Artist Spotlight: Faith No More (or; I Won’t Forget You When I’m In Hell) [Part 1 of 7]

I estimate that I have written close to 480,000 words on Faith No More in various comment sections of this site alone. What’s 12,000 more?

Part 1 of 7

Pre-Faith No More

Keyboardist Roddy Bottum and bassist Bill Gould were friends starting when they lived in the same neighborhood when they were both 8 years old, riding their bikes to each other’s houses with other kids in the area. The pair had a shared discovery of punk when they “saw a bunch of weird looking people walking on the street, and we followed them,” Gould said in an interview. They were led to a local show, with local punk bands. At the show, Gould was hooked, but Bottum was not so impressed.

Gould had started playing bass, but only because his other friends had already claimed drums and guitars.  Bottum wasn’t in this early band, even though he had been playing piano since he was 5, and had been entering talent shows starting at age 6. In his words, he “hadn’t gone electric yet”, and it never occurred to him that he could play rock music. But this band, that would eventually become The Animated, did have a keyboardist by the name of Chuck Mosley.

Mosley began playing music by teaching himself to pound out the Batman ’66 Theme on piano. Mosley said, “Next thing I know, I’m taking piano lessons for the next ten years… My mom wanted me to be the first black classical pianist, but that wasn’t really part of my plan, plus there already was one – Andre Watts – he beat me to it.”

Gould and Mosley often went to punk shows together. They immediately clicked, as they had liked all the same bands. Soon, The Animated had grown a cult following and played a lot of shows. The Bangs, later to become The Bangles, opened for them. The band released a four song EP, appropriately titled, 4 Song EP, and Gould even flew to New York and London to try and get The Animated a deal, but it was no use.  The band ended within 18 months.

Mosley started his own punk band, Haircuts That Kill, and Gould went to Berkeley and immediately began searching for his next band.

Faith. No Man.

Gould answered a bulletin board ad for a band that was playing post-punk, which led him to Faith. No Man. The drummer for this band was Mike Bordin.

Bordin had a very conservative upbringing, but music was always present as the Bordin household would regularly attend operas and symphonies. At the age of 9, Bordin’s mother passed away, and he sought solace in radio. His first radio, which only got AM, gave him Smokey Robinson, The Doors, and The Temptations. Soon, it was a regular battle with his father for permission to go see a concert every week, to which he was always denied. Soon, his tastes grew and he got into Thin Lizzy, ZZ Top, Blue Öyster Cult, but the most importantly, Black Sabbath. Bordin felt a real connection with the band, “Once I heard Sabbath, every thing else was second place. In some ways I was so lost, and Ozzy was singing about all dour and depressing down stuff, and I realized there are other people like me, other people like that.”

As a teenager, Bordin’s father relented on his concert going and he travelled near and far to see shows with his high school friend Cliff Burton. The pair were into more than just heavy rock, they were also fans of R.E.M., Devo, and Johnny Cash. Soon, they decided that they were not content to watch, now they were ready to play. Burton announced he was going to learn bass, and Bordin chose drums for no real reason at all. The two jammed together every day after school, well into the evening. Bordin said that in the beginning he was “crummy”, but Burton was “really good, very early”.

The duo had been running through a bunch of different groups, but nothing seemed to fit. Then, their musical focus changed.  “As soon as I heard Motorhead, I knew I didn’t have to listen to Ted Nugent anymore,” Bordin recalls. Bordin and Burton had been getting into the punk scene, and attended the final Sex Pistols show (not counting reunions, of course). They had heard about a band that was looking for a bassist and drummer, and decided to check it out. This led them to join EZ Street, the band of guitarist Jim Martin.

Even before Faith No More, the members had tension. “We ended up in Jim’s band. That didn’t last very long… it wasn’t what I was trying to do.” Bordin continues, “We never hit it off. I don’t know why. Jim’s a very unique dude.” Martin’s version is much more antagonistic. “That band was together for over five years, but Bordin didn’t last too long, because he talked too much shit. He joined some pop-punk band.”

In the fall of 1981, Gould and Bordin responded to the same ad for a band seeking a bass player and a drummer. The band formed by singer/guitarist Mike “The Man” Morris and keyboardist Wade Worthington. After both had been interviewed by Morris and Worthington independently, the four met up in Worthington’s garage. Gould and Bordin had clicked instantly, despite Bordin being new to this style of music. Morris gave both of them direction, and they dutifully complied, as they were just happy to be able to hone their craft.

The band was originally called Sharp Young Men. They recorded a Joy Division-ish demo, and were gaining a lot of momentum. However, contentions were starting to arise between Gould and Morris. Gould had been actively campaigning against the band name, and Morris relented saying he was not a “fascist” and put the name up for debate. Morris ended up picking the replacement, Faith In No Man, but Bordin felt it was too wordy and suggested Faith. No Man (which Gould also hated).

In 1983, Faith. No Man. self-released their lone single, Quiet In Heaven b/w Song of Liberty. If nothing else, it establishes the stomp that signifies so much of Faith No More’s early work.

The single had garnered good reviews and created some rumblings of labels wanting to distribute it and potentially sign the band, but they would dissolve not long after the single’s release. Worthington quit first, but was gracious enough to let the band use his garage, and also let his replacement, Roddy Bottum, use his keyboard. Upon joining the band, Bottum and Bordin also clicked instantly.

The trio of Gould-Bordin-Bottum together placed the musical differences between them and Morris in stark relief.  The trio wanted to explore themselves and explore new sounds, but according to Gould, Morris wanted the band to be based on UK post-punk happening 5,000 miles away. Bottum states that Morris was real bossy, and he squashed any ideas the three would bring to the table. Bordin was a little softer, saying that Morris allowed them to grow as musicians, and that Faith No More wouldn’t exist without him, but also Faith No More could not exist with him.

Gould, Bordin, and Bottum all quit and formed their “new band” the next day. In addition to needing a singer and a guitarist, they would also need a name. Bordin’s college classmate Will Carpmill (who played in Systems Collapse with future FNM guitarist John Hudson) were passing a note back and forth trying to come up with band names, and Carpmill suggest “Faith. No Morris” as a joke, and eventually that became Faith. No More.

We Care a Lot (1985)

The trio started a new home base in San Francisco. While they strategized how to move forward with the band, Bottum, who was a film student at the time, would make short films, and then they would create soundtracks to them.  The scene at the time was everyone being creative in any capacity, it didn’t matter what it was. The people were also of all different types co-mingling. As stated in the liner notes to the We Care a Lot reissue, the punks, the hippies, the dancers, the musicians, the Satanists, the artists, the film makers, and the photographers, they all were part of the same scene.

October 7, 1983 marked the first Faith No More show, after the trio had been playing long jams in a rehearsal space that was an abandoned Hamms Brewery (which produced part of “Zombie Eaters” from 1989’s The Real Thing). They still didn’t have a singer or guitarist, not permanently anyway. They showed up at a punk show, wearing dashikis and dreadlocks and burning incense and sage just to aggravate the punks in the audience.  This really sets the tone for the entire band history, trying to get a rise out of people just for kicks.

Bottum later said, “It was our intention to have a different singer and guitar player for every show.  We wanted to keep people guessing, and to keep our sounds and presentation fresh and challenging. Anything we could do to set ourselves apart from the other bands worked for us.”

One person everyone wants to talk about fronting the band is Courtney Love. It’s so strange, I had never even heard of this until 1998, when she was listed in the Who Cares A Lot? compilation released after the band ended. Love sang for Faith No More for 4 or 5 months in 1984. Bottum said, “She did a lot of screaming stuff, and some melody stuff, too. When she was with us, she was punk rock.” Gould stated that Love was confrontational with the audience, and pissed a lot of people off, which he enjoyed. But, “She’s got to lead and tell people what’s what. She was the dictator, and in our band, things were democratic.” Bordin’s take was similar, in that while she added to the confrontational aspect, she was constantly surrounded by, and a source of, drama, which he called “a tornado of shit.”

After Love’s dismissal, the band was still searching for their next guitarist as well as their next singer. Upon the urging of Cliff Burton, the band hired Jim Martin to be their (eighth) guitarist. Bordin protested, saying they didn’t get a long before, but Burton told him Martin needed the work, and this time it would be different. The band had lost a gig opening for 45 Grave because they lacked a guitarist and singer, but got the gig back when they played as The Chickenfuckers with Gould on vocals, Burton on bass, Bordin on drums, and Martin on guitar. At this show, Love repeatedly tried to storm the stage to perform with them, but was unsuccessful. She left town the next day.

Faith No More regrouped in late 1984. They were looking for a person who could give a performance rather than a technically sound voice, so the borrowed Chuck Mosley from Haircuts That Kill. First, he was filling in for three shows, which became five shows, which became ten shows, which then turned into years. Mosley and Gould had stayed in contact since The Animated, and was a natural fit for the sound the band was trying to achieve.

Eventually, in 1985, the band was tired of waiting for labels to take interest in them, and began raising funds to record their debut album themselves. In one weekend, they completed four songs: “Greed”, “Mark Bowen” (named after a former guitarist), “Arabian Disco”, and one of their signature songs “We Care A Lot”. Ruth Schwartz, a former employee of Rough Trade, was trying to start her own label. Schwartz heard the demo, and signed the band to her brand new Mordam Records, and sent the band back for another three-day weekend to finish their debut.

The result is an album the melds funk, punk, hip-hop, and metal. We Care a Lot takes parts of Killing Joke and Run DMC, and adds a razor-sharp guitar to slice through all of it. This was music to mosh to, and music to dance to.

After the explosion of The Real Thing, my cousin and I needed more. We knew there were two more albums at the local mall, but we were children and too poor to buy albums very often. So, we each bought one. My cousin bought We Care A Lot, but I later traded him Ozzy Osbourne’s No More Tears for it. It was a pretty low budget recording, and everything I had ever heard in my life before that had been very slick. Despite the limitations of the recording, the power of the songs came through. Even though, Mosley’s vocals took some getting used to, the talent of this band and how they hit me was undeniable. Initially being released only on cassette and vinyl, it was reissued from a vinyl source on CD, and the results were not great.

To be continued…