4 Reasons Faith No More Flopped In The States (The Director’s Cut!)

About a month ago, the kind people at the Faith No More blog asked me to write up a dissertation about FNM’s impact on the States (or lack thereof). It was a huge honor, and I hope to contribute more boring essays in the future. However, since they’re actually officially connected with the band, they had to change a few things around. Mostly, they almost completely deleted the section about Mr. Dean Menta in the “Pick A Guitar Player, Please!” section. The world must know how much I dislike Dean Menta as a guitarist! So now I present to you the “Director’s Cut” of my Faith No More article! Please try your best to enjoy!

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4 Reasons Faith No More flopped in the States (in one American fan’s opinion).

According to the Mayan calendar, the Earth will die, screaming, before Faith No More is due to play another show in the United States of America. Being an American of average-at-best income, I find this most disconcerting. Not because I’m secretly a Mayan. No, I really wanted to see those guys before they suddenly break up for good! I mean, would anyone be surprised if they announced such a thing, like, an hour from now? I can’t afford a trip to Europe! I honestly think I’ll never get the chance to see my favorite band again. What the Hell?! Why the Hell?!

Looking back at history, It’s obvious there’s a “thing” between FNM and the USA. Being an American of average-at-best intelligence, as well as being probably the biggest FNM fan in my zip code, I’ve devoted (too) much time and brain power to the issue of FNM’s struggle on the American pop scene. When you break it down with the aide of hindsight, you can see an obvious series of career steps that, to an American fan living through the time, seemed to alienate all my music loving American friends. As part of my master’s thesis for the Faith No More Spiritual and Theological Center, here’s the top 4 reasons I think Armageddon is more likely than a FNM concert in Seattle or St. Louis.

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4• Mike Patton’s voice changes.

First, I want to address something that I feel isn’t talked about enough, and I wish someone would ask Mike Patton about specifically. Sometime between “The Real Thing” and “Angel Dust” Patton emerged from a cocoon or something as Mike Patton two-point-oh! After jamming with John Zorn, and completing the first Mr. Bungle album, Patton evolved from a bratty white-boy rapper with a pinched, nasally punk attitude…into the man with the voice we all know and love. It’s almost as if FNM had three singers. Check out this video of Mr. Bungle live on April 20th, 1992. Right before “Angel Dust” was released (on June 8th). You can hear his transformation in action.

If you pay close attention, you can hear Patton consciously choose to sing in a register and voice that’s much different from the “bratty” voice he used on the official recorded versions. Controlling the tone of his voice, he purposely sings the old songs in a new way. Though sometimes he dips back into his old voice. I find it fascinating. Especially during “Squeeze Me Macaroni” which has been almost completely rearranged in order to avoid the trappings of Patton’s old vocal approach. By the way, you should watch this whole show if you haven’t already. Its one of Bungle’s finest!

Ok, so why the change? Besides the obvious? I know that he was growing as a singer and an artist and all that crap blah blah blah. However, according to the American music press’ tart, bitter brand of glossolalias, I’ve always heard about another, dumber rumor for reason. I think it’s pretty obvious, but it’s awkward to address. I’ll just say it; Anthony Kiedis. There was, and might still be, a feud between the two of them. Though nowadays, it seems to be just Kiedis holding a grudge. According to anthonykiedis.net (the 100% UNofficial fan site dedicated to Anthony Kiedis!) the earliest sign of trouble came right when “Epic” hit it big.

“I watched [their] “Epic” video, and I see him jumping up and down, rapping, and it looked like I was looking in a mirror.” Anthony Kiedis
{‘Red Hot Chili Peppers By The Way The Biography’ by Dave Thompson (page 163)}

At the time, FNM was bigger than the Chili Peppers in Europe, apparently, and Kiedis was worried European audiences would think that HE was “the imitator”. My two cents; Puh-leeze! I remember this “controversy” when it was still fresh. The Chili Peppers have pretty much always been way more popular than FNM here in the States, and it reminded me of another similar situation, only in the world of stand-up comedy.

I’m sure that you, dear reader, have heard of Dennis Leary. He’s a big-time famous comedian and actor guy. When he was first coming up as a stand-up comedian in the late 80s/early 90s, he was accused of stealing material from another comedian named Bill Hicks. If one was to objectively investigate the specific allegations (as I have attempted), you would see that while both have material that touch on similar themes, there is no actual joke thievery. Leary and Hicks both enjoyed jokes about taking a lot of drugs, jokes about smoking a lot of cigarettes, and jokes about how funny it was the way Jim Fix died. I think a similar point could be made about the Kiedis/Patton feud bullshit. Anthony Kiedis did not invent anything, and he certainly wasn’t the first skinny white guy with long hair to rap over rock in tight pants. I remember the general consensus amongst my friends being that in this fight, Kiedis looked like a big pussy. But to be fair, anytime a rock star complains about anything at all, they look like big pussies. The human race agrees on this; if you are blessed with the life of a rock star, your license to bitch is revoked. In fact the more you bitch, the more satisfying your inevitable come-uppance will be to the general public. Check any tabloid for proof of concept.

(And I actually like the Chili Peppers. Up to “BloodSugarSexMagic”. Then, not so much. At least FNM isn’t still excreting sub-par throw-back records every 3-5 years. Oh, and Flea is WAY overrated! But I digress. Anyway…)

3• The singles released for “Angel Dust” confounds America!

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There’s no question about Faith No More’s popularity in America during “The Real Thing’s” heyday. Having never been abroad, (except for the occasional illicit holliday to Tijuana) I don’t know what it’s like when y’all’s local rock radio station falls in love with a particular tune. But in the greater Los Angeles area in 1991, you heard “Epic” approximately twice every five minutes. If that seems mathematically impossible, just keep in mind how fast pop culture eats itself in America. Guitar music was king in the post-ironic 1990s, and bands like Faith No More encouraged the alt-rock scene to swallow it’s own tail at an even faster rate. I’m sorry. It just seemed like an exciting time for rock music! If we only knew…if we only knew…

“Angel Dust’s” first single; “Midlife Crisis” stymied metal-heads who were looking for a sequel to “Epic” and, of course, this was not accidental. Not only that, but “Nevermind” happened between FNM records, so anything other than an Epic- sequel would be viewed as a risky career move by the American music press. Then came “A Small Victory” which was largely ignored. In a world where Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots were MTV’s chosen ones, there was no room on American rock radio for such an amazingly unique, challenging, keyboard-heavy song.
Anecdotical evidence; 105.5 KNAC, L.A.’s premier hard rock radio station (up until 1994, when it turned into an all Spanish station) refused to play it when I requested it! I remember calling in to the station;
ME: Hey, dude! (it was 1993) It would be rad if you played “A Small Victory” by Faith No More! I love that song!
RADIO DUDE: Yeah, I’ll play some Faith No More…
1 HOUR LATER: “Epic” is played as per my “request”. Bastards!

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2• What album is “Easy” from, again?

“Angel Dust” is a masterpiece from start to finish. So why was “Easy” treated like the album’s red-headed stepchild? If you were not aware, the American version of “AD” ends after “Midnight Cowboy” and the import just has it tacked on at the end (and good luck finding THAT in an American record shop). This wouldn’t have been a big deal, except that “Easy” turned out to be one of the band’s biggest hits! Where was an American fan supposed to find this song in 1993?

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Well, in America, we got the “Songs To Make Love To EP” which is, by far, the weakest release in the band’s history. You get four songs;
Easy – Das Sutchenfest – Let’s Lynch The Landlord – Midnight Cowboy
What a rip-off! Track 1 should have already been on the album, track 4 IS on the album, and tracks 2 and 3 are complete B-Side throwaway garbage! It’s not like there wasn’t other good songs still unreleased at the time. Especially in America! They could have included “As The Worm Turns 92′” or “The World Is Yours” or at least some live stuff, and actually give American fans some bang for their buck. Way to burn the base, guys!

1• Pick a guitar player, please!

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While listening to a live recording from the KFAD era, two thoughts occurred to me. Number one; boy, Dean Menta wasn’t very good. And B; I’m always taken aback by how poorly that record was received here in the US! While “King…” has sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide, the keyword there is “worldwide”. For some reason, America turned their noses up at one of the finest records of the nineties. How come? After careful consideration, the only reason I can think of is the lack of a true replacement for Jim Martin.

I am the proud owner of a 1995 Faith No More calendar. It’s pretty much just a poster book, and it’s pretty sweet. One thing, though. Half of the pictures are of just Jim Martin. I’ll spell it out; Jim was not in the band in 1995! But such was the image of Faith No More in the US.
You have to admit, Martin had an iconic look. And Warner Bros. did a fine job of presenting him as the crunchy-metallic voice of sanity in FNM’s crazy world of new wave and rap-rock. That was great for awhile, but then 1991 ended.

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Trey Spruance could have been the band’s savior if he would have stuck it out. American audiences would have loved him! 1995, ’tis the season of Grunge, and Spruance was the almost too perfect replacement for Big Sick Ugly Jim. Image-wise, Trey’s style, look, and manic stage presence would have, in my opinion, been an improvement over Jim Martin’s stand-there-and-smoke-while-wearing-two-pairs-of-glasses shtick, which In 95′ would’ve been so three years ago. Plus, the guitar parts themselves were much more intricate. More thoughtful, pop-ironic, post-punk, and freed from the shackles of the dreaded ‘heavy metal’ shred label. Basically, Jim Martin could and would never play something like what Trey wrote and played in “Evidence” or “Star A.D.”.

But then the record came out without even a picture of ‘whoever’ was playing guitar! I believe the American audience felt cheated in some way. I know I did. I think this, along with weak media attention, and the band’s typical cooly-detached mystique, combined to form the monster that killed the record in it’s crib.

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As for Dean Menta…I’ll try not to beat up on poor Dean too much… But then again, what are the odds he’ll actually read this? I feel that Faith No More fans took an immediate dislike to Dean because he looked too much like what he was: a lucky roadie. He performed like one, too. While pro-shot footage from the “Angel Dust” tour are as rare as a svelte Texan, I have seen several professional live videos from the Dean era, usually featuring Dean fucking up. Here’s one of my favorite Dean Menta fuck ups:

I’ve never been to Chile, but I know that since it’s in South America, it’s probably hotter than a Devil’s fart. So it must have been a sorry attempt at fashion when Dean Menta came out to perform in Santiago, Chile wearing a hoodie-style sweat jacket. Four songs in, and drenched in flop sweat, as well as regular sweat, Dean decides to remove his jacket IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FRIGGING SONG!! Right after the first chorus of “What A Day” Dean uses the brief four measures of guitar noise before the final verse to attempt the great mid-song jacket-escape! Let’s break it down;

He has about seven seconds to first remove his guitar, then quickly remove his wet, sweaty jacket, and then replace his guitar and rejoin the song in time for the regular guitar riff of the verse. It actually might have been cool if he had pulled it off. He doesn’t, of course. He gets the jacket about half way off when he seems to suddenly realize what a bad idea this was, and there’s no way he’s gonna make it in time. Rather than just accomplish his original goal of removing his goddamn jacket before he dies of heat stroke, and rejoining the song when he’s good and ready, he panics and gets his jacket stuck in his guitar strap. After a short, losing struggle with his crafty coat, he flails and steps on his tangled jacket, which tweaks his chord, and completely unplugs the guitar mid-verse. It’s amateurish and embarrassing. It looks like some half-assed try-out for a Faith No More tribute band, and this guy is not getting the part. To sum up, Dean was a sad, sorry replacement for either Martin or Spruance, and America seems to have rejected this period of the band’s history almost entirely.

So much for not beating up on Dean. Maybe I’m being too hard on him. Then again, I own a copy of his ‘other’ band’s record. The band was called Duh, and the record is called “The Unholy Handjob”. Guess what? It blows.

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When Jon Hudson joined the band, and they came out with “Album Of The Year” I suddenly saw Faith No More on MTV again. “Ashes To Ashes” entered heavy rotation on my local FM rock station, and they were on their way to becoming relevant in American pop music again. Perhaps it was obvious even then than Jon Hudson was the right guitarist for the band? I like to think so, but I’m a big Jon Hudson fan, so I might be a bit biased.

All the pieces were in place in the US, and the American music press was calling “AOTY” a “comeback” and, more importantly, a success! All that was needed now was some big, high profile American touring. However, FNM never seemed interested in a big American tour. They stuck to mid-sized venues, and only hit the rounds once. Since the reunion, they’ve only played a handful of shows on American soil. I guess they’re still angry with us that we didn’t buy very many of their records after 1994. But after getting burned by the “Songs To Make Love To EP” and getting tricked into paying actual cash money to see Dean Menta perform, you can’t be too angry with us.

While I strongly feel that America is ready for Faith No More’s glorious return, something still bugs me. Awhile back, VH1 Classic’s “That Metal Show” was covering the 2009 download festival. During the special, they featured a couple of FNM tunes (I remember “Land Of Sunshine” and “Introduce Yourself” airing, if you were curious). But during one of the show’s many inane conversations, the hosts were comparing multiple bands in some arbitrary and asinine way like a bunch of baked high school sophomores. Someone, I believe it was Eddie Trunk himself, remarked that Faith No More was lacking that night, and that it just “wasn’t the same without Jim Martin”. This is the type of American music press ignorance that has to stop!

I’ll end this editorial rant on top of a soap box; Gentlemen! Kind sirs! In my humble opinion, Faith No More must stop looking for the US to reach out to them! They need to school fools like Eddie Trunk on the greatness of Jon Hudson! America deserves to know that Faith No More are better now than they’ve ever been! Stand up and demand our attention! Tour the United States! Thank you. I now return you to your regularly scheduled Internet.

Originally published on the Faith No More Blog; July 25th, 2012

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