Amongst the fog-topped Victorian homes, numerous pipe shops with tie-dyed posters, and dog-toting street vagrants lies San Francisco’s infamous Haight Street, a counterculture breeding ground for new ideals, politics, and music. It seems fitting then that I am waiting in the neighborhood’s eclectic Magnolia Brewpub for my interview with Bill Gould, the bassist for one of America’s most colorful and intriguing bands Faith No More. The band is usually referred to as a “Nu Metal” band that predated the load of crap that came out in the later 90’s, but defining the genre of Faith No More isn’t that easy. It’s a metal band for sure, but add in some funk, jazz, alternative rock, easy listening, and everything else under the sun, and you get a band (and sound) that refuses to be pinned down.
The same can be said for Gould. Since starting the band in the 1980’s (then called Faith No Man), he’s seen it through various lineup changes with singers (Mike Morris was replaced briefly with Courtney Love, who was replaced with Chuck Mosley, who was replaced with Mike Patton) and guitarists (Jim Martin started a revolving door that ended with Jon Hudson picking up the reins), and he’s taken the band’s constantly evolving sound from its choppy, funk-based beginnings with We Care a Lot all the way through to the underrated variety show of Album of the Year. Though the band broke up in 1998 after AOTY, it didn’t stop Gould from flexing his musical muscles. He went on to form Koolarrow Records, taking on bands that otherwise would have had no chance of being released in the States, and occasionally played live shows with the likes of Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine and the German band Harmful.
Then, in 2009, the news that all Faith No More fans had been waiting all those years to hear hit the airwaves. Faith No More decided to reunite and do a low-key reunion tour, with little publicity to help them out. It was a gamble that managed to pay off, and the tour (which caps off in Chile this December) was a complete success.
Photo by Sanne Vinter
Sitting here drinking a few beers with Gould, I see a friendly-to-a-fault, accessible, and passionate artist – nothing at all like a rock diva or even the mastermind behind one of the world’s most perplexing bands. But perhaps that has a lot to do with the fact that it wasn’t always this easy for Faith No More. Back in their heyday after the extremely successful The Real Thing (which spawned that hit, “Epic”), the band slowly lost respect in the media, almost to the point where they were blacklisted.
“I tried to figure out why [we were blacklisted],” Gould says. “And it’s almost like we are willfully ignored. Those people have been around, and they know who we are.”
It didn’t help that their next album after The Real Thing was unlike anything the band had done before.
“I think Angel Dust is why they hated us here and we never recovered,” he says about their experimental album. “Somebody, somehow, decided we were this kind of band with The Real Thing. We told them that we weren’t what they were saying we were, and I think that they thought we weren’t reliable or they were personally offended, like we bit the hand that fed us. They never forgave us for that. But that’s the record that has lasted the longest. That was our Dark Side of the Moon. It still sells, it was a good record, and it stood up over time, but what we had to deal with, the abuse that we got, was pretty fucked up.”