, features a "dirty-blonde grunge babe" called Courtney who "takes up with a paranoid, gun-wielding rockstar"

"He's put in a press release that he's her ex-lover!" says Roddy in disbelief. "Oh God, it's crass isn't it? That's horrible. I can't wait to talk to Courtney about that one. He's this guy, a writer, who lived in New York. I don't think they used to fuck, but maybe they did. He never knew Kurt.

What a gross thing to milk. But Courtney gets whatever she wants. She gets treated exactly how she wants to be treated. She has the final say in the matter."

Roddy is a gay musician who isn't ghettoised in the queercore or hi-NG pop scenes and a reformed addict who now joins in organised swim across San Francisco Bay from the old Alcatraz prison— “There are strong tides but, you know, I don't think the prisoners were very good swimmers". He may seem laid back, but he spends his days off (less than three weeks a year) with his other band, Imperial Teen, and he is seen out on the town much more often than the others, as Mike reveals over a hair-of-the-dog G&T.

"We call him Mr Debauchery," says the singer. "As soon as we get into a city he runs loose.

He's like a wild man. There's this club in New York called The Man In The Box. I don't think it's one of those places where you check your clothes in at the door, but the trick is that there's this black box in the middle of the club with this bunch of holes in it. So everybody goes up to these holes and peeps through and there's this guy in there squatting and jacking off. He stays in there for something like eight hours - it's a long shift - and he's always hard but he only comes once. I think Roddy is the man in the box!"

While Roddy's adventures are largely anonymous among the late-night revellers, Patton's most extreme antics have become part of recent rock folklore. He's indulged in "shit terrorism", dumping in hotel hairdryers and on park benches; he collects images of

corpses and keeps a three-month-old pickled foetus in a jar; he has also drunk his own piss on stage; and he talks about the art of masturbation like a religious zealot.

But, apart from his maniacal laugh - which sounds as if someone has just whispered an obscene joke in his ear - Patton's demeanour is of a boyish, all-American 27-year-old. His enthusiasm and polite manners, oddly reminiscent of Agent Cooper, the FBI agent in Twin Peaks, are at odds with his infamous public image as a freak-obsessed rock 'n' roll maverick.

Patton may harbour some weird fantasies, but a twisted imagination, his old death metal band, Mr Bungle, and the joys of wanking were some of the few pleasures open to the 21 year-old who, until joining Faith No More, had only known life in a small Californian outpost: On the surface at least, Patton showed few signs of rebelling as a teenager.

"When your life is boring all the time-before this band, all I was doing was going to school and working-why try to excite yourself? There was no means to shock people in my home town. What are you going to do? Spray your car red? You can put on a turban and say you're Saddam Hussein and maybe shock somebody, and that’s about it.”

Patton is now happily married to his Italian wife, Titti, and, according to bulky, good-humoured Bill Gould: “He's doing great. He's a totally mature, responsible guy, but I don't think he was very well adjusted when he joined the band."

These days, Patton talks about his callow, "shit-eating" sense of fun as a conscious decision to distort his ego with the usual spoilt excesses of rock stardom. "I was consumed by the thing, loved it, did it all. Basically, I was spread-eagled and saying: 'Go for me, have me.' After a while, you get sore and so you find new orifices."

Unfortunately, Faith No More's lengthy tour still threatens to bring out the worst in the singer. He confesses that he acts against his

"instincts and best interests" to avoid boredom on the road. It’s a potentially volatile habit for an artist whose fans actively encourage him to be extreme. Furthermore, he's given little protection by band members whose terse love/hate relationship is summed up by Billy Gould as "on the level of 'I hate you, but you do your job, so fuck you'".

The band's most recent recruit, guitarist Dean Menta, describes how the frontman has already been provoked by a mixture of misunderstanding, fan worship and poor judgement from Faith No More's practical joker, Gould, after only a week on tour.

“Two weeks ago, we played this place in Long Island, near New York, and me and Patton met this genius 13-year-old kid after the show," says Dean. "He had a pager and was really well-connected; he knew all these hotshot New York people. Then after we played Long Island a few days ago, there was this crazy backstage scene. Billy comes over to Mike and says: ‘Patton, there's this guy who says he knows you.' Mike's, like: 'Yeah, yeah, whatever.' So Billy comes back about three times and it was this escalating joke. When this guy, the genius kid, finally shows up, Patton was really pissed off at him, because he thought he was just using this tactic to get backstage, and he punched him in the face. The kid ended up calling the police on his cellular. Then Billy and Patton got in a big fight on the bus about it.”

Roddy offers his own interpretation of the incident: "Billy brought it on. He was totally antagonising Mike. Mike gets strange people expecting perverse reactions from him and I kind of pity him. He is known as this person who will be pushed over the edge, and it becomes a kind of freak show because people will do that to him.”

Nevertheless, the band claim that, after years of bottled-up antagonism, they are treating each other with greater respect these days. The sarcastic chill that characterised their mood through the latter half of their Angel Dust tour two years ago was mostly centred around former guitarist Jim Martin, a bull-headed rock'n'roll animal who lived for his "little beer and girls' tits". When Jim left, Trey Spruance, the guitarist from Patton's other band, Mr Bungle, joined for the King For A Day sessions.

However, the prospect of a stamina-sapping two-year world tour soon undermined the enthusiasm of this heir to the DuPont industrial empire.

Now that Dean, Roddy's former keyboard technician, has taken Spruance's place in the band full-time, Faith No More exude a gnarled, weather-beaten togetherness. They're united by a martyr-like defiance as they face up to months on the road, a self imposed torture that seems designed to push their new gang mentality to the limit.

"We set a precedent at one point that we were this band that would be taken advantage of," argues Roddy, for once growing a little more animated.

Patton also looks a little worried and world-weary as he's reminded of the commitments stretching ahead of him.

"If you're a musician and you like making music, why the fuck would you want to go on tour for two years? It's a macho thing," he concedes.

However, his infectious enthusiasm fires up again, even if it is at the prospect of sampling some of the world's less orthodox cuisines.

Patton salivates over the prospect of wolf's balls, snake-"the texture's a little tough but it tastes good"—and raw horse-"it's the most tender meat, sliced really thin, hardly any fat.

There are so many good animals to kill. Yeah, you've got to eat meat. If you don't eat meat, you can't be trusted.”

And there are always the freakshow picture books to satisfy his warped curiosity.

"Fuck you, I like that shit," he snarls. "Maybe I have a problem, but there's no reason, it's just the way I am. What's the matter, don't you like mutilated bodies?"

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