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The Fierce & The Dead on Faith No More

The Fierce And The Dead are a psychedelic instrumental band from North London who have been part of the UK’s underground post-rock/psychedelic/progressive/stoner rock scene for the last 9 years.

In the latest in our Why I Love series, the bands bassist, Kevin Feazey, professes his love of one of his favourite bands…Faith No More.

Faith No More

Photo: Dustin Rabin

Faith No More, what a band.

They work within the ‘traditional’ rock format of drums, bass, guitar etc, making music that has mass appeal, and yet they manage to be surprising and original. Don’t get me wrong – they haven’t reinvented the wheel, but they have managed to mix up a strange brew of rock, punk, post punk, funk, pop, hip hop, noise, jazz, death metal, industrial, lounge, avant garde and Right Said Fred (see the track ‘King For A Day’ and the fact that there were legitimate talks for the two bands to tour together in 1992). 

That stew of influences could possibly have been a result of the slightly mismatched members that were assembled. A metal head guitarist – Jim Martin, a student of west African rhythms on drums – Mike Bordin, a keyboard player and a bass player who started in new wave punk bands – Roddy Bottum and Billy Gould, and an original  singer that melded hard core and rap – Chuck Mosely. And he was followed by Mike Patton whose high school band was/is Mr Bungle no less. And yes I could have also added that Courtney Love was technically their first vocalist. Put these characters in the early eighties California underground scene and that mix should get you to Faith No More. 

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard FNM, or what the first song was – I have a suspicion the song was ‘Out Of Nowhere’ and it was very likely that it I had seen the video on one of the old TV shows that pumped out the latest heavy metal and rock in the middle of the night – Headbangers Ball or Raw Power maybe? 

What I do remember is that I liked them straight away. First of all, they wrote songs that were memorable and had serious hooks. And they looked – not weird – but unusual, which was instantly appealing to a 14 year old me. The music had edge and humour, staying on the right side of irony, always with an element of self awareness that made me feel like there was a lot more thought going on beneath the surface. However – whilst their second official album ‘The Real Thing’ was the bait it was the third album that landed me. 

‘Angel Dust’ is eclectic – rock music with a healthy disdain for following patterns. There was nothing like it. ‘Land of Sunshine’ is some kind of stream of consciousness lyrical experiment mixed with slap bass, thrash riffs and circus keyboards. Sounds awful on paper but for some reason it makes perfect sense. And that’s just the opening track. There was enough familiarity within the different components of the music on the album to keep me grounded, but smeared over the top of that was an art rock assault of epic proportions.

Patton’s voice is an instrument in itself, able to somersault through blue eyed soul, kitsch operatics, death metal screaming and clipped punkisms. I honestly have no idea what most of the songs are about, although I could have educated guesses. Patton didn’t always pen the lyrics but all the writers in the band seem unified in the discordianism unleashed (expect maybe Jim Martin who was left in a corner to do his guitar man thing). The subject matter on ‘The Real Thing’ was often juvenile and intentionally provocative but by ‘Angel Dust’ maturity had kicked in and focused the devilment.

The bizarre country circus waltz metal of ‘RV’ is something most bands would do for a bit of off the record fun, but in the hands of FNM it has a strange pathos that makes me think more of a David Lynch character. So many questions are raised by the narrative and almost none are answered. Who the fuck knows, but then that’s the fun isn’t it. And Midlife Crisis is just perfect – a drum beat, a staccato bass playing the same note, a handful of chords and some kitsch samples – and Patton growling through the verses then kicking into an infectious populist singalong chorus. And incredible feat of minimalism and focused song writing. 

In the first band that myself and Matt (TFATD stunt guitarist) played in I was actually the vocalist and I tried my hardest to copy Patton. Like really tried. It was embarrassing looking back now but to be kind to young Kev I choose to see it as an education. FNM showed me that firstly it didn’t matter if one track was a calypso and another was full on thrash – just do what you want to do. It doesn’t matter if you want to be humorous and poignant and cryptic and ironic all at once. Obscenity can be intelligent, sophistication can be rough. I’ve no idea if the band were ever under any pressure to write hits or produce chart topping albums but you get the sense that they had enough skill to write great pop songs that acted as a Trojan horse for their more avant garde leanings. 

The second lesson I took was that whatever you choose to do musically – commit to it and stand up for it. Even with all the irony and humour present the band seemed to be taking it seriously – which doubled the impact. As I said before, self awareness seemed to be key in the presentation. 

The influence FNM have on my creative process, and the rest of TFATD for that matter, is subtle and often abstract. Apart from early attempts at mimicry I’ve never thought of copying their sonic signature – and if I ever tried then firstly its a moving target and secondly i would probably fail miserably such is the uniqueness of their world. In my opinion the influence can be most obviously heard on our track 48k – a combination of a metal riff, bouncy bass and a torch song melody. It’s having the ability to mix elements and commit to them, not to restrict ourselves to ‘genre’ rules or expectations, that we have taken from FNM and their escapades. 

We had the honour of supporting Chuck Mosley on one of his London dates a year before he passed away. Apart from trying to keep the fanboy in me under control I found him to be an absolute gent, and, unsurprisingly, extremely articulate and intelligent. Hearing his voice up close and personal was a real Moment with a capital M. And I once passed Mike Patton backstage in a hallway during one of the Southbank’s Meltdown festivals. I couldn’t summon the courage to say anything – probably a good thing. And the time on the ‘King For A Day’ tour that the band played a super secret show in a small venue in Northampton. After the gig, Billy, Roddy and Mike came out and got burgers from the van in the car park and just chatted to everyone. These experiences reinforce everything I have said about the band. It’s not about them being humble, or down to earth – it’s about them totally inhabiting the off kilter worlds they create and making them seem perfectly ok, almost normal. 

High art camouflaged as rock – a trick many try but few pull it off better than Faith No More. 

Many thanks to Kevin for taking the time to profess his love of Faith No More.

The Fierce & The Dead: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

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