Billy Gould (Faith No More): “It’s important for me to learn new things”


What can we say about legendary band Faith No More, act that left a big mark in rock and metal world with their eclectic, but then again hit classics which we sing still today when we have some free time. For this quintet rock sound wasn’t enough, neither funk, punk, electronic, jazz, but they changed their sound radically from album to album (even from one song to another on the same record). But, let’s not waste time, many of us know this great band and their two legendary concerts in Serbia, 2010 @ EXIT festival and 2012 @ Belgrade Calling festival. Legendary founder and bassist, Billy Gould was more than willing to talk with Balkanrock about his different projects, Faith No More’s last album and some other subjects.

BR: Looking from today’s perspective and after more than a year since the last Faith No More record “Sol Invictus” came out, what does this record represent for you as a collective and for you personally after almost twenty years of break?

Billy: I’m not sure what it means… It was a lot of work, like our albums always seem to be, but this might have been the most challenging, in that we did this completely ourselves, almost in a vacuum. And as I was so close to the material, it will probably be impossible to ever be very objective about it. Critical? Absolutely. Still, I like the music,and had always felt that the band had more statements to make, so I’m very glad it came to be.

BR: One of the most interesting elements of Faith No More was always eclectic approach, a lot of different genres of music, even the use of musical traditions from different parts of the world. How much is improtant for you and the other guys in the band to explore different musical folklore for your own creative process and being familiar with different music traditions in general?

Billy: It’s absolutely important for me, as a musician, to learn new things, and I’m not only talking about techniques, but in ways of approaching music. There becomes a danger where when everything, no matter which genre, takes a similar approach to things, where you run the risk of becoming jaded and  it becomes necessary to look out side.

BR: One of the projects you’ve been working over the years is “The Talking Book” trio. Since the music is for the most part based on ambiental drone sounds, do you think that this is one of the projects where you had the opportunity to explore a bit avantgarde side of music and sound in general in contrast to more melodic and perhaps a bit formal side of music that you find in Faith No More and some other projects?

Billy: Well, the interesting thing about Talking Book is that it, stylistically, feels right at home with the rest of my music collection, so psychologically this wasn’t a big departure for me. However, listening to this type of music and making it are two totally different things, and it was definitely a great learning experience for me.

BR: When band broke in 1997, you said in an interview that you actually felt relief since the long years of stress came to an end. When you came back together this time, did you maybe feel any kind of different relief with you being older and more experienced?

Billy: Yes and no. We are much better with each other but I also realized that as long as this band exists, I would have to accept that some things that will never change.

BR: You mentioned that you don’t have any favorite songs on albums but do you feel that some of the songs in Faith No More catalogue (or in catalogue of some of your other projects) have some special meaning for you in your career?

Billy: Different things have had different meanings at different times, it seems to change.

BR: Do you feel that communication inside of the band is on much better level since you reformed than the previous years?

Billy: In some ways, yes.

BR: You mentioned Faith No More is a band that has very independent personalities and works as a democracy. What do you see as positive and negative sides of working that way?

Billy: Well, the plus side is that everyone has input, so the result can often be better than what could have happened by just one or two individuals. Also, I think it creates a spirit of teamwork that we take with each other into our live shows. On the negative side, things can become very inefficient when it comes to making decisions.

BR: Band is famous for having a very good connection with a country like Brasil, and some other Europian countries (some of them are not even known that much and maybe they are not typically known for visits by very big bands). Do you think that music of Faith No More managed to make suprisingly strong impression in certain areas of the world, maybe even more than America?

Billy: I would say that’s true. There could be an historical reason for this; like, for example, we hit a lot of new places in the late 80’s and early 90’s that were not used to having a band like ourselves. On the other hand, if I can say one complimentary thing about my bandmates, it’s that we’ve always had an interest in learning about places, and lived sheltered experiences on tour. Going to a place like Manaus, Brazil for the first time was a real adventure for us. I think that people could probably pick up this in our enthusiasm.

BR: Roddy mentioned in an interview that during your career you usually created material that was full of layers and that you always liked to put a lot of stuff in a mix and that he now feels that he likes much more stripped down approach, almost having one instrument and voice. What’s your opinion in terms of more complex or stripped down approach in terms of creating music and in terms of production work?

Billy: There’s a time for simplicity and a time for complexity, depending on what kind of statement you want to make. Both approaches can be powerful; but in the case of what Roddy was saying, I see his point. There is something gratifying and powerful about making a point through simplicity. I personally am a fan of directness.

BR: Aside from Faith No More and different collaborations for the last seventeen years you have your own record label Koolarrow records, you released a lot of records by bands from a different parts of the world. What bands and what releases are in your opinion the ones that you are are most proud of and do you expect any new releases in future?

Billy: If there is one thing about ANY KA artists (except for FNM), it’s the fact that none of them are easy sells in the retails world. And I know this going into it. Therefore when I take on a project, I am already proud of it, enough to fight for it. I’m all in.

BR: You worked with artists who use music folklore from Balkan, like Kultur Shock and Dubioza Kolektiv. Do you find any similarities with these bands in terms of combination of different influences and eclectic approach that Faith No More is familiar with?

Billy: I think you could break things down by analysis and see the similarities, but this isn’t what attracts me. What gets me involved is when I see a band with a strong vision,  it makes me want to join their team to help them realize it.

BR: You also mentioned that you really don’t listen to whole albums anymore and that you usually have shuffle on your phone. Is there any artist or a band in last couple of years that really interested you and kinda became a stronger influence?

Billy: Sure (and by the way, I’m not happy about the phone/shuffle thing, I hope to correct this problem!!). Lately there have been a few artists that I’ve taken a liking to: Usssy, Burial, BadBadNotGood, Getatchew Mekurya, Bucolica, Protomartyr. Stuff that makes me want to continue making music.

BR: Famous producer that worked with Faith No More, Matt Wallace said that you are one of rare bands that is ready to accept different approaches that most of the bands would probably find too out of their comfort zone and he specifically mentioned song “Be Aggressive” where Roddy wrote the lyrics and Mike just said: “Let’s do it!” without feeling uncomfortable of singing about felatio. Do you feel that Faith No More was much more willing to radically change and play with ideas that could be considered as controversial from most of other bands?

Billy: Well, to put that into perspective, Mike jumped on that idea before I did, ha ha! But, yes, one thing that I love about playing with these guys is that they have a fearlessness in them in terms of their approach.

BR: Billy, I just want to say, thank you so much for taking your time to do this interview and I hope we will be fortunate to see you and Faith No More again in Serbia in future. I still remember your fantastic performance @ Exit festival back in 2010 when you absolutely made a lot of people happy and energized. Not to bore you, I’m just happy to have this opportunity to have this interview with one of my biggest influences as a musician and I hope you will be around for a long time.

Billy: Ne brini,  sretan sam  ….mozda ne si znao, nego Serbija je mesto da volim. Hvala! (Don’t worry, I’m happy… Perhaps you didn’t know, but Serbia is a place that I love. Thank you!)

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