Faith No More’s Bill Gould on ‘We Care A Lot’ and the Band’s Origins

The bassist discusses the roots of his legendary, shape-shifting hard rock band

faith no more interview 2016

Photo via Faith No More. L to R: Bill Gould, Jim Martin, Mike Bordin, Roddy Bottum, Chuck Mosley

Faith No More has created some of the most uncompromising and enduring rock music of its generation. This Friday, the band will release a deluxe reissue of the album that started it all: 1985’s We Care A Lot (available for preorder now). Bassist and founding member Bill Gould decided to release the reissue after discovering the original We Care A Lot master reels in his basement. The debut album, which has not been commercially available for twenty years, reveals the genre-busting band in its embyronic stage. During a phone call, Gould explained, “It’s important to have it out there, where you can see the roots of what we do now and where it came from.”

Faith No More’s We Care A Lot lineup consisted of Gould, keyboardist Roddy Bottum, guitarist Jim Martin, drummer Mike ‘Puffy’ Bordin, and singer Chuck Mosley. Mosley was replaced by iconic frontman Mike Patton after the band’s second LP, and Martin departed the band after 1992’s Angel Dust. Despite the lineup shuffles, We Care A Lot boasts an array of qualities that have remained hallmarks of the band throughout its long career.

Read the full conversation with Gould below.

Dan Redding: Does it surprise you that you are still performing early Faith No More songs like ‘We Care A Lot’ and ‘As the Worm Turns’ onstage over thirty years after the release of We Care A Lot?

Bill Gould: It’s very bizarre. When you start a band, you think, ‘I wanna be in this band for thirty years – this is a real band.’ I remember telling people back then, but I didn’t really know what that meant, obviously. It’s very strange, but it doesn’t feel dated to me to be doing it now, which actually I’m very happy about.

Roddy has described San Francisco of the early eighties as a melting pot of all kinds of punks, hippies, and artist weirdos. How would you describe the scene at the time?

Pretty much the same… The sixties era had come to an end – but only about ten years earlier, so there was a residue of that. The punk scene was, I thought, a lot more sophisticated than what was happening in LA…. For me, it was inspiring, there were not a lot of rules here [in San Francisco]. There wasn’t a big industry here. You kind of had the feeling that you could do whatever you wanted, as long as you didn’t kill anybody.

The San Francisco scene had few rules, Gould says. “You kind of had the feeling that you could do whatever you wanted, as long as you didn’t kill anybody.”

You’ve described the first few years of Faith No More as a time when audiences just didn’t know what to make of the band. Later, critics and record labels seemed somewhat baffled by stylistic changes on Angel Dust and King for a Day, Fool for a Lifetime. As you look back on your career, do you think that the band’s unpredictable nature is a core quality of what you guys have been doing all along?

I do. I think it comes with our background. When we grew up in San Francisco, the stuff we really liked was the stuff that challenged us. There were a lot of people doing a lot of interesting things here. For us, it’s purely natural. We also did it because it kept us excited and kept us interested. You do that with the hope that it comes out in the music – that enthusiasm. It wasn’t so much trying to be different so much as trying to stay inspired.

When I listen to We Care A Lot now, I hear a lot of qualities that have remained part of the band’s personality all along. Do you hear qualities from that embryonic stage that became permanent parts of Faith No More?

Absolutely! That’s one of the reasons I’m excited to put it out, actually. It’s totally a different band in a lot of ways – totally different singer, it’s played by a bunch of twenty-one year-old kids who are very naive, and you can hear the naiveté in the music. It’s very primitive in some ways, but at the same time, it’s interesting for people who know Faith No More now. It’s important to have it out there, where you can see the roots of what we do now and where it came from. I think it is there.

I hear the band’s irreverence and sense of humor on the album, and also Puffy’s African-influenced drum patterns.

Right! Sure.

Are there other qualities you hear on it? What stands out to you?

We were all kind of learning our voice. We wanted to do some things that had some rhythmic, repetitive, hypnotic quality to it, but we wanted it to be heavy. It wasn’t quite that heavy yet but we were trying (laughs). You could tell where we wanted to go. I can’t say that we went there all the way yet – I think we still had some growing to do. You can hear the vision that we had, I think…

One thing that stands out on We Care A Lot is this real, raw energy that’s not self-conscious at all. It might be the way it was recorded – we did it very quickly and didn’t have time to polish anything. Part of the unpolished-ness about it is kinda cool.

faith no more interview

Credit: Faith No More

In the early days of Faith No More, there was a great deal of personality conflict in the band, resulting in physical fights among some members, and even ulcers for you and Puffy. Do you think the band’s converging musical styles actually reflected the personality clashes?

I don’t know if the personality clashes came out in the music. If it did anywhere, it would be probably with the guitar. We came from different places, so we had a little bit of aesthetic disagreement there. Other than that, no. Every band is kinda dysfunctional. We had this particular dysfunctionality that we had to live with, it just came with the package.

During the eighties, you were a contemporary with rising virtuoso bass guitarists like Cliff Burton, Flea and Les Claypool. Did you feel a sense of competitiveness as a bassist?

With any of those guys you mentioned, I didn’t, because I can’t do what any of them do, so I didn’t bother trying! (laughs) I just closed my eyes and did what I did. I like all of those guys personally. Cliff especially. Cliff was awesome.

My understanding is that Cliff Burton had a big impact on Faith No More’s career.

We asked him for advice, that’s for sure.

And he introduced Jim Martin to the band, right?

He kinda did. Him and Puffy were in a band before with Cliff. So they’d already had some history before Faith No More. Cliff brought Jim back to one of our gigs and said, ‘Give him a shot.’

You performed one show as a band called The Chickenfuckers with Cliff Burton, Mike Bordin, and Jim Martin [note: the Chickenfuckers performed one show at Mabuhay Gardens circa 1984, with Gould on vocals]. What do you remember of that performance?

(laughs) It was ridiculous. I’d never sung in a band before, and I’ve never sung in one since. I think I drank a half a bottle of whiskey during that performance. It was kind of an ‘anything goes’ jam, just try to go as out there as possible. Unfortunately for that reason, I remember very little of it…. It was a complete open improv. It was fun.

During Faith No More’s early days, you acted as unofficial manager and booking agent. How has your role in the band changed since then?

You can probably read between the lines and say that I have a tendency to be a bit of a control freak. Since then, I’ve tried to stand back a bit and let things go the way they naturally go. I still am really involved with band stuff pretty much. I’m still very active. We kinda came from a thing where we started as ourselves and ran things ourselves. No matter who we worked with, we have always tried to keep control of the content…. For better or worse, in the era I came up in, you were always paranoid about record companies screwing up your stuff. There were a millions stories. We always were super protective that that wouldn’t happen to us.

Faith No More treated the search for a singer like cooking: “Trying out different ingredients, and trying to find an ingredient that works.”

Before Chuck Mosley joined the band, Faith No More performed or jammed with a variety of singers, including Courtney Love and many others. Do you remember any interesting performances or incidents from that initial batch of singers?

They were all cool! We didn’t really have expectations. We were just trying to blow off steam in a weird way, and discover this weird vibe that we discovered, with this rhythmic, ambient thing that we were doing. We just went into these shows where there was no right or wrong way to do it. They were all cool, but they didn’t sound anything like We Care A Lot.

What happened was, we [had Chuck sing] and it was cool, we liked it, we asked him to do it again. Then he did it again. We had another gig that turned up, so we asked him to do that. By that time, it’s three gigs, and people actually started coming. He actually became our singer by default. We kinda just grew into it. I don’t know if he ever thought about being a singer, ever, before that. He was a keyboard player and he was just hangin’ out with us and we just asked him to get on the mic and make some noise. It’s kind of odd how that all kind of happened.

Of course, a couple years later, you guys got Mike Patton to join the band. Before Patton joined, did you ever have a vision for the kind of frontman you thought could be ideal for Faith No More?

No, not really. We look at it kinda like cooking, you know? Trying out different ingredients, and trying to find an ingredient that works. When Patton came, he was a lot younger than us, and definitely coming from a different place than we were. It wasn’t what I expected our singer to be. But when we recorded the demo for the first time, he fit really well and it kind of surprised me. I didn’t expect it. The way we kinda looked at it was, this is what works with the material, and this is what we gotta go with. We looked at it musically, really. I guess we speak this language musically that I don’t think is very complex, but is different than a lot of other bands. It’s either you click with it or you don’t. If you click with it, I don’t think there’s any wrong kind of singer. But it’s been hard to find people to click with.

The song ‘We Care A Lot’ was a parody of the self-congratulating ‘heal the world’ attitude of the eighties. Do you think that sentiment that you were parodying still applies today?

That’s a very good question. I haven’t really thought about it since that period of time and the relevance of it. I suppose it could – I think though that things are pretty bad now. Maybe it’s not time for parody anymore! (laughs) Maybe it’s time to take it a little more seriously.

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