Roddy Bottum of Faith No More: "Bigotry Is Chickenshit."

Tonight — September 8 — legendary experimental-rock band Faith No More brings the weird and the wonderful to Red Rocks with opener Gogol Bordello. FNM started in 1981, shortly after high-school friends Roddy Bottum and Billy Gould moved to San Francisco, where Bottum attended San Francisco State University as a film student. It was an especially fertile period in San Francisco for music and art in general. The legendary punk and avant-garde bands of the era were still very active in a city that allowed the arts to flourish (the cheap rent of the time is virtually unheard of today). The Dead Kennedys, Flipper, Tuxedomoon, Monitor, Factrix, the Sleepers, the Avengers, the Nuns, the Mutants, the Residents and a plethora of other acts made the Bay Area music world an exciting place to be.

Bottum and Gould soon met up with like-minded drummer Mike Bordin, and Faith No Man went through a different singer every show for a while, changing its name to Faith No More along the way. Early on, the band was fronted by Courtney Love; then Chuck Mosley entered the picture, and the group recorded its debut album, 1985's We Care A Lot. For a band making some stripe of harder rock music, Faith No More stood out some because it had a talented keyboard player in Bottum, whose flourishes have been a hallmark of the band's sound.

“I mean, it's pretty heavy sounds and a very sort of rhythmic thing,” says Bottum. “I could put dramatic accents on the rhythms. There's a rhythm section, and then to put textures and something pretty over it — that is really a powerful place to be as a musician.”

Faith No More remained largely an underground phenomenon until singer Mike Patton came on board in 1988 and brought immense versatility and power, which made 1989's The Real Thing so diverse and compelling — though it took the general listening public what seemed like a full two years to truly catch on. That's when rap-rock song “Epic” became a surprise hit and FNM started being marketed as a metal act.

“We got lumped into that sort of association,” says Bottum. “We did a lot of press, and then The Real Thing started to take off in a popular way, and we started appearing in supermarket magazines that focused on pretty boy Mike Patton. We toured with Billy Idol and stuff, so it's not like we didn't have a part in that image.”

Faith No More's artistic breakthrough came when it decided to break with the image being pressed upon it by the media and many fans via one of its strangest and most adventurous records, 1992's Angel Dust. That act of faith on the part of the band in its own vision was eventually vindicated, as Angel Dust remains among its most popular releases to date.

The group had a semi-acrimonious breakup in 1998, but time surely was the healer here, because in 2009 Faith No More got back together to play some one-off shows, which turned into a full-fledged reunion. Bottum says Sol Invictus, released this year, is the first album in which the songs feel autobiographical, even vulnerable, when compared with previous efforts.

Along the way, Bottum became a member of Imperial Teen, whose Lynn Perko-Truell lives in Denver. He also came out as gay in 1993, one of the first in the world of alternative rock to do so. And even at that time, Bottum didn't really experience any backlash for his revelation.

“If someone had a problem with it, I don't think they would address that to my face,” says Bottum. “Bigotry is chickenshit, you know? The Klan wore masks because they were ashamed to show their faces. The people who would have a problem with a gay keyboard player wouldn't do it publicly; they would talk about it behind my back. So that way, I didn't see a whole lot of resistance. On the flip side, though, I got, and still get, kids who high-five and say, 'That's so awesome you did that. Thanks for coming out back in the day. It made it easier for me. It opened a window for me.' It's a super-sweet thing I was able to do with my life that helped others.

“Kids still struggle, and puberty is a hard enough time with figuring out who you are without having to deal with preconceptions and bigotry,” says Bottum. “For my nieces and nephews, it's such a blasé thing to talk about. They don't care about it. In a weird way, it takes away from the allure from what it was back then. I kind of prefer being hated, you know what I mean? It was interesting when I had a point to make and I stood out. There was a danger to being misunderstood.”
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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.