He Shares A Lot: Chuck Mosley Interviewed
, November 1st, 2016 07:48
Jeremy Allen sits down in Paris with Chuck Mosley to talk Faith No More, Cement and second acts
I’m in the bowels of a sticky basement in the 11th arrondissement of Paris watching the former singer of one of my favourite bands slashing wildly at an acoustic guitar, sometimes connecting, sometimes missing the strings. “I cut my fingernails today,” laments Chuck Mosley - erstwhile Faith No More frontman, mid-song, “so uh... sorry about that.” He soldiers on to the end and howls, “fuck it! That bad review was justified!”
Personally, I wouldn’t normally come out for an acoustic show. Not unless Tchavolo Schmitt or Paco Soler are making rare appearances, or Paco de Lucía, Django Reinhardt or Jake Thackray somehow miraculously raise themselves from the dead. These are/were guitarists of great technical competence, and Chuck lacks such finesse with a six string. BUT Chuck is alive and he’s here right now goddamn it.
It’s been a while, hence the name of the tour, Reintroduce Yourself (Introduce Yourself was actually Faith No More’s second album, though it was the first recorded professionally for a label intending to put it out). Chuck might be, by his own admission, “a terrible guitar player”, but it’s a rare day indeed when you get to see the whites of the eyes of one of your heroes deep within an underground sweatbox with no more than 150 capacity. That said, most of my other heroes never fell into penury.
Chuck, it’s fair to say, has had some bad luck. “Charlie Brown luck” he calls it, when I interview him earlier in the day.
Despite the lack of proficiency it’s a heartwarming show, where sozzled Frenchmen and Frenchwomen sing every word to obscure songs plucked from Mosley’s fractured career from the last 30 years. The insalubrious space is filled with warmth and beautiful - fallible - humanity. Chuck sings well - certainly his voice is more powerful and in tune than it was during his Faith No More years - and he’s ably backed by Doug Esper, his righthand man on bloodied bongos. Doug is Chuck’s rock; a bear of a man in a Cleveland Cavaliers strip who has helped drag his friend across Britain, taking in 29 venues in 30 days. Paris is their final stop. They’re due to fly back to Ohio the following morning, a fact that’s playing on Chuck’s mind (he hates flying).
I meet him earlier in the day in the pub above the performing space. He admits to feeling burnt out from so many shows in quick succession, and he’s jittery and is finding it hard to relax because he knows he will shortly have to go and take photos for a French metal magazine. “But ask me anything you need to know,” he says absently.
Mosley looks reasonably well for his 56 years. He’s a little weatherbeaten with some salt and pepper in his trademark dreads, tied up atop his head. He’s thinner than the young Chuck from the ‘We Care A Lot’ video, perhaps more handsome too, though he’s as unkempt as he ever was. Just before he sits down with me he blags a warm bottle of beer from the bar. “There are cold ones in your dressing room,” says the barman.
“Oh that doesn’t matter”, he smiles, twisting the lid.
Chuck has the kind of musical résumé where if he came to you for a job, you’d be inclined to ask him what he’d been up to for 15 years here, seven years there. A brief recap then. Mosley was the lead singer of Faith No More - for which he’s best known - between the years 1985 and 1988, replacing a young Courtney Love. (When I ask him if back then he thought Love would go onto the superstardom she has, he says, “Oh yeah”, and then starts guffawing in a trepidatious manner. He scrawls “I’M AFRAID” in indelible marker on his hand, and we move swiftly on. On other occasions, things said are struck from the record because they’re either too personal, too incriminating or lacking diplomacy. “I tell my life story to anyone I meet in ten minutes,” he says, looking worried that I’ll dish the dirt.)
After an acrimonious split, Faith No More replaced the singer with young buck Mike Patton, and Chuck went onto front legendary D.C. hardcore punks Bad Brains between 1990 and 1992. His own band Cement followed, and they brought out two albums in the mid-90s, but disaster struck in 94 when Cement’s bass player-cum-driver fell asleep at the wheel during the first week of a planned year-long world tour; Mosley broke his back and was incapacitated for a year. Even now, in the short space I’m with him, he complains about the pain. I mention the US’s lack of healthcare solidarity and he says, “Yeah, I’m not insured, so basically I’m fucked.” In 96, Mosley moved from L.A. to Cleveland (he never actually relocated to San Francisco full time for Faith No More). He spent time training to be, and then practicing as, a chef in Ohio, and tells me he cooks “some pretty mean Cajun food: gumbo and étouffée and jambalaya”.
His first solo album, Will Rap Over Hard Rock For Food, recorded with FNM’s Roddy Bottum, Korn’s Jonathan Davis and Rob Zombie guitarist John 5, finally saw the light of day in 2009. The project began in 1997, but due to complications with his label, who “had millions of dollars of backing and everybody stole from each other”, and ill health - namely two hernias - it took years to complete. Now Mosley is making up for lost time.
In the near future he hopes to put out an acoustic EP, appear on an album by Primitive Race - an industrial metal supergroup from California, re-release Cement’s second album The Man With Action Hair, and put out an unreleased album by Haircuts That Kill - his first punk band - recorded at the home of late Diff'rent Strokes actress Dana Plato. Oh, and I nearly forgot to mention, on August 18th 2016, Chuck got back together with his old chums in Faith No More to play the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. It was the first time they’d played together in public since the late 80s. Billed as Chuck Mosley and Friends, the original band (minus guitarist Jim Martin) then did the whole thing again two days later in Los Angeles.
In 2016, things have been looking up for Mosley, and perhaps some of that Charlie Brown luck is wearing off. Now he just has one bad review, alluded to earlier, to worry about.
So Chuck, how was Brexit Britain?
Chuck Mosley: Um, it was really good 99% of the time. There was always going to be some hater out there. We got some good reviews but I just saw one really bad one. We got totally trashed. [laughs bitterly]
It’s best not to read them!
CM: Yeah I know, but I can’t help it.
And don’t read the comments either.
CM: It’s just as well, because where I might have been my lazy, sloppy self tonight, now I can’t. There’s a thing I do with the first song where to relax I stop the song and act like I made a mistake, and then I start apologising and I talk to the crowd to calm myself down. I just like to fuck with people, you know. There were two people who didn’t get it, and this guy was one of them. He said I was “raging drinking”, which I do, but I’m not raging drunk when I play. I just like to relax. Sometimes I stop and I tell people “I’m sorry, I’m really nervous”.
Everyone’s a critic.
CM: He was ignorant anyway, I caught him not paying attention. He mentioned Faith No More songs and couldn’t tell which ones were which, so he doesn’t even know. He’s a Mike Patton fan! I figured it out earlier.
Do you have segregation between predominantly Patton fans and predominantly Chuck fans then?
CM: Well everybody’s always really nice, they say, “Oh, I really like old Faith No More, I love your two albums and blah blah blah."
Is Doug your manager?
CM: Kind of. He’s a little bit of everything. He’s my babysitter. He has to care because I don’t care.
Why don’t you care?
CM: Uh, I just think everything’s going to be fine. He worries about everything and I don’t worry. I worry about stupid stuff that I worry about, like flying home tomorrow, that’s what I’m frightened of.
You played San Fran and L.A. with Faith No More again recently. How was that? Were you excited?
CM: It was a blast. I mean it was brutal. Yeah, I was worried about falling over or fucking up but I didn’t do either. So, it was really good.
I heard you have a recurring nightmare about bass player Billy Gould. Gould is the defacto leader right?
CM: Ish. Yeah, him and Mike. I look at them like a husband and wife team. Mum and dad, yeah.
So tell me about your dreams.
CM: Yeah, in the dream I get invited back to play. I’m on stage with them but I can’t sing a word, I can’t remember a word and I don’t know what to do, and I freak out and hide behind an amplifier, and Billy looks disappointed at me and they’re all looking at me. I had it for a good 20 years or something - a lot! - and it was weird. And then it stopped when I started playing with them again. It stopped happening actually after the first time I went back with them.
Maybe it’s like how I stopped dreaming about my dead mother after I did therapy?
CM: I still dream about my parents and have done every night for 10 years, and I wake up either crying or having to remember that they’re gone.
It’s not a proper Faith No More reunion without Jim Martin is it?
CM: I tend to agree. And that’s why they scaled it down. It was going to be bigger, but they couldn’t get him to come along so...
What will it take for him to leave his pumpkin farm. He won’t do it will he?
CM: I guess not. I dunno, I talked to him a few years ago but that was really the last time. I tried to reach him on Facebook and stuff. I thought I could talk him into doing it but I couldn’t reach him. I didn’t have his number. They didn’t want to give it to me, they said they had it in hand, but they didn’t have no luck.
CM: ...bad water. I mean I don’t get [why they sacked Jim]. I thought that was a pretty huge mistake, even more than getting rid of me. I mean, he was an integral part of their sound as far as I was concerned.
You were kind of the characters.
He was their mascot.
CM: He was an enigma.
I first became aware of Faith No More in 1987. You were on the Chart Show with ‘We Care A Lot’. It was like nothing else that was around, except funnily enough the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘Fight Like A Brave’, which I seem to remember being on the same show.
CM: [They were] more funk.
People look at you as a rap/ rock pioneer.
CM: Totally. I’ll take that one. It doesn’t come with a paycheck but it comes with a lot of respect I guess.
Did the Red Hot Chili Peppers copy you?
CM: No, and plus he was rapping over funk, like I was saying. We toured with them, and if they did try and take after us on like, say, ‘The Crab Song’, halfway through the tour they started doing a song where they started out dead sweet and melodic, but then Anthony [Kiedis] couldn’t sing. He was really bad. And I would tell him to his face, but he did learn to sing. He became good, like me, you know. But I could hold a tune better back then, which is why I could pull off ‘The Crab Song’.
I read somewhere that you had a cold both times you recorded albums with Faith No More.
CM: Yeah, that’s true. I stress out and I psyche myself out and I freak out. I have one now, but this is just from being worn out and stuff.
From being on the road?
CM: Yeah, I’m a mess. When I first got here it was such a long flight and my back went out. It was three flights, and I had to drink to get on the plane because I’m so scared of flying. So by the time I got here I was a wreck 24 hours basically. But I wake up everyday and do what I’ve gotta do and stuff, and now I’m starting to feel it.
So had you stopped drinking before you came on tour?
CM: No, I never stopped drinking, I just don’t drink that much anymore. You know, sometimes on the weekends, it’s not like a daily thing. I did tend to self-medicate like that, but I just don’t have it in me anymore. I’m old. Drinking all the time, carrying on like that, having to deal with the pain [laughs]. But on tour it makes me relax. I don’t get DRUNK before I play but I might get drunk after. I’ll have a couple of shots before, you know. I can totally live without it, but here in this scenario it’s hard. Maybe if I had some hypnosis or something, I dunno, but I’ve always been freaked out in my mind performing.
As long as you’re playing the songs that people like...
CM: Right. And I stay around for two or three hours after every show signing and taking pictures with everybody, and people come up and say hi and they say, “I didn’t know what to expect but it was so different to what I imagined, it was so cool”. I want to believe they’re not lying. You know so, some people don’t get it, some people do. Who I am, whatever the fuck, Johnny Cash. Not like I’m trying to be like him or anything.
You sound like out of a hundred people, if 99 love it but one person doesn’t, then that hurts you.
CM: Well, when that one person is the critic... [laughs]. But whatever. We got good reviews too. And a lot more than that one bad one, so whatever. And that guy came in not liking it anyway! One of the reasons I stick around every night for three hours saying thanks to everybody is because I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them. I get it. Billy Idol gets it, I don’t know why everybody else doesn’t get it? You seen The Wedding Singer? Adam Sandler says that line when he’s on the aeroplane.
So once and for all, why did you leave Faith No More back in 1988? I heard it came to a head at the launch party of Introduce Yourself. You were supposedly out of it and they sacked you. Is that true?
CM: Oh, no no. But there were outer forces, outer influences... They decided that that would be the best thing to do because it would cost a lot more after the third record [to get rid of me]. Because everybody knew the new record, The Real Thing was going to pay off whether it was me or Mike. They were putting the money into push it, so it was already a done deal more or less. The last time I was over here [in Europe], I already knew.
So wait? You’re telling me they’d already auditioned Mike Patton when you were still in the band?
CM: I dunno, maybe they had. It took a while, you know, for it to come out. It could easily be that they’d already been talking to Mike before I was even done. Billy was really angry with me for a while for whatever reason. But it’s all under the bridge now, we’re all really super good.
Didn’t you sue them at the time?
CM: Um, basically yeah, they were a corporation and they had to buy me out. That’s how it was. That was the only time there was a rough patch, and even when I served Billy we were laughing about it straight after. I sent my old drummer from Haircuts That Kill up to his house. I had a girl call to make sure he was home on Sunday morning, and then I sent Troy, and if you knew Troy, he’s like a jetblack Keith Moon, only he talks Mexican. He’s a nut; he was a great drummer but we got in a lot of trouble together. We were just kinda night people. And I was talking to Billy after and he was like, “that was a good one, how did you know I was gonna be home?” I said “it took loads of planning man, it had to be done”. And we laughed about it at that time. Then for legal reasons we didn’t even talk for ages. Then in 1990 like I say, I was in a bad way and they were off to the Grammys, so it was a good long time. And people dig and try and find this and that, but there’s no story.
The story was that it was substance abuse.
CM: Right, um, here’s a thing. Off the road I would go out and get fucked up and do stuff, but when I was on the road I would have a couple of beers a night. There were a couple of times where I got too drunk but, you know, that was just punk rock, and that was who I was and stuff. But 97% of the time, absolutely not. You know there was a time, I probably shouldn’t be saying this, but somebody passed me mushrooms while we were playing. I never felt them until hours later when we were done. That happened one time in Mississippi. But other than that, no, it wasn’t true. And if it was true it was when I wasn’t with them. That was my own downtime, and that’s kind of my weakness.
That’s your time I suppose.
CM: Right, to do what the fuck I want. The rumour mill started from them, because they first said I quit, and then my lawyer said, ‘I’m going to sue you again, tell the truth, don’t fucking lie to the papers’. So then they said, ‘Yeah, we fired him and this is why’. They literally made up a bunch of stuff at the time. It got out there and stuck.
So over the last 30 years you’ve made about about six albums that I know of.
CM: Yeah, there could have been more, there should have been more. Perhaps if I didn’t get into an accident before Cement’s second album came out then there would have been more.
I heard you put out a shout out on Facebook a few years ago asking your social media friends for cash. Is that true?
CM: My band went home and I had to finish the tour myself. I had to get this other band and teach them the new songs to be able to make a show, and then we went to New York and didn’t get paid like we were meant to, and I ended up using my family’s money because I had to pay the band I was playing with, and I had to pay the bands we played with. It was just ridiculous, I got home and I had no money. I was meant to come back with a couple of thousand dollars, and I had to pay the rent and everything and couldn’t. I didn’t want to do that, and someone kept telling me to, and I said no. But then it came to the point where we were really about to get thrown out and I had to do whatever I had to do to take care of my family. It didn’t feel good doing it, you know, and the response was overwhelming. After two days I had to tell everybody, “Stop, thank you! That’s enough! I appreciate it. Thank you so much - I’ll pay each and everyone of you back in some way.”
So the reason you took 13 years to record a solo record was because you were cheffing and you had label problems and health problems? That is tough luck.
CM: And I was raising my daughters! The first one I was with Bad Brains, and when she was born I was in New York. She’s 25 now, and for the first three years between Cement and Bad Brains I never saw her for more than a month. So every time I saw her she’d be like, "Who’s that?" So I vowed that wouldn’t happen again, and with the second one I was right there, I was her dad, I took care of her, took her to school. And now we’re best friends. She can’t go a day without talking to me.
Things are looking up, and you’re finally even going to release the Haircuts That Kill album?
CM: If I can get hold of the tapes. We recorded some stuff at this actress’s place, Dana Plato. She was an actress, she’s dead now. We recorded nine or ten songs at her house, her husband was an engineer.
She was in Diff’rent Strokes right?
CM: Or Facts Of Life, one of those. Had troubles, you know, and now she’s dead but yeah... And we had a singer at one point, this girl Louise, and she Facebooked me and had all the songs to play, but they wouldn’t come up, so I’ve gotta get the tapes from her, and if I can do that then we can get them mixed and mastered. It will be really bad, it’s punk rock from when I was a kid, but there are some really good songs. It’s mostly a punk band making fun of punks, and ourselves, basically.
You were a serious punk weren’t you?
CM: Oh yeah, I was a total punk. But I was still an outcast, even with the punks and stuff. I had a few friends who we hung out with and that was it. We’d ride together, get in fights, go dancing, just causing trouble basically.
Looking back, what would you do differently?
CM: Probably just show more that I was a team player and go along with the programme a bit more. I could never do that when I was a kid. I’ve always been a rebel and it’s got me in trouble sometimes, and probably kept me poor. And then again, maybe not, because I might not have the two daughters that I have, you know. And we’re all so close now. You know, I came full circle for a reason; I had to grow up a little bit and we all grew up and it’s all good.
When you say poor, how bad has it got?
CM: Well I’m just working class. I can pay the bills most of the time, usually from royalties. I maybe get a few thousand here and there, but mostly we’re just hundredaires.
Has 2016 been an exceptional year in the life of Chuck Mosley?
CM: Yeah, it’s busier now. I’m older, so it gets harder. There’s nothing I’d really rather do, or can do, except cook. My mum always told me, ‘Have something to fall back on’ and I never really listened. I dropped out of college, started playing music. I was going to do what I was going to do and it is what it is.
It’s a great story of endurance.
CM: Well yeah, but I don’t really have a choice. Plus if I get invited somewhere I can never usually say no. And then I don’t leave until I’m asked to [laughs]. So yeah, it’s been cool. But only because I finally agreed to do this acoustic thing. I resisted it for a long time. You know, I could have been doing it, but I didn’t want to because it terrifies me.
What’s been the best thing about the tour?
CM: The overwhelming response and the numbers of people that showed up. I was nervous because we’ve done shows in the States where there were 20 people with no promotion, and I’m not that famous or anything, so people aren’t sure they’re coming out or anything like that. But it was really good.
And what was the worst thing?
CM: The one bad review. We got shit upon.