PUNK was this sub­cul­ture where you could BE WHO YOU WANT and not AN­SWER TO ANY­ONE

AS THE BASSIST AND BEAT­ING HEART OF FAITH NO MORE FOR AL­MOST FOUR DECADES, BILLY GOULD HAS CER­TAINLY EARNED A PLACE AT ROCK’S TOP TA­BLE. HERE, HE TALKS PUNK ROCK, PUNCH-UPS, AND THE POS­SI­BIL­ITY OF A NEW RECORD…

Kerrang! (UK) - - Billy Gould -

When Billy Gould is asked whether Faith No More are still a go­ing con­cern, he laughs and weaves around the ques­tion with the prac­tised ease of a slalom skier.

“We talk all the time,” he says.“are we still a band? I can’t tell you. Last time around, we didn’t even tell our wives that we were mak­ing mu­sic again, so I’m fucked if I’m go­ing to tell you!”

Last seen on­stage at the Trou­ba­dour night­club in Los An­ge­les in Au­gust 2016, pro­mot­ing the reis­sue of their 1985 de­but al­bum We Care A Lot, com­plete with for­mer front­man Chuck Mosley (now sadly de­ceased), Faith No More have no cur­rent book­ings on their docket. But if the mav­er­ick rock­ers are ly­ing low, their 54-year-old bassist is far from idle. Hav­ing com­pleted work on a new al­bum from his ex­per­i­men­tal mu­sic project Talk­ing Book, Billy has re­cently been con­duct­ing me­dia du­ties in his ca­pac­ity as Ex­ec­u­tive Pro­ducer of Rock­abul, a doc­u­men­tary about the rise and fall of Dis­trict Un­known, Afghanistan’s first metal band, which pre­miered at the Rot­ter­dam Film Fes­ti­val on Fe­bru­ary 1.

He’s equally en­thu­si­as­tic when dis­cussing an­other new ven­ture, his role in im­port­ing East­ern Euro­pean brandy, Rakia, into Amer­ica.

“It gives me the same buzz that mu­sic does,” he in­sists.“but I’ll be mak­ing mu­sic all my life; there’s mu­sic in my head ev­ery time I walk down the street.”

WORDS: PAUL BRANNIGAN PHO­TOS: RYAN TUT­TLE

Faith No More was so DYS­FUNC­TIONAL, the ten­sion just kept build­ing

WHAT WAS THE FIRST RECORD YOU BOUGHT WITH YOUR OWN MONEY?

“It’s in­ter­est­ing, be­cause Roddy [Bot­tum, FNM key­boardist] and I both bought the same record, El­ton John’s Great­est Hits.we were in the same class in school.this was fifth grade, so we were 10 years old, maybe 11.That al­bum was the shit!”

DID MU­SIC AL­READY FEEL LIKE THE MOST IM­POR­TANT THING IN YOUR LIFE?

“I think so. My fa­ther was re­ally into mu­sic – Led Zep­pelin,the Bea­tles, David Bowie – and about a year be­fore I bought that El­ton John record he took me to see Bowie live.that gig showed me that mu­sic isn’t just about mu­sic, that it was about a life­style which was dif­fer­ent to my mid­dle class Amer­i­can up­bring­ing. It taught me that mu­sic is a gate­way into an­other world.”

WAS THE DIS­COV­ERY OF PUNK ROCK LIB­ER­AT­ING FOR YOU?

“Ex­tremely. I was into prog rock when I first started play­ing bass, be­cause there are a lot of in­cred­i­ble mu­si­cians in prog.the first time I heard punk – specif­i­cally the Sex Pis­tols al­bum [1977’s Never Mind The Bol­locks…] – I thought it was com­plete shit.that im­pres­sion lasted for maybe six or seven hours. But then the songs stuck in my head, and pretty much overnight, prog was gone.”

WHAT FLIPPED THE SWITCH?

“Prog was about pro­fi­ciency – al­most in a ma­cho, com­pet­i­tive way – and punk threw that out the win­dow. It re­minded me of the rea­sons I orig­i­nally con­nected with mu­sic, which was the dis­cov­ery of this free sub­cul­ture where you could be who you want and not an­swer to any­one. Punk of­fered this gi­ant smor­gas­bord of mu­sic to choose from.”

WIKIPEDIA DE­SCRIBES YOUR HIGH SCHOOL BAND, THE AN­I­MATED, AS ‘A CROSS BE­TWEEN THE BUZZCOCKS, XTC AND MICHAEL JACK­SON’. IS THAT AC­CU­RATE?

“That’s as ac­cu­rate as I could come up with it! Those were our in­flu­ences, cer­tainly.we didn’t fit in with any­body. I was into it. Chuck Mosley was the key­board player, and he was a few years older, and could buy me beer, so that was an­other con­nec­tion for later years.”

YOU CAME TO LON­DON FOR A SUM­MER WHEN YOU FIN­ISHED HIGH SCHOOL. WHY?

“I wanted to get a record deal for The An­i­mated. I knew I was go­ing to [univer­sity] the next year up in San Fran­cisco and would prob­a­bly have to leave the band, so I kinda wanted to leave a doc­u­ment of our record­ings. I came to the UK for a cou­ple of months and slept on peo­ple’s couches and tried to have meet­ings with record com­pa­nies to get a record deal, or at least dis­tri­bu­tion.”

DID ANY­ONE BITE?

“No, not re­ally. I was 18 years old, and looked about 15, so peo­ple hu­moured me and treated me re­ally well. I had a moped and I drove all over town just drop­ping en­velopes off with la­bels. I re­mem­ber go­ing to Rough Trade and meet­ing a guy, and we smoked a joint and had a cup of tea while lis­ten­ing to the record, and he was nice but said there was noth­ing they could do with it. Noth­ing came out of it, but it was a fuck­ing great ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple were cool and re­cep­tive, and they took me to some great gigs and turned me on to some great mu­sic.”

YOU ONCE SAID THAT SAN FRAN­CISCO WAS “A GOOD PLACE TO FIND YOUR­SELF AND LEARN WHO YOU ARE”. WHAT WAS SO SPE­CIAL ABOUT THE CITY FOR YOU IN THE EARLY ’80S?

“You could ba­si­cally do any­thing you wanted.we lived in the Mis­sion Dis­trict, and the po­lice didn’t care what you did.you could have af­ter-hours clubs with­out per­mits, you could put on shows any­where, you could have par­ties in your liv­ing room. On a Satur­day night you’d walk down the street, see an open door and you’d walk in and there’d be a band play­ing or a party hap­pen­ing. It was a great at­mos­phere, and there were a lot of hereti­cal ideas be­ing passed around.”

WHEN FAITH NO MORE STARTED YOU WERE US­ING DIF­FER­ENT VO­CAL­ISTS AT EV­ERY GIG – MOST FA­MOUSLY COURT­NEY LOVE – BUT THEN CHUCK RE-EN­TERED YOUR LIFE. HE ONCE SAID, “I FIG­URED I COULDN’T MAKE THE BAND ANY WORSE THAN IT AL­READY WAS.” WERE YOU RE­ALLY THAT BAD?

“I think we were. I don’t think we thought we were, but we prob­a­bly were.we had this thing where there were no rules, and if some­body fucked up, that was just part of the per­for­mance. San Fran­cisco had lots of hor­ri­ble bands who had a cer­tain charm, and so even if Chuck was kinda aw­ful, that was fine. Hav­ing a fol­low­ing wasn’t that im­por­tant to us. I had a peer group of smart peo­ple who were do­ing in­ter­est­ing things.them be­ing in­ter­ested in us was enough to keep us in­ter­ested in mak­ing mu­sic.”

FAITH NO MORE WERE FRIENDS WITH ME­TAL­LICA. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST MEM­ORY OF SEE­ING THEM LIVE?

“I was friends with Cliff [Bur­ton, Me­tal­lica’s late

bassist] be­fore I ever saw Me­tal­lica. I re­mem­ber Puffy [FNM drum­mer Mike Bordin] say­ing,‘my friend Cliff is in this metal band and they’re do­ing re­ally good.’ I re­mem­ber be­ing over at his house lis­ten­ing to rough mixes, but I still didn’t re­ally know who they were.then I saw them with Death An­gel at the Kabuki Theater [in March 1985] and they were great.we’d ask them for ad­vice all the time and they were re­ally good at putting things into per­spec­tive.”

WHAT DO YOU RE­MEM­BER OF YOUR FIRST TIME OVER­SEAS WITH FAITH NO MORE?

“It was great.there was al­ready ten­sion with Chuck, and we were drink­ing a lot, but we were play­ing well, and our shows were good. It was ex­cit­ing and stress­ful at the same time. I re­mem­ber we did a dis­as­trous in­ter­view with Melody Maker – we just got drunk and got in a fight – and I was think­ing, ‘Okay, the tour ends right here.’ But then I read the ar­ti­cle and it was hi­lar­i­ous, and I thought,‘oh, maybe we’ll be okay.’”

YOU’D AL­READY BEEN ON THE COVER OF SOUNDS MAGAZINE BY THEN, BE­FORE YOU’D EVER PLAYED A SHOW IN THE UK…

“Yeah, I re­mem­ber [mu­sic jour­nal­ist] Neil Perry flew out to At­lanta to in­ter­view us, but we didn’t re­ally know why.we had a 10-day break in our tour, and had no money, so we were sleep­ing on the floor of a club.this guy had flown from Eng­land to in­ter­view us and he might as well have been from Mars.”

THERE’S A QUOTE IN THAT FEA­TURE WHERE CHUCK SAYS ‘BILLY IS PER­PET­U­ALLY TOR­TURED BY DE­MONS…’

“Chuck was one of those de­mons!”

HE LEFT AF­TER YOU AT­TACKED HIM DUR­ING A RE­HEARSAL, RIGHT?

“Yeah, that was the fi­nal straw. It’s hard to come back from that.the band was dys­func­tional for a long time and the ten­sion was build­ing, so I ex­ploded.”

WAS ANY­ONE ELSE IN THE FRAME TO RE­PLACE HIM, BE­FORE MIKE PAT­TON JOINED FULL-TIME?

“We tried out about 10 other peo­ple, but no-one came close to Pat­ton.we played some mu­sic to him cold and he came up with ideas right off the top of his head that were the clos­est any­one else had come to what we were think­ing about mu­sic. I was like,‘wow, he ac­tu­ally gets it.’”

THE NEXT AL­BUM, THE REAL THING, BE­CAME A HUGE SUC­CESS, EVEN­TU­ALLY. WAS THAT AN EX­CIT­ING TIME?

“New, ex­cit­ing and com­pletely life-chang­ing. But fuck, we were so burned out by the end of it. And so broke! We were broke when we made the record, and when it fi­nally be­came a hit we were still broke, be­cause roy­al­ties don’t come through for a year, and yet every­one was treat­ing us like we were mil­lion­aires.that was weird – it felt like we had been scammed!”

BY 1997’S AL­BUM OF THE YEAR, YOU WERE HOLD­ING FAITH NO MORE TO­GETHER. WOULD THINGS HAVE ENDED EAR­LIER?

“I would say so. Every­one had other things they were do­ing, and I was like the per­son at home, cook­ing din­ner for ev­ery­body. I like that record, but it’s a bit of a downer, which is how the vibe was then. By the end of that cy­cle, I was pretty much done with it.”

FAITH NO MORE HAD BEEN PART OF YOUR LIFE BY THAT POINT FOR AL­MOST TWO DECADES: HOW DID IT FEEL TO HAVE THAT CRUM­BLE BE­NEATH YOU?

“Well, I dropped out of school to be in a band, think­ing,‘this is what I’m go­ing to do with my life.’ So when Faith No More got suc­cess­ful I took it per­son­ally, be­cause it was kind of a val­i­da­tion of the choices I’d made in life.then when the band split, I felt like I couldn’t sep­a­rate my­self from that, be­cause I felt that it was the only val­i­da­tion I had in my life, and I’d lost my iden­tity. It took me close to a decade to fig­ure out that I was not nec­es­sar­ily my band.”

HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THAT?

“By try­ing to stay busy. But man, there wasn’t a whole lot of love com­ing my way. I started a la­bel, Koolar­row, and no-one wanted to dis­trib­ute it. So, all of a sud­den, I was com­pletely back to where I was when I was 20 years old. I was think­ing,‘holy shit, that rug sure came out fast.’”

IN FAIR­NESS, KOOLAR­ROW WAS RE­LEAS­ING EX­PER­I­MEN­TAL, LEFT-FIELD ROCK…

“Yeah, be­cause that’s where my gut was tak­ing me. That’s how I’d lived my whole life, so my think­ing was,‘why stop now?’ I was still try­ing to fig­ure out who I was.”

YOU PLAYED WITH JELLO BIAFRA FOR A WHILE. GIVEN HIS PIV­OTAL ROLE IN SAN FRAN­CISCO PUNK ROCK, DID IT FEEL LIKE YOUR LIFE WAS COM­ING FULL-CIR­CLE?

“In a way. I was a ma­jor Dead Kennedys fan in my high school years, and I first met Jello when I was 16 years old at The Whisky [a Go Go] in Los An­ge­les. We told the peo­ple guard­ing the back­stage that we were guests, and he saw us and said,‘yeah, they’re okay, come on in.’ He hung out with us, even though we were kids. But also, in play­ing in his band, I was just a bass player and I had to do my job.at the time, that was per­fect for me: lib­er­at­ing in a dif­fer­ent way.”

DID YOU HAVE ANY CON­CERNS ABOUT REUNITING FAITH NO MORE?

“Ab­so­lutely.there were trust is­sues, and so you think,‘are we go­ing to re­gret this?’ I knew that not all the dys­func­tion would have gone away.the ques­tion was how I would han­dle it. Luck­ily, I trusted the process. I’m happy that Al­bum Of The Year wasn’t our last record.”

SO, IS SOL IN­VIC­TUS THE LAST RECORD THAT YOU’LL DO?

“That I don’t know. I’m open to any out­come. If we do an­other one it’ll be be­cause we’re 100 per cent be­hind it: if not, I don’t see the point.there’s so much shit out there and so much noise, the world doesn’t need a half-hearted Faith No More record.”

Hill street Gould

FNM: sur­pris­ing mu­si­cal stat­ues en­thu­si­asts OG Faith No More bassist Cousin Itt there

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