Interview: Chuck Mosley
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Despite playing a major and active part in how heavy music expanded into new realms in the late 80s and early 90s, Chuck Mosley has never quite received the recognition he deserves.
Whether fronting genre-bending, metal trailblazers Faith No More in their early years, doing a stint as lead singer of hardcore legends Bad Brains or working with his funk metal innovators Cement, Mosley, for better or worse, helped lay the foundations for what would become nu metal.
The active word in the history of Chuck Mosley is “nearly” – he nearly fronted one of the biggest rock bands in the world in Faith No More but left acrimoniously in 1988 amid creative differences and rumours of his substance abuse (Mike Patton took the reins and the band to superstardom), he never recorded with Bad Brains and as Cement toured their second album, their driver fell asleep at the wheel causing a crash. Chuck broke his back and spent a year in recovery and the band died.
Although dabbling in the music world since, he has never fully bounced back.
So now in 2016, we are sat in a empty venue in the Midlands, the Hairy Dog in Derby to be exact, as part of his ‘Reintroduce Yourself’ tour – an acoustic tour aimed at bringing Chuck back to people’s attention, as the first step in getting himself back on top.
But even getting over to the UK came with his traditional struggles, when the historic back injury flared up.
“[I said] don’t cancel the tour, I’ll do it. The next thing we know we are on three planes to get to Scotland, and I was a mess, I could barely stand-up and I was in pain. I hate flying so I literally drank one hundred dollars worth [of alcohol] over on the plane, just getting here. I am terrified of flying, I have panic attacks and all that.”
“The first week was really rough.”
In the face of on-going adversity one thing that becomes apparent is that there is a renewed sense of purpose to Chuck Mosley’s existence – he means business! This tour is just the beginning of period of insane musical activity, as Chuck continues.
He has three records on the go with latest band VUA, the second Cement album (which never came out because of the accident is being remastered and released, he is recording an acoustic EP and he is working with Primitive Race, a band featuring members of Prong and Type O Negative amongst others. 2017 is offering a lot of Chuck Mosley music to sink our teeth into before he brings a full band back to the UK.
With all this activity this acoustic tour feels important, almost life or death – he need this!
Given his history, his music has been his cross to bare but also his saviour, he admits it is the “only thing he is good at” – that and cooking, he worked as a chef in his wilderness years. His story takes in a period of early success and then a series of unfortunate events that kept him underground.
Despite this new opportunity, he still took some convincing to do this tour, with him in the spotlight, raw and holding the weight of each performance.
“I am super shy and stuff, and to be up there on my own, and I am not a great guitar player at all. To carry all the weight yourself. When you are with a band it's like being with a gang, with my band we can blow away anyone we play with but when it's me, I make mistakes, I apologise and I tell jokes.”
And the gig later that night is a testament to these concerns. Equipment failure, sound issues and playing in a room arguably to large for this kind of gig put Chuck in the position of having to carry much of the performance with personality, and having to miss of many of the bigger hits. He does so admirably and given the car -crash on stage the sense of respect from the audience for him is palpable.
This respect no doubt still comes from the first two Faith No More record of which Mosley was lyricist and vocalist, records that paved the way for the global fame of the band with Mike Patton in place of Mosley, and with their fusion of styles, namely rock and rap, laid the foundations for the phenomenon that would become ‘nu metal’.
“I do take credit for starting that whole thing rolling, not the Beastie Boys not the Chili Peppers. I tell you what the Beastie Boys were rapping over hip hop and throwing rock songs in and the Chili Peppers were rapping over funk, it's just two world's I grew up in because of my cultural breakdown so it made sense to bring these things together. I always try to bring my friends together it has been my thing all my life – people who should have no business being together. Like Crips with Beverley Hills rich kids with ,like, surf dudes.”
This legacy does have its downside, as Chuck laments the awfulness of the fratboy elements of the late 90s rap-metal dirge, “All through the 90s I was apologising for all that shit. One more rap over a rock band comes on the radio and stuff. I was driving in a car with my buddy and he was like 'thanks Chuck, thanks a lot!”
The beauty of FNM was how accidental it all was, and he admits that none of it was ‘conscious’ but the collision of styles, egos and a tension which Mosley states he often encouraged.
“And that's what I liked about it. I mean we bickered and fought a lot and someone was always the one getting picked on at a certain time. I did it and instigated it some of the time, not all the time, Jim Martin was there too, but I always thought it always made for a good dynamic, the whole explosive nature of it.”
He is forever tied to the legacy of those FNM years, the royalties keep him going, but elements still cause some issues, namely in the songs fans continue to focus on, even in these acoustic tours.
“We Care A Lot” man, everyone is asking for that. I wouldn't even want to play it. When we did those two shows (the Faith No More Introduce Yourself shows) those songs are pretty corny to me. I understand what people like about it but for me it's no challenge.”
On the flipside he understands that it is FNM that is bringing people out to see him, even though his profile has been lowered for some years, that work spans generations and brings in new fans.
“There's a lot of people who are, like, ten years younger than me, that listened to me when they were teenagers and they want to come out and finally see me play in person. A lot of young kids as well, twenties and thirties, a couple came with their parents. I ask them 'did you want to come or did he drag you out and say – 'you gotta come check this out'' but they have been fans for ages. From 18 up to 60. Faith No More have passed it down, kept on putting out records and people always go back and find out there was something before The Real Thing and stuff. There's also people asking about Cement now as well.”
And the work of Cement, unceremoniously cut short, deserves the new focus and reissue treatment that is coming, it being a band that pushed boundaries in metal, funk and rap as a partnership.
“I hear a lot people talk about them, but they are hard to get. That's why we are releasing the second one.”
So here we are, a different Chuck in the ‘different’ UK for the first time in 21 years with a new sense of purpose, but how as the nation that embraced him so massively in his heyday changed?
“I guess, some new buildings, people dress a lot nicer. That's what I've noticed, and the burgers have actually gotten good. There's some homemade burgers around town. Great Britain changed around 90 when all the cooking shows started coming in, reality TV and stuff and I guess people got hip to the fact that you had really bad food. When I used to come here, people used to ask 'what do you eat when you're here' and I used to say 'McDonalds, Burger King and Indian Food' or Chinese food, maybe fish and chips ONCE.”
We are now heading in to 2017 and it could be the year that Mr Chuck Mosley final drags himself from the undercurrents of rock and takes his place where he belongs as a respected innovator and voice in an ever increasing sea of mainstream rock mediocrity.