When you're as busy and in as many bands as Roddy Bottum -- he's played keyboards, guitar, and sang in Faith No More, Imperial Teen, and Crickets -- joining yet another outfit isn't a commitment to make lightly. But when his friend Frank Haines invited him to join his group Nastie Band, Bottum couldn't resist the opportunity to take part in the band's dramatic, powerful presentation.
Nastie Band just released its self-titled debut, featuring seven gut-rattling songs powered by heavily distorted bass, distant, squealing guitars, and the haunting vocals of Haines and Chris Kachulis, all punctuated by Bottum's ethereal synthesizer textures. It's a natural fit for Bottum, who has shown off his appreciation for what he deems "high drama" throughout his career, notably on the piano coda of Faith No More's hit "Epic," which gave the song its name, and with the intense church organ climax of "Jizzlobber" from Angel Dust.
Bottum spoke with AllMusic about his unexpected return to heavy music, how the Nastie Band has helped him through a rough stretch in his life, and about his burgeoning acting career.
AllMusic: Nastie Band seems like a constantly-mutating, collaborative kind of outfit. How much writing did you contribute for this album?
Roddy Bottum: It's super-duper collaborative, the process. The music, we all wrote together. We don't spend a lot of time in the rehearsal space, but the time we spend is really super intense collaboration quality time, and I'd say we wrote all of the songs together.
We recorded it the same way, everyone went into the studio, and we pretty much played the songs together in a big room. It was an interesting process, the singer sings cover songs over the bookends of the record, the first and last songs.
AllMusic: Was recording with everyone in the same room a new thing for you?
Bottum: All my life, I've sort of aimed for that. The process of recording, for me, works best when it's people together, in a room, close enough to see each other and follow each other's leads and be, chemistry-wise, in the same physical space. I've been in a lot of bands and recording processes throughout my career, and that's what I always find works best, when people are in the same room together playing at the same time. The core of everything we've created on the record was all of us in a room together, and that makes me real proud.
AllMusic: What drew you to being in another heavy band?
Bottum: It's funny, I never would have thought I'd be in this heavy of a musical situation. But what I continue to be drawn to is high drama, I'm interested in the process of creating high drama with music. Frank, who created Nastie Band, we became close over our love of opera. When he started Nastie Band, I wasn't involved, I came into it being attracted to the high drama of it.
The heaviness of what we create is secondary to me, but it's definitely there. After I stepped back and looked at it, I said, "Wow, that's so crazy, I never thought I'd be involved in this heavy of a band," with loud drums, loud guitars, and big, intense noise. Coming out of Faith No More, it was my natural impulse to go in another direction, after I'd done that for so many years, so Imperial Teen was about sweet melodies and harmonies, a different direction. Making opera, that was in a different direction, as well. It's funny to look back on this project and see the similarities to what I've done in the past. I thought I was done with that sort of noise, but clearly not.
AllMusic: When preparing to make the album, did you sit down with Frank to talk about any musical reference points?
Bottum: The Nastie Band is absolutely no rules whatsoever, it's all of us in a room, encouraging each other to stretch as far as we can go, there's no parameters and no rules. The more outlandish, crazy ideas, the better, that's what everyone aims for. It's an unspoken thing in terms of what we want to do, and once in a while it comes up, what we don't want to do, but it's mostly unspoken and comes out when we perform.
AllMusic: How do you feel you stretched yourself on the record?
Bottum: There's a weird song on the record that I never would have thought could have existed. We change what we do periodically based on who's available for the shows, and at one point we did a "dark dance show" with no guitar. We wanted it to be a very minimal, dark, and dirty disco sound. And out of that came the song on the record called "Relapse," which has a beat to it and is more along those lines. We didn't want to have a lead singer on this track, but we wanted someone to do background vocals without a lead singer, which is a weird conceptual take on that particular kind of music, and we did that. That was a super weird stretch for everyone, I think.
AllMusic: If there weren't musical reference points, were there any visual ones?
Bottum: Imagery comes up a lot, especially in the presentation of what we do and what the look is onstage. It's gone in a really sexy male direction as of late. We have two identical twins onstage, and they're usually shirtless and covered in this mud. Frank's character is super leather, and kind of macho, but at the same time very gender-fluid. The singer is decked out usually in a wig and face paint and very theatrical, so there's a feeling of masculinity that exudes from the stage. At the same time, there's the fluidity of a homosexual vibe for me, and a gay vibe, a queer vibe, which seems pretty loud, as well. And combining those elements, from a visual standpoint into an audio sort of place, is pretty key to the band.
AllMusic: Maybe it works as the soundtrack for an imaginary 'Querelle 2.'
Bottum: I can't remember what Querelle sounds like, but I know the movie really well. The only song I remember is the one Jeanne Moreau sings, about how each man kills the thing he loves, which is such a sweet sentiment. It's amazing, it's so crazy, that movie. The sets are insane. It's a beautiful movie.
AllMusic: With the band's slower tempos, is it easier to find room for your keyboards?
Bottum: On one hand, a slower tempo, on the face of it, is sort of an easier route to go. But at the same time, it's complicated. I find that playing stuff that slow takes a certain amount of discipline that playing faster really doesn't allow you to exhibit, ever. I saw Earth the other day, and it's so complicated. It's the simplest music ever, but wow, the precision of those tempos is so intense. It's really hard to pull that off.
AllMusic: What would you say are the ideal scenarios for listening to this album?
Bottum: I would say out in nature, or on a plane, or super high on drugs. I don't know about combined, but for sure in nature, for sure on a plane – I get real emotional on planes, and I can really absorb stuff in an interesting way on planes – and high on drugs is a no-brainer.
AllMusic: When you're playing music at home for yourself, what form does that usually take?
Bottum: I usually go for real textural stuff, it depends on the era that I'm in. Lately, I'm in a band called Crickets, which is really minimal dance. I love playing the guitar, and I love ethereal, wide-open spaces. And it depends on the climate of the world, too, honestly. Where we are right now, with the administration politically, it's a pretty dark place. So on one hand, I like to go into that darkness and meet it head-on, and I also like to turn it around a little bit, try and smile through it a little bit, and I end up exaggerating the tone of a sweetness or a happiness that I'd like to achieve in these fucked-up times.
AllMusic: And it's working for you?
Bottum: A little bit. It's hard.
AllMusic: Is it something you feel every day, that weight?
Bottum: Yeah, honestly, it is like a weight. I've had a really rough couple of years, I've been through a lot of shit, quite honestly.
AllMusic: Do you feel like you're coming out the other side yet?
Bottum: Kind of. And it's not just politically, but I had a fire at my apartment a couple of years ago, and I'm still waiting for the space to get repaired. So I lost everything in the fire, and that was right at the time that the election happened, and coupled with that, a bunch of people died, and it's been a pretty dark time. But I'd say I'm coming out of it a little bit.
AllMusic: Did it feel good to be making something dark and heavy that you could frown through?
Bottum: For me it's more about the people, all of the people in Nastie Band are such great, wonderful people to be around. The output of that, the making of the music and the executing of it, the completion of a record and the packaging and everything that's involved, for sure, that's a good way to frown through it. But mostly it's about the people, they're very good people, and I'm lucky to have them in my life.
AllMusic: You made your acting debut recently in 'Tyrel.' How did that experience turn out?
Bottum: It was a weird process to go through. Actors are weird to me, I don't really trust people who do that professionally, or I hadn't before, it's like a weird game to play. The trickery of emotions and faking, it's a sort of simplified version of my take on it, but it was a weird place to go.
The director was one of my best friends, and I trusted that the situation was going to go well, and it did. Caleb Landry-Jones is amazing, and Chris Abbott, Michael Cera, Jason Mitchell, they're all at the top of their game and really good at what they do, so following their cues was pretty easy, actually. I'd do it again for sure. After I did that movie, if someone asked me what I did, I'd say I was an actor, it just made me laugh.
AllMusic: It sounds like your own experience was somewhat similar to the story of the movie. [A black man navigates the discomfort of being on a trip with his white, increasingly-aggressive friends]
Bottum: Yeah, for sure. And being the only gay guy in that mix of dudes, there was a real boys' club vibe. Not entirely, but just being the only gay actor in that collection of dudes was a little bit alienating. Not in a bad way, I liked it, it made me step up and just be who I was, being prouder or louder than I would have been, in people's faces a little bit. It was fun.
AllMusic: Are you the kind of guy who has your next few years planned out?
Bottum: The summer has been super intense. Imperial Teen is doing some shows, then I come back and have to move out of the apartment I'm in, and then we go to California with Imperial Teen. Then I'm doing this crazy thing with Courtney Love, she's doing a weird unplugged performance at a festival, and I'm playing keyboards and being the musical director of that.
Then I come right back here and make the Crickets record, and then I go to London with Christeene. She's this crazy filthy, trashy drag queen from Texas who lives in New York, she's a really good friend of mine, and she's opened a few times on a leg of a Faith No More tour, and Nastie Band has played with her. She's doing a performance in London where she's going to play the entire first Sinead O'Connor record, she's going to sing it as Christeene. It's going to be a real whopper of an adventure, so I'll go do that, then come home, go to Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco with Imperial Teen, then after that, I'm done. It just happens to be that this summer has been the busiest summer of my life, honestly. Beyond that, I don't have any plans.
AllMusic: Do you feel the need to fill up those empty spaces?
Bottum: I'm going to need to fill the spaces. But by the time I get back from Folsom Street Fair, the burnt apartment will be fixed, so then I can focus for a little bit on moving back to my old apartment and getting my life back in shape as far as that goes. I've been literally couch-surfing for the past three years, so it will be a nice space to be in.