Faith No More Producer Matt Wallace Tells the Stories Behind the Albums

By Chris Steffen – AllMusic, August 17, 2015

When Faith No More returned with Sol Invictus earlier this year, they brought with them massive expectations based on their back catalog. The album ended up receiving wide acclaim, including our four-star review, in which AllMusic editor Mark Deming asserts that the album “truly adds to the strength of the group’s legacy rather than diluting it.”

Matt Wallace definitely knows that back catalog and legacy better than most: he produced the band’s first demo in his parents’ garage, ran sound on their first live show, worked with them through the commercial success of The Real Thing and critically-lauded Angel Dust. He pursued other musical avenues through the 90s and 00s, including producing Maroon 5‘s mega-smash debut Songs About Jane and is currently in the studio with 3 Doors Down, but he managed to return to his roots by teaming back up with Faith No More to assist with the mixing on Sol Invictus. We talked with Wallace about watching the band grow, how members came and went, his unexpected reaction the first time he heard The Real Thing, and what it was like to dive headfirst into the mainstream pop world after working with a more challenging band.

AllMusic: You go all the way back with Faith No More to their first record. How did you initially meet them?

Matt Wallace: 
I met Bill, the bass player, back in ’82 when he was producing a band in the Bay Area, we were all going to UC Berkeley at the time, and he had a band called Your First Born, and he was like, “Here’s this band, do you want to produce it?” I was doing my own self-promotion and marketing at the time, I was putting up fliers where bands would rehearse, at clubs, record stores, and Bill found this thing that said, “Eight-track recordings, 12 dollars an hour,” so he brought in this band, and afterwards he said, “I have my own band, would you record us?”

At the time, they were called Sharp Young Men, and they had a different guitar player and keyboard player, but it was still the same drummer, so you had Bill Gould and Mike Bordin on drums, and I did their first demos, and then they came back and I did a seven-inch single with them. They changed keyboard players and got Roddy Bottum on keyboards and Jim Martin on guitar, and then they became Faith No More. It was Sharp Young Men to Faith No Man to Faith No More, so I started with them a long, long time ago and did their first recordings in my parents’ suburban garage. I’ve been with them from the moment they started up through and including Angel Dust, and I did sound for their very first show, when it was just Mike Bordin and Bill on bass and a guy named Joe on guitar and someone else on vocals, that was the first Faith No More show.

AllMusic: So eventually it moved from your parents’ garage to a more proper studio.

Wallace: 
I moved it from my parents’ garage to a studio in Oakland, and I had a larger eight-track studio and did a lot of the demos that would ultimately become Introduce Yourself, their first record on Slash Records, we did that at my studio there. There was the indie record we did on Mordam Records, We Care A Lot, and that was our first time using a 24-track together.

AllMusic: How did they tell you that they were splitting with Chuck Mosley and bringing in Mike Patton?

Wallace: 
I knew that there was a lot of internal frustration in the band. I was a big fan of what Chuck did, I like what he did and I thought he was a good lyricist. He wasn’t technically a great singer but he was a really good frontman, I thought he did a good job and I liked him in the band. Chuck was always the guy who would show up to things at the very, very last minute, and I’d seen him do shows, one time with P.i.L., where the band started to play the set and there was no Chuck anywhere, it was like, “I guess we’ll just do an instrumental set,” and at the last moment Chuck would stumble onstage, either his bus was late or he drank too much or whatever, so I think the band was at a point where everyone except for Chuck was prepared for success, they’d really worked hard and been very, very diligent, they had their eye on what they were trying to accomplish, and at a certain point Chuck felt like he wasn’t like-minded.

According to Bill they never actually fired him, they all just kind of quit around him, so Bill quit the band, then they all quit around him. So it was like a two-step version of firing. I was working with them while they were a singer-less band, they had new material, which ultimately became The Real Thing, and then it was a big transition once we got Patton on board.

AllMusic: Were you already familiar with him through Mr. Bungle?

Wallace: 
I knew about the Bungle stuff, I was a Bay Area guy, they did Eureka and all that area, so I was kind of familiar with them. Jim Martin had heard about Bungle first and he had his eye on Patton first, and then when I was working at Slash Records I put out feelers for a singer for Faith No More, and I’d gotten the Bungle tapes and said, “This guy is really cool,” but I think Jim Martin was already on it. Certainly, his singing ability was really cool. I wasn’t a big fan of the Bungle music but I really liked his vocals.

AllMusic: The band must have been excited about having a whole new vocal palette to work with.

Wallace: 
I think so. Technically, Patton is a ridiculously talented singer, I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and to find someone like him, who’s built to sing, he can sing cookie monster, hamburger throat, raging metal stuff all the way to R&B crooning and everything in between, his voice is an instrument. To me, it was pretty apparent that this guy could sing. One of my frustrations was that during the making of The Real Thing, when we were doing a song like “Epic,” he’d sing in that really nasally voice. It was interesting, but then when you’d stop recording, on his own he’d sing with this really big, full-bodied voice between takes, and I was like, “Oh my god, we should get that on the recording,” because I thought he was such a technically good singer that we should have done that. We certainly argued about it, and what ended up on the record is the thing which, to his credit, I think was the right approach, it was very angsty, teenager-y, that kind of vibe, and I think that was what really spoke to a lot of the young people who ultimately heard that record.

So that was someone who had a lot of tools in the toolbox and he could try on different things and take different approaches. From the moment he started singing, I just thought, “Wow, this guy is really something.” And he wrote all of the lyrics for that album within two weeks, and some of those lyrics are really stunningly impressive, I think, for a young guy who was maybe 19 years old at the time, that was really something to be able to walk in, the music was already done, the band was not going to change the music or the arrangements, so he had to shoehorn his ideas into that, and I think he did an admirable job of jumping on board with a band that was somewhat established and made it work. He was ready to work hard. Patton was always kind of still attached to Bungle, he had a foot in two different camps, and that was apparent for quite a while. But when he was present in Faith No More, he was really a force to be reckoned with.

AllMusic: So when you were making Angel Dust and he didn’t do that nasal voice anymore, you must have been thrilled.

Wallace: 
I was really, really happy that he started doing that. For me, the big change within Patton was that during The Real Thing, he was still not 100 percent committed to Faith No More, and this is my own reading, I could be wrong, but I think his way of protecting himself and feeling like he was still part of Bungle was that he took on almost a different persona on The Real Thing, which made it easy to say, “Yeah, I’m in this band, but I’m not really in it.” But once Angel Dust came around, Patton was much more involved in the genesis of the songs, he was there during the inception, during the writing, he was there guiding the arrangements, and I think he became much more involved and invested in that record.

So at that point, I think he really came to the forefront of what he could do, which is use his voice as an instrument, sing fully and deeply and use every spectrum of his vocal range, and that was really exciting. And he was listening to a bunch of Tibetan chanting, Eskimo nose singing, all these things, and he’d bring these different ideas into the record within the context of a heavy rock, alternative, progressive band, he was bringing his ideas on how his vocals should go. And it was really forward-thinking, because a lot of bands, after that record, kind of followed in his footsteps, because Patton was unafraid to try different things, whether it was a different vocal approach or a different lyric, some of the lyrics are pretty challenging. I thought it was really stunning that he came to the forefront and grabbed the flag. That was a thrill, that whole record was a thrill to make… [+]

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