Bass Player August 1995
Billy Gould of Faith No More: A Cure For BoredomBy Gregory Isola
"Some bands, like the Ramones, can do the same record over and over again," sighs Billy Gould. "That's totally cool - I really admire the Ramones. But we just aren't built like that." No kidding. For proof, check out the head-spinning variety, from slick funk to gut-wrench grind, on Faith No More's latest, King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime [Slash].
"When the band goes in different directions," Gould explains, "there are new directions for me as well. A lot of stuff I play on this record is in styles I've really just learned how to play - like 'Caralho Voador,' the Brazillian song. I hadn't played bass like that in my life. I'm not sure I pulled it off completely, but now I have a starting post; I can take it from there. Also, when you're learning stuff, you have the most enthusiasm about doing it. It keeps things interesting."
It can also keep a guy sane during a marathon tour. "That has a lot to do with it," Billy admits. "If we're gonna tour as much as we do, we have to like the stuff. We must please ourselves - for our own survival. We're not the kind of band you can just stick in some category on radio and market very easily, so the way we make up for that slack is to tour a lot. If we made a record where every song was on the same plane, we'd burn out. I think [FNM's 1989 breathrough disk on Slash] The Real Thing did that to us, and we really suffered for it."
This time around, Gould & Co. has more than just potential boredom to deal with. In January 1994, long-time FNM guitarist Jim Martin split; it took until August to settle on a replacement. Trey Spruance, guitarist in singer Mike Patton's other band, Mr. Bungle, fit the bill and joined just in time to record King for a Day. Unfortunately, he wasn't around for long. "We had hoped Trey would want to stay, because he's a great guitar player," reflects Gould. "His leaving really surprised us. But I guess he had a lot goin' on in his head that we didn't know about, as far as being freaked out about touring and jumping into a band that has such a high profile. There aren't any hard feelings or anything; I'm glad he quit when he did - just after we made the record, and not in the middle of a tour." Faith No More keyboard tech Dean Menta has since replaced Spruance.
In the meantime, the upheaval changed the band's normal writing process. "I had a lot to do with writing these songs," Billy says. "About two weeks after resting from our last tour, Puffy [drummer Mike Bordin] and I went into the studio and just started playing - getting grooves together and writing. We wrote the record without a guitar player, from the ground up, so the riffs were written on the bass first. That way, the record was anchored from the start."
Gould says that beginning at the bottom has its advantages. "It allowed us to branch out a lot with the songwriting. It wasn't so much seeking out weird directions to go in as it was just doing things we've always wanted to do - '70s stuff like 'Evidence,' or even country stuff, like 'Take This Bottle.' I wrote 'Take This Bottle' on a 4-track at my house; I didn't even think it would be appropriate for the band, but I played a demo for everybody and they liked it. I was kind of intimidated to volunteer it, but I'm glad I did, because I think it really adds to the record."
Billy's Zon Sonus 4-strings have custom-wound Bartolinis, and several cuts on King for a Day showcase his surprisingly clean R&B tone. Nonetheless, his entire rig was constructed with one thing in mind: dirt. "It's really hard to find a nice bass amp that'll break up," the 32-year-old groans. "It seems as though people design bass amps these days to be as clean and efficient as possible and not to break up, and I hate that. To me, it's the most anal sound - especially for our group, where it has to grunt. That's why I've always used Peavey gear. Whether they like it or not, it breaks up. I think a lot of people look down on Peavey for that reason, but that's exactly why I like it." The Peavey gear in Gould's lineup includes a T.B. Raxx preamp, two CS1200 power amps, two 1x15 cabinets, and two hefty 6x10s. He used the same setup in the studio, with one addition: extra sonic grime came courtesy of an ancient Peavey 4x12 with torn speaker cones. "I've also been using a rackmount SansAmp," he adds. "You can get the meanest, most brutal sounds with it!"
While he's by no means anti-theory, Gould does have strong feelings about learning to play music sans instruction. "I'm pretty much a self-taught guy," he allows. "I learned how to play not by practicing scales or anything like that, but from writing songs. When you run into a challenge with a part you're writing, you learn how to get around it. People who are learning to play instruments should spend more time working out stuff with others who also don't know how to play. In that situation, you can communicate in a language that's personal."
Thanks to Pfeen.