Faith No More just canceled her stop in Cincinnati, but here’s our Q&A with co-founder Roddy Bottum about the group’s rise.
Photo: Dustin Rabin
UPDATE: As of September 14, Faith No More has canceled her tour due to what singer Mike Patton calls mental health reasons.
Faith No More is a curious case. The five-piece group – which currently includes drummer Mike Bordin, keyboardist Roddy Bottum, bassist Billy Gould, guitarist Jon Hudson and vocalist Mike Patton – hail from an underground San Francisco scene in the early 1980s, armed with an unorthodox sound and aesthetic that has confused so many like it stung: song-worthy metal riffs punctuated by huge keyboard-driven hooks, coming out like a more messy less public image Ltd. Johnny Rotten. The vocals, often shouted through a revolving door of singers, were almost an afterthought until Chuck Mosley stepped on the scene for the group’s debut in 1985, We care a lot.
The follow-up, the years 1987 Introduce yourself, featured a reworked version of the title track from the debut album, “We Care a Lot,” which went on to become a minor hit on MTV and introduced Faith No More to a larger audience than it ever thought possible. Patton replaced Mosley in 1988, which kicked off the group’s creative evolution behind their new leader’s versatile, octave-hopping vocal performance and their often peculiar swaggering temper.
the years 1989 The real thing cemented Faith No More’s shift from minor curiosity to mainstream lighting. The centerpiece of the album, the aptly titled “Epic”, was a top 10 hit and its video was in constant rotation on MTV. The real thing sold 4 million copies worldwide but it was the next effort, damaged art from 1992 Angel dust, which would serve as a creative landmark for Faith No More.
Released at the height of the Grunge Revolution, Angel dust unlike anything in the landscape, a surreal genre-jumper that mixed heavy guitars, atmospheric keyboards, and offbeat but somehow cohesive song structures, all topped with Patton’s distinctive delivery, which goes from opera arrow to guttural yelping and vice versa. In 2003, Kerrang! listed Angel dust as the most influential album of all time, which is obviously overkill, but not as much as you might suspect.
Faith No More broke two more records with diminishing returns (1995 King for a day … Crazy a lifetime and 1997 Record of the year) before separating in 1998. However, like any group that wants to revisit its heritage, the quinqua reformed to give concerts in 2009 and ended up releasing an album of new songs. 2015 Sol Invictus was a more streamlined but no less dynamic effort.
CityBeat recently hooked up with Faith No More co-founder / keyboardist Roddy Bottum to discuss the rise of the underground eccentric group to platinum sellers with the chance to headline festivals like Riot Fest in Chicago and attracting massive crowds abroad more than 30 years after its unlikely breakthrough.
CityBeat: It’s been six years since Faith No More released an album and performed a live show. How does it feel to be back in the band after such a long break?
Roddy Bottum: I have mixed feelings about this. It starts off like it’s a job, and we’ve made this decision and we’re going to do it. It starts out a bit like that, but very quickly it turns into an emotional journey because of all the music that we have composed in this band. We started at such a young age. It’s all these deeply rooted songs and musical expressions that we did when we were so young and so impressionable and I can’t help but get carried away by the emotional aspect of it.
CB: I didn’t realize until I started digging into the band’s history that you, Billy (Gould) and Mike (Bordin) started playing together after graduating from high school over 40 years ago. What would Roddy, 18, think of the group’s evolution over the years?
RB: Yeah, that’s crazy. We were such arrogant young children at that age. Billy and I grew up in Los Angeles together since we were 10 years old. When we formed the band and started making music, we kind of had big aspirations that were ridiculous but somehow justified. We were making this absurd, really grandiose sound. I never really thought it was going to do what he did, but we always acted like it was going to do right and that we were a little bigger than we were. And at one point, things kind of caught up and it became kind of a success. It was a surprise to me. Looking at where I am from and how this band evolved into a success, it would have shocked young Roddy.
CB: At first you were more of a performance art group playing heavy, hypnotic riffs behind a revolving door of different singers. What memories do you keep of the approach of the group at that time?
RB: I think we started doing what we started doing because we were really young and super experimental. We made these crazy riffs that we played over and over again. It was like a very young point of view. We wanted to shock and provoke people. We were the product of the community that we were making music in, which was a lot of really dark and pretty seriously toned Post Punk music, and we were trying to fight that.
We made some very dark music but we were completely experimental. The concept of bringing in different singers and changing the singer was kind of a part of it. We didn’t really write traditional songs or commercially viable material because we didn’t have the tools to do it.
CB: You had been a band for five years before the first record with Chuck Mosley as lead singer. How has the band changed since the early days?
RB: Even when Chuck was in the band and we recorded a record with our first (permanent) singer, I don’t think he really had the integrity of singing regular songs. I love our early records, don’t get me wrong, but I think they limited what we were able to do in terms of writing orthodox songs or commercially viable songs. I think once Mike (Patton) got into the band – and he’s got such an amazing voice and he’s so versatile – we were able to do whatever we wanted to do. And at that point, we had been playing together for so long. I think we were better at what we did; our tools were sharper to do whatever we wanted to do. We just started to explore different things. Like, “Oh, let’s do a country western song. Let’s make a song to the sound of an opera. We started going in as many directions as we thought we could push. In this push, we found ourselves probably more conventional than we ever thought.
CB: You once said that tension and the release of tension is what drives Faith No More. Why do you think this is the driving force within the group?
RB: I think I meant the tension between us as people. When we first started touring it was always head butt. It’s five different personalities, and that was a big part of who we were. We were really different people. Me being a gay man who grew up with three sisters, and then guitarist Jim Martin grew up in a family of three brothers and hunted and everything. We were poles apart. That alone is a lot of tension and a lot of head shots. But we were also no different from any group – everyone goes on a journey and evolves.
And then you throw in that mix where we’ve been for the last 25 years – all of us apart, all of us together – that’s a lot to add. We have always been quite frank about the tension that exists between us. I guess it’s healthy, but sometimes not. All I know is that by stepping into the script, playing with the band, and working with old friends, I always walk away from it as a better person. There is a release of tension that occurs which makes me thrive and feel good. At this point, it is about approaching our past and accepting who we were and who we are now as a group and as individuals.
Neither does faith is playing PromoWest Pavilion at OVATION on September 22. All spectators are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the show. More info: promowestlive.com. [Editor’s note: the show has been canceled as of Sept. 14.]
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