Ex-Faith No More Guitarist Jim Martin Breaks Decade-Long Silence to Answer Fan Questions
Guitarist Jim Martin left Faith No More back in 1993 after the band’s ‘Angel Dust’ album. After a decade of silence, Martin agreed to answer 15 questions submitted by readers of a UK fan site.
“Some weeks ago, the FNM fan club guy was asking about how to contact me, he wanted to talk to me about the fan page,” Martin said. “After several exchanges via email, he and I decided to do a Q&A thing for the fans. My departure from FNM in 1993 was controversial; I left while the band was still at the peak of its success. I am proud of my contributions to the success and legacy of FNM. I appreciate the time and effort it took to put these questions together. Thank you for the opportunity.”
In the Q&A, Martin discusses the ‘Angel Dust’ recording sessions, his current relationship with the band, whether he would consider a reunion and many other topics.
Q: What do you consider the highlight of your career?
A: Performing with Bo Diddly, Klaus Mein, Metallica, Gary Rossington, Pepper Keenan Sean Kinney Jerry Cantrell John Popper Jason Newstead, singing Misfits songs with Metallica live during our tour with them and GNR.
Q: You are an influence to many younger guitarists today, but who were your biggest influences and what do you remember about how those people helped to craft your sound and play style?
A: My influences to a greater extent were Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, and David Gilmore. Mostly Page. His method of using a pick and his fingers at the same time and his way of squeezing the humanity out of a guitar. It’s funny how influences work. My influences were influenced by old blues men. Those legendary blues men were influenced by their tribal ancestors. The tribal ancestors are the link back to the beginning; they are the keepers of the essence. Through my influences I am connected to the roots of time and the music that elevates the primordial spirit of mankind. We do not truly compose anything genuinely new, the listeners and the presentation are what is new, and it is the perspective that varies. The ability of expression and improvisation, the stuff of creation that fascinates all life.
Q: It was great seeing you play again during the Metallica event…also some very great words spoken about Cliff….it was great to see ya! Weird question, Big Jim…and I only just thought of it while scrolling through the last post on FNM Blog: What was the deal with you being the only clothed FNM member in the infamous “FNM underwear poster”? Did you just think the photo idea was dumb, or did you think it’d be better/funnier with one dude dressed to the nines in jeans, leather vest, etc. while everyone else was near nekkid. Thanks for doing this Q&A, man! Excited to see the responses!
A: I remember it was one of the first big photo shoots for us set up by London Records. Ross Halfin, “Famous Rock Photographer”, was pretty aggressive, barking orders and abusing band members, particularly Puffy. He ordered everyone to strip down. I said “forget it” (I thought it was dumb). The other guys did, he snapped the picture and at that moment, I understood why he was famous…
Q: I’m a crazy obsessed fan and have listened to just about all the bootlegs and read all the interviews…Despite “not being into” the music on ‘Angel Dust’ (so it is written in places), you played flawlessly all of 92-93 and I even caught you banging your head enthusiastically during the Phoenix Festival. Also, while others were bad-mouthing you, you always played it off with a joke and came off as the bigger person (you were hilarious in the Maida Vale interviews!)…something doesn’t add up. Were you really that unhappy? If so, how do you keep such a cool head and stay so professional?
A: Thank you for the great compliment. My publicized “not being into” ‘Angel Dust’ was all about the way the whole process went down. There was a lot of weird pressure to follow up ‘The Real Thing,’ and as a consequence, the album AD was more contrived musically than I thought was necessary. I wanted more of the record to happen in the studio and Bill wanted every last tack nailed down before we went in. I wanted to spend time with it, management and the record company wanted to rush it out the door. There were a bunch of journalists in the studio. We were paying for a bunch of sampling that we could have created. Matt Wallace was calling me on the phone complaining about Mike Patton’s performance. Management and record company were calling me complaining about Mike Patton’s performance and desire for outside projects.
The record company president came in the studio and said: “I hope nobody bought houses” All the air got sucked out of the room. That was one of those great moments when reality slaps you in the face. Some of my associates (had) bought houses. The pressure was on, and everyone wanted to be in the studio with me while I recorded, endlessly tinkering and f—ing with me and f—ing with Matt, and Matt is a really f—ing wound up guy already. Prior to AD, I would work alone with Matt and his assistant engineer period. I had to kick everyone out and even though it was not a new concept it really pissed everyone off.
Live performances were always very strong. From my perspective, we came across a lot heavier than the records. Over time, the chord progressions and the arrangements would morph in subtle ways that would make the set heavier than the studio version. As far as the bulls–t in the press, yeah, there was a lot of negativity, and I tried to avoid being part of it to the point of refusing interviews. Of course I was unhappy; individuals were making decisions which would prove to be damaging to FNM. However, despite these distractions, real people paid to see a show and we were able to deliver thanks to the support of a great crew and a great sound man, Greg Bess, who was used to working with the heavy bands. I actually really enjoyed those shows.
Q: If you could collaborate for a single cover song with any musician, dead or alive, who would that be and what would the song be?
A: I sure miss Cliff. Cliff Burton. We could do any song and twist it up horribly. I think if there were an opportunity to collaborate, we would write something new. Put Dave (Donato – Agents of Misfortune) in there on the drum kit and create something Cliff’s mother would call “Fu–ed Up Weirdos”.
Q: I’ll get this one out…what is your relationship like now with the members of Faith No more?
A: To be honest Matt, that is an emotional subject. There has been much negative rhetoric in the press, and it was my choice to either play their game, fight with them and let the press spin it, or leave them to play with themselves and allow you to make a decision based on the work I left behind. In an effort to avoid the negativity, I chose the latter. However, there are some points that I would like to address.
I read a couple of interviews Matt Wallace did, and his simplified explanations can lead one to believe that I hate homosexuals, I did not contribute to ‘Angel Dust,’ and I did not play guitar on the record. Ouch. Something else is a little more accurate. The guitar parts are mine; that’s me playing guitar on all the tracks. I contributed much to the songwriting and arrangements. Bill added some fluff to ‘Midlife Crisis and ‘Midnite Cowboy’ and wrote everything for his song ‘Small Victory, Mike wrote everything for ‘Malpractice,’ I wrote everything and created the samples for ‘Jizzlobber;’ Bill contributed the keyboard outro. Mike wrote all of the lyrics for the album except Roddy wrote lyrics for ‘Be Aggressive.’
Matt’s commentary about Roddy seemed a little weird; we (band members) all knew Roddy was gay long before he “came out” and it was not an issue for anyone.
Matt also forgot to mention that he and I spent a lot of time together on the production of TRT and AD improving the recording method and sonic profile in the studio. I insisted on the co-producer credit for FNM on those 2 records because of that work. Notice ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘Angel Dust’ are the only two FNM records co-produced by Matt Wallace and Faith No More.
I saw something in Wiki where someone pulled a comment out of an old bucket: Jim Martin said “I don’t know why it’s called ‘Angel Dust,’ I had nothing to do with it” While that is true, it is not complete. The idea was Roddy’s, and nobody else had anything to do with it either. He came in with a basic concept of a bird front, meat locker back, and ‘Angel Dust’ for the title. The question was: “How do we get it (Roddy’s idea) to the record cover?” We lost control of the sleeve art on the last 2 releases. ‘The Real Thing’ and ‘Introduce Yourself’ were conceived and designed by “the record company” and we simply paid the bill. This was an opportunity of artistic expression and finally one of us had an idea everyone would go along with. I got in contact with Mark Leialoha to discuss the idea, he got Werner “Vern” Krutein involved because Werner ran a stock agency and was able to produce the necessary photographs allowing us to realize Roddy’s idea. I had the idea of the Russian army in the sleeve, inspired by The Pogues album ‘Rum Sodomy and The Lash,’ which I was really into at the time. I rode hard on that and made sure it happened the way WE wanted it to happen. There was a lot of squealing when it came time to pay the bill, but at the end of the day, we retained control of our resources, we were able to use our people, and we maintained creative control.
Q: Jim! With your publicized dislike of the content/direction of ‘Angel Dust’ – are you surprised by how, 20 years on, it is widely regarded as one of the most influential ‘metal’ albums of the past 30 years?
A: Thanks for the opportunity Matt. As for my like or dislike of AD I touched on that a little, so please refer to question 4 above. I am happy AD is regarded in a positive way. It is an affirmation of the legacy we all worked to create. I am aware that some of the newer bands I actually like have referred to FNM as an influence. I am also aware AD was on the Kerrang! Most influential albums list of 2003. Is it an artist’s affirmation? That’s fine. Am I surprised? I don’t think anyone can be expected to anticipate something like this.
Q: What kind of music are you listening to today? Is there anything that we might not generally expect that you like to listen to?
A: I’ve been listening to Machine Head, a great metal band out of Oakland, Calif. I enjoy classic jazz, reminds me of weird times as a kid. I like the “Glorious lethal euphoria” of The Mermen It’s crazy hardcore psychedelic surf music and hits the mark hard. I’ll listen to any improv, at least for a few minutes.
Q: Is it true that you were offered to perform at reunion tour dates – if it is true why did you decline? Fans would have been so happy to see on stage too!
A: Thanks Bubbles.
For some time during 2008, I had been receiving information with increasing frequency that “we” were booking a reunion tour, festivals, Europe. I was informed that yes, the promoters were selling it as the original line up. In February 2009, Roddy called and said they were just beginning to think of putting something together, and just now feeling out everyone, and what did I think? I said yes, I was interested. I also told him I knew the tour was already booked, they were on the eve of announcing it, and it was time to sign the deals. I told him to send over the contracts so I could review them and started pressing management for details. Several days later, I was able to get management on the phone who told me they decided to use someone else…I know it’s odd, no, you didn’t miss anything. It happened just like that. In an effort to preclude any sloppy misinformation, I made the announcement that I would not be participating in the rumored reunion dates several days before they made their announcement.
Q: If Faith No More tours again and if they asked would you make an appearance, kind of like when Chuck did a couple of songs? Would love to watch you perform songs like ‘Malpractice’ or ‘Jizzlobber’ would be awesome!
A: Thanks Sean. I know the fans want the real thing, and I was prepared to have a real dialogue about doing a run together. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. As for a random appearance, I do not feel that would do anyone justice.
Q: If you could use Bill and Ted’s phone booth to go back in time to the ‘Angel Dust’ era, would you do anything differently to make sure you and FNM were heading in the same direction? If so, what?
A: Number one thing: limit journalist access and impose more control over the interviews. Almost anyone could get an interview at that time. It was a free for all, and it hurt us.
Q: Have you been jamming with anyone lately, and do you have any plans to make more music?
A: No, I’m not working with anyone right now but I do have plans to publish more music. I released a record some time ago called ‘Milk and Blood;’ go to rotgrub.com and email the webmaster for details.
Q: What do you think of the music FNM have created post you? And how do you feel when you see other guitarists belting out you licks?
A: I remember hearing some of the music a long time ago but I didn’t really study it. I remember thinking it was heavily reliant on Mike. As for other persons playing my music, I don’t really believe anyone could book a show as FNM without playing my music.
Q: Being one of the best shredders of your era/generation, and having rubbed shoulders with some awesome musicians in your time, have you never considered forming your own little “supergroup” to set the music word to rights!!??
A: Most of my associates have families and projects taking up their time, and I’m very consumed with the things I am doing. I hope I can get to a place where I’ll be able to do something pretty soon. There are no specific plans at this time. Thanks for a great compliment.
Q: Hey Jim, thanks a bunch for doing this. So where did you get the moniker “big sick ugly” from and did you like it??
A: It was bestowed upon me by the filthy press. I am pretty sure Geoff Barton gets the credit. Steffan “Cheese Burger” Chirazi, “Krusher Joule” and Neil “Greasy Chester” Perry helped magnify and perpetuate it and it was ‘Kerrang!’ once again, who rolled that one out there. Thanks to them for some funny times.