Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Vintage Troublemaker: I Heart Faith No More

Since Mike Patton's long-awaited Mondo Cane album released today, I thought it would be appropriate to bring out some Vintage material. Last year when I found out Faith No More was back together I wrote this piece about how much I love them. They are easily my favorite band of all time. Enjoy, NEXT!

I’m going to write today about my love for Faith No More. After finding out Saturday night that they were back together and planning a new album, I started thinking about how I got into them and different experiences I’ve had where their music played a part.

Faith No More is my absolute favorite band of all time. I think Mike Patton is one of the most talented musicians on earth and I enjoy almost everything he does, but his work with Roddy Bottum, Bill Gould, Mike Bordin and James Martin always stands out the most to me. Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk, Fantomas and the million or so other projects Patton has been involved in are all interesting at the very least, but Faith No More just has it.

Like most other people, the first time I really took notice of Faith No More was when I saw the video for Epic. I’m pretty sure I had already seen the From Out of Nowhere video at that point, but if you’ll remember, there was nothing all that special about that one visually. It was basically a generic concert footage type thing with Patton in a Body Glove; Milli Vanilli style. The video for Epic, on the other hand, was a visually arresting piece with rain and lightning, an exploding piano and a goldfish flopping around on the floor, which Patton would go on to imitate while performing the song on Saturday Night Live.

Not to mention Patton’s t-shirt, which proclaimed there was a tractor in his balls (again). What did this mean? It turned out it was a Mr. Bungle shirt – which I would later own – but nobody 
knew what the Hell that was at the time. Plus, the song was catchy. I still think it’s about drugs, but I guess it could be about sex, too. Or just addiction in general. The fact that I have put any thought into it at all just goes to show how big a deal it is. I’m not really big into analyzing music. I tend to just sit back and enjoy it.

Next up, we had Falling to Pieces. This is the song that changed my life. This one made me run out and buy the album. Epic was cool, but Falling to Pieces was an altogether different experience. Not only was it one of the most distinctive songs I had heard at that point in my life, the video was the craziest shit I had ever seen. The exploding piano in the last video seemed cool at the time, but in this one, everything exploded; including Mike Patton’s head! Right after all the skin disappeared! Singing meat-skulls, clown suits, surgical scrubs, paint or gore or ooze, giant hands with eyes (or mouths) in the palm. This video changed the way I looked at the world. It redefined my boundaries of what was acceptable and what was cool. In short, it set me down the path that has brought me to where I am today.

The Real Thing the album with Epic and Falling to Pieces – was the first album that I felt like was mine and mine alone. None of my friends were that into it and I didn’t care. That was almost unheard of. We all listened to the same stuff, almost without exception. Everybody got into metal around the same time – Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth – and that was pretty much all we listened to.

Granted, I still had
Licensed to Ill and Raising Hell, but rap was definitely a part-time thing. The Real Thing was something completely different. I listened to that album non-stop for a long time. I know every word of every song and that is rare for me. I was introduced to many different styles of music without even knowing it. The cover of War Pigs got me into Black Sabbath who, believe it or not, I had not even heard of until then. Who knew Ozzy used to sing in some other band? FromOut of Nowhere never really grew on me, but everything else on the album is amazing. Surprise! You’re Dead! is one of my favorite songs of all time. I still get chills every time I hear that dinner bell at the beginning. I once cut together a music video of scenes from A Clockwork Orange set to Woodpecker From Mars. Edge of the World was the first song I ever felt dirty listening to. Every song on The Real Thing has a specific meaning and set of images in my head.

I remember how exciting it was hearing that Faith No More was going to be on Saturday Night Live. It seemed so strange that they would book (not that I knew what booking was back then) this odd band for their show, but hey, at least I was going to get to see them live! They played Epic (of course) and one other song – I can’t remember which one. I still have the tape that I recorded this on. Faith No More’s performance from the Video Music Awards is also on that tape. I was so obsessed with how gloriously weird Mike Patton was. The weirdest I had seen up to that point had been Al, and he didn’t hold a candle to the kilt-wearing, gibberish-spewing Patton.

Not long after The Real Thing was released, a strange thing happened. Faith No More put out a live album. I didn’t know this was strange then, but now I wonder; who the Hell puts out a live album as their second release? Live at Brixton Academy is a great audio showcase of Patton’s antics. There are many instances where the vocals just descend into aforementioned gibberish. Also included is We Care A Lot with Patton on vocals. Another thing I didn’t know at the time was that Mike Patton was a replacement for the band’s original singer, Chuck Moseley. I found this out later by buying the album Introduce Yourself and being horribly disappointed. I would go to a local indy record store once a week to see what was new and was so excited to see another Faith No More album in the bin. The guys at the store – Dave and Mike – didn’t know me well enough yet to warn me that it was a different - and vastly inferior – vocalist. It’s safe to say that I would not be the Faith No More fan I am today if they had stuck with their original singer. Or gone with Courtney Love, who was apparently in the running at one point. Blech.

I haven’t watched MTV in years, so I don’t know if they still do this, but they used to hype new videos by established bands a couple of weeks before they premiered. One night while I was doing algebra homework or something, MTV had a spot for the first new Faith No More video from their brand new album, Angel Dust. I was in heaven. I want to say the video premiered on the alternative show, 120 Minutes, hosted by the incredibly hot – and Republican – Kennedy; but I think it came on earlier in the day. I also think it was on a weekend. Whenever it was, the video for Midlife Crisis was awesome. Looking back, I wonder why it wasn’t a let-down. There’s no crazy imagery or Patton shenanigans, in fact, it’s probably the most subdued video Faith No More released. All I know is that I loved it and immediately wanted slicked-back hair and a sleazy van dyke. I also wanted some blue work clothes (I didn’t know Dickies at the time).

My first misplaced feelings of superiority also came as a result of Faith No More.


They performed on MTV’s awful afternoon show, Hangin’ with MTV, and played the gonzo, non-hit track Caffeine. I recall watching the douchebags in the live audience trying to bang their heads (This phrase always seemed incredibly stupid to me, but I’ve yet to come up with anything better.) to the song and looking not quite sure what to do. They didn’t get my music. They didn’t get that Faith No More was too cool for their stupid show and was aggressively playing this off-kilter song just to show their disdain for these… posers. I just knew that if I were there, Mike Patton would hand me an extra mic so I could make weird growly noises along with him and freak out all these jocko douchebags. Or something.

When I finally got my hands on a copy of Angel Dust my life felt complete. It is the only sophomore album that I immediately liked more than the debut. Every track was perfect. Is perfect. There is absolutely nothing bad about this album. From the strangely uplifting Land of Sunshine all the way through to the inexplicable cover of the theme from Midnight Cowboy, each track on this album is a gift for your ears. I was still innocent enough when Angel Dust came out to not understand why my Mom didn’t like it just from hearing the title, or to know that I should be grossed out by Jizzlobber.

I just knew that, like
Edge of the World, parts of Angel Dust made me feel kind of dirty. No family-friendly album is going to feature a photograph of a slaughterhouse on the back.

The video for A Small Victory also garnered a fair amount of hype from MTV. I think they even did another build-up type thing for it, because I remember anticipating it for a while. This one might have premiered on Headbanger’s Ball. That seems really inappropriate, but I seem to remember the band either being guests or possibly even hosting the episode. Man, I wish I had Wikipedia at work. The video for A Small Victory was definitely a return to weirdness, albeit a more artful kind. It was dark and strange and featured the band members sitting in these crazy, thorny, bone-looking thrones while the camera spun around them. And the song was great, too.

Time passed and we heard nothing from Faith No More. Then, one day at school, one of my buddies told me they had a new video. It was some slow song and they were in a hotel room full of women in their underwear. I wasn’t sure about the slow part, but new Faith No More and scantily clad ladies were definitely right up my alley. It was a long time before I actually saw the video for Faith No More’s cover of Lionel Ritchie’s (I think with the Commodores) Easy, but once I did I knew I needed to explain something to my friend. If he couldn’t tell those were dudes in that video, he was definitely going to need looking out for.

And I thought I was sheltered. At the time, it wasn’t my favorite song, but anything new from Faith No More was great news. As soon as I could I made my way to MusiCDrome – that local store that used to have a different name that I can’t seem to remember and where I was now known as a regular who could be warned off of crap and probably recommended something good in its place – to get the new album. Unfortunately, there was no new album. It was an EP called Songs to Make Love To, and it only had a few songs on it, one of which was on Angel Dust. It did whet the appetite, though. Between the bizarre polka Das Schutzenfest and the cover of the Dead Kennedys Let’s Lynch the Landlord (Another song that introduced me to a band I would like. For a while, anyway.) there was enough to hold you over until the next album. I think Easy was the last Faith No More video I actually saw on MTV.

Faith No More also had songs on the soundtracks for Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey The Perfect Crime; and Judgment NightAnother Body Murdered with the Boo-yah Tribe. I bought both of those soundtracks just for Faith No More’s contributions; although Judgment Night is one I still listen to all the time.

King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime came out some time later. I saw the video for Ricochet while I was in Europe with my family. That was when I realized Europe liked Faith No More a lot more than America did, and likely vice versa. Seeing that video made me look for Faith No More stuff over there and there was a ton. In the States, you couldn’t find so much as a button; in Europe they had t-shirts, banners, singles, posters, books – it was like Faith No More were Europe’s New Kids on the Block. OK, maybe not that big, but there was way more merchandise to be had overseas. The problem was that I had a severely limited cash flow and my parents still didn’t care for the band that produced an album called Angel Dust (and now I understood why), so they weren’t about to contribute to the cause. I ended up buying the singles for Digging the Grave and Evidence since they both had tracks I had never heard. I still haven’t done anything with the patch that came with the Digging the Grave single. It’s in a cigar box with a bunch of other un-applied patches. I think I’m just afraid of losing it.

By the time Album of the Year came out Faith No More had a new guitarist and I had a few new friends. Richard – who I have mentioned before – and Terry – who I may not have – and Gnoll are all big Faith No More fans. Now I had people I could discuss the new stuff with. I remember going in to get a new tattoo not long after the album was released and talking to Richard about it the whole time he was working on me. The best was yet to come.

I was working at the Masquerade at the time and Faith No More was going to be playing there. I rarely asked for specific job assignments, but that night I asked to be upstairs. I was ready to quit if I had to, just to see the show. Fortunately, not only did they put me upstairs; they put me on stage duty, which meant I got to be backstage before the show and sit on the front of the stage during the set. I could sit here and bust a nut just thinking about it. If I wasn’t at work. Roddy Bottum asked me very politely to sit in front of his keyboards and make sure nothing happened to them. Holy shit! After the amazing set, I ended up leaning against a wall backstage while waiting for the crew to clear the stage. Some guy came and leaned beside me and HOLY MOTHERFUCKING TAP-DANCING YETI SHITPOOP IT”S MIKE FUCKING PATTON! Yeah, I had just been sitting not three feet away from the guy watching him perform, but now I actually had the opportunity to talk to the guy. One of my idols. To this day, one of the top three people on my celebrity “I’d like to meet” list. I guess he’s technically on my “I’m glad I’ve met” list now, but whatever.

I think the only reason I didn’t act like a complete retard is that I had been at the Masquerade for about a year at that point and had quite a bit of practice talking to musicians at varying levels of fame.

Before I go further, let me relate the story my boss, Kenneth, told me about Mike Patton. According to Kenneth, the last time Faith No More played at the Masquerade Patton had a bowling bag full of pills with him. At some point he got so hopped up on whatever these pills were that he jumped down through the lift hole (The lift is what you loaded the bands’ gear on to get it up to the second story of the club. The hole in the floor that the lift comes up through is probably about twenty feet above the pavement below.), hit the top of the lift, rolled off, ran up the back steps and locked himself in the band’s dressing room. Kenneth said that the tour manager had to talk through the door to Patton to get him to go out on stage when it was time. The combination of Kenneth’s story and my past self being not quite so cynical as my current self made me somewhat hesitant to speak to Patton, but there was no way I was going to miss this opportunity. I have heard stories about him being difficult, intentionally obtuse or even argumentative. Mike Patton was none of those things. We had a half-hour conversation about food, of all things. He was very polite and refined. I asked where they were headed next and he told me North Carolina. I happily informed him that I was from North Carolina and he asked me if I knew any good places to eat. I suppose I should have figured out they guy kind of liked food from the song Squeeze Me, Macaroni. I recommended a couple of places, got him to sign a set list and thanked him for his time. He was a really nice guy. That was definitely one of the high points of my life.

As a side note, the band that opened for Faith No More was none other than the soon-to-be-huge Limp Bizkit. This was shortly after 3 Dollar Bill, Y’all had released and before Fred Durst had paid anybody to play their songs; but you wouldn’t know it from their attitudes. As friendly and down to earth as Patton and Bottum were, the dickbags in Limp Bizkit were equally as aloof and stuck up. In my time at the Masquerade, I found it to be almost universally true that bands who had already been to the top were going to be really cool while bands that were there or on their way were assholes. That and all musical acts from the U.K. are fucking dicks. The Prodigy, Orbital, Radiohead and countless others proved that British musicians are douchebags.

Except for Motorhead. I’ll tell that story another time.

And that’s kind of the end of my tale. Faith No More broke up, supposedly for good, shortly after that tour. I’d like to tell you when and where I was when I heard but I really don’t know. I didn’t believe it at first and I’m honestly not sure how I verified it. I just remember being absolutely crushed.

Not long after they disbanded a greatest hits collection was released with a really nice bonus disc with several b-sides on it. I got that and became obsessed for a while with collecting every Faith No More song ever released. This was before I was familiar with file sharing, so I was on eBay constantly looking for singles I didn’t have or had never heard of. This search led to my discovery of the greatest song of all time. This Town Ain’t Big Enough for the Both of Us – a cover of a song by Sparks, a group I had never heard of – is still the most magnificent song I have ever heard.

I think I’ve got pretty much every studio recording Faith No More has made now, along with a small number of live performances. Bootlegs aren’t as easy to find as they used to be, oddly enough. I haven’t had a whole lot of luck finding recordings of live shows online for some reason.

The last truly significant Faith No More-related event previous to Saturday night’s revelation was finding out Mrs. Troublemaker was a big fan, too, when we first started dating. That definitely helped seal the deal.

So there you go. I love Faith No More. I sure hope they make it to a U.S. tour. I also hope the new album doesn’t suck. We’ll see.

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