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Rock'N'Roll: Billy Gould

Faith No More became a big band without ever becoming ‘rock stars’ in the classic sense. Was that side of rock’n’roll completely alien to you?

Well, my background coming into music was punk rock, and that was kinda anti‑rock culture. When I was a kid it seemed like rock’n’roll had already been done to death and it just wasn’t that exciting to me. The seventies version of the rock’n’roll lifestyle seemed to me to belong to my parents’ generation – it just didn’t inspire me. By the time Faith No More became popular, it seemed like the rock’n’roll rules were already set in stone, and to us that seemed pretty boring.

FNM progressed from the underground club circuit to arena and stadium tours with Guns N’ Roses and Metallica, which were famously pretty decadent.

Sometimes when you grow up, you realise you have less in common with your friends than you thought you did. And that’s my main memory of those tours. Some of those people are still friends, but they’re just different: they approach their lives and art differently than I would. We spent a lot of time in that environment, and I think that was pretty hard on us. That circus was not our world, and their idea of a good time was not ours. We felt like fish out of water, for sure. It was entertaining and funny for a while, then it was just boring.

Did anyone in Faith No More succumb to rock’n’roll cliches at any point?

I suppose every single one of us does at some point. Not in the girls and drugs sense, necessarily. But when a club owner invites you down to his club and lets you sit in a special area and keeps bringing drinks to you, that’s fantastic, and that’s succumbing to it. There are good things about it, but it’s a matter of how that influences your music and what you’re trying to convey to people. When it starts blending in with the content of your work, that’s when it’s a problem.

Did everyone in Faith No More hold on to that idea?

No one’s perfect, but we do at least try to keep our work intact and focused, amid all the madness that swirls around you.

Can you step outside of that and enjoy the ludicrous excesses of, say, Led Zeppelin or Queen?

When I was a little younger I probably had more trouble with that kind of stuff, simply because I wasn’t so secure in my own identity, but now I really don’t care. That level of rock’n’roll and all that silliness isn’t that far from the world of politics, in a weird way; it’s all marketing and show. There’s no such thing as purism in music. Even a band like Killing Joke, who I grew up listening to and still love, they have their rock’n’roll circus moments. Everybody does.

Paul Brannigan
Paul Brannigan

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.