The Story Behind Faith No More’s ‘The Real Thing’
After bringing you the story behind ‘King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime’, Metal Hammer brings you the story behind Faith No More’s classic, ‘The Real Thing’.
It was 1989. The year when Marilyn Manson started his career, plus Cathedral and Immortal were formed. The year when Carcass gave us Symphony Of Sickness, Dream Theater released debut album When Dream And Day Unite and Nine Inch Nails introduced themselves with Pretty Hate Machine. The year when Jethro Tull controversially won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance over Metallica. And a small band from San Francisco would change the face of metal forever.
Words: Malcolm Dome
Faith No More had started in 1982, formed by drummer Mike Bordin, bassist Billy Gould and keyboard player Roddy Bottum after the demise of their previous band Faith No Man. Guitarist Jim Martin was recruited, after a brief period with Mark Bowen, and Courtney Love was on vocals. However, she only lasted four gigs, before being fired. Chuck Mosely replaced her in 1985, in time for debut album We Care A Lot, released by the independent label Mordam.
A deal with Slash Record led to the release of Introduce Yourself in 1987, with a revamped version We Care A Lot (from the aforementioned debut) gaining some minor success, as MTV in particular warmed to the band’s unique brand of funk, rap, and alternative metal.
However, as Mike Bordin points out, Faith No More knew that their third album – ‘The Real Thing’ – was going to be vital if the band were to have any sort of future.
“Slash Records was effectively owned by Warner Brothers, which meant we were really on a major label. And there’s only so often that a big company will back you. Unless you have some success, then the chances are you’ll be dropped. At the time, what sold were bands with white shoes, long hair and ballads. That wasn’t us at all. But we were under pressure to deliver something commercial.”
The first move in that direction came with the decision to fire Chuck. His erratic behaviour, both onstage and in the studio, had already caused some consternation. Now, Faith No More decided he had to be replaced.
“It wasn’t anything personal with Chuck at all,” insists the drummer, despite rumours at the time. “It was simply a case that we all knew he couldn’t take us any further as a band, If we were to progress, then it was time to move on. The clock was ticking, and we couldn’t see anything happening with him.”
So, enter 19-year-old Mike Patton, from Mr Bungle, who went to see the band and gave him a demo…
“Mike came to a gig right out in the middle of nowhere in California. Literally so far out, it was almost in Oregon! He gave us a tape, and we were blown away by his voice. It was unbelievable. He was such a ridiculously good singer. There was no comparison with Chuck.”
By this time, the band had written all of the music for The Real Thing; they’d even gone so far as to demo at least one track, New Improved Song (which would become The Morning After) with Chuck before firing him. All that was needed were Patton’s lyrics to complete the project.
Faith No More returned to Studio D in Sausalito, California (where they’d worked on Introduce Yourself) during December 1988 to record the album. There are reports that the music was actually recorded before Patton had even joined the band, and that he went in later to do his vocals. But Bordin insists this isn’t true.
“I know we did demos with Mike, just to show the label we did have a singer in place. And we also did a crazy photo shoot with him, just so they’d have a picture as well. It was in this little punk style studio, and we looked insane. I’d got snot hanging out of my nose… it was really punk!”
However, there was a very strange studio situation…
“Roddy and Billy were from Los Angeles, so they stayed at home while we did the album. But neither Jim nor I were natives, so we ended up staying in the Oakwood Apartments in California, which was a huge block where loads of bands used to stay while recording. I recall that Metallica were finishing up …And Justice For All at the time, and they hung out a lot with Jim.
“Now, this was in an era before mobile phones, and I know that we didn’t actually have a phone in our apartment, probably trying to save money, so Jim and I couldn’t keep in contact with anyone. Our day used to start at about 5pm, when we’d go down to the studio. Jim was a night owl. He’d stay up until about 5am, and then sleep through the afternoon. The two of us worked on our own in the studio. Jim had come up with a lot of music for the album, including Surprise! You’re Dead! (which actually goes back to a 1970s band called Agents Of Misfortune, featuring Jim and future Metallica bassist Cliff Burton), Zombie Eaters and Falling To Pieces. We’d be finished by about 10pm, and then go out to party.”
So, Faith No More were in a highly unusual position of having two sets of members going in separately to do their parts, with no connection between the Martin/Bordin pair and Bottum/Gould. Until one day…
“Jim and I went in early – and there were Billy and Roddy, working on stuff! It was the first time we’d seen them, so we all sat down and went through loads of ideas. That was a really positive time for the band. We were getting along really well, and just played each other various things. For instance, Roddy had something he’d been working on; Jim took this, and turned it into Woodpecker From Mars.”
Eventually, with Patton adding his invaluable contribution, the album was finished, But then the hard work started, as the record was far from being a quick seller.
“We got great reviews in the UK, and things were steadily, slowly building over there. But in America we were having a real struggle. We just didn’t fit into the whole scene at the time. Our music was wrong, our image was wrong. And I don’t believe our record label knew what to do with us. In fact, I don’t ever think our company had any idea how to market us. They were completely confused by this rap-metal type of thing. As I said, we didn’t have those white shoes, long hair and big ballads which were easy to sell. In Britain, things were different. The label had a lot more understanding of where we were coming from.”
Faith No More had filmed a video for the song From Out Of Nowhere, which hadn’t really made any impact as a single. Bordin feels that things were approached in the wrong way.
“The video was bad. We were represented as something we weren’t. We had no control over the content. I’m not surprised it did nothing to enhance our career.”
But still nobody was prepared to give up on the project, and in one last attempt to save the album from disappearing, there was a meeting between band and record company.
“I remember it well. It happened at the Columbia Hotel in London. The label said to us, ‘OK you cost us a lot of money on the From Out Of Nowhere video. We’re ready to give you one more chance. What song do you want to release as a single?’ I’m not sure what would have happened if we’d all come up with different suggestions. But there was total unity from the band. We all felt that Epic was the one to go for. And they asked us what we wanted in the video. So, we came up with a long list of suggestions. And the rest is… hysterical!”
Epic was released as a single in America on January 30, 1990, seven months after the album had first come out. It reached number nine in the charts over there, not only giving the band the commercial breakthrough they’d fought so hard to attain, but also their biggest ever US hit. In Britain, Epic peaked at number 25, strangely two places down from where From Out Of Nowhere had reached. But on the back of the single, which got heavy backing from MTV, The Real Thing started to sell. It finally made the Top 200 in America during February 1990, reaching number 11 in October that year – an amazing 16 months after its initial release. It must be said that such commitment and perseverance is unlikely to happen in the 21st century.
In the UK, the album made it as far as number 30, but in the process it sold close to 100,000 copies.
Moreover, Faith No More’s sudden surge towards the mainstream was accentuated when they were nominated for a Grammy in 1990 for The Real Thing. At the time, they were on tour in America…
“We’d never stopped touring whenever and wherever we could. So, when we were asked if we’d like to do some club dates with Voivod and Soundgarden, we were happy to do it. This was at the end of 1989, and we knew Soundgarden of old. But, and this might seem strange now, Voivod were the headliners and we were the opening band! However, it was while we were on the road doing this tour that we found out about the Grammy. Not only that, but Soundgarden were also nominated [for the Ultra Mega OK record]. It was quite amazing.”
Both lost out to Metallica. However there was no doubting that Faith No More were on a surge that would see them appear at the MTV Music Awards, on Saturday Night Live, and even land Jim Martin a cameo role in the movie Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, playing Sir Jim Martin; the band also contributed The Perfect Crime to the soundtrack.
In 1991, Epic was subsequently nominated for a Grammy in the Best Hard Rock Performance category. Again the band lost out, this time to Living Color.
“It was a great time for us,” recalls Bordin. “We never had any of the issues that were to cause such problems later on in our career. We were getting along really well, and I think the music reflects that sense of belonging together. And I am so proud what we did back then, and how we did it. Without taking the easy route.
“Do I still listen to the album? No, I don’t. These days I play for Ozzy, which is very different. So I never dwell on the album, nor what it meant. However, I do know that it helped to give me a future.”
The Next Chapter…
In 1992, Faith No More released the Angel Dust album, which not only continued their success, but also showed that the band were becoming increasingly bold and experimental. This included oddball covers of The Commodores’ Easy and the theme from the cult film Midnight Cowboy. The band also got the chance to play at Wembley Stadium in June 1992, with Guns N’ Roses and Soundgarden.
However, in the summer of 1993, Jim left the band (although some claimed that he was actually fired). He was replaced by Trey Spruance, a bandmate of Patton’s from Mr Bungle, whom Bordin describes as, “An amazing talent. He has so many ideas.”
This line-up stayed together long enough to record the 1995 album King For A Day… Fool For A Lifetime. But, just before a hectic touring schedule was due to start, Trey quit, Faith No More hastily hiring Dean Menta, who was one of their roadies.
There was little stability in the band at this juncture. So, it was no surprise to find yet another guitarist in place for 1997’s Album Of The Year, the man in question being Jon Hudson, an old roommate of Billy’s.
But, despite the fact that the band had still retained a considerable following – Album Of The Year sold nearly two million copies worldwide – nonetheless it appeared that relations in the camp were less than amicable. Rumours started that Patton had left the band, and in April 1998, Gould announced: “After 15 long and fruitful years, Faith No More have decided to put an end to speculation regarding their imminent break up… by breaking up.”
Faith No More will play the first comeback show of their reunion tour at Brixton Academy on June 10th (where it’s rumoured that they will play their legendary live album in it’s entirety), before headlining the first night of Download.
Check out our ultimate Faith No More playlist and get a full quote from Billy Gould about the band’s reunion! You can also catch Metal Hammer columnist Beez’s slightly excitable rant about the Faith No More reunion.
Download will take place on June 12th – 14th at Donington and will feature sets from Faith No More, Slipknot, Def Leppard, Whitesnake, The Prodigy, Limp Bizkit, Motley Crue, Marilyn Manson, Korn, ZZ Top, Down, Killswitch Engage, Journey, Clutch and many, many more.