By Brandon Daviet
It’s a pretty safe bet that when a band breaks up there’s a decent chance that they will eventually reunite at least once in the future. Faith No More, on the other hand, was the one band that both fans and critics expected would keep their word when they called it quits in April of 1998. At the time, the breakup was no joke. The group that had publicly sparred on multiple levels and worn themselves thin with too much touring and an increasingly avant-garde catalog came to an official end when bassist and self-titled whip-cracker Billy Gould released a statement that read: “Faith No More have decided to put an end to speculation regarding their imminent break up… by breaking up.” They were done. The band was done and the members moved on to other projects, with nary a glance in the rear-view mirror.
Singer Mike Patton co-founded a label and joined forces with Buzz Melvin and former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo to create Fantomas. Drummer Mike Bordin joined Ozzy Osborne’s touring band. Keyboardist Roddy Bottum wrote music for TV shows and film. Gould started Koolarrow Records, and guitarist Jon Hudson got married and took a desk job. Countless interviews had the members stating that a reunion wasn’t even an option.
But in 2008, the planets realigned. Bottum married his boyfriend, and both Bordin and Patton attended the ceremony and sat at the same table. In the stately atmosphere of the function anyway, they’d proven they could be in each other’s company. While they didn’t talk too much about music that night, the seeds had been planted.
Then, in 2009 Faith No More became Faith Once More, as they took the stage at that year’s massive Download Festival and set out on The Second Coming reunion tour. But with no new music the band quickly became bored and even fearful of becoming a greatest hits act like so many bands before them. Patton had even told a reporter that the reunion had sort of “petered out.” But instead of going their separate ways once again they started toying with the idea of making a new album, and remarkably, the group that was to be no longer, has emerged with a follow-up to their 1997 Album of the Year. A follow up 18 years in the making.
“For us it is a pretty exciting time,” said bassist Billy Gould about the new album Sol Invictus, in a recent interview with The Marquee. “We spent the last month in Europe and have played most of the songs on the new album, and now that the band is so comfortable playing the new material, this is where the fun really begins.”
Part of that fun will include the band’s first time playing Red Rocks Amphitheatre, something Gould is particularly looking forward to. “I have been hearing about that place for 30 years but never played there — never even been there, but I hear it’s a beautiful place,” he said.
Whether it was in their golden days with The Real Thing, which launched their monstrous rap-metal fusion hit “Epic,” the experimental left-turn they took on Angel Dust, or their later periods around King For A Day… Fool for a Lifetime and Album of the Year, Faith No More has always had a penchant for changing musical styles at the drop of a dime. It’s something that many critics claim the group has nearly mastered, that other critics lambast them for, and something that still others argue makes them stand out in a musical landscape that is filled with bands who develop only one sound and stick to it. Gould, who produced the new record, said that in their way of thinking, it’s always about the challenge; pushing both artists and audiences to evolve.
“Most of the music I hear these days fits into it’s own little niche that’s easier to define. So the people that were doing different things just stopped because it’s easier not to,” said Gould. “But for us, for Faith No More, it’s the opposite.”
“The Real Thing was very successful at the time in the States and when we went in to do Angel Dust we realized that a lot of people were paying attention and we were all over in the media. That was something we had fought a long time for, so we thought we would be responsible and do something a little bit different and challenge people. We saw it as a responsible use of our fame at the time,” said Gould “We wanted to bring something challenging into the mass market.”
Ultimately though, Angel Dust didn’t live up to the commercial success of The Real Thing, and sort of set the course for the band’s split with Warner Brothers. So now, decades later, without a major label in their corner, the band’s Sol Invictus stands as a liberating, sort of “we always wanted to do it our way, anyway” album.
Sol Invictus may not be a completely ground-breaking reinvention of the band’s sound but it does find them making some fresh tracks, figuratively and literally. As they announced on their website before the album was even completed “The reunion tour is over; in 2015 things are going to change.”
Released on Ipecac Records, the label co-founded by Patton after the band’s breakup, Sol Invictus sees Faith No More returning to a D.I.Y. attitude, and Gould said that’s part of the reason that it came out as well as it did and solidified the band’s desire to keep the momentum going forward.
“As we were working on the album and doing things on our own there were times when we could have farmed work out to other people, but we just kind of looked at each other and kept going because it was easier and more efficient,” said Gould. “It is really good for bands to keep control over their process but I don’t think that is the only reason we did it, I think we did it because it just felt really natural.”
For Faith No More the time they spent apart from each other seems to only have strengthened their ability to work together. “We have known each other for 30-plus years and we have this basic chemistry together that just is what it is,” said Gould. “I think the change was that all of us brought a lot more knowledge and technique into it this time but we are still the same people.”
Patton, told Billboard magazine that the album is a “post-punk record with tons of atmosphere. It’s like ELO or the Beach Boys going through a gothic laundry cycle,” the sharp-tongued singer boasted.
But the nagging question is whether or not that cycle will continue for any length of time. “In the past we have committed ourselves to too much touring and I think that was one of the things that really split us up the first time around,” said Gould. “We are being especially careful to check in with each other and try not to take on too much at one time; to make sure everybody is happy. It seems the sane thing to do would be to make more albums and do more tours but if that doesn’t work out that’s ok too.”
Red Rocks Amphitheatre | September 8
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