For RED BULLETIN MAGAZINE: For 35 years, the members of Faith No More have been known as the true chameleons of rock music, fusing metal with such disparate elements as funk, bossa nova and soul. Though their six studio albums have sold over 10 million copies and earned them three Grammy Awards, in April 1998 the group surprisingly disbanded so that the five members could pursue solo careers.
Singer Mike Patton, whose voice ranges from low-octave crooning and fast-paced vocal acrobatics, to high-octave screams, made a name for himself as avant-garde music’s enfant terrible. In 2009 the band regrouped and began touring again. And there’s more to come: Mike Patton and bassist Billy Gould talk to The Red Bulletin about their new album, Sol Invictus, and explain how a bunch of self-described outsiders made a career out of ignoring boundaries.
Faith No More essentially created their own category of music. How did you do that?
Billy Gould: We just thought, ‘Why do you want to do what everyone else is doing?’ I would be horrible in a straight metal band.
Mike Patton: It was hard when there was a scene going on because we fell totally flat. We didn’t have a community. We weren’t punk enough, weren’t metal enough. The Metallica guys said we were OK, but we were always fish out of water. We all came from different places, but we ended up together, and couldn’t commit to norms. It’s just who we are.
Was being different tough in the beginning?
BG: We couldn’t get anyone in San Francisco to write about us until we toured abroad. Then they started to care, and we were like, ‘F–k you.’
MP: Yeah, when we were doing well we had no problem taking s–t.
BG: We found a way to make music we liked. I’m a bass player, but I can’t do a lot of things other guys can do.
MP: We’re all self-taught musicians. I don’t read music the way orchestra musicians do. I listen instead. There’s no right or wrong way of doing it. You can find a way to make good music if you are able to communicate.
You both did multiple side projects before getting Faith No More back together in 2009. In what ways did those experiences benefit the band as it’s looking now?
MP: I don’t think we’d be back together at this point if I hadn’t had the opportunity to do other projects. It all makes sense now. I was skeptical about reunion stuff, but we did some reunion shows and it felt great. It was refreshing. And when I heard the new music Bill wrote, I was like, ‘Oh f–k this is good.’
BG: If we hadn’t done those side projects, who would we be now? We’d be unhappy. We’d have started making shitty records. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
How did the band decide it was time to make music together again?
MP: We reconnected at [keyboardist Roddy Bottum’s] wedding. It really opened my eyes. I was like, ‘Hell, I really love these guys. I could do this again.’ It matters, when you share a relationship with people. I shared nearly half my life with these guys.
BG: We recorded most of the new album in a small rehearsal room. It shouldn’t have worked, but it did. We mastered it, and five days later we were on a plane to go and do shows. It’s a strange feeling to open yourself up to the world again.
MP: I didn’t talk to anyone for a while. I was like, ‘F–k your phone calls. I’m not listening to anything but our music right now.’
What would you go back and tell your younger selves, knowing what you know now?
MP: ‘Shut your mouth, little Mike! It’s not going to be what you think’. I once said, ‘If I’m 40 and still doing this, someone please kill me.’ Like, it’s undignified to do this once you’ve hit 30. The industry defines you and then holds you to it and tells you what to do. But it’s better to just shrug it off.
Image by Dustin Rabin, courtesy of Red Bulletin Magazine