Rumors and controversy surrounded the 1989 video for Faith No More's megahit "Epic." Facts first: A goldfish flops around on the ground gasping for life in the video's outro. PETA condemned them. The song reached number nine on the Billboard Hot 100 and number one in Australia. VH1 ranked it number 30 on its 40 Greatest Metal Songs. The Penrith Panthers rugby team of Western Sydney, Australia, plays "Epic" when they run out onto the field.
Now, on to conjecture: The rumor is that keyboardist Roddy Bottum got the goldfish in the video from Björk at a poetry reading. Or was the fish simply purchased at a pet store around the corner? I choose to believe the Björk version. Oh, here's one more fact: This May, Faith No More will release their first album in 18 years, Sol Invictus. It's extremely fucking killer. No rap/metal present, just Mike Patton and his multi-octave range going from guttural psycho to golden crooner while the band hoists kinetic slabs of rock and sideshow theatrics. Along with Patton and Bottum, founding drummer Mike Bordin, bassist/producer Bill Gould, and guitarist Jon Hudson are back. Bill Gould spoke from his home in San Francisco.
Faith No More played a show once in Seattle and had to get out of town quickly. Nudity was involved. What happened?
The naked show, yes. It was like 1991. We were going to get arrested and had to get the hell outta there. It was a stupid thing at the end of the tour opening for Billy Idol. He did a bunch of pranks on us. We couldn't figure out what to do back to him, so when he did "Eyes Without a Face," we put bags on our heads and danced around him naked onstage. He laughs about it now, but I don't think he laughed too much at the time. We got out safely. I think I saw something later that said if we came back to Seattle, we would be arrested. There was a warrant or something. There's a statute of limitations, so I think we're okay now.
What was a prank Billy Idol pulled on Faith No More?
He dumped a big bucket of fish on us at the end of "Epic." They were dead sardines. He was actually a cool guy. He treated us really well for an opening band. Besides dumping dead fish.
I have to admit, I was afraid to listen to the new album. What if you'd gone completely nu metal?
Oh no [laughs]. Never. A lot of people have been telling me how scared they are to hear this record. And people ask about all the pressure that was on us. But there was zero pressure. People project fear onto it, and when they hear it, they love it with a sense of relief. We live in this generation where bands get older and get shittier. We're really trying to fight that.
As engineer and producer on the album, how did you achieve that in the studio?
I think one thing that helped was that we recorded it in our own rehearsal space. We were set up, I had my recording gear there, and we started fooling around. It sounded good, so we decided to keep going. We were like, "Why do we want to go to a recording studio and get on the clock and get other people involved when we've been working together for 30 years?" We knew what we wanted to do, we've all made lots of records before. When we recorded, there wasn't a lot of insecurity.
Sol Invictus means "unconquered sun," or the official sun god of the Roman Empire. Is that what you're talking about? Some sort of sun god? Patton's a total god.
That's what we're talking about. It's the name of a song and felt right as the title. Sometimes we do things on a subconscious level, then later realize why we did it. Sometimes the subconscious knows more than the conscious.
What's the song "Motherfucker" about? Who's the motherfucker?
Roddy wrote it. I think it has to do with taking responsibility for people who think they own us. And calling them motherfucker [laughs]. It's accountability. Looking back at us as a band years ago, we were put on this treadmill. We did it to ourselves, too, by not knowing any better. We were 18 and 19 years old when we started, and we didn't question certain things. But we were being manipulated a little bit.
Faith No More have devoted fans. Do fans ever get too devoted? I don't need to hear any stories about blood, unless you want to talk about blood.
No blood, okay. How about urine? Or feces?
Those are fine.
I've got a big list of all that stuff—it would take me a minute to figure out which story. We have great fans. They travel to see us. They get to know each other, they're smart, there's a community. The people who get weird and obsessive get excluded from the picture.
The blood and feces stories are usually about people doing bad drugs. I can't believe people do acid and huff Freon at the same time. Of course they're gonna pull their intestines out and eat their own shit.
America seems to have about 80 percent more of these cases than anywhere else we tour. I think it's the way media treats people out here. Usually the real psychos are the people who have no lives. They choose you to obsess over and are usually the most boring fucking people you can imagine.
Eighteen years since your last album. What made this new release actually happen?
We'd done some shows and were rehearsing, and we just kept working. We didn't want to get the hype thing going, or the gossip scene. So we didn't tell anybody we were making it. We spent about a year and a half working on it here and there, keeping it to ourselves. It was just us going to our own rehearsal space.
Talk about the sounds on Sol Invictus. You all are hurling marble slabs. Sounds huge.
The fidelity is actually not ideal. We didn't have a control room or isolation rooms. Everything was all in the same room. There are lots of artifacts you get with that. Not technically good or perfect. But you're getting a real room, and instruments in that room that have a character and a vibe. It was unscientific, but it has feel. To me, it doesn't feel like it's done in some sterile recording studio, and that's kinda the point.
Faith No More have a split personality. There's growling weirdo Mike Patton and unabashed, theatrical tenor Mike Patton. Each song's like a scene.
We write visually. When we write, we'll describe what we're trying to do by describing a scene rather than chord changes.
This is your first tour in the States in forever. Are your calluses back?
Calluses are getting there, yeah. The secret to calluses is, don't wash dishes.