Ben Hopkins is a freelancer writer, primarily of music biogs for Warner Music but also of film and music articles for a variety of publications primarily Clash, where is he also film editor. He wrote the Complete Guide to Faith No More for Clash and has also written for Monocle and Record Collector among others. Ben is the latest Faith No More expert to kindly answer some questions from us on the band’s new album Sol Invictus.
1/ You have written the complete guide to FNM. How does the new album stack up?
Before hearing it, my main thought was simply: please don’t suck. It’s a slow burner – there isn’t anything as immediate as From Out of Nowhere or Ashes To Ashes. At the same time, there aren’t many extreme stylistic transitions from song-to-song like with Digging The Grave and Take This Bottle or She Loves Me Not and Got That Feeling. Yet many of the songs – Sunny Side Up, Rise of the Fall and Black Friday – have a little of both of those extremes within them.
Atmospherically, it strikes me as being closest to Introduce Yourself. It’s hard to pinpoint why – partially because Sol Invictus has plenty of almost repetitious rhythmic grooves like that album did, but also because the lyrics to several songs on both albums read like transcripts to a series of particularly unpleasant psychiatric examinations. For all their obvious differences, Mike Patton and Chuck Mosley share a fondness for a darkly enigmatic turn of phrase.
FNM always seem to evolve from album and to album, and that’s again true here. It’ll take more time to judge, but I’d currently rate Sol Invictus as the band’s second most consistent album after Angel Dust.
2/ Do you think Faith No More have proved that they remain relevant in 2015?
I think the concept of relevance in music is a misnomer: an undefinable excuse to discredit something on an ad hoc basis for no substantial reason. If we’re talking about relevance to a younger audience, then they have to a degree – in the UK at least, the festivals they’ve played since the 2009 comeback and some of the media that has supported them should help to create a healthy following amongst people just getting into music.
That said, people that have been into the band since way back and are strolling ominously towards their own midlife crises – or at least, those who discovered them just as they were imploding last time around – will surely remain the dominant demographic of their fanbase.
3/ What is your favourite song on the album and why?
Initially it was Separation Anxiety, which would be obvious given that stylistically it isn’t too far from Caffeine, The World is Yours or the heavier mid-paced tracks on King For A Day. Then it was Cone of Shame for the full Patton vocal spectrum from menacing whispers to random yelping. Now it’s Matador, which manages to cram most of the band’s best attributes into one song.
4/ Faith No More have gotten a bit of a bad rap for spawning the worst excesses of nu-metal. What is your take on that?
I’d be surprised if any band really considered in advance what influence they’d have over those that followed them. Similarly, those nu-metal bands would just as likely be influenced by FNM’s contemporaries who were also doing something inventive from a base of aggressive guitar music – throughout that period you had Nine Inch Nails, Primus, Tool, Rage Against The Machine, Helmet, Jane’s Addiction, Ministry and doubtless many others that I’ve forgotten about.
That said nu-metal isn’t automatically a bad thing, but the majority of genre would inevitably take influences from the aforementioned bands and either streamline them for a sound with more commercial crossover potential, or dumb it down to the lowest common denominator. Neither of those approaches are necessarily appealing if you’re used to Angel Dust or King For A Day, but each to their own.
Simply aping FNM would be tricky for most bands given the band’s apparent collective love of doing the contradictory (and what other bands would rotate their guitarists like Spinal Tap did with their drummers?), as well as most vocalists’ inability to match Patton’s versatility.
5/ What are the more positive influences that Faith No More’s music continues to have?
For bands, they set an example that you can maintain your own path and still have a certain amount of success. For fans, their eclecticism offered a gateway into a wider variety of music.
And I managed to write all of that without a single reference to Mr. Bungle.