Faith No More Cares a Lot
Roddy Bottum, Billy Gould, and Mike Bordin look back on their game-changing, pre-Patton 1985 debut.
Faith No More might be known as one of the most defining acts of the 1990s alternative metal movement, but the Bay Area band's history dates them back to 1979, when founding members Billy Gould and Mike Bordin formed the short-lived punk group Sharp Young Men. They would go through a couple more iterations until finally settling on Faith No More in 1983, when the initial lineup of Gould, Bordin, keyboardist Roddy Bottum, guitarist Jim Martin and singer Chuck Mosley first got together to record what would become their 1985 debut album, We Care A Lot. Poaching Mike Patton from Mr. Bungle in 1988 (and thereby gaining one of the greatest singers and showmen to ever front an American rock band) meant running the risk of having their previous incarnations fully overshadowed by his bright light... and that is more or less exactly what happened.
The Patton-led FNM would go on to record five classic albums in 1989's The Real Thing, 1992's Angel Dust, 1995's King for a Day...Fool for a Lifetime, 1997's Album of the Year and 2015's triumphant comeback LP following an 18 year absence in Sol Invictus. However, a giant reminder of the band's formative years made a return to retail after a 20 year absence when We Care A Lot was restored, remastered and reissued through Gould's Koolarrow Records this past August. For many Faith No More fans, it was a curious anomaly that remained largely overlooked as the Patton era charged ahead and their hit single "Epic" blew up all over MTV, earning them a wider international audience. That is, of course, if they listened to it at all, as its limited availability at the time led many fans to believe Introduce Yourself, the group's 1987 major label debut for the Warner Bros.-distributed Slash Records, was their first full-length instead.
Perhaps the most fucked up thing about the Patton-era overshadowing of the Chuck years was that fans would go around saying he was a lousy singer because they were comparing his voice to his successor's—a man, mind you, who can sing multi-range Italian opera without breaking a sweat and then caterwaul like a demon a moment later. What this edition—which was released on August 26 via Gould's own Koolarrow Records imprint—proves, however, is that Mosley was not a bad singer in the least, just a different kind of vocalist.
He possesses a dark timbre that falls somewhere between Peter Murphy and HR in a strange and beautiful kind of way, an arguable assertion fully supported by a short solo tour this past summer, where he delivered stark and lovely acoustic renditions of such early FNM favorites as "Mark Bowen", "As the Worm Turns" and a haunting take on the Introduce Yourself highlight "The Crab Song", a bongo player his only accompaniment.
WCAL is keyboardist Roddy Bottum, and you can really hear the influence of goth and dream-pop in the tones and textures of his keys on songs like "The Jungle", "Why Do You Bother?" and "Arabian Disco", whereas "Jim" is a plaintive and oddly out-of-place classical guitar passage by Martin, who was fired by the group in late 1993 but has since maintained a congenial yet cool rapport with them in recent years. He even was seen in the backstage area of their 2009 reunion tour, though declined any offers to join them onstage, including this past August, when Faith No More reunited with Mosley for a pair of shows at The Great American Music Hall in their hometown of San Francisco and The Troubadour in Los Angeles.
While there is no talk yet of whether or not Introduce Yourself will, in fact, enjoy its own special release next year when it turns 30, Rhino Records is also unveiled deluxe editions of King for a Day… and Album of the Year on September 9, 2016. Noisey spoke with Gould, Bottum and Bordin about releasing this trio of classic titles from their catalog back into the wild, and took a rare look back at their earliest days.
Noisey: Was there any kind of hassle in acquiring We Care A Lot?
Billy Gould: It was too easy, actually. It's almost embarrassing [laughs]. It originally came out on a label called Mordam Records, which became a distribution company. But we were the first record to come out on the proper label, which was run by Ruth Schwartz, who worked at Maximumrockandroll. They pretty much gave us a deal where we had the rights to the record, and I actually forgot that we had them [laughs]. It didn't really get a lot of distribution back in the day, and I had even forgotten about the record until I cleaned out my basement and found the master tapes as well as the mixing tapes on ½ inch. So I went over to Fantasy in Berkeley to do a tape transfer, where they'll bake the tapes and restore them. Then I played them to see how it would sound and it sounded as good as the day it was mixed. So I told the guys, 'This hasn't been out in 20 years. It sounds amazing. Why don't we just put it out?' And that's how it happened.
Mike Bordin: It was ours because Ruth was so nice and honest, and she allowed the rights to be reverted after X number of years. We actually had the legal standing where we could do that, but we also actually physically had the materials, so we could open it up and check it out. That album was originally mixed in two or three days on I think 16 track. And to be able to open it up again with all the technology now at our fingertips, and all the experience that both Bill and Matt have gained through the years to really revisit it was just fantastic.
Hearing We Care now is a pretty wild experience, just to hear where you guys were coming from back then.
Gould: It's like that for me, too. I hadn't heard it in 20 or 30 years and it's pretty bizarre to see how far we've come but at the same time hearing the roots of what we do now even back then. It's a trip.
Roddy Bottum: A lot of that stuff was just me and Billy and Mike in this space we had in San Francisco. And we were really kind of like spiritual about what we would come up with. We had this whole concept of monotonous, hypnotic riffs that we would play over and over, which felt kind of cult-y at the time. We would literally spend hours creating these loops, and I remember the riff to "As The Worm Turns" was one of those things.
What's most interesting is the prominence of Roddy's keyboards on these remixes. Were you guys listening to a lot of English synthpop and new wave?
Gould: Oh yeah. We were totally into all that. We liked the British club stuff like OMD and the Human League, but also the darker Throbbing Gristle-y stuff as well. Then there was the stuff happening in the U.S., like Soul Sonic Force and Afrika Bambaataa, who was redoing Kraftwerk and reinventing it. There was a lot of cool stuff happening.
Bordin: That was definitely where we were at back then. We were listening to The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, Echo and the Bunnymen, Killing Joke, definitely. But Roddy went to pop. He really had a pop outlook, and a sense for melody and a sense for simple arrangements. It's nice that you can balance all those things, and we did for a while.
Bottum: 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.
How did you guys get hip to that stuff back then?
Gould: There was a lot of information coming into San Francisco. It wasn't so much a work city as it was still very much an artist's city back then. Punk rock had come and gone, and the post-punk thing was still happening. Meanwhile, Metallica was just starting out, too. It was kind of this consort of a lot of different things happening at the same time, and we were lucky to be in the middle of it.
Did you guys ever share a bill with Metallica back then?
Gould: No, but we were all friends. The first band that Puffy and Jim Martin were in was with Cliff Burton. I think they were called Vicious Hatred. So Cliff used to hang out all the time. He'd come to our shows. And he was in a situation where Metallica already had a manager and they were always on tour, so we'd ask them for advice. He was really helpful, actually.
Bordin: I met Cliff the first day of 6th grade, I was maybe 10 or 11. I was the guy with the Black Sabbath t-shirt on, so we became friends. Our friendship was about music, with music, through music. We went to a ton of shows and we loved what was going on in the scene then. One day we were sitting in his room and he said, "I'm gonna start playing bass." And I was like, "OK, I'll play drums." And it was really just an instinct, a reaction. So we learned to play together. And once we had been playing for about a year, we had heard that somebody in the next town over from us needed a bassist and drummer and that was Jim's band.
Bottum: James Hetfield was really good friends with Jim, and Hetfield used to wear a Faith No More shirt, which really helped open the door to this huge metal attention thing. I personally would never, ever considered us metal. Sure we had that chunka-chunka thing going on, but we were never trying to go for that vibe. So it was a super surprise to me. I was like, "Really? The guys from Metallica are into this?" [laughs] I would just assume it was because they were friends with Jim, but clearly it was a flavor that other metal kids were into and it opened the floodgates to a bunch of metal admirers. And that was huge for us, because it wasn't what we started out as, that's for sure.
Cliff seemed like a really cool guy.
Bordin: It's a tough subject with anybody that knew him, as his father once said to me a long time ago when I said to him, "It's been 20 years and I still don't think I'm over it." He told me, "You're never going to get over it." But one thing I gotta say is that there's a club in this world, and there's only two members, and the name of the club is "Drummers who've played with Cliff Burton, Jason Newstead and Robert Trujillo". There's only two members in this whole world, and that's me and Lars.
Did you guys try and reach out to Jim Martin about participating in this reissue and the reunion show you guys did with Chuck at the end of August?
Gould: Yeah, we did reach out to him, but he didn't get back to us. What can you do, right? He has his own thing, too, his own personality. I'd like to think as I'm getting older everyone in the band has made their decisions and bands go the way they do, but it's nice to be able to reconcile that and look back on what you did with warm feelings. And I always kept it open to reconcile the whole thing completely, but you have to take what you can get.
In addition to reissuing We Care A Lot, Rhino has also released deluxe editions of King for a Day...Fool for a Lifetime and Album of the Year. What were your thoughts revisiting those albums?
Gould: We've been through a lot of different changes. We've lost people and we've gained people. I personally like all the changes that we did because I was involved in all of them [laughs]. So it made sense to me. The good thing I can say about this band is we always made situations that kept us working in a direction which helped us stay inspired and where we knew where we had to go. And everything came out okay. It was risky at the time, but I'm glad we did both of those records.
King For A Day, in particular, is perhaps your most varied album and—for an elite group of FNM fans—considered to be the band's masterpiece. What was your mindset going into that record?
Bottum: It's a real specific brand of Faith No More fan who truly loves that album.
Bordin: King For A Day didn't get the initial hoopla the other two albums we did with Mike had received. People seemed to have found out about that one a little bit more on their own, so maybe it's a little more personal and attractive in that way because it's their album, so to speak.
Gould: Musically speaking, we had just done Angel Dust and a year, year-and-a-half of touring it. That record was very dense. We played those songs a lot and when you play things for a long time you get sort of tired of certain things about them. And when we went in and did the next record, we knew we wanted it to be different. And also, at the time of making Angel Dust, our time with Jim was very frustrating. We needed a way to release this tension. That album was our way of being able to explode in a controlled fashion. It was just this thing where we had this structure that was really oppressive and try to break through that structure and buy ourselves some breathing room. And that's the way we did it at the time with King For A Day.
What was up with those crazy covers of Robert Goulet and The Bee Gees for the B-side material?
Bottum: It was the same place where "Easy" came from, sort of this high drama we wanted to put out there, which is what we were all about. These highs and lows triggering emotional responses, and I felt like I wanted to challenge people. It was like, "Oh hey, you like to be moved by stuff. This is super moving!"
How was it working with Trey Spruance on that album? It was a big deal for fans when he joined you guys on King For A Day.
Bottum: Trey's awesome. He's so good. He is such a special guitar player. He's kinda magical. He's a really strange person, and I love him. He's a great guy and an amazing musician. Playing music with him was really unique and pretty special.
Bordin: I really wanted to tour with that guy. I loved playing with him. As far as all the good things I can say about Mike Patton and his musical breadth of vision and skill, Trey is right there with him. Trey was really an ultimate, ultimate weapon. He could do the curly stuff on "Star A.D.". He could do the stuff appropriate on "Caralho Voador", that's a little bit of a samba. But then again, he was the guy who helped us do "Ugly in the Morning" and "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies" and especially "Cuckoo for Caca". We had a part we didn't know what to do with on that song and he was like, "Well, why don't you do this?" And we were all like, "Oh my God."
In regards to Album of the Year,, I once heard that it was essentially a skeleton crew working on it. Was that the case?
Bordin: Well, yes and no. It was a skeleton crew in that we were all doing different things, so we had tracked our parts at different times. And maybe I'm the guiltiest because I was out on tour with Ozzy. But that was Bill's first time really jumping in and getting hands-on with production. And he took the tracks and he overdubbed them. Plus he used this dude who we all really respected called Roli Mossimann. And Roli was the guy who did all the Young Gods stuff, and that's all I have to say. Just as Andy Wallace did Slayer and Run DMC and that was enough for all of us, which was the same with Roli. Young Gods, to me, were really great and incredibly, incredibly creative and progressive in that they used the distorted keyboard for the guitar and even the things the singer Franz Muse did with the lighting under his mic. To have somebody who was working in that capacity who we really respected was very cool.
Bottum: I think we were trying to go back to the older Faith No More vibe with Album of the Year. It's like, King For A Day really took a twist and took us to this post-modern, angular, more rhythmically challenged weirdo rock. It was pretty heavy and there were less keyboards. So I think the intention for Album was to get back to what we started as. Plus, we were listening to a lot of Tricky, Massive Attack, Portishead, DJ Shadow at the time. We loved that shit.
Was Mr. Bungle on your radar back in the We Care A Lot days?
Bordin: We played the college up there with Chuck. It was a small college. But there were only like three people in the audience [laughs]. And after the show, this guy comes up to us and says, 'Hey man, I'm really glad you played, thank you for coming. But you understand, school is not in session yet which is why nobody is here.' So we played up there when school is on vacation. But I'm talking to this guy and he was like, 'I got this band, here take my tape.' And that was Trey, and the band was Mr. Bungle, and the album he gave us was The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny. He gives me the tape and we play it later doing whatever we were doing, and Jim loves it, because it sounds like Slayer, it sounds like speed metal with death growls and all this crazy stuff. And I'll never forget it; Jim turns around and says to us, 'This guy has got to be this giant fat guy with all the power that he's got in his voice!' And time goes by, and then when we were looking for a new singer, Jim was like, 'Let's get that big fat guy from Mr. Bungle!' But the funny thing is, we saw them again when we did a tour of 20 or 30 shows with the Chili Peppers back in the day. It was actually Hillel's last tour, it was very interesting.
So this tour comes to San Francisco and we're playing The Fillmore, and I see Mike Patton. So I go to him, 'Hey, Jim really likes you and you should sing in our band.' But then Mike says to me, 'Oh we don't sound like that anymore.' [laughs] So he gives me another demo tape, which was Bowel of Chiley, and it was like fucking Madness meets James Bond. It was this secret super spy ska music, and it was awesome. And I was like, 'Oh dude, I'm so glad you don't sound like that anymore, because who wants to be one dimensional?' And he was like, 'Yeah, man.' That was the one thing that gave him maybe even a second of thinking about joining our band, that we would be available or open to evolution. Because I didn't say, 'Oh fuck that, you gotta sound like The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, because that's what you do!' I just think in that regard right there, that's really the thing that happened with Mr. Bungle. They evolved, and we applauded it. Well, three of the four guys in the band applauded it [laughs]. And by the time we were considering him to replace Chuck, he was already on to something else [laughs].
Another wild bit of trivia I learned through the years about Faith No More was that the great Paula Frazer of Frightwig and Tarnation fame once sang for you guys. How did that come about?
Bottum: That came about because I got a job at Cento Cedar Cinema in San Francisco, and I was popping popcorn. And I had worked there with Paula, who had just moved to the city. A bunch of kids worked at this theater. She had just formed Frightwig, and she was from Arkansas and she was super homespun. She did clogging. She knew how to use a loom. But she also had an amazing voice and played guitar really well. Mia and Deanna, who were also in Frightwig, worked at the movie theater too and we all became friends and I think we began to play shows with them, too. At the time, Faith No More had no singer, so we would do these different shows with different singers. Paula was the third or the fourth singer who performed with us.
Gould: We were real good friends with Frightwig in San Francisco. Paula's such a great singer and musician, so we thought it would be cool to play with her. I actually have some cassettes of those sessions that are pretty cool. She was very atmospheric, and she can wail. We were a real strange band when she was with us. We'd be playing these repetitive, hypnotic loops and would get different singers and have them put their own personality on top. We had five or six different singers. Courtney Love was one of them, too. We tried a bunch of them. But Chuck was the one where we did it and we had another gig and just asked him if he wanted to do it again. And then we got another gig and all of a sudden he became our singer.
Are you guys happy seeing We Care A Lot out there once again?
Bottum: Yeah, it's really special. Faith No More is so much considered just a band of Mike Patton's, so it was fun to go further back to where we started this whole thing. It was really fun to revisit on every level, from looking at old pictures and coming up with memories of where we were at the time and how it all started. And just the album itself, there are a couple of songs from there that really trigger these aural memories for me like "Wow!"
Bordin: When I first heard the new mixes, my comment to Bill and Matt was, "Oh my God, this sounds like Faith No More was always supposed to have sounded in my mind from day one."
Photos courtesy of Faith No More