M Morris, frontman of Faith. No Man, talks about his time with the band.
Morris, where have you been for the past 30 years? What have you been doing?
I have been active in the music industry my entire life. I stopped performing live in the mid-80s and moved to the UK and went to university in London for a few years before music won out yet again. But I continued to write songs, soundtracks and adverts during most of those years. I am currently working on a few projects but have not played in a proper band for many years.
I always wondered what happened to The Man?
I was never called 'The Man'. But if the stories are to be believed, that I was such a tyrant, no one would have dared. People would have to have been shaking in their boots at my presence! I hated it when that started to appear in print because, to us, 'The Man' was used in the same way as it was by Black culture in the 60s, 70s. The Man was oppressive forces of Big Brother. I was just songwriter/guitarist. Not exactly Pol Pot.
Talking about that, you’ve been described as a slave driver, a bit of a dick. Did that ever bother you?
I am well familiar with most of things said about me in print (the FNM book released in the EC in the 90s, Keyboard magazine, et cetera) and many other things said behind my back. As to what was said in the Faith No More book it doesn't bother me because it borders on the absurd. I was never offended but sometime it did anger me that it seemed so important for some to try and paint me as a bad guy. Bands split all the time with no further aggro. But sometimes, usually quite rarely, it can turn into a 'he said, she said' scenario. I fail to see the point. It's not like we were The Beatles.
So Faith. No Man weren’t a very popular band back then?
Bill always had his own group of friends/fans who would show up! A lot of the time the entire audience consisted mostly of his friends. We really were not very popular. We were just a band that tried to give something a little bit different to what was on offer. We never saw ourselves as being special. Having said that, I did use to wonder why very few seemed to get what we were doing. More often than not we were sabotaged by very poor mixes. I have listened to some of the live tapes and sometimes I can't tell what the fuck is going on in places!
Let’s go back, when and how did the band form?
I met Wade in 1978. We worked together until the split of F.NM. He is a trained pianist who rarely plays piano. His first love seems to be the Hammond organ. For years he has been wanting to do a sort of Jimmy Smith jazz thing with just him on the organ and a drummer. When our previous group faded away from lack of shows, we floundered for a few months and then I again asked him to join me with this new idea I had, which was eventually called Sharp Young Men. The thing is, I am really a pop man but I had suddenly become heavily inspired by Killing Joke. Theatre of Hate's first album also caught my attention as both bands became a starting point. Later on I think we were both enthralled with The Blackouts from Seattle. I started asking around to see if there were any good drummers and quickly heard about Mike Bordin.
Bordin ended up being perfect for the job even though at first, he seemed to think it odd to play beats without using his hi-hat, instead using his toms. I wanted that low, bass-y, tribal beat and he could play it precisly and not tire out, as many drummers would have. It took a lot longer to find a bass player. The thing is, I am a bass player and so thought it wouldn't be as difficult as it was, but eventually Bill appeared. I don't remember exactly how but I think we had placed an ad. He was just starting at UC Berkeley and so was in the area. He would have joined in 1980.
I formed Sharp Young Men with Wade in 1980. It eventually became Faith. No Man, but we did a few shows as SYM and made a demo tape with three tracks (all we had at the time) using a portable cassette recorder which actually came out alright. At that time, we sounded more like Japan than what we eventually turned into.
So what’s the story behind the band names 'Sharp Young Men' and 'Faith. No Man'?
The name Faith.No Man came about during a rehearsal when the others decided that SYM was 'too straight' sounding (it was meant to be smart-arsed, ironic, similar to the 'Bright Young Things' of the 20s, whatever. But it was not meant as 'upstanding' or 'fine young men' or anything like that. But some within the band failed to get that or feared that others wouldn't). So I proposed the name 'Faith In No Man'. Bordin responded saying it was 'too wordy' and suggested shortening it to Faith. No Man. The full stop (.) was intentional and always has been a part of the name.
So this was really your band? You were the frontman who wrote all the songs?
I wrote the majority of the songs and lyrics. Wade wrote a few songs but felt uneasy with the style and was very uncertain as to their quality. I thought they were quite good but he eventually left the band because of this. Or at least in part. In the very beginning we did one song which Bill brought with him from a group he had in Los Angeles. It was an instrumental (at least it was when we did it because he didn't know the lyrics) but it didn't necessarily fit our style. I thought it sounded a bit like a New Order, which of course is not meant as a bad appraisal.
I remember both Mike and Bill really being into Black Sabbath, having grown up on them. I didn't. I grew up on The Beatles and Motown. I love songs that I can sing along to. That sort of thing makes me happy. That's the key to what magic there is in music. I have rehearsal cassettes (which I have transferred to Pro Tools) of both 'Decay' and 'Under The Gun', which is a real monster of a track. I had written that as an instrumental to open the show. Not sure if we ever played it live or not. We must have. But like I said, my memory is shite. It remains one of my favourite songs that we did. I really think we were just starting to reach a certain level at that time. But unfortunately, Wade had already decided to leave. 'Decay' was something that I wrote to sort of appease the audience. I think of it as easier to digest than some of the tracks we eventually did, such as 'Beast' and ''Cry', which were much more intense and tended to put some people off. Sort of how like some people cannot get into The Birthday Party. It was that sort of raw nerve energy.
And then you layed down three tracks in Matt Wallace's garage, the guy who later became 'Faith No More's 6th member'. What was that like?
I have little memory of working in Matt Wallace's garage. I cannot even picture it in my mind or remember laying down tracks. I was on good terms with Wallace after the break-up, as we continued to work together as he started working in more professional studios. But after he moved down to LA, I never saw him or spoke to him again. But all in all, I think he did quite good work. As far as I remember he was not familiar with the sort of music we did at first and am not too sure he liked it. I think he recorded us because he wanted the experience and not so much because he actually liked the music.
The single, how many did you press? I believe it's quite a collectors' item these days.
I am pretty sure there were only 500 pressed. We sold three boxes of 95 through Rough Trade very quickly but then things started to get a bit, well, you know. towards the end. I still have one box in a safe deposit box in a Swiss bank! As to the artwork, I nicked the idea from Killing Joke, which is sort of obvious. I just really admired them at the time.
And the cover art, I believe it's supposed to look like a present, how did you come up with that idea?
The thing is, I never got around to the cover until the last minute. We talked about what it should look like but it was pretty much left to me. And time was running out. So one day I just cut a thick piece of white art board to the shape of a single sleeve and then used press-on lettering and used some white ribbon and taped it around the art board to look like a pressie! I then took a piece of paper and glued a photo from a National Geographic of what I thought was an African bushman contemplating on a hillside, with a cross in the foreground. At the time, I was using a lot of religious imagery for our show posters, my favourite being the advert for the single. I liked the idea that for millions of years that the world was doing fine without Christianity. I knew that if one really wanted to make a strong impression, the easiest way was to ridicule the great controlling powers of mankind such as religion and fascism. I mean Hitler in a tutu is certainly no glowing endorsement.
The actual ribbon is just like a thinner xmas ribbon. Probably more for a wedding, perhaps. It was sliver. I taped it around the back of the mocked-up sleeve and that was it. It was sent of to be photographed with everything else. I never saw it again until noticing that it had turned up on an old eBay auction. I believe the entire package, the art, the order forms, went for $300 US. BTW, I still have the guitar I used in the band if anyone would like to steal and sell that.
How many live shows did you play, do you remember?
From the top of my head F.NM played around twenty shows in total. We didn't play out the first time for over a year. Once we did, we did constantly and then ended. I was not involved in that decision.
Do you have any contact with the other band members?
I have not been in touch with anyone but Wade, as we have never lost contact. I have remained on good terms with Mike but have not spoken to him in many years. I have not spoken to Bill or Roddy since the split.
Faith. No Man single: Quiet In Heaven / Song Of Liberty