Nieuwe Revu, 17-24 May 1995
by Serge Simonart
Faith No More are known as an unpredictable bunch. They change their line-up constantly, are notorious liars, and release brilliant records and corny crap alternately. Our reporter was dying to speak to Mike Patton, singer a.k.a. bigmouth.
FNM, the bunch that change their opinion about whether they have something to do with grunge or not every other week, have delivered quite an explosive cocktail of rap, metal, dance, funk, country, grunge, and Cheesy Stuff with King For A Day, Fool for A Lifetime (their cover of the soul classic Easy, originally by the Commodores, will keep surprising, not only because it is a bizarre, willingly kitschy choice, but mainly because FNM's version is so damn good).
When you see Mike Patton, Billy Gould, and Roddy Bottum in their spare time, it's a mystery how such extremely divergent personalities can stick together. Big mouth and scapegoat Big Jim Martin may have gone, his departure certainly did not herald the end of all the tension within FNM. When I suggest this to Mike Patton, he dryly says: 'That's right, but this tension is productive, the tension that Big Jim introduced was nothing but a pain in the ass.'
NR: Can you explain the recent 84 personal changes within FNM in one answer to
MP: 'I'd love to, to get done with that. Big Jim is over and out, as far as I am concerned. For a short time we were going to recruit Geordie from Killing Joke, but that was blown off. By the way, I think of this because some other reporters suggested it: it's not because Jim, who looks like some heavy metal freak with long hair and that pseudo-hell's angels look, is gone that all metal elements have vanished from our music. No, those musical elements have stayed, but the bullshit surrounding them is gone. Trey Spruance didn't want to tour for ages. And Dean Menta has always been our guitar-roadie during Angel Dust [I thought he was keyboard-roadie, FL], and I remember him playing fantastically during soundchecks. During each gig, he was watching from the side of the stage, seeing Big Jim play stuff that he could play better. Well, Jim was a men's man... a John Wayne. And that sort of sexist, right-wing people are funny for five minutes, but then... Jim was like a skipping record... and not even an entertaining one.'
NR: You've slated Big Jim just about everywhere. Why not say something
positive about him now?
MP: 'Ehh... There's a lot of positive stuff to say about him... Why can't I think of any now? (laughs) Oh, here's something positive: Big Jim's best trait of character was that he has always been himself... which was his worst trait of character at the same time.'
NR: I find that none of your records captures the power of FNM live.
Strange, because other power acts such as RHCP [I thought they got that
monkey of their backs, FL] seem to succeed in that.
MP: 'Oh, have you seen Beavis and Butt-Head when they watch one of our videos and Beavis goes: "These guys sound just like the Chili Peppers?" As if I haven't heard that one before! I partially agree with you, though, and what you say is our biggest problem. KFAD approaches our live sound the most, I guess. What irritates me most is that I never know myself how we sound live and if we come across. Okay, there are bootlegs and videos, but it's not the same. That I can never be part of the audience when FNM plays is my biggest frustration.'
NR: You've shared a producer with Nirvana. How much studio time did you
spend exchanging Cobain anecdotes? And how do you explain that you, who
seems to be far more wild, extreme, and aggressive, are here totally
healthy, and he is not?
MP: 'We haven't spent that much time hearing Andy Wallace out about Nirvana sessions. To be honest, I am not very much fascinated by other artists. I'm still around because I can see the humour of drugs. The silliness of it all. And because my aggression is turned outwards: extravert, and thus freeing. Compare it to screaming: that relieves you. Kepping your aggression inside does not; grinding your teeth only leads to self-destruction. Another difference, to be honest, is that Cobain lived under a lot more pressure than I do. But, on the other hand, like Chrissie Hynde said: "If the pressure gets too much, use some of your hard-earned money and go to a desert island without any faxes, fans, contracts, managers, and journalists, and stay there until the pressure is gone." It's not that fuckin' hard. I think it depends on your perception too. If we both look out the window now, our descriptions will differ substantially. I am an optimist. I am sober [in the sense of rationalistic, FL]. If I see a sunset, I think: nice ambiance. Cobain would think: it's getting darker all the time, black, black, cold, sullen. And, very important: Cobain had a gun. That's America for ya [transcribed literally, FL]. Everyone has guns. And still there are idiots out there who claim that having a gun and shooting yourself are unrelated, and not having a gun and not shooting yourself are unrelated. Idiots. Well, I think he would have shot himself as well had he been a plumber. Only, nobody would have known. My opinion is: don't waste too much time dissecting the lives of negative belly-button gazers, it's no good.'
NR: What is the most important lesson that five years of rock'n'roll have
MP: 'Everything went so fast. When I got to be the singer of FNM - a well-known band even then - I still lived with my parents. I'd never even drunk alcohol. Lessons of life... Ehh, you got to see to it that you have a life beside the life on the road. And you must rationalize - something that Cobain apparently could not do. And that you're nobody's property. And that you don't necessarily have anything in common with other musicians. Cobain was an alien in my eyes. A guy from another planet. If he'd been a plumber, and I have been one [??, FL], nobody'd even suppose we had something in common. Oh, and most important of all: develop a good bullshit detector.'
NR: We must do so with you as well: FNM is renowned for their stunts and
bizarre statements. Like the gossip that you gave yourself electric shocks
MP: 'Oh, that's typically a case where a half truth is blown up out of proportion to something bizarre. I had a dislocated arm, and you can revalidate that by electric shocks: you get a little box which allows you to increase or decrease the dose. The shocks stimulate the healing of muscular mass or something. But I don't exclude that that little box - a sort of walkman - is popular in SM circles. Anyway: never believe what you read.'
NR: Some of these things I've seen and heard myself.
MP: 'Oh... (laughs like he's been caught red-handed) Well, we've learned to keep our inside jokes inside. In the past, for example, we were laughing about something like angel dust... But before you know that "good joke" is going to end up as the title on an album sleeve, and everyone takes it serious worldwide. We can still read everywhere that we advocate smoking crack, while it's a misunderstanding caused by a sarcastic statement that nobody saw the sarcasm of. Before we went on tour with Guns 'n' Roses, I said during a gig in London: "You shouldn't go and watch Guns at Wembley Stadium, it suffices to phone in a bomb threat". Something like that is funny at the time, and you don't realize that there can be an idiot in the audience who is actually doing it. Sometimes I kinda like misunderstandings. Somebody not knowing that Roddy is homosexual and that he wrote the lyrics to Be Aggressive (with lyrics: "You're my master/I take it on my knees/ejaculation, tribulation/I swallow, I swallow" [transcribed literally, FL]), thinks it's about a woman serving a man, while it is in fact about a sadomasochistic homosexual relation. Well, sometimes we just act strange out of boredom. When I do a tedious telephone interview, I like making fucking sounds. It kills the time, doesn't it?'
NR: That story about you pissing in your shoe on stage during a festival and
subsequently drinking the boot dry - is that made up as well?
MP: 'No, that's true (looks as if that stunt is the most normal thing in the world). Did you ever drink your own piss?'
NR: Ehh, not recently, no.
MP: (looks dumb-founded). 'Oh. Well, to be on stage and to give everything is a universe on its own, within which all kinds of things can happen that are not as self-evident would they happen in a hotel room. I mean: there have been FNM gigs where people jumped on stage and beat me. I would never tolerate that on the street. But there, in the fever of a concert, during the right song (laughs)... Recently, a girl chained herself to me with hand-cuffs after a gig, just because I refused to talk to her. I politely declined, though. I am a well-bred boy. I don't want to be too specific, but... it got pretty ugly. I've got some letters, really creepy, man... Written in blood, with devil's horns drawn on them. And last year a perfect stranger hired a private detective to follow me. All very interesting from a distance, but not when it happens to you.'
NR: Did you ever hear anything from your big friend Axl Rose?
MP: 'No, not since we've been thrown out as a support act. When Axl realized we made fun of him in interviews, he gave us a pathetic preach (imitates Axl Rose playing a disappointed dad): "Boys, I am heavily disappointed with you. It is as if I come home unexpected and catch you with your dicks in my wife's mouth". Hey, we didn't think of that yet (laughs)! That G'n'R tour was a culture shock. Like we had landed on a different planet. Literally: they have a planet of their own revolving around them, a planet that goes with them on tour. At first, it drove us mad: we became part of something that we actually detested. We got into some sort of faith crisis. Midlife crisis. We didn't feel at ease. I'd never felt more out of place since we did that gig in a discotheque in Austin, Texas. When we arrived there, it turned out that we were support act to third-rate Chippendales. What an absurd evening that was: first we had to play, and then came the main act, a horde of male strippers.'
NR: You have kicked so many people's shins, both in interviews and on stage,
that I wonder: do you stand alone? Or do you see related minds in the
contemporary music scene?
MP: (thinks for about six weeks) 'Ehh... regarding the speed with which I answer this, I think we must both come to the conclusion that there are not many related minds. I don't know. I've voiced my opinion always and everywhere, and a lot of people can't stand that. And, at the same time, I don't give a fuck what anybody else says about us.'
NR: One of the new songs is called "The Gentle Art of Making Enemies".
MP: 'Yeah, but that is meant ironically, I think. Ehh... we all have friends in other bands. "Friends". I have a number of musician-friends whose records I don't want to hear. I say to them: "No, you don't want me to hear your new album, I want us to stay friends". Worst of all is when you meet people whose music you've always hated, and to add to the misfortune, they turn out to be cool people. Aaargh. Very painful. Barry Manilow was one of them.'
NR: Whom or what are you jealous of, as far as competition is concerned?
MP: 'The energy of the Young Gods [release a new album "Only Heaven" on June 12, FL]. And their name, too. Simple and cool.'
NR: Which band has impressed you recently?
MP: 'I'll honestly say that I have hardly visited any gigs the last two years. After a monster tour like ours, that is the last thing you want to do. a whore does not have a lust for sex after she's fucked all day long. I think.'
NR: Tell me something that your fans would never associate with you.
MP: 'I used to have records by Elton fuckin' John. Oh, and by Sade. Billy and I once spent our last penny on a ticket for a Sade concert. And we had to borrow some money on the spot to buy a poster as well. I still like her, by the way. And what a babe! Hey, FNM is a potpourri of very different, very bizarre musical tastes. When we play a record at home, one day it's Henry Mancini, the next day Slayer.'
Translated and transcribed by Frankco Lamerikx.
"I've taken the troulbe of translating an interesting interview with Mike Patton. He is very co-operative for a change. This interview appeared in the Dutch magazine Nieuwe Revu. Any errors in spelling or style you may find are entirely my fault. Some phrases are transcribed literally from the interview, which means they appeared in English in the original article. I've indicated this by using square brackets. Also, I've added some comments here and there. I hope you enjoy reading this."
Thanks to Frankco Lamerikx.