FAITH NO MORE
FNM circa 1997
The Real Thing
by Pete Crigler
Faith No More have been my favorite band for as long as I can remember. They've been with me through every major milestone in my life. While trends have come and gone, Faith No More have stayed the same and that's but one of the many reasons why I've always adored them. I wanted to take a look back at my love affair with such a great and powerful band.
I first found FNM the same way everyone did, when "Epic" was a smash hit and the video was all over MTV. I was a mere four years old but I watched MTV religiously, waiting to see my favorites like Winger, Poison and Motley Crue all day. I was transfixed by the "Epic" video and its weird bursts of energy like the creepy hand, the flopping fish and of course the exploding piano at the end. What really got me liking the band though was the follow-up video "Falling to Pieces." Both songs are excellent but the latter just a tad more. It has a great bass line, some excellent drumming from Mr. Mike Bordin and some of Mike Patton's best vocals ever captured on tape. The video just takes all the eccentricities of the "Epic" video and just goes 100% over the edge with it. In fact, it ended up winning a MTV Video Award for Best Special Effects.
Cut to two plus years later. I had just turned seven and Angel Dust, the band's legendary follow-up record had been out for a few months. I had seen the "Midlife Crisis" video and liked the song but then I was in Lynchburg, VA at a record store with my mother and found the Angel Dust tape for something like 13 bucks. Now this was back when people gave a shit about those big Parental Advisory stickers and labels all over records. But my dear sweet mother didn't care about that, she wasn't going to censor what her son listened to and so she bought the cassette. Looking back, an album with songs about gay sex and a track called "Jizzlobber" should not be things a seven year old listens to but at the time no one cared. I was satisfied and ended up loving the record to death. Still do in fact so forget Robert Young- mother knows best.
I ended up getting The Real Thing on cassette not long afterwards and though it would take a couple more years before I really fell in love with the record, it's still amazing. But back to the main story. I listened to Angel Dust incessantly and then when word came of a new record in the spring of 1995, I was more than excited. The record's release schedule meant it would be available in time for my 9th birthday. The trouble was my mother could not find a copy anywhere. This was 1995 and you couldn't search the Internet for any kind of shopping. You had to actually go to a store and search the aisles until you found what you were looking for. Fortunately, there was a young stockboy who worked at the local Food Lion who was also a massive FNM fan. That's how we ended up becoming friends; he was intrigued by the amount of musical knowledge a child of my age had. Anyway, he told her of a store in Williamsburg, VA that would most likely have the record. She ended up finding the record and a nine year old got a fantastic record for his birthday. This record was a lot darker and moodier than previous records but because of its heaviness, I instantly loved it. Tracks like "Ugly in the Morning," "Ricochet" and "King for a Day" became my go-to tracks and still are, 21 years later.
So life moved on and my musical taste continued to grow but Faith No More always stayed right there with me. I even ended up getting into Mr. Bungle because I loved Mike Patton's voice and wanted to hear what his other band sounded like. Ended up finding Disco Volante on cassette at some Camelot Music in a shopping mall and fell in love with that one too. By 1997, I thought I had fully formed my musical identity but was always on the lookout for FNM stuff. I ended up finding a rare cassette of their first album We Care a Lot in some obscure store in some obscure mall that has since been lost to time. But the greatest thing was the finding of the 2nd record, Introduce Yourself.
I was about to turn eleven and there was a new record store getting ready to open in my small town. I was getting groceries with my folks and saw a sign or something on the other side of the shopping center. So after I had picked out my essentials, I went over there to see what was going on. I stuck my head in the door and asked if I could come in and take a look. The store wasn't even officially open yet but they allowed me and I started browsing. It was then that I found an original, unopened copy of the 2nd record on cassette. I couldn't believe, I mean I had never seen a copy of that record before. I had to have it. So I talked to the owners and told them how big a fan of the band I was. I guess they were charmed and bemused by me so they allowed me to purchase said cassette. I still have that cassette to this day.
I ended up becoming the store's biggest fan. Doc's Music lasted in West Point from 1997 to about 2003. A damn shame I wasn't ever able to secure a job there.
Around the same time, word came that FNM were going to release a new studio record. Needless to say, I was beyond excited and had to find a way to get the record. Then, we didn't know how to Google record stores or order anything on Amazon. Back then, you had to call a record store to see if they had certain records in stock. In this case, we went to Sam Goody in a rundown part of Richmond after the record had come out. They didn't have it on cassette and I didn't have a CD player yet, so I walked to the counter, an eleven year old lad and asked to special order Album of the Year on cassette. They said they would call when the tape came in so I all could do was wait.
One day, the phone rang and it was for me. It was a woman from Sam Goody saying the tape was in and ready for me to pick up. As it was late in the evening when the call came in, we had to wait til the next day to go get it. We got up early, ran some errands and went to Richmond to pick it up. I can still remember my hands trembling when I gave the clerk my meager money because I was sooooo excited about this record. I believe I had heard the lead single "Last Cup of Sorrow" on 106.5 The Buzz, the closest alt rock station to me, but other than that had heard nothing else from the disc. Getting back in the car after lunch, I put the tape in and started perusing the booklet. I was stunned to discover that the band had yet another new guitarist. By this time, MTV wasn't really covering them and so I had no clue that Jon Hudson had been added to the group.
Upon listening to the first track, "Collision," I was enthralled by what I heard. This was a clear, focused FNM and the music reflected it. After listening to the entire record, I was convinced (and still am) that this really was the album of 1997. Over the next couple of months, the tape damn near wore out from constant listening and while I tried to convince my friends in vain about the band, my love only grew stronger.
Then it happened. It was April of 1998 and I was skipping class. I was in band and I skipped out to go to the library to check on the news, because I was that much of a dork. I went to mtv.com and there it was. The official announcement of Faith No More breaking up! I couldn't believe it, I was devastated, nothing this bad had really happened besides losing some key family members in my early youth. I couldn't understand why and why now. They had just released a great record, had done some interesting touring, including playing a radio show in Virginia with opening act Seven Mary Three and having a young Limp Bizkit open some other gigs for them. There was talk of them opening for Aerosmith on some European tour dates, that and it seemed the guys were getting along again.
But alas, this was the news and I had to accept it. Life went on and I discovered other bands but held firm in my love of FNM. While my friends were listening to Kid Rock, Korn, Orgy, Rammstein and other bands, I went back in time and discovered Violent Femmes, Smithereens, Sugar and the Dead Milkmen. In the fall of 1998, it was announced that the band would be releasing a double-disc greatest hits record and matching VHS tape covering all of their music videos. I was in hog heaven and knew what I wanted for Christmas. That greatest hits disc would end up being one of the first two CD's I ever owned, the other being Barenaked Ladies' Stunt. The second disc was the most important as it contained never before released tracks and live outtakes. With the release of these collections, it seemed it would be the end of FNM.
Then in 2003, Slash/Rhino announced the release of a new collection called This is It. This disc also contained tracks I didn't already own. So I ended up getting that for my 17th birthday. Then in 2007, it was announced that the VHS collection from 1998 was finally coming out on DVD, along with You Fat Bastards: Live at the Brixton Academy VHS tape from 1990. I ended up buying that as well. I also ended up buying a European import greatest hits collection because it had still even more songs that I didn't previously own. Hell, I even own an Australian version of We Care A Lot on CD because as of this writing, it's been out of print on CD forever. I also own the European CD single for "Ricochet" because it contains two covers I couldn't find anywhere else, including G.G. Allin's "I Wanna Fuck Myself!"
The years went on. I entered college and my musical palette started changing. I discovered hardcore punk and fell in love with singers like Jr. Walker and Del Shannon. But Faith No More was always constant. It got to the point where several friends would hear "Epic" on the local rock station and immediately think of me. During this time, there was little activity from the guys in the band. Two were running labels, keyboardist Roddy Bottum put out interminable records with Imperial Teen and drummer Mike Bordin was busy playing in Ozzy's solo band. Mike Patton stayed the most visible, working on everything from Lovage to Tomahawk to Peeping Tom. I tried to check most of that stuff out but asides from Fantomas and Tomahawk, but I wasn't interested in half of it.
Then in 2009, it was announced the band was reuniting and playing shows for the first time in 11 years. I was ecstatic until I saw the tour dates; all confined to Europe except for three shows on the West Coast and one in New York. That was disappointing to say the least. But life went on and as the reunion tour went all throughout Europe and South America, chances for a full blown American tour became ‘smaller and smaller.'
Then in 2014, it was announced that the band would be mounting an American tour and would also be releasing their first studio album in eighteen years on Patton's label, Ipecac. Well needless to say, I was over the moon excited and told anyone who would listen about how great this record was going to be. Of course, to most people I was talking over their heads and they couldn't really give a damn. It didn't matter to me though. I was anticipating this more than anything since the release of Album of the Year. As the band began releasing teases and singles from the record, I was devouring them. "Motherfucker" was the first track released and while it was quite a departure, I still think it's a great track. Then "Superhero," the official first single was released and it sounded like a combination of King for A Day and Album of the Year.
Then in the spring of 2015, Sol Invictus was released and God, was it a revelation. Not only was it the 2nd best rock record of the year but it was a great return for a band I have revered for so long. "Sunny Side Up," "Matador" and "From the Dead" are some of the best tracks the band have ever recorded and fittingly, the record received great reviews when it came out. These are possibly some of the same critics that destroyed the last two records in '95 and '97. The album also hit the top 20 on the Billboard 200, their highest sales peak since 1992. Then the band announced a full-blown U.S. tour.
While I was disappointed the band weren't playing anywhere in Virginia, I realized they were playing in Columbia, Maryland. I corralled a buddy of mine, Aaron, into my plan and we decided to buy tickets and go up there and see FNM live for the very first time. I haven't had so much fun in a long-ass time. We crashed with my friends Holly and Meghan and explored the city for a while before making our way to the Merriweather Post Pavilion.
Refused opened the show and they were incendiary. They were on fire and they knew it. The crowd was amped up and the pit got a little violent. Aaron and I were about ten feet from the stage because I wanted the best seat I could get. After Refused finished their set, FNM's road crew set about prepping the stage and by that, I mean covering it in flowers, which was the band's motif for the current tour. After about twenty minutes, the band made their way on stage and began playing "The Real Thing." Making their way through their best songs including "Midlife Crisis," "Land of Sunshine" and "Ashes to Ashes," the band were on point all night. It was without a doubt the best show I have ever seen. The fact that I was ten feet away from Roddy Bottum made me feel like a giddy fuckin' schoolgirl. Even Aaron loved it that night and we came back to Virginia on a high that I wouldn't come off of for a couple of weeks.
Now I'm not saying that I'm Faith No More's number one fan, but I think I am at least in the top ten. Through the years, I have had Facebook conversations with producer Matt Wallace and former guitarist Dean Menta (whose interview will follow this article) and a phone call with Chuck Mosley, which was out this world for me. I can honestly say that Faith No More have been my favorite band the first 30 years of my life. As I get ready to enter the next 30 years, there's no reason why that will seemingly ever change.
See interview with former FNM guitarist Dean Menta and an article about FNM's Angel Dust
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