Whenever it’s my birthday or his, one of my best friends, Chris, and I text each other the following: “Don’t you look so surprised/Happy birthday, fucker!” We’re both big Faith No More fans—he actually flew from Atlanta to Austin in 2015 to see FNM in concert with me—and we pay tribute to the band (and to our birthdays) with those funky lyrics from “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.”
It’s one of my favorite songs off 1995’s King For a Day, Fool For a Lifetime album. It’s filed with chunky guitar, a moody bass line, and Patton switching off between his almost spoken word to the angry spitting of lyrics and then on to pure singing.
It’s Patton encapsulated—with all the innuendo you could ever want.
And that pure Patton-ness makes sense because—according to keyboardist Roddy Bottum in a 1994 interview with the Italian magazine Rockerilla that featured Bottum, bassist Billy Gould and temporary guitarist Trey Spruance—Patton wrote the song (though Gould and drummer Mike Bordin are also credited).
Consequence of Sound called it, “Half Danzig, half Biafra,” and there’s little doubt that “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” is one of the heaviest songs in the FNM catalog. There wasn’t even much for Bottum to do.
“Angst-ridden,” Bottum said describing the song. “Good punctuation. Good definition and instruments for me. No keyboards.”
“So,” the interviewer asked, “what’d you do on the song?”
“Just danced around. Moral support.”
Responded Spruance, “He wrote choreography for the rest of us as well.”
Though I’ve seen Bottum playing guitar on other songs that don’t involve his keyboard, it looks like he simply danced himself off-stage during this live performance in 1997.
And the same in 2015.
But the song is all Patton. He sings, he screams, he paces, he rages, he makes it his own. And every year on my birthday, I get to be reminded of it in a bond that ties one of my best friends and me together forever.
Previously from Patton/Jean-Claude Vannier:
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