Most fans who bought Faith No More's #9 1990 hit single "Epic" had no idea the group had been around for eight years and had begin life as a postpunk harcore-thrash band.Bassist Billy Gould and keyboardist Roddy Bottum had both played on the Los Angeles punk-rock scene of the late '70s, before moving to San Francisco to attend college. Through a classified ad placed by drummer Mike Bordin, they formed Faith No More, recruiting guitarist Jim Martin from a local thrash band with future Metallica bassist Cliff Burton. At club gigs they let audience members be vocalists; Chuck Mosely, who often wore a dress, was among the most frequent volunteers, and eventually joined the band. "We Care a Lot" – a sardonic thrash-funk answer to "We Are the World" – got college-radio play, and some MTC play for its video, leading to a deal with Warner Bros.-distributed Slash Records. Mosely was kicked out after two albums and two European tours, because of his "unpredictable behavior."
With an album's worth of new music written, Faith No More auditioned new vocalists and quickly selected Mike Patton, from the bizarrely theatrical Mr. Bungle. Patton wrote lyrics to match Faith No More's new tunes for The Real Thing (#11, 1990), which sold over a million copies, thanks largely to "Epic" (#9, 1990), an anthemic mix of funk-rap verses and hard-rock choruses. On tour, Patton sometimes wore leisure suits or monster masks, while the band played surprising but seemingly sincere covers of New Kids on the Block's "Right Stuff," Madonna's "Vogue," and the Commodores' easy-listening classic "Easy."
In 1991 Patton recorded an album with Mr. Bungle, and Faith No More contributed "The Perfect Crime" to the soundtrack of the film sequel Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, in which Jim Martin had a bit part. Angel Dust (#10, 1992) failed to yield a hit single, while Songs to Make Love To included the band's covers of "Easy" and the Dead Kennedys' "Let's Lynch the Landlord." Martin was replaced by Mr. Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance for King for a Day/Fool for a Lifetime, a genre-shuffle that added Portuguese balladry and soulful crooning to the band's militantly eclectic agenda. The group's final studio release, Album of the Year (#41, 1997), saw another new guitarist, Jon Hudson, step in for Spruance. A greatest hits package, Who Cares a Lot, recapped Faith No More's career, which officially ended in 2000 when its members finally called it quits.
Patton recorded a third Mr. Bungle release in 1999, while Bottum achieved fresh commercial success with his own side project Imperial Teen, which formed in 1996. "Yoo Hoo," from that group's second album, What Is Not to Love (1998), found steady rotation on modern-rock radio, where its catchy chorus played as quirky novelty.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).