Faith No More Grows Up: Interview

Faith No More is back! The band is set to release their first album since they split up in 1998. And…they will be in New Zealand in March appearing on the Westfest bill along with Judas Priest and Soundgarden. The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke with Faith No More keyboard player Roddy Bottum about Sol Invictus, the band’s new album and how the current Faith No More compares to the band from 20 years ago.

Click here to listen to the interview with Faith NBo More’s Roddy Bottum:

Or read a transcription of the interview here:

MD: I know lots of folks are looking forward to seeing you guys when you get here part of this Westfest thing. Do you do many festivals like this where you’re playing with other bands like Soundgarden and Judas Priest?

RB: The festivals used to be a lot sort of broader, sort of like musical talent, they become a little bit marginalized lately. It feels like the festivals we are involved in are very “rock”. It’s very sort of one flavour a little bit.

MD: Right.

RB: I’m not saying that we all sound the same but it’s like English festivals used to be, or European festivals used to be like all over the map. It would be things like Massive Attack and like Metallica and just like all over the place. The ones that we end up doing now seem like it’s sort of like one flavour for the most part

MD: Do you have a preference?

RB: The one in Auckland seems like that a little bit but it seems like great flavour. I think it’s going to be a whole bunch of fun.

MD: Yeah I think so, I’m sure it will be. I have never had the chance to see Judas Priest myself so I’m looking forward to seeing them even though they’ve been around forever. But you guys, I mean the sound of the band and the things that you’ve done over the years really doesn’t fit into any particular genre anyway. So I guess…

RB: That’s flattering,  thank you.

MD: And I guess it makes it easier to, or possibly more difficult, to book you and to put you in a show like this, but I assume that’s something from what you just said that you kind of appreciate or have attempted to do over the years. Is that right?

RB: Yeah, I mean that’s what we set out to do. We don’t really like being pigeon holed in any sort of like one category that’s why I think like when we do get thrown into a lump sort of like rock stuff, It’s a little bit jarring and not so much what we’re about but at the same time if people have to put us in one category, I think it’s sort of like acceptable that the Hard Rock genre is what they go for, we’re just sort of like, okay with that.

MD: Alrighty. So I guess, obviously the big news at this point is the fact that you guys are about to release a new album after 18 years or so. I was wondering, cause when you first got back together again, it seemed like it was only going to be live shows that you were doing and getting back in the studio maybe not so much. What changed to make that happen? Was there some kind of epiphany within the band that decided that hey we got new stuff to do and we should get in the studio and do it?

RB: Yeah, kind of. But no so much we had new things to do but we were like playing a lot, we really like the act of like playing together and it was really good hanging out. We had a good time which was sort of remarkable because we had been very good friends for a while. So it was kind of like a nice place to be. All of us sat on the same page playing songs and we just sort of like, it seemed like at some point it was either make new music and continue playing live or stop playing live. And we were just having a good time. We felt like that was a good place to go make some new songs.

MD: Was there concern about the band’s legacy and kind of living up to that and making sure that you didn’t do anything to spoil things?

RB: Ummm…not really, I mean sort of like we’ve been kind of rule breakers throughout our whole career and everything was done sort of like a bad move. Had a good go at it, but like I think we have been really good at like doing what’s not expected or doing sort of like different things that aren’t really the right things to do. So our legacy is like a tricky sort of like tern for us. Like we have a legacy I guess but our legacy sort of revolves around sort of making a lot of crazy unorthodox weird decisions and just going with it.

MD: Right.

sol invictusRB: So from that standpoint it’s kind of like we couldn’t really go wrong. We can do anything we want, we’re in a really unique position and people want us to fuck with the norm.

MD: Right.

RB: As long as we do that I think we’re making people happy. We’re making ourselves happy.

MD: And is there any concern among the band to…I mean a lot has changed in the music business and music in general in 17, 18 years…are you concerned about sounding contemporary or any of that kind of thing?

RB: No, not at all. We have no concern about how we’re sounding compared to the rest of the world. I think we used to sort of like when we mastered records, we did this recently and mixed records, we used to sort of like play stuff next to contemporary stuff just to see how It held up. We were like okay here’s the mixed record let’s listen to it next to, you know, whatever it’s going to be, you know a Jane’s Addiction record or whatever, I don’t know why. But this time around that never came up, I’m not sure why it never, that’s the last thing on our minds to like sound contemporary. I think we really went out of our way to make sure we sounded like us. It sounds a little corny but that’s who we are.

MD: Hey, what the heck. It’s one thing to be on the stage and be playing songs from 20 years ago, it’s another thing to be in the studio together working on new stuff. What was the vibe like when you got into the studio?

RB: Well it was different, it was sort of like spread out, like different people came in at different times, there were times when we were all together and working on stuff.

MD: Right.

RB: For the most part it was like people configured in different things. So it was like really highly charged, isolated moments of performance. I went out to San Francisco, everyone else lives in San Francisco, I live in New York and I went out there and did all the piano parts at one point and that was really super tense but a lot of fun. We work together really well, we have a language that we all sort of count on and we all speak together and its an easy go of it. We have such a long history amongst the five of us, four of us and five of us that it’s just very casual, very much like a family, getting together with old friends and it feels good.

MD: You mentioned that when you went out and played the piano, that it was tense. What is the source of that tension? Is it just the fact that you…

RB: Mostly my stuff, like it’s really hard to get stuff…like I just got back from doing all these rehearsals out there, even though every time I do this I get the same mind set going, I just get really anxiety-ridden knowing like there’s work to do and stuff to get through and stuff to get a handle on and it makes me really tense and anxious.

MD: Right.

RB: And then we get through it. It’s like I have to remind myself what I just said to you. These are like my oldest friends and there’s so not a sense of urgency to what we do or high crazy expectations. It’s a really comfortable place to be but I forget that.

MD: Right.

RB: And just coming back, honestly I just remembered coming back after having done it, okay I went all the way to California, we did all these rehearsals, it’s like really stressful just for me, I mean it’s not really for anyone else just like in my head, like oh my God I remember these parts, I got to get my equipment together, it’s like all these details and I’m over-run by that and anxious feelings of anxiety. But then I’m coming back on the plane, it’s like, you know what, I get to go to Japan on Saturday. That’s the big picture. I mean how lucky am I? It’s the greatest thing.

MD: Right. So you’ve got Bill who’s acting as producer for the record. A producer can do any number of things and have any number of roles. What was his role as far as getting this thing together?

RB: What was Billy’s role?

MD: Yeah.

RB: Yeah, he was very much sort of like, he pushed this thing forward. He instigated the songs and recorded the songs and produced the songs and mixed the songs. So a lot of work for Billy.

MD: Right and why is it him as opposed to anybody else in the band or anyone else in the planet to produce?

RB: You know, honestly that’s his role in life, that’s what he does. He’s very proactive and he’s got a really high work ethic. But he’s really kind of always been that way in the band, that’s always the sort of relationship we’ve had.

MD: Right. How would you compare the band just in general now with say the band in 1997 when you guys were last…

RB; We were a lot more high-strung back then. We were a lot more immature and we were a lot brattier and a lot more into sort of pushing buttons. We’re still in that space where we’re pushing buttons but we’re doing it in a different way and we’re sort of working with each other rather than against each other. We really used to push our own buttons quite a bit and get a rise out of each other. These days we’re sort of more into working together and giving each other space. A lot more mature I guess. That’s an ugly, ugly word, but there you have it.

MD: Well, it happens to the best of us I’m afraid.

RB: I guess. It’s gross, isn’t it?

MD: Yeah. It’s so un- Rock and Roll but the alternative is probably worse, so there you go. Now we’ve heard a couple of tracks off the album and we got a track listing. Are there any of them that you particularly feel inspired to talk about specifically?

RB: I really like the first song on the record and the last song on the record, and I  really like, I don’t know I like them all. I like ones where you can hear the piano a lot and where there’s singing a lot. I really like Mike’s vocals. He’s Just gotten better and better at crafting lyrics.

MD: Right.

RB: And his descriptions and sort of themes are really strong this time around.

MD: And how much of the album will we be hearing when you come to New Zealand and play?

RB: I think we’ll play 3 or 4 new songs.

MD: And how does the band go about determining what you’re going to play? I mean you guys have a huge catalogue of things and I’m sure there are things that you know fans what to hear but possibly you not necessarily want to play at this point in time.

RB: We’re all sort of anal about it. We really go back to like what we played last time we were there. We have our old set list on the computer and we sort of bring up those old set lists and try and switch it up.

MD: Right.

RB: See what we played last time and try and do things differently.

MD: Gotcha.

RB: It probably doesn’t matter that much but that’s what we do.

MD: Well for a long term fan I’m sure it matters because they probably see you every time they’ve had a chance so they want to see as much of whatever it is you’ve got to put up there as they can. So it seems like a reasonable way to approach it I think.

RB: Yeah.

MD: You yourself have done quite a bit of music in-between when the band split up and when it got back together again. How much of what you did in that interim time affects what you’re doing now with the band?

RB: You know not so much. The stuff that I do away from the band is nothing like the band. I think the details that sort of come up in the finishing sort of songs maybe some different sources of inspiration leaks in there just really like, but the core of what i do i think it’s just sort of like based on what we are as a band and the history of our friendship, but based on more where we started and what we do as a collective. I don’t know, the stuff that I do apart from Faith No More is just its own world. I think you kind of get away from the experience that you live and that is who you are and that is what makes music but it’s not like,  I do a lot of film school and stuff and I’ll do a lot of like, for some reason I’m doing a lot of children’s television stuff or children’s movies.

MD: Right.

RB: And I’m working on an opera right now. But honestly those flavours don’t really come into what we’re doing with Faith No More. Faith No More is more like specific entity.

Hit So Hard 2DMD: Right. Yeah I think the film that most of us here are familiar with that you scored was Hit So Hard the Patty Schemel documentary.

RB: Oh yeah.

MD: What did you think about that as far as a trail of the whole scene that was happening back in the early 90s?

RB: I thought it was pretty representative. It feels a little bit like Behind The Music but I like the story that it’s told. They were all really good friends and I felt very sort of, it’s hard to get an objective opinion, a take of what that whole world was. It sort of was a very emotional ride to sit there and watch that stuff. When you score stuff, you have to watch it over and over again and watching that stuff over and over again was a little bit tough because I was so personally involved in the story at the time. They were all good friends and it was a little bit intense.

MD: Yeah.

RB: Not in a bad way.

MD: Right. But I can see, yeah it was a pretty intense film, but it was a great story to get out there especially for folks that may not have been that familiar with what was going on back then. Has the music business itself changed much since then do you think?

RB: For sure, I mean just as far as selling records a whole different ball game, I don’t know any kids that buy records, except kids that buy like vinyl stuff but otherwise I don’t know you would ever buy a record if you just want to listen to music and you can get it for free.

MD: Right.

RB: There’s not really a whole lot of business out there.

MD: Yeah. So is Sol Invictus being released on vinyl?

RB: Yes it will be.

MD: Got to have something to sell I guess.

RB: Yeah something. Insurance if its on vinyl I guess. Otherwise digitally the kids just get it for free, don’t they or do they? I really don’t know.

MD: I believe they do although I can’t say that I’m a kid myself, so I still like to have physical objects and stuff but I’m an old fashioned guy.

RB: I do too.  I buy the vinyl. Every record that I want, I get it on vinyl. I don’t really do digital that much. Once in a while I do.