- Pip Logan
- Booted from Faith No More just as their career was taking off, Chuck Mosley will still rap over hard rock for food.
Think of it this way: You've just won the state lottery. You jump in the car, drive to the claims office and pull out your wallet, only to realize that your winning ticket has gone missing.
Welcome to the world of Chuck Mosley, circa 1988.
As the lead singer of Faith No More on their first two albums, Mosley played a key role in pioneering the rap-rock genre that would, for better or worse, inspire nu-metal acts like Korn, Disturbed and Limp Bizkit. He joined the band in 1983, shortly after the firing of previous frontwoman Courtney Love.
While the two singers were both part of the same L.A. punk scene, their vocal styles could not have been more different. The future Hole bandleader's disenchanted moan was a less-than-perfect match for Faith No More's post-prog bombast, while Mosley's intense energy, throaty vocals and sarcastic wit gave them the edge they needed.
A dreadlocked Hollywood kid of mixed parentage, the singer's fate was sealed when he went to a David Bowie concert at the age of 13.
"I've always thought he was just awesome," says Mosley. "His lyrics, his band, the way he doubled his vocals in different octaves. There's still a certain range I can sing in that makes girls' hearts go pitter-pat, and I thank David Bowie for that. Anything good about my singing, I got from him."
Mosley would spend most of the next decade seeing as much live music as he could: Salsa artists like Willie Colon, punk bands like the Dead Kennedys, mod/ska revivalists like The Untouchables. On Sunday mornings, he and his friend Art would put on suits — "I was working at J.C. Penneys, so I got a discount" — and go around to storefront churches to check out their gospel bands.
So when Mosley joined Faith No More and found himself alternating between aggressive rap rants and soaring rock choruses, it felt completely natural to him.
"Racially, I'm mixed — my mother was white Jewish and my dad was black and American Indian — so I grew up listening to everything," explains Mosley. "And with my friends, I've always been the one to bring different groups of people together. So it just made sense that I'd carry it over into music, and mix the two. Because as far as I'm concerned, they belonged together, especially coming from someone like me. I'd be almost a hypocrite to do anything else."
The title track for the band's 1985 debut album, We Care a Lot, laid out the formula with its choppy guitar riffs, minimalist synth pads, chanted refrains, post-punk melodies and incisively ironic lyrics:
We care a lot about you people
We care a lot about your guns
We care a lot about the wars we're fighting
Gee, that looks like fun.
Despite enthusiastic reviews, We Care a Lot got minimal distribution and soon disappeared from record bins entirely. (Faith No More fans can take comfort in the band's announcement last week that they'll be releasing a deluxe edition of the album, which has been out-of-print for the past 20 years, in mid-August.)
Faith No More fared better with 1987's Introduce Yourself. The sophomore album, which included a re-recorded version of "We Care a Lot," was released by Warner Bros subsidiary Slash Records. Suddenly, Faith No More were teetering on the brink of success. "Everybody knew the next album was gonna be platinum," says Mosley, "because Warner Bros was ready to give it a million-dollar push."
What could possibly go wrong?
A lot, actually.
One of the most fundamental conflicts between Mosley and the rest of the band was his refusal to move up to San Francisco, where his bandmates were all living. Instead, he would make the five-hour drive north, crash with friends, and spend a couple weeks rehearsing and gigging. Afterward, he'd return to L.A. and stay in a trailer set up in his parents' backyard.
But the real problem, he insists, was his inability to get along with the people who handled the band's business affairs.
"These new managers had come onboard right around the second album," says the singer, who now lives in Cleveland. "One of them paid himself a hundred dollars a day to come out on the road with us. The rest of us got ten bucks each."
- Out of print for 20 years, Faith No More's We Care a Lot is being reissued with nine bonus tracks.
As a 20-something punk musician of working-class origin, Mosley wasted no opportunity to express his indignation, which he believes was a big part of his undoing.
"I was the only person in the band that didn't come from money, so I complained a lot about what we were getting paid. And basically what I heard is that the managers convinced the guys to get rid of me before the third album. Because it would cost them a lot more to get rid of me after. So they fired me and they got Mike Patton."
Whatever combination of factors may have led to the dismissal, the result was inescapable. Mosley was out, and Faith No More were on the fast track to success. Buoyed by the Top 10 single "Epic," they got their platinum album, performed on "Saturday Night Live" and earned three Grammy nominations.
"It made me bitter, and made me an outsider," says Mosley, who would go on to a two-year stint as lead singer for Bad Brains, a hardcore reggae-rock band still much-revered in the underground punk community.
A week or two after getting sacked from Faith No More, Mosley was at a Hollywood nightclub when he had a chance encounter with the singer he'd replaced five years earlier.
"I can't remember the band I'd gone to see, but it was at the Whiskey. I was standing by the door, and Courtney walked in. I had just gotten fired, like literally that week. We both looked at each other, and we laughed, and we just gave each other a big hug. That was like our one connecting moment."
Mosley has gone through his share of rough patches in the years since, but things appear to be looking up lately.
He's releasing a new CD, featuring demos from his 2009 solo release Will Rap Over Hard Rock for Food, an album that captures much of the early Faith No More's musical spirit and dry wit.
Mosley also is embarking on his first real tour in years. Accompanied by percussionist Doug Esper, he'll be performing original material mixed with Faith No More classics and a handful of covers that may or may not include New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle."
"The whole idea is to make it as intimate as possible," says Mosley. "I'm kind of a comedian, so there'll be banter going on. I try to mix it all up and get it as hypnotic as possible. It's not like your typical singer-songwriter kind of set."
Meanwhile, the passage of time has healed the friendships between the singer and his former bandmates. Keyboadist Roddy Bottum is the godfather to Mosley's eldest daughter and appears on the aforementioned solo album. (Other guests include Korn frontman Jonathon Davis, Rob Zombie guitarist John 5 and members of Mosley's on-and-off-again band VUA.)
Mosley has also been making surprise appearances onstage at Faith No More shows in recent years and hopes that will continue, especially with the imminent We Care a Lot reissue.
Meanwhile, there are the royalty checks that periodically show up in his mailbox.
"I get 50 percent of the publishing for most of the songs on that second album," he says. "It didn't make me a millionaire, but it does makes me a thousandaire once or twice a year."
As for the nu-metal bands that have followed in his wake — and in many cases made a lot more money — that's something Mosley has learned to take in stride.
"It's just the natural evolution of rock and roll, you know, going back to Little Richard. All those bands like the Rolling Stones and the Beatles started off by doing cover tunes and then they took it their own way. And the person that originates it is usually black, and they live a life of poverty, and everybody that imitates them gets rich. And, you know, that's the way it is — in America, anyway — it's always been that way. I'm not judging, I'm just stating a fact."
But Mosley is also willing to acknowledge his own role in the Faith No More fallout.
"I feel like it was my fault, you know, because I talked too much shit. I should have just kept my mouth shut and been a team player. Although for me, that's basically impossible."