Formed in roughly 1981 in San Francisco, Faith No More revolutionized the alternative music scene in the late ‘80s and throughout most of the ‘90s with their unique hybrid of funk, metal, and rap. The hit single “Epic” from singer Mike Patton’s debut album with the band, The Real Thing, seemed to take over the airwaves, posing the question on the lips of music fans everywhere, “What. is. it???” They dominated MTV with their outlandish appearances, colorful videos, and wild and unpredictable live performances.
The release of their second album, Angel Dust, brought a slightly more serious approach, and videos ranging from the dark and dramatic to those of a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor, began to stream forth. FNM also pretty much dropped the rap aspect of their sound after that point and began to experiment, branching out to even jazz, country, and gospel influences. Two more albums, King for a Day… Fool for Lifetime and Album of the Year, saw myriad lineup changes on guitar, and with the formation of a slew of side projects, speculation about the fate of the band would end in 1998 with the announcement of their break-up.
Patton went on to continue playing with his band, Mr. Bungle, then formed Fantomas, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom, and more, eventually forming his own record label, Ipecac Recordings. Drummer Mike “Puffy” Bordin played with Ozzy Osbourne. Billy Gould, the bassist and founding member, joined Brujeria and Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine, just to name a couple of the many projects he participated in over the years. Keyboardist and backing vocalist Roddy Bottum formed Imperial Teen, scored films, and wrote Sasquatch: The Opera, about a misunderstood sasquatch in love.
After 11 long years, the band finally decided to reunite, bringing back Jon Hudson, the guitarist from Album of the Year. They embarked upon a lengthy world tour that lasted on-and-off for three years. Then, after their record contract with Slash Records ended, the band began to hint at the possibility of writing and recording new material. In 2014, they finally announced the launch of their own new record label, Reclamation Recordings (under Patton’s Ipecac label), and the May 2015 release of their first new album in almost two decades, Sol Invictus. I was able to conduct an interview with Roddy Bottum while Faith No More was touring Europe.
At some point several years ago, you compared your experience with Faith No More to Imperial Teen, pointing out how wonderful it was to be calling the shots and not answering to a team of people while in IT. So, with that “oppression” out of the way since FNM reunited as a DIY band under its own label, has it opened the door to a long-term future for the band?
It’s definitely a more appealing place to be, in control, so to speak, with FNM. We make more deliberate choices and have more focus. We get better results. You’d think that would open the door to a long-term future but we’re just kinda keeping it in the moment right now. That said, the moment is pretty fresh.
How has the newfound freedom changed the band dynamic, if at all? Has it impacted the songwriting process?
Just given the fact that we’ve all matured some 17 years apart from each other, we tend to give each other more space these days. That provides for a more well-balanced output. We used to only know how to scream over the others to be heard, to give our opinions. Now we’re all better listeners. That’s changed the songwriting.
While you guys were continuing with your other projects and endeavors, did you find that the modernization of music (through technological advances and the advent of social networking) has made it easier for the DIY artist to succeed? Did that epiphany play into you guys keeping the band going after that 2009 reunion tour?
The modernization of music doesn’t have a whole lot to do with what we did then, now, or in the future. We kind of rely on a unique brand and style of music creating. That’s the main premise of why we continued to stick together and write music.
At the end of the day, what was it that brought you back together and kept you together to move forward and write and record new music?
I think we needed a break from each other to make it work. There’s no way we could have continued to create at that point when we broke up. A fresh perspective, so to speak, was what was needed.
How much did you contribute to the songwriting on Sol Invictus? Which of the songs did you write on this one?
We all kind of added our parts. I contributed a bulk of songs to the process but only two made the cut on the final product, “Rise of the Fall” and “Motherfucker.” There was a cool dance one that sounded like Daft Punk and another rhythmic song with strings that sounded like “Kashmir” that I really liked.
What are some of your favorite tracks off the album, and why?
I like “Matador” ‘cuz it was the first thing we all worked on, and it’s really dramatic. I also like “Motherfucker” because that word is so effective.
You guys are notorious for experimenting with sounds, styles, and content. Has it been intentional, or is it the natural course of your collaborations? For example, has there ever been an instance where someone decided, “Hey! Let’s do something in this vein, or let’s do a song about this?”
Yeah, that’s pretty much how we work. Someone will see something or a couple of us will see something or hear something together and we’ll brainstorm and cover it or do something derivative of what we’ve experienced. One thing we all collectively share is a fetish for the dramatic.
What’s the deal with the matching white attire and the floral stage set? Whose idea was that?
We all kind of came together on that one. It was a statement that kind of went against the grain of all-black rock look that was prevalent in the realms that we were associated with. I think the first time it happened was at a French festival. We were aware of all of the “rock” acts and all of their black attire and skulls, and it made sense for us to go the other direction and go bold in white. The flowers suggested a hippy cult thing that we were keen on exploring as a visual.
I saw a live stream of one of your concerts, wherein Chuck Mosely came out and sang a little. Has that been a regular facet of the live show, and are there any other guest performers you’ve had onstage?
Not really, no. Chuck joined us a couple of times but that’s about it. Rahzel, once or twice. We aren’t the best collaborators.
Anybody you’d like to have come out with you for a song or two?
Dolly Parton, Lana del Rey, any human beat boxer is a welcome addition.
In no way do we miss corporate record labels’ involvement in what we do.
In no way do we miss corporate record labels’ involvement in what we do.
Absolutely not. In no way do we miss corporate record labels’ involvement in what we do. We work better together these days because we’re more inclined to be good with the results.
Since everyone does have other projects, what do you see happening to FNM down the line, after this tour?
We have no agenda at all. We’re enjoying doing what we’re doing and what we’re up against. The tour schedule is doable right now and we’re just trying to get through it.
In your time off from FNM, there have been major advancements in the acceptance of and rights granted the LGBT community. There was a lot of confusion over the true motivation behind the disparaging remarks people were making over the picture you posted of yourself with Rob Halford, and whether they may have been “gay-bashing ” or not. Other than that incident, have you found people more supportive or encouraging this time, or are you still, in 2015, faced with ignorance and adversity?
People are constantly surprising with their support and encouragement. And that Rob Halford photo incident got blown out of proportion. There were some comments that regarded his “health” or “look” in the photo as unsavory. It wasn’t necessarily anti-gay and it’s funny to me that people seemed to assume that that was the issue. It wasn’t really. It was just mean-spirited comments. Just because said photo was of two gay men, it doesn’t mean that the talked-about unsavory banter was homophobic. It was just plain mean and I didn’t want to put it out there. That man is a legend. People in general, though, yes, way more supportive and encouraging. It’s funny to hear people kind of nostalgic for a time when oppression still stung. It was a lot more dramatically charged, coming out in the ‘90s. It’s become sort of a non-issue, which is what we all aim for, but it’s created a flat line of drama.
Do you plan to return to Imperial Teen when the FNM tour is over? Is everyone keeping their side projects going currently?
Imperial Teen are definitely recording again this year. Will and Lynn are together in Denver this weekend working on stuff, actually.
Have you scored any films or TV shows lately? Is that something you plan to do again in the future? Do you have any pending jobs working on soundtracks?
I haven’t for a while. I’m going to help my friend, David Macke, score his short film. Honestly, that process becomes less and less appealing to me. I love it when it works and when I get on with the director and we appreciate each other’s craft, but for the most part, it’s not that rewarding. It dawned on me after my last slew of film scoring that I owe it to myself to challenge what I do more. Not just create supplemental musical afterthoughts for other artists’ visions… but to create stories myself. It’s what pushed me to do Sasquatch, The Opera.
How well was Sasquatch: The Opera received? Do you still have plans to expand upon it? Can your fans check it out online anywhere?
Sasquatch, The Opera was a huge success and a homerun achievement for me in my world. People loved it and I’m working to finish the long form opera and put it up for an extended run in NYC. From there I’d like to see a site- specific presentation of it in the forest in Griffith Park at a theatre where they do Shakespeare in the Park, and a tour of like-minded theaters. What was presented recently will be online soon via the Experiments in Opera website.
Do you have any memories or funny stories to share with us from the tour?
I don’t tell funny stories well. I’m only accidentally funny. The other night we played a big festival as a replacement for Foo Fighters because Dave Grohl broke his leg. I said onstage, “I’m having so much fun. I wish Dave Grohl broke his leg every day…” It made me chuckle.
Is there anything you’d like to add, any message you’d like to send to your New Orleans fanbase?
I love New Orleans, love the Faubourg Marigny. Used Dogs is a bitchin’ dog rescue service my best friend, Madalin, started there in New Orleans after Katrina. If you’re not already hip to it, it’s an awesome cause.
You can catch Faith No More on tour in 2015. For tour dates and more information, go to fnm.com. For more info on Sasquatch: The Opera, go to experimentsinopera.com. For more info on Used Dogs, visit useddogsrescue.blogspot.com