Faith No More ‘The Real Thing’ – Inside the Album w/ Producer Matt Wallace – Transcribed Interview – Mr. Bungle
The full in bloom Interview with Producer Matt Wallace – PART I
Inside the Album: Faith No More’s The Real Thing
The entire PART I segment of our interview with Matt Wallace has been transcribed below. You can also listen to an audio version of the interview via the video clip above or the Soundcloud widget below. FYI – The audio gets a bit sketchy at times.
full in bloom: With your relationship with Faith No More, it starts when you guys are basically kids, right?
Matt Wallace: Yeah, they were probably about 19, I was 21, a couple of us were going to UC Berkeley. Yeah, I put up ads, little flyers in all the cool record stores and where bands would rehearse. Billy Gould saw one of my ads and had a band that he was producing, so we produced that band on my 8-track and then he had his own band called Sharp Young Men. I did their demos and they turned into Faith No Man and then eventually, with some personnel changes, turned into Faith No More.
full in bloom: When does Chuck Mosley come into the picture?
Matt: He comes into the picture sometime after that. They had a rotating group of singers that included Courtney Love and some other people and then Chuck came into the picture around ’85.
full in bloom: When I was looking on the net, it looked like Chuck actually recorded some of the original demos for The Real Thing. Were those demos done on their own or were you a part of those demos?
Matt: I don’t think Chuck did any demos for The Real Thing. We did demos for Introduce Yourself, probably. I know we did demos for We Care A lot album at my 8-track studio. We may have done some for Introduce Yourself there but I don’t remember Chuck doing any demos for The Real Thing because he had been out of the picture for some time. The band was rehearsing without him and writing music but I don’t ever recollect Chuck doing any demos for The Real Thing. I could be proven wrong but I’m pretty sure he never did any. He and the band had split up a good year or so prior to that record.
full in bloom: What were you saying right there?
Matt: Well, Chuck and the band had split up a good year prior to The Real Thing. We were rehearsing down in L.A. at least nine months. I just don’t remember Chuck doing any demos for The Real Thing. Not with me, maybe someone else, but not with me.
full in bloom: They got rid of Chuck without having Mike (Patton) in the wings?
Matt: No, of course not. They broke up because they didn’t want to work with Chuck. Basically, the band kind of fell apart, everyone kind of quit and then they regrouped after Chuck was out of the picture, and then Patton was found after the fact.
full in bloom: What was it like working with Chuck?
Matt: I loved working with him. He always kind of had his heart on his sleeve. He wrote about things that were really emotional and true to him. Obviously, not near the singer of Mike Patton, by a long shot, but certainly a good rapper. I liked his melodies and I liked his songs, they were really good. The bottom line, I don’t think he felt that he deserved to make it or something; afraid of success or afraid of failure. The rest of the band wanted to make it and so they wanted to find a kindred spirit to push forward and go the distance.
full in bloom: You guys recorded The Real Thing at Studio D in Sausalito, right?
full in bloom: What was it like working at that studio?
Matt: Well, it was great – we worked there before. We did the tracking for Introduce Yourself there and then we went down to L.A. to do the overdubs for Introduce Yourself. So, The Real Thing we did at Studio D because we were familiar with it, we liked it. We had a big enough budget where we could stay there, where in the past we could only afford a couple of weeks of tracking and then we’d move to L.A. to quote unquote save money by working at a cheaper studio.
full in bloom: Do you recall what kind of board they had?
Matt: Oh yeah, a Trident. Either a Trident A-Range or a Trident TSM.
full in bloom: How long did that record take to record?
Matt: About two month from start to finish. From the beginning of rehearsals to finished, I thing it was about two months – it was pretty quick.
full in bloom: Do you remember what the budget was for that record?
Matt: The Real Thing was low budget by industry standards at that time. It was like 65 or 70 grand, which is low for that era. Normally, you’d get like $150,000 to make a record, on up to a quarter of a million and up from there. We always worked very lean and mean. We didn’t have a pile of money, so we kind of made the best with what we could. Making that record, we had one drum kit, one Marshall half stack, one Gibson Flying V electric guitar, one Gibson Grabber bass, an amp and an Emax keyboard. I mean, it wasn’t like ‘oh, let’s try this amp’ or ‘let’s try that guitar,’ it was like, we had one of everything. It’s a testament to their creativity. I think we all pushed as hard as we could with what we had. We made as much unique and eclectic racket as we could with the limited tools we had.
full in bloom: Was that a hard record to make with a new addition, or did it go easier, or was it about the same compared to the prior record?
Matt: Oh, it was definitely easier. It was easier because everyone was kind of pulling in the same direction – everybody was ready to go. The only challenge was that Patton was still…..his heart was still with Mr. Bungle. He wasn’t completely, fully invested in Faith No More at that point in time. He was kind of still finding his way. I think he had a little bit of a professional distance from it. In spite of writing amazing lyrics and amazing melodies, he was still torn between his band of friends he had known since high school, Mr. Bungle. A bit of ambivalence which is reflected in some of the lyrics on that album. But obviously, when he stepped up to the mic, he delivered. He was 100% when he was recording but internally had some ambivalence.
full in bloom: Is there a memory that stands out from those recording sessions?
Matt: I think we had done the guitar tones….we had a ton of microphones on them. We tried to record the guitars without any equalization. Jim (Martin) and I spent a lot of time working on that. Me arguing with Patton to sing in a fuller voice because he had an amazing voice. He could sing at least as good as, if not better than, Chris Cornell, but you could never tell because he was always singing in kind of a nasally, adolescent kind of vibe. So, he and I used to go round and round about that. It was frustrating to hear him sing so beautifully in between takes but, to his credit, he was right. He was creating a persona. Especially with the song “Epic,” it had more of an adenoidal, angsty, young person vibe and I think he was absolutely correct. Technically, I think we could have gotten a better tone but his approach and his vibe was spot on.
full in bloom: How would you record Mike’s vocals back then?
Matt: I don’t know, a microphone.
full in bloom: Did you have a specific mic you liked to use on his voice?
Matt: I can’t remember. I mean, it was like what, 30 years ago? Probably an AKG 414, probably, but I don’t really know. The one thing I do know is I used a DBX 166, which was a dual compressor. So I extra-compressed his voice while recording and I extra-compressed while mixing, for better or worse. I probably did the wrong thing in terms of good sonics but it certainly worked in terms of vibe and attitude.
full in bloom: And you just did that because you thought it was worth committing to tape?
Matt: Yeah, I wanted to reduce the dynamics of his voice so they’d be right in your face, no matter what you did. I had like a 2:1 to start with and a brick wall on the second one, a limiter at the end of it. I’d do that while recording – I ran his voice the same way while mixing. I just wanted his voice to be front and center, absolutely focused, a taking no prisoners approach.
full in bloom: You know, with his nasally voice on The Real Thing, he never really brought that back.
Matt: That’s actually a really good point. I think it’s because he was taking on a persona to kind of protect himself and he wasn’t fully in the band when we made The Real Thing. He was kind of a persona of himself in Faith No More and his real self in Mr. Bungle. But when you listen to Angel Dust, it’s really Patton – he’s absolutely 100% in. He’s singing with his full voice. He’s using his voice as an instrument. I think Angel Dust was the first record that Patton really owned and got into, fundamentally and at the ground floor. I think that was the first real Faith No More record with Patton. He had his feet in two different boats – one boat was going to Mr. Bungle and one was going towards Faith No More, and he was trying to balance the two…..and trying to stay loyal to his buddies in Mr. Bungle but obviously trying to check out this opportunity to be in Faith No More. So, I think that’s what was happening.
full in bloom: Was there a reason you didn’t do that first Mr. Bungle record?
Matt: Yeah, I turned it down.
full in bloom: Wow.
Matt: Yeah, Patton asked me to do it, and I should have probably done it, but it’s just not my kind of music and I have to work on things that connect with me. I just found the Mr. Bungle stuff really obnoxious; I didn’t particularly like it. But, in retrospect, I should have done it because I don’t think Patton ever really forgave me for turning it down…..he got mad at me after that. It just wasn’t my kind of music. I mean, I appreciate how good they were, how physically adept and accomplished they were but I was just not into that kind of music. To me, you can map out Mr. Bungle very easily – play something for 4 bars, make a left turn, play another thing for 4 bars, make a left turn. It was just this thing that kept happening.
full in bloom: Right. (laughs)
Matt: It just wasn’t my cup of tea. It was sophomoric, video game playing, nerdy guy music. Again, really accomplished musicians; really a tremendous amount of talent there, but it was just not my style of music. I probably should have done it. It probably would have been a cool record to make and I probably would have gotten a lot of cool potential other bands to work with after that. But anyway, I had to follow my gut.
full in bloom: I can still remember listening to the album for the first time and thinking, ‘man, that’s going to change music forever,’ but it could have been the hit of LSD.
Matt: Did you think Mr. Bungle was going to change music forever or The Real Thing?
full in bloom: Well, The Real Thing came in and I thought did change music. I can still remember being completely burned out with the ’80s sound or just all the ’80s music….and if I go before that, I was into soul music and Rick James when I was younger. I was really into that stuff. But I remember it hit a wall at some point, where I felt like it wasn’t growing. Same thing I felt with the ’80s and I can remember finding The Real Thing, I thought it did save music. But Mr. Bungle was one of those that I just thought , ‘holy shit,’ I thought that record was going to change the structure of music. Like you said, go 4 bars and then next.
Matt: Mr. Bungle was just too limited in scope to be really groundbreaking. The Real Thing actually crossed over. They were an indie band that crossed over to pop radio, which was unheard of for rap metal, which hadn’t been on the radio until Faith No More. Truly groundbreaking and genre defining. Korn and all these other bands were getting a hold of me after that record. Hoobastank, System of a Down, all these people, when they heard The Real Thing, that was just a groundbreaking record. Bungle, to me, is just a smaller audience, again, still exceptional. You know, kind of like Frank Zappa….Frank Zappa was really cool but he never really broke through the main stream. There’s a lot of cool people, Captain Beefheart or people like that, who inspire a lot of bands but they never make it to the top.
full in bloom: That ride they took on The Real Thing almost seems like a mistake….with their style of music. Almost like a freak occurrence rather, not a mistake, but just a freak occurrence that they hit it that big.
Matt: I think you’re absolutely correct. We went from Slash (Records) to Warner Brothers…I can’t count how many times they went, ‘man, we love this record but radio is just not going to play it.’ I heard that so many times. And because the band toured across the United States three or four times in a van; they went to England a couple of times, they generated the momentum to where it finally busted on through. Even MTV had that video for “Epic” and they sat on it for six months before they did anything with it. It really was kind of a freak occurrence. It’s really by virtue of the band pushing so incredibly hard, touring and making an exceptional record…that’s what it was all about.
full in bloom: Regarding the song “Epic,” did you have any notion that the song was going to blow up like it did?
Matt: I don’t think I did. I know the band….it was real interesting because when we were making that record, all the guys in the band thought that we were making a pop record. And I was like, ‘ummmm, I don’t know what kind of pop you guys listen to but I don’t think this is a pop record.’ You know, it was metal, it had rap and so it didn’t feel like a pop record to me, but they certainly thought it was and they were correct (laughs).
full in bloom: Does anything stand out from the song “Surprise You’re Dead?” I know it was an old song that Jim had around….Does anything stand out in particular?
Matt: Yeah, it was brilliant. I know it was real difficult for Mike Bordin to get his head around the click because the click goes to the off beat, what he does on the tempo change stuff. Other than that, just ferocious, amazing, blistering, exciting – the whole thing was a thrill. It was interesting, when my daughter was like 11 or 12, she and I used to sing that song together (laughs).
Interview w/ Producer Matt Wallace via Soundcloud Widget: