Updated: May 5, 2020
by Erick Kainen:
Great bands you've never heard of.... maybe...
Faith No More. (God, the 90's were great.) The name sounds heartless…soulless right? Don’t let it fool you. Faith No More might have the most soul, groove, and funk of any metal or rock band EVER. Yep. Shots fired. What genre is Faith No More? I don’t know and nor should you….they’re just fantastic musicians with a sound I have yet to find in a band today. How good are they? In their prime of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the Prince of Darkness himself Ozzy Ozbourne, (SHAAAAAARONNNNNNNN!!!!) allowed them to cover arguably his most famous song, ‘War Pigs.’ How much reach into the mainstream did they have? In 1991 guitarist James Martin with his trademark red sunglasses and beard that resembles a shrubbery, was featured in the Movie “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.” STATION!!! But you don’t care yet. How could you? You don’t even know these guys. Let’s travel back in time shall we? We could talk forever but we’ll focus on their heyday and present for the sake me mashing a keyboard for hours.
Faith No More began in the Bay area around 1981. The founders of the band were Billy Gould (base player) and Mike Bordin (drums) The Bay Area was home to a vibrant metal scene in the 80’s producing the likes of Metallica and Exodus. FNM was a different breed though. Their influences ranged from funk, thrash, hip-hop, British heavy metal and others. These elements merged to create a style that we really haven’t seen replicated in American music…hence their longevity and notoriety. Red Hot Chili Peppers? Some similarities, but the Chili Peppers did not have the metal influence that FNM showcased. The band went through a few names and lineups but settled in 1987 on the lineup of Gould, Bordin, Roddy Bottum (keyboards), James Martin (guitar) and Chuck Mosley on vocals. They produced a hit called “We Care a Lot” but Mosley eventually left the band. His replacement? The eccentric, larger than life Mike Patton. This is when the band really took off.
THE REAL THING
To understand Mike Patton, one almost has to understand theatre. He has the flash and flair of someone classically trained in Shakespeare plays but listened to Ozzy on the side while drinking too much coffee. When you hear his style you won’t forget it. Patton’s voice almost has an elastic opera quality to it, but he can bring the brutality of a metal vocalist and groove/funk of an MC. Take a listen to these two tracks. “Epic” and “Falling to Pieces” off of their 1989 release “The Real Thing.”
Faith No More - Epic
Faith No More - Falling to Pieces
….and you thought musicians in 2020 were originally weird right? Sorry, but history repeats itself. As for the other band members, each of them were uniquely skilled. For me, when you can recognize the individual instruments of a band, I take notice. Harmony is great and FNM have it in spades but each member has a distinctive sound with their respective instrument. I have never heard a baseline that melted my face like Gould in “Falling to Pieces.” Complimentary to that is the gradual, spacey, keyboards of Bottum…..the epic drums of Boldin, and the crescendo groove of Martin’s guitar. That song to me encapsulates the skill of the band. Did we mention Patton? He can rap, harmonize, rise above the instruments ala Rob Halford of Iron Maiden, he’s got so much versatility. Do yourself a favor and listen to “The Real Thing” in its’ entirety to experience the versatility of this band. It’s a masterpiece.
POP CULTURE NOTORIETY, and CROSSOVERS
STATIONNNNNN! Ok I admit I am a sucker for “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey.” Joking aside, you don’t get asked to have a cameo in a Hollywood movie because your band sucks. Jim Martin please!
This is always the clue that you’re making it big eh? Faith No More had individual skill combined with exceptional harmony. This is a hard balance. Usually bands settle for one or the other but they did both. They could take a cover and make it sound fresh. I refer you to exhibit A: Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘War Pigs.’ While I am forever grateful of his musical influence, his version of this song is flat when compared to FNM. FNM added a groove, flow, and energy that was buried in the original version. I’ll let you decide for yourself which is better.
To be fair, this was written and recorded in 1970:
Faith No More version 1989:
The first breakdown features a flow that any music fan can appreciate. It is introduced after just the right amount of contrast and buildup to make you appreciate it. We can thank Ozzy for the song construction and FNM for taking this song to the next level. Ozzy didn’t seem to mind either…..
We could go on forever, but the point is FNM had people’s attention. The blend of their individuality, harmony, and versatility made them immensely popular across genres. I think this video clip sums it up given the various artists representing different genres are featured. Young MC, James Hetfield of Metallica, and Ozzy Osbourne himself….take a look at this performance featuring all three of the aforementioned artists:
IT’S OK TO HAVE SWAGGER….IF YOU CAN BACK IT UP
Mike Patton had plenty of that. It’s what made him a magnetic presence in the band. His theatrics on stage kept you glued to him, but then you get lost in his vocal range and styles. Off the stage he was a character of characters unafraid to express himself. Take a look:
Faith No More is back together like so many older bands. It seems everyone is touring again. We are so lucky to live in the times we live in. When did humans ever have this much access to great music? With the coronavirus pandemic cancelling many shows it remains to be seen whether or not FNM will be able to honor their local dates. You should definitely check them out though. If you are a fan of musicianship this is a band you need to be acquainted with. Click the link below for tour dates!