HM Magazine, Issue November 1995
Men And Their Machines
The tied back dredlocks, African rhythms and a heavy handed mastery of the drums are his trademarks, but there is much more to playing drums in Faith No More than simply hitting things. Justin Owen gets behind the kit with Mike Bordin and his technician, Feely.
Introduce yourself Puffy...
"The drum kit is the piece of equipment that is going to have the most variation from night to night, that's why we try and use our own kit as often as possible. Otherwise it's like using someone else's toothbrush or wearing someone else's underpants, it just doesn't feel quite right."
Let there be drums...
"I learnt how to read music and drum patterns and how to hold my sticks. That was the first thing I learnt. It's a drag and takes time, but it's worthwhile. It's good to have solid training and solid learning but if you're smart then you'll always try and take it that much further. It's like riding a bike, once you learn the basics you can push it further and if you're creative and clever you can figure out the way that you can make it best for you.
"When I was learning with a regular teacher I used to get frustrated because I would always see people who could play faster than me and there were always people who could play flashier than I could and in the end it got kind of intimidating because I knew that it wouldn't end. There are always going to be people who are playing faster or flashier than you.
"Learning African rhythms with a guy from Ghana broke that mould, it taught me how to play things as I heard them. It taught me that if you hear five people playing drums, and you can hear what all those people are playing then you can play that, and you can do it all yourself. If you have the syncopation and the coordination, you can be your own ensemble, except it's an ensemble of toms and snare and hi-hat, you cna put those different drums in different patterns together and make a whole new thing. It was like learning how to speak another language. When you can speak one language sometimes it can only take you so far, but when you learn another language then sometimes that's exactly what you need to get you that little bit further."
A feel for things...
"For me, it's always been a search to get the sounds that I hear in my head. When someone says 'floor tom' or 'rack tom', I always hear the sound that it makes before I get a mental image of what the drum actually loks like. I don't see a picture of a naked chick in a magazine ad holding up a drum, or some sweaty guy posing, I hear what that drum should sound like.
"Feely and I kinda felt the same about the way that drums should sound, so from day one he's literally been instrumental in helping me get my sound together. When you're playing a kit where you haven't changed the drum heads for ages, you can sometimes end up with a sound that you like that just evolves over time. The challenge then is changing your heads all the time and having to get that same sound back every day, time after time."
Feely's tricks with sticks...
"When you're swinging a drumstick really hard, or even a cricket bat or a hockey stick or whatever, and you're tired and you're sweating or whatever, you lose grip. People try and put tape around them and the tape slips, or they wear glvoes and the whole stick slips our of your hand, I've tried it all and nothing ever worked for me." Feely: "Mike plays really hard and he wears a lot of water, there's a lot of sweat, lots of snot and a lot of water. "If you can, visualise a really fast, hard working machine, it's really hard to keep it under control and hold on to all the parts." "First you take off all the varnish around the stick with sandpaper, not smoothing it out just get it so that it isn't that glossy slippery finish. Then you go round the stick with pliers, and groove it out so that it cuts into the stick and splinters it up."
"We like darker sounds, I find the Zildjian sound is just a little darker than most, it makes it a little heavier and they don't sound tinny next to the drums."
"All the toms are birch, even the kick drum is birch. This creates a really dark sound, it's like swamp water.
"The snare is maple though, which has a clear, sharp sound, and when you put the two together, it's crystal clear, the sound cuts right through."
"We took all the toms to a drum doctor to get the bearing edges made sharper. When they leave the factory, the edges are sometimes a little rounded.
"Sharpening the edges creates less resonance. Mike hits them so ahrd and you don't want them ringing out for ages and ages. We try to create a sound that is deep enough to boom out heavily, but not one so low that it just gets lots in the mix."
DRUMS: YAMAHA RECORDING CUSTOM
13" x 15", 14" x 16" toms
16" x 18" floor tom
24" bass drum
13" x 7" snare
15" Avedis rock hats
24" Z heavy power ride
19" K china boy
19" K medium thin dark crash
18" K medium thin dark crash
18" Avedis medium crash
STICKS: VIC FIRTH
Thanks to Scott McNabb.