Why Faith No More Have Returned: “The World Needs A Little Provocation Right Now”
2020 came in with a bang before it had even started. Last month, Faith No More announced that they would be returning to the fray for a series of European dates next summer. Included in these is a tour of the UK that sees them hit Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and London (twice), in what will be the Cali quintet’s first headline appearances on these shores for five years.
“I think the world needs a little provocation right now,” says keyboard player Roddy Bottum. “It’s a kind of dark, dark place out there, and I think that bringing our craft and our musical exploration to the planet can only be a good thing.”
And how. Formed in San Francisco in 1979, Faith No More rose to prominence in the late 1980s with a slew of albums that dragged the rock mainstream in stranger and heavier directions. With releases such as 1992’s Angel Dust and 1995’s King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime, the group helped change the perception of what a modern rock band could, and perhaps should, be. Out went toxic masculinity and songs about chicks, and in came a melting pot sound made up of disparate genres, a dark sense of humour, progressivism, and the tinge of danger. Thirty years after the release of The Real Thing, the group’s breakthrough album, the legacy of Faith No More is as towering and obvious as ever it was.
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“We’ve never been a conventional band,” considers Roddy. “We’ve never been a traditional band. We see it as our job to push the envelope in unexpected and hopefully jarring ways. It [our success] has always been a weird thing to me. As a kid, I would never have imagined that the kind of strange things that we do would ever become successful, and the fact that it has totally blows me away. I’m really proud that it has, too.”
And what does Roddy Bottum hope to achieve with this upcoming run?
“I hope that by going out into the world and screaming what we do, hopefully we can get people to see things in a new light…”
What’s the story of the return of Faith No More, Roddy?
“It’s kind of been a long time in the making, honestly. I think all of us were at the point collectively where we felt like what we had done five years ago in reforming, and the subsequent recording and touring of that recording [the Sol Invictus album], was an unfinished task. There were places that we didn’t go, things we didn’t do, and ways that we would have liked to perform but hadn’t. The option to do it again was still there, but it kind of took us a while to get our head around how we wanted to do it, and what the impetus for going forward was.”
What can British audiences expect when you hit our shores?
“I think we’ll just do what we’ll do. We’re planning a new show and we’re taking a lot of care and finesse in how we present ourselves. That said, I don’t want to divulge too much. I think that on the last go round we had sharp performance and presentation, and I feel like what we do has always lived up to that. I want this next stage to live up to the standards where we left off.”
When you returned last time, you said that you felt “dirty” playing only old songs, which led to the recording of Sol Invictus. Given this, can we expect a new album this time round?
“You know, there’s no plans right now to record any new music. There’s no plans at all. I think we’re all at an age, or at a time in our lives, where looking back at what we’ve done is a profound place to be. I’m super-proud of what we’ve done in a way that I haven’t been before. I think maybe some years ago it did feel a little bit dirty, like we were taking advantage of the world by just going out there and playing old songs, but for whatever reason I’m in a different place with that right now. I think our legacy speaks for itself in the way the world is right now. It’s refreshing and it’s appropriately provocative to throw ourselves into the world again. It’s a good example of eccentric leftism, if you will.”
Faith No More are a band that thrive on friction. How do you deal with that as older people?
“When we started, we were such brats. We were so crazy and irresponsible and absolutely disrespectful with each other, and it totally did inform who we were as a band. Friction sort of created a volatility that became our sound. It’s hard to say where that is right now. We do get off going at each other, but in a different way. I don’t think we’re actively throwing punches and attacking each other in the back of vans, as we once did, but we do constantly challenge each other. That’s how it exists right now. We still have five distinct personalities that are working together on an art form, and each of us has a unique perspective. It’s always a challenge to get on the same page… struggling to gain a unified perspective is always difficult. But when we do, it’s always rewarding.”
If you weren’t in a band together, would you be friends with the other members?
“That’s a really good question. I don’t know, because it’s hard to remove myself from the history of what we are. I think everything that I do with these guys leads back to our history, and how long we’ve known each other, and the respect we have for each other. I find everyone in the band extremely challenging, but in the best kind of way. The conversations I have with them are extremely challenging and extremely rewarding. If I had known that before I met them then, yeah, I would want to hang out with each of them. They’re my closest people.”
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You’ve mentioned the band’s musical legacy. What do you think rock music would sound like without Faith No More’s contribution to the cause?
“It’s hard for me to acknowledge that we’ve had a big place in informing music history. The way that we’ve operated and the way that our records have existed have been such far-to-the-left musical statements that it’s hard to imagine it being embraced by the general populous, but I guess that it has. I think we have brought in a lot of different themes and flavours into what we were doing, and we were always hungry combining different musical genres, that was what we got off on. We made it a point to bring our tastes into what we did musically. And I think at some point that became a thing among bands. I think people lost their fear of trying different things that might be scoffed at… I think we made it easier for people to realise that doing that was okay.”
There is quite an appetite for bands of a certain age who go out and play their classic songs. Do we call that nostalgia?
“One hundred per cent it’s nostalgia! I love going to see bands where I know all the words. I see an awful lot of music and I still go and see new bands all the time, but it’s super-fun to see something that I’m familiar with. It’s a pat on my own back to see something that I loved as a kid and that I still love now because it’s like, ‘Wow, yeah, I was right! This is fantastic!’ So I think people like that.”
How much does money play a part in the decision to get back together? “Well, it’s important that things pay for themselves. We’re involved in a business, so that certainly comes up. And in the initial discussions as to why we’re doing this, [money] comes up an awful lot. Each of us has said, ‘I don’t need the money, I don’t need to do this.’ I think we usually set off with our best foot forward with that in mind, that it’s not something that we need to do for the money. I know that sounds a little hokey, but that’s where we are. I think it comes down more to the union of five friends doing this music again and getting on the road again and doing a project together. That was the most important thing to us.”
Was there any one member that needed convincing more than the others? “I think we honestly all felt the same way about it. We all felt that we didn’t have to do this, but that it was something that we wanted to do. Everyone came to the table at different times and with different approaches – and the span of our career has been a lot of years – and we’ve all been in positions of vulnerability within ourselves at different times. But this time we were more on the same page than we have been in the past. It’s not easy to get everyone together and to agree on stuff, which goes back to what we were talking about earlier, that we’re a band that operates on friction. But I don’t think there was any one person who needed more persuading to get on board. We know and read each other so well, and we acknowledge everyone’s opinions and gestures in a familial kind of a way. So we all ended up getting on board in a companionable way.”
The music industry has undergone massive changes since the emergence of Faith No More. What challenges would you face, were you a new band today?
“I’m not really sure. Is rock chic right now, does rock sell, do people still go to shows? And my sense is that people do still go to shows. I still go to shows, and I still see people at shows. I think the world in that kind of realm, in the touring way, remains pretty much the same. I think people take in information a lot quicker than they did – social media and so on – so they get on board a lot quicker and they learn a lot quicker… But in terms of being a young band who just makes enough money to survive and who goes in the road in a van? I don’t think things have changed that much. When Faith No More started touring, we didn’t make any money and we lived on 10 dollars a day for years before we made any money. But the fact that we went from being a band that toured in a van to becoming a band that headlined arenas blows my mind. I have no idea how that happened. I don’t know if a band as odd as Faith No More could do that today, but I do hope so.”
You were one of the first rock musicians to come out as gay. Pleasingly, no-one seemed to care all that much. Is the rock community as tolerant a place today as it was back in 1993?
“I certainly did feel that the rock community was a tolerant place when I came out. But the rock community was not why I made that gesture – in fact, it was the least of my worries. It was more important for me to make that statement and make that gesture for the gay community and for the unrecognised people of that time. Back then, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford wasn’t even out of the closet. My statement was a provocative statement for the straight world in general, but more important to me was the fact that it needed to be said for the gay community, for my community. It needed to be said, and to be heard as a way of signifying gratitude and compassion for my people.”
So, to recap, you’re looking forward to the return to Faith No More?
“Yeah, although it’s super-scary to be jumping back into it again. We remain a loose cannon, you know? Collectively, walking amongst each other and doing what we do remains a volatile place. It scares me, but the possibility of grandeur and what we’re able to pull off is exciting. It’s shaky ground, but it’s exciting at the same time.”
Catch Faith No More live at the following dates this year – and get your tickets now.
Faith No More UK/Europe tour 2020
10 Manchester, UK – O2 Apollo
11 Glasgow, UK – O2 Academy
13 Punchestown, Ireland – Sunstroke Festival
15 Birmingham, UK – O2 Academy
16 London, UK – O2 Academy Brixton
20 Clisson, France – Hellfest
26 Oslo, Norway – Tons of Rock
28 Helsinki, Finland – Tuska Metal Festival
11 Madrid, Spain – Mad Cool Festival
Helmet, Scars On Broadway, Spotlights and more will fill out Korn and Faith No More’s co-headlining tour.
Farewell to the man who influenced everyone from Jimmy Page to Lingua Ignota to Stanley Kubrick…