FeaturesWritten by Brenton Harris on February 6, 2020
California alt-metal demigods Faith No More are one of music’s most influential and commanding bands. Sonic trailblazers, possessive of otherworldly talent and seemingly limitless artistic vision, Faith No More’s impact on the sound of modern rock music is undeniable, with acts the size of Nirvana, Slipknot, System of a Down, Deftones and Korn, among the many to have publicly claimed Faith No More as an influence, and thousands more wearing the influence on their musical sleeves.
Faith No More’s biggest hits are inescapable with the likes of ‘Epic’, ‘Ashes to Ashes’, ‘Midlife Crisis’, ‘Falling to Pieces’ and their iconic cover of Commodores ‘Easy’ hardwired into our memories, as truly essential musical artefacts of the ’80s and ’90s. Yet they somehow still feel relevant to this day. True artists, every Faith No More record offers distinctly different melds of musical styles, held together by musicianship, songcraft and vocalist Mike Patton’s astonishing vocal prowess.
Faith No More’s recorded output is matched only by the quality of their live shows, with their headline performances widely regarded as one of live music’s greatest trips. For 23 years Australian audiences have had to watch in envy as Faith No More have blown audiences away worldwide, with their headline show. In May that wait is finally over. As Faith No More are heading to Australia for their first headline run of shows since 1997.
On the morning that the news broke, Faith No More’s keys player extraordinaire, Roddy Bottum, had a chat with Music Feeds about the tour announcement, their upcoming bushfire relief benefit show, the musical legacy of Faith No More and what Aussie audiences can expect come May.
Music Feeds: I must admit this is a pretty big thrill for me, I’ve been a fan of your band essentially since I was born, so please excuse any fanboy moments I might have!
Roddy Bottum: That’s great I LOVE fanboy moments, thank you for having them, I appreciate it!
MF: I won’t bury the lead here, the reason I’m talking to you at 8.30 in the morning, my time, is because Faith No More are heading out to Australia for your first headline tour since 1997! That’s pretty exciting news for us! Is it exciting news for you?
RB: That’s like nearly 25 years, 23 years!
MF: That’s a really big gap, I have to ask, after 23 years, what made now the right time?
RB: We’ll we’ve been down since, but last time we were out there it was for some festival shows.
MF: Yes, you were here in 2010 and 2015 for some festivals.
RB: Yeah, that’s right, but as you said, we haven’t been out for our own shows. Honestly, last time on the Sol Invictus record, I remember it was our intention to come to Australia, but I think in the end we all just got sick of touring, and so we didn’t. The record cycle came to an end we just decided to stop.
Honestly, at the end of that run of shows, we were exhausted, all beat up and done with it, so the shows just didn’t feel like we were really performing at our best. Personally, I think this is a great opportunity to go back and make things right a little bit, and probably play shows than we did the last time round. It’ll be a thing to, I’m not going to say end our career on, but at least a good thing to put out into the world.
MF: As the first shows on this tour, this sounds promising for Australia, catching you at peak motivation. Now, at this stage of your career, is your legacy something you have to consider each time you play a show? That each show could be the last thing you do, so you need to make sure the shows are the best they can be?
RB: I think when you don’t put a record out, you can only play so many shows before you start feeling yucky about it, and feel like you’re taking advantage of the situation. We’re all a little bit sensitive to that. So there’s only a small window of shows we’ll play before we start to feel like, let’s not do this anymore. I think these shows are a really good, unique opportunity though, as we didn’t get a chance to tour Australia on the Sol Invictus tour and play those songs, so being able to do that now feels like a cool opportunity.
MF: That might help reinvigorate or freshen up the set a bit for you too, because while it won’t be the first time that you’re playing those songs live, it will be the first time the audience has seen you play them, and you should be able to feed off of that excitement.
RB: I think so, but it feels a little bit like people want to hear the old songs, sometimes, honestly, but that’s okay too.
MF: One cool thing that you’ll probably see out here and no doubt have in the past is grandparents, parents, grandkids all rocking out together, connected by your music. That must be pretty mind-blowing.
RB: That would be mind-blowing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a three-generational audience before. Do you think there might be grandparents, parents and grandkids at these shows? That would be amazing!
MF: I’ve seen it at other bands of similar tenure at shows down here recently, some of who don’t have anywhere near the impact of Faith No More, so I do think it’s very likely, I mean you don’t have to be that old to be a grandparent!
RB: Right! I’m 56 years old! I could totally be a grandparent. I mean when we did shows before, we used to ask how many people in the room hadn’t seen us before, and the answer usually was that most people hadn’t seen us before, so I think there’s a lot of that. Some people come back for nostalgia, but a lot of people were seeing us for the first time because they’d heard about us from their parents, or their older siblings, or perhaps they’d always been fans but were too young to see us before, so that was really cool and really surprising.
MF: Now, Faith No More recently announced that you’ll be playing a benefit show in Manchester in June to raise money for the ongoing bushfire relief effort in Australia, which is incredible news, what inspired that?
RB: Well, we decided internally that we wanted to do a benefit to help Australia, and we hadn’t announced a second show in Manchester yet, so logistically it made sense to make it that one.
In terms of motivation, Australia means a lot to us, it’s the first place that we ever had a number one single, the first place to embrace us in such an intense way, so we all felt like there’s a connection there, and we really wanted to do something to help out and repay that support. As a band, we felt that it felt too intensely capitalist or corporate of us to be coming out to play shows and be making money off of people in a country that’s gone through a crisis the way Australia has. I don’t think any of us could have gone down there and made money playing there, and leave with a clean conscience, without doing something to help out and give back in some regard.
Also a couple of years ago, a fire ripped through my apartment building here in New York City and the building got demolished and I pretty much lost everything that I had and I’m still out of the building now. So that really brought the impact of fire and what the fallout of a fire does to people and what it does to a community, in a really personal way. I still feel really connected to what happens in that situation, and connected to people experiencing that. Not that my apartment fire was on the same level of what’s happening in Australia of course, but I do feel like I “get it”. So I’m happy that I can help people living through that in some way.
MF: All very noble and inspiring reasons for a show. I’m sure everyone impacted is appreciative of Faith No More’s contribution. Now, as a band, Faith No More move around genres a lot, and as musicians, you all move around projects a lot, do you feel like that helps to keep the music and the experience of Faith No More, feeling fresh and fun for you?
RB: We haven’t done Faith No More in so long, but for me, everything I do, is so rewarding and amazing to do. I did this opera, called Sasquatch: The Opera, I wrote the opera, rehearsed the opera, had a cast of six musicians and six principal actors, six chorus members and we put it on in New York in a theatre and then I took it to Edinburgh for Fringe and put it on for an entire month. It was super rewarding, but I just lost a shitload of money! Then my other bands are really fun!
I’m in this band called Nastie Band which is a really weird band with a singer that’s like 85 years old, then I’m in this other band called CRICKETS, that’s just getting started, but none of these bands make any money, I mean they’re super successful for what they are and rewarding to do, but it’s definitely fun to be able to walk back into Faith No More and have this loyal, large, fanbase, waiting. That’s a way different vibe to everything else that I do. I to get on the stage and have a lot of people clap, is just phenomenal!
MF: The scope that you’re describing is pretty incredible, and I think it shows that Faith No More, as individuals and as a group, are truly artists. Which I think is a really cool dynamic. It does make me wonder what artists inspire you now?
RB: It’s always been the community in which we live and the people that I mix with. A lot of painters and filmmakers. I still love music and listen to music and I go to shows all of the time, but I seem to be more inspired by visual artists or operas. I love opera and I’m trying to get more involved with that because I find the scope of the way that it is done here in New York is really inspiring to me. I love big, complex, performances, so I’ve been taking a lot of interest in that. Musically, I really like Lana Del Rey’s latest record and the Angel Olsen record, so I guess I would say I’m inspired by those records.
MF: Does it ever get tiring or perhaps overwhelming being in the front row for the circus of Mike Patton?
RB: We just know each other really well, so I don’t think it seems or feels like a circus to us when we do what we do. Now oftentimes, when we get on stage, things just happen, but no, it doesn’t get tiresome, I love these guys a lot. More so than any boyfriend I’ve ever had, they’re almost family members really, they’re the people I know more than anyone else in my life, so it never feels like a chore. Mike, in particular, is just such a sweet man, an incredible artist and performer, so his theatrics never get on my nerves or anything like that.
MF: As this iconic band, that’s lasted for so long, and done so many different things, and influenced so many other artists, do you ever find yourself thinking about what the enduring legacy of Faith No More will be? Do you think there’s a song, or a record, or a sound or movement that you’ll be remembered for?
RB: I was talking to someone earlier, and they brought up the fact that Faith No More does this thing where we meld musical flavours together. I’m aware that we do that and always have. For example, we were one of the first bands to put rap beats in a hard rock environment, which while it sounds kind of cheesy to say now, I’d like to think that it helped to open up some people’s minds to the possibility of listening to different types of music. Nowadays, that’s a given, I mean, everyone listens to rap music, rap isn’t this African American music form, everyone listens to rap, and that’s not the way that it was when we were starting out. Same goes for people listening to weird classical music now, and new genres.
I think the dawn of computers really helped make things more available and people are now more open to different flavours. I’d like to think that we were on the cusp of that starting to happen. I don’t take specific credit for opening people’s minds, but I like knowing that at that place, at that time, when people were first exploring new musical direction, we were there and that’s a really nice place to be in history.
Faith No More will be hitting up ARENA sized venues in Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne & Perth this May. Head here for dates and details.