EXCLUSIVE: Released in 1995, ‘King For a Day… Fool For a Lifetime’ is among Faith No More’s most confrontational works. Recorded during a period of inner turmoil which followed the departure of guitarist Jim Martin, keyboard player Roddy Bottum was also largely absent due to a number of personal issues. It’s surprising that the San Francisco act held it together at all, and they almost didn’t, according to the man who filled Martin’s shoes; “Yeah, it was a strange time for them”, concedes Trey Spruance, as we sit down to chat over Skype. From its' fraught creation, to the shows that saw this version of the band reunite to perform the album in full, almost two decades later, we get in-depth on ‘King For a Day’, in Part 2 of our audience with Trey Spruance. Ugly in the morning; Eamon O’Neill.
For Part 1 of this interview, which covers all things Mr. Bungle, click here.
Hi Trey, I recently saw an interview with Trevor Dunn who said that it was really weird to see Mike Patton on the front of Kerrang! magazine in 1989, when Faith No More exploded; was it the same for you?
You know, it might have even been weirder for me, because I was actually a Faith No More fan from ’85, ’86 onwards, the early days. None of those other guys [in Mr. Bungle] were, including Mike [Patton]! [Laughing] I mean, he liked it, but he wasn’t driving around in his car listening to it the way I was. We went to see Faith No More play up in Arcata - a town near Eureka where we lived, and I was excited about that. The promotor, when there was a touring band; an out of town or out of the country band coming to our little area, he would usually have us play because we had a built in audience, and when Faith No More came, it was like; “yeah, I don’t want to have Mr. Bungle play at every show, so screw those guys, we’re going to have Faith No More play”, and there was like, five people at the show; two of which were Mike and myself!
What was it like seeing Faith No More that early on?
That show was totally life changing for me just musically; what you could do with keyboards and guitar and heavy drums; it changed my whole way of looking at what a band could be, honestly. But that audience, and that setting was how I contextualised Faith No More live shows, which was wrong, because they were doing well in San Francisco at the time. But in my mind, I was thinking; “okay, there’s five people at Faith No More shows, and now they have a platinum record and our singer is the guy singing their songs”; it was a pretty huge leap!
You joined the band for the band's ‘King For A Day’ album in 1995; was that a difficult time to come into the band?
Yeah it was a strange time for them. For me, the most fundamental change that they were going through was that they got rid of Jim [Martin, guitarist], which is a very, very big deal. They wanted to expand their horizons, but the thing is Faith No More is a very organic band, so it’s hard to say; “this is the direction we’re going to go in”. I don’t think that they had this like; “here’s what we’re going to do”, it’s more like, they collaborate, and what comes out of those collaborations ends up being Faith No More.
So they needed a guitar player that could work around that creative chemistry?
They need to recruit somebody that can collaborate with them musically, and man, I wasn’t the only guy. They had incredible people lined up; they had Geordie [Kevin ‘Geordie’ Walker] from Killing Joke, who they were talking to; they had Ralph [Spight] from Victims Family, who’s a totally brilliant guitar player, and totally capable musician.
Did the fact that you played with Mike Patton in Mr. Bungle help in your landing the position?
I think I got the position… you see, Patton, he wasn’t enthusiastic about me even doing it. He essentially was warning me, like; "it’s not that great a situation". That also might be because he knew me, he knew them, and he knew that maybe there wouldn’t be the smoothest sailing there.
So how was it, from that point of view?
It turns out I didn’t have any interpersonal problems with anybody in the band. But, they were just in a state of disarray, musically, so when I joined it was cool because ideas that were there started to bloom. It was so great working with Puffy [Mike Bordin, drummer], like, I really just love his drumming so much. But it was also hard for me as a fan, because I’m seeing decisions being made, like, I don’t have a creative voice - at least not like a big one, so I’m not going to say; “why are we doing a bunch of stripped down stuff that sounds like kind of a pop version of Black Flag?”, when we’re recording in Bearsville Studios, like, the biggest, most godly tracking room, with the drummer with the biggest, most godly sound. And you’re telling one of the greatest engineers on the earth, which is Andy Wallace, to turn the room mics down? I was going crazy! I was like; “how can you be doing this?!”
Are you referring to the drier, less-produced, overall sound of the album?
Yeah. Actually, it was driving me nuts, but at the same time it’s not my place, so I’m not like, going to worry about it. But it was weird, and I was definitely going between; “okay, I’m a hired guitar player” and “I’m a fan”. It seemed to me that they were in a worse place when we finished recording that record, interpersonally, than they were when they started. And their management and stuff like that, my opinion about all of that is just that it was unsavoury. The whole thing felt unsavoury to me, and that maybe if I stayed in it, it would threaten my relationship with Mike, which was another concern; this unhealthy kind of toxic atmosphere, and I think I just don’t want to be involved in it.
Is that why you decided to move on, once the recording of the album had been completed?
Yeah, and you know, I respect them, because those guys have everything invested in it, and they’ve been in that band a long time. They don’t have this luxurious position like me where I can just walk away, which I think was hard for them to understand at the time. But I think now probably, they look back and like, if they were in my shoes and you’re new to a situation, I don’t think there’s very many people that would want to stay in it, to be honest, unless you’re like; [excitedly] “oh my god, I’m in Faith No More, this is so cool, I don’t care what happens!". Like, that was a hard job. But Dean Menta [successor, and former keyboard tech] didn’t last very long in it either, and he had toured with them! So you see what I’m saying?
It seems it wasn't an easy role, to be the guitar player in Faith No More.
They found the perfect guitar player with Jon Hudson, that should have been there when I was there. That’s perfect because he’s able to deal with all of them, and able to keep a super cool level head about everything, and be exactly what they need as a guitar player. All’s well that ends well.
‘King For a Day’ is probably one of the band’s most varied albums; from the heaviness of ‘Digging the Grave’, to the acoustics on the title track; was it enjoyable for you to record your parts?
Yeah, it was. The coolest part about it in a way, was problem solving what each of the different band members were envisioning a song going. I mean, they start with the drums and the bass - that’s how that band works, which is perfect - and then they add keyboards, guitar, and vocals, usually in that order. But the guitar really provides a lot of the character of the song, so if one guys in your ear telling you; “this should be like a Steve Albini kind of driving thing”, and then another guy’s saying; “a little bit more kind of RnB, maybe kind of a Hendrix thing”, or another guy saying; “it’s just straight Metallica!”; negotiating those different viewpoints of what the music is supposed to be was a challenge, to say the least. But coming up with solutions is very rewarding, because that ends up being very healthy for the creative process, in my opinion.
Do you have any personal favourites on the album? I'm a big fan of ‘Just a Man’, for example?
That’s great that you mentioned that one, because ‘Just a Man’ was sort of like with Trevor [Dunn] with ‘Retrovertigo’; Billy [Gould, bass] was shy about showing it to the rest of the band, and I think he showed it to me first, and I was just like; “man, this is the fucking greatest!”, because to me, as a fan, that’s the Faith No More I wanted to hear; that kind of 'larger than life' feeling. That, I think, came out really well in the studio. I loved the choir on it.
The title track is unusual song for Faith No More, in that it has predominantly acoustic guitar on it.
I also like the ‘King For a Day’ song a lot. It’s got a great shape to it. It has a very mysterious aura. What’s weird about that song, for me, was like, okay, I can do stuff on guitar, but one thing I never did, like I never played steel string acoustic guitar. I can pick fast, I can do all this shit, but one thing I cannot do is just strum, like; “ah, I’ve got a guitar in my hand, I’m strumming and playing songs”. I have never been able to do that. So, that song was hard because it was like [sings jangly rhythm]; you do this thing that is just so fuckin’ alien to me, just strumming my guitar shit. The hardest part to play on that whole record is the acoustic strumming. Somehow you just have to tell yourself; “forget the shuffle, forget the groove, just go [sings jangly strum]” – it’s hard!
How was it finally playing the whole album live, when you performed with Faith No More in South America in 2011?
The promotors in Chile wanted to do the ‘King For a Day’ record with me on it. Jon Hudson was like, man, he helped me so much, because we would do this, maybe two days a week of rehearsal for a couple of months, which, the kind of music I do with Secret Chiefs’ really complicated music, we’re lucky if we get one day to rehearse if we’re going out on a whole tour. So it was like; “wow, we’re going to rehearse like, sixteen times, just to play this easy music?! This is crazy!” Boy was I wrong.
So you found it challenging to perform the material?
Man, it’s not easy, because there are so many nuances that are so important in Faith No More’s music that you wouldn’t think was so important. And it has to do with humans; it’s not about what the part is; it’s about how humans relate to each other, musically, and so you’re adapting to each other in all of these very subtle ways. Perhaps even more important, however, is just having your shit together as a guitar player on - I hesitate to say your pedals, but it’s more about, like you gain, you know; how loud something is and then backing it up a little bit, and the relationship between the feedback and all that shit.
Was the setting going to be challenging too for you, to be on that huge stage?
You’re not going to be in this little tiny room; you’re going to be on a stage in front of 80,000 people, and your nearest monitors are going to be eighty feet away; your nearest band member is going to be forty feet away; a fucking world away! I’ve played big shows; I’ve played to 10,000 / 12,000 people, a whole bunch of shows with Secret Chiefs, but this is a whole different thing. 80,000, on that size of stage, walking on to plug into a rig you’ve never seen, much less ever played through? I mean, it’s weird! You have to be prepared for all of that shit.
Did Jon Hudson offer any other advice?
I’m just giving Jon Hudson a lot of credit for having helped me prepare for that. Like, he’d been doing that kind of thing for quite a bit, and it was completely unfamiliar territory for me, and if he hadn’t sat there; he came to those rehearsals, you know? And he’s the hero of me even being able to do that, I have to say.
You did play alongside Jon for a few songs too, didn’t you?
He came out for the encores, and some of that was non-‘King For a Day’ music.
It was the first time you ever got to play the songs live, and the album is now regarded as a classic, so from that vantage point, was it nice to reclaim those songs?
Yeah. Let me say it this way; you know how before I was complaining about the drum sound and the room mics and the vision for the music? I think the record, in retrospect, I think it turned out exactly perfect. I wouldn’t want it to have those big, huge sounds now. I think it was all exactly how it was supposed to be.
What was it like to reconnect with the band, on a personal level?
The coolest thing about playing with those guys again was just hanging out with them. I really, really like Mike Bordin a lot as a person, and Roddy [Bottum, keyboards]. Just getting involved in their energy again, and they’re way past that difficult period that I knew them in. That would be refreshing to just go; “okay, the air is cleared”, and everything was just easy and natural, and just really, really fun. I loved going to those rehearsals with them, it was really fun. Playing with Puffy is so fun.
Finally, would you like to do it again?
I wouldn’t say no; it’s great! It’s tonnes of fun!
Mr. Bungle's 'Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo' is available now, via Ipecac Recordings.
Get Faith No More vinyl at Townsend Music.
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