Faith No More
Faith No More
The year 1990 left the members of the San Francisco rock band Faith No More a little dazed. Early in the year they were playing small clubs in support of an LP that wasn’t selling impressively; by the fall they were a Grammy-winning sensation, appearing on the covers of major music magazines and opening for some of the biggest names in rock. Thanks to an elaborate and bizarre video for their single “Epic,” Faith No More—self-described “dirtheads” more interested in upsetting fans’ expectations than in currying their favor—moved to the top of the alternative rock scene.
However meteoric their rise to fame had been, the band’s founding members—drummer Mike Bordin, bassist Billy Gould, and keyboardist Roddy Bottum—worked tirelessly for seven years to find the sound that they ultimately achieved on their 1989 album The Real Thing. The trio began collaborating in 1982, becoming part of a California scene that receives far less publicity than the slick world of Los Angeles rock. Gould and Bottum, in fact, had been veterans of the L.A. punk scene and had moved to San Francisco to attend
Band formed in 1982 in San Francisco, CA; original members include Mike Bordin (drums), Roddy Bottum (keyboards), and Billy Gould (bass); Jim Martin (guitar) joined the band shortly after its formation; Chuck Mosely (vocals) joined the band after the addition of Martin; left group in 1988, was replaced by Mike Patton (vocals) in 1989. Released first LP, We Care a Lot, 1986. Performed in U.S. and Europe.
Awards: Nominated for Grammy Award and seven Bammie (Bay Area Music) awards, 1990; won five Bammies.
Addresses: Management —Levine/Schneider Public Relations, 8730 Sunset Blvd., 6th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90069. Record company —Slash/Reprise Records, 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505.
school. Gould answered Bordin’s ad soliciting musicians to help create what the drummer—a fan of African percussion—called “atmospheres.”
Soon Gould brought Bottum into the project, and Bordin recruited guitarist Jim Martin, a hard rock musician who had played in a band with Cliff Burton, the late bassist for metal superstars Metallica. Soon the “atmospheres” began fitting together as songs, and Faith No More played the Bay Area club scene; true to its anarchic musical instincts, the band let audience members become vocalists-for-the-night. A frequent volunteer was an eccentric character named Chuck Mosely, who screamed and thrashed his way through performances, frequently wearing a dress.
Despite Mosely’s erratic temperament, the band played West Coast venues—mostly tiny avant-garde nightspots like L.A.’s Anticlub—and in 1986 released an album on the independent Mordam label. This LP, titled We Care a Lot, garnered the band a college radio cult following, due in part to the title song’s disco-style parody of the Live Aid anthem “We Are the World.” Warner Bros, affiliate Slash Records signed the band on the strength of their debut, and in 1987 they released Introduce Yourself.
Faith No More toured in Europe to support Introduce Yourself, and though their unpredictable live shows and genre-busting sound appealed to underground fans on the continent, the British press picked up on tensions within the band. Mosely was an unreliable front man, to say the least: in the words of a Warner press release, “his unpredictable behavior on stage and off took its toll on the band’s collective sanity.” After the group’s second European tour in the spring of 1988, he was kicked out of the band.
Upon their return to San Francisco, the band held auditions for a new singer. They quickly found twenty-one-year-old Mike Patton, a native of Eureka, California, and lead vocalist for Mr. Bungle, which Patton described to Spin’s Frank Owen as “a Laurel and Hardy death-metal band.” Patton’s combination of silliness and sarcasm suited Faith No More’s attitude, and he added two things Mosely hadn’t: rock star looks and strong, versatile singing. The band had an album’s worth of musical ideas when they hired Patton; in a week he wrote an album’s worth of lyrics. The result was 1989’s The Real Thing. Rolling Stone’s Kim Neely called Patton’s lyrics “a marvel of musical role playing,” and Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times deemed the LP “a championship album.”
The Real Thing appeared in June of 1989, and within a few months it dropped from view commercially. Faith No More continued to impress fans with its unpredictable shows, gaining a certain notoriety from its selection of cover songs alone. Their already famous version of “War Pigs,” by metal pioneers Black Sabbath, was often performed side-by-side with such selections as the smooth soul tune “Easy” by the Commodores, “Vogue” by dance-music goddess Madonna, and even the jingle for a Nestle’s chocolate bar. Patton added an often perverse theatricality to the musical stew, sometimes sporting leisure slacks and monster masks on stage. Though they appreciated their core audience, the band members wanted to reach out. “There’s always been this misconception that ‘commercial’ means ‘stupid,’” Gould told Neely. “Just because something is accepted by a lot of people, it doesn’t mean there isn’t some interesting thought behind it, you know? You can actually do a lot of damage on a mass scale.”
The damage Faith No More would be able to do seemed limited until February, 1990, some eight months after the album’s release. Though they had toured with metal giants Metallica in the fall of 1989, they hadn’t made a particularly favorable impression on that group’s fans. Their Monsters of Rock festival performance turned a lot of heads, particularly since they were virtual unknowns compared to the megastars on the bill. Then Faith No More was nominated for a Grammy Award for best heavy metal performance, spurring increased sales and substantial MTV airtime for their video of “Epic,” the first single from The Real Thing.
“Epic” mixes funk-rap verses with polished hard-rock choruses, and ends with an unexpectedly lovely piano coda; in the video, the piano blows up. The video features not only Patton’s manically fascinating presence but a variety of slick special effects; its images introduced a whole new audience to Faith No More’s music. By July the album went gold, entering the Top 20. The single eventually cracked the Top 10, and The Real Thing went platinum.
Faith No More was suddenly the band of the moment, heralded by critics like Jonathan Gold of the Los Angeles Times as the leaders of the neo-metal movement. Spin, Rip, and Music Express named them artists of the year for 1990, and Rolling Stone readers voted them runners-up for best new American band as well as for best video (for “Epic”). Kerrang! readers rated them highly in most categories, including runner-up for best retail video for their concert video release Faith No More Live At Brixton Academy: You Fat B**tards.
In 1991 Faith No More took five of the seven statuettes for which they were nominated by the Bay Area Music Awards. They received “Bammies” for “outstanding” male vocalist, keyboardist, drummer, group, and song (“Epic”). The band scored again on MTV with the surrealistic video for the next single, “Indecision,” another catchy mixture of rap and commercial hard rock thrown slightly off balance by Bottum’s eerie keyboard textures. The video reinforced Faith No More’s “edge” by dressing Patton as a blood-covered surgeon.
Though the accolades continued to pour in, the group seized the opportunity after a grueling fourteen months of touring—during which they opened for rock superstar Billy Idol, among others—to work on some side projects. Patton was able to release a Mr. Bungle album, Gould traveled to Samoa to record tribal music, Bordin played on an album by the thrash-funk band Primus, and Bottum added some keyboards to a new release by the band Field Trip. Gould was the most active, having produced several others bands before and after his Samoa trip and directing and editing the video for Faith No More’s “Surprise! You’re Dead.” The band contributed the song “The Perfect Crime” to the soundtrack album for Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, a film in which Martin played a small role.
Faith No More saw 1991 out by working on a new album, which they hoped to release in 1992. Whether the record would yield a single as massively successful as “Epic” or not, the band members remained committed to a path of their own. “We were never anybody’s marketing fantasy,” Bordin remarked to Owen. Martin, a man of few words, summed up the closest thing to Faith No More’s recipe for success: “I mean, nobody really knows what they’re doing, so you just think you know what you’re doing and do it.”
We Care a Lot (includes “We Care a Lot”), Mordam, 1986.
Introduce Yourself, Slash/Reprise, 1987.
The Real Thing (includes “Epic,” “Indecision,” “War Pigs,” and “Surprise! You’re Dead”), Slash/Reprise, 1989.
Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey (motion picture soundtrack; includes “The Perfect Crime”), Warner Bros., 1991.
BAM, October 5, 1990.
Details, September 1989.
Los Angeles Times, October 14, 1990; December 2, 1990.
Musician, October 1989.
New York Times, July 9, 1990.
Rolling Stone, September 6, 1990.
Spin, December 1990.
Information for this profile was obtained from a Faith No More press kit, Slash/Reprise, 1991.
Faith no More
FAITH NO MORE
Members: Mike Bordin, drums (born San Francisco, California, 27 November 1962); Roddy Bottum, keyboards (born Los Angeles, California, 1 July 1963); Billy Gould, bass (born Los Angeles, California, 24 April 1963); Mike Patton, vocals (born Eureka, California, 27 January 1968). Former members: Jim Martin, guitar (born Oakland, California, 21 July 1961); Chuck Mosely, vocals (born Hollywood, California, 1960); Preston Lea "Trey" Spruance III, guitar (born Eureka, California, 1969); Dean Menta, guitar; Jon Hudson, guitar.
Genre: Heavy Metal, Rock
Best-selling album since 1990: The Real Thing (1989)
Hit songs since 1990: "Epic," "Midlife Crisis"
In the early 1990s Faith No More was one of the most experimental rock bands to achieve mainstream success. The group's ambitious mix of heavy metal, progressive rock, funk, and rap was a precursor to the heavier music that ruled the commercial airwaves in the late 1990s and into the new millennium. Because the group's followers like Korn, Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, and Incubus reached a much larger audience, Faith No More is an often-forgotten pioneer.
When the short-lived, San Francisco–based Faith No Man disbanded in 1982, drummer Mike Bordin, bassist Billy Gould, and keyboardist Roddy Bottum re-formed as Faith No More. They soon were joined by guitarist Jim Martin, but the group had difficulty finding a singer. Courtney Love, the future wife of Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and the lead singer for Hole, had a brief stint at the helm before Gould's friend and former band mate Chuck Mosely filled the slot.
Mosely's flat vocals wavered in and out of key, but he compensated with attitude. The group released We Care a Lot (1985) and Introduce Yourself (1987). The latter demonstrated their genre-bending ability to fuse tribal rhythms, funk bass, pounding guitars, and spacey keyboards into a unified sound. The album showed potential for greatness and created a substantial underground buzz, but Mosely's vocals were a drawback. In 1988 he was kicked out because of his erratic behavior. His replacement was Mike Patton, the singer of local band Mr. Bungle. Patton's oddball creativity mixed with his impressive vocal strength and range was the perfect complement to the band's existing sound.
With the release of The Real Thing (1989), Patton immediately established himself as one of the most talented and diverse vocalists in rock. From his loungelike crooning on the creepy, piano-driven "Edge of the World" to his throat-splitting, rapid-fire assault on the menacing "Surprise! You're Dead," he proved he could handle a wide array of styles.
It was his ability to rap and sing in the same song, though, that broke Faith No More into the mainstream. Nine months after the initial release of The Real Thing, "Epic" found itself in heavy rotation on MTV and eventually peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 in September 1990. It was a strikingly original work, its verses rapped over a jagged bassline and its chorus soaring into a vibrato-heavy hook. The song structure became an archetype for much of the rap/rock and nu-metal of the late 1990s and beyond.
Having Patton from the beginning of the creative process for Angel Dust (1992) allowed the band to push the musical boundaries even further and resulted in their finest artistic statement. The album sold a half million copies, received high critical praise, and yielded the number one Modern Rock single "Midlife Crisis." Though a modest success, the public did not embrace it as much as The Real Thing. A few years later Korn popularized the most abrasive elements of the record—sludgy, terrorizing rhythms and ominous screams and wails.
While the band was recording their fifth album, original guitarist Jim Martin left because of artistic differences. This marked the end of Faith No More's most prolific era. Three guitarists—Trey Spruance, Dean Menta, and Jon Hudson—worked with the band throughout the recording and touring for its last two albums. King for a Day . . . Fool for a Lifetime (1995) and Album of the Year (1997) were both respectable, but with altered chemistry Faith No More fell short of the consistency and brilliance of their previous two efforts. With creative friction in the group and each member splitting time with other bands, the inevitable breakup was announced in April 1998.
Faith No More's members soon focused on other projects. Patton worked with Mr. Bungle, which he had never left, and went on to form other bands and his own record label, Ipecac. Bottum concentrated solely on his duties with Imperial Teen, which released its debut album in
1996. Bordin toured and recorded with several acts, including Ozzy Osbourne, Korn, and former Alice in Chains guitarist Jerry Cantrell. Despite their minimal commercial success, the liberally talented Faith No More turned out to be one of the most influential rock bands of the 1990s.
Introduce Yourself (Slash, 1987); The Real Thing (Slash/Warner Bros., 1989); Angel Dust (Slash/Warner Bros., 1992); King for a Day . . . Fool for a Lifetime (Slash/Reprise, 1995).