Roddy Bottum is a man of many talents. A multi-instrumentalist, Roddy might be best known for his bands Faith No More and Imperial Teen. Roddy is also a composer and Sasquatch: The Opera is his first entry on that stage, but surely not the last.
An opera about Sasquatch? What’s the deal with that? It’s been a difficult journey. I had the chance to question on Roddy about it and his other projects. Read it from the man himself.
Mike: Sasquatch: The Opera has to be the most intriguing three-word title I’ve ever seen. I understand the story is about the misunderstood “monster”, but how did you settle on the Sasquatch for your monster? I’m a bit of a Sasquatch geek, and I’m curious if you are too.
Roddy: It’s a character I always identified with. The ‘gentle giant’ aspect of him I kind of created myself. It’s a characteristic I always am moved by in literature and film. Elephant Man, King Kong, Frankenstein… the vulnerability of the misunderstood oaf, if you will. I’m also very sexually attracted to exactly that type.
Mike: Would you ever go on a Sasquatch expedition?
Roddy: I think I could entertain that voyage in a ‘social studies’ kind of way but I would be hard pressed to putting my best foot forward in the hopes of finding the monster. I want to believe. I really do. It’s like being taught religion as a child. I remain sceptical and needing of proof.
Mike: Absolutely understood; I hope one day we find that proof. How would you describe the music, is it a “rock opera”? I have to assume it’s a little different!
Roddy: The instrumentation is timpani drums, drum machine, two synthesizers and two trumpets. It’s not exactly rock but it’s more rock than symphonic. I kind of based the musical vibe all around the timpanis. The grandeur of that instruments spoke a lot in the presentation of the piece.
Mike: Do you perform on stage in the musical?
Roddy: I did, yeah, I conducted the piece and played a synthesizer. The one with the easier parts.
Mike: Did you compose Sasquatch primarily on the keyboard?
Roddy: Yes, first in my head and then on the keyboard.
Mike: I read about the apartment fire you had while in the midst of working on Sasquatch. You had to recreate the Opera from scratch, replace props and costumes? Are you happy with how it turned out?
Roddy: The fire gave me the opportunity to create from a clean slate something that I’d already done before. I like that process, actually. The fire was really and truly one of the worst tragedies I’ve had to go through. The cliche of the open window that happens as a result of a closed one, though. That rang true. Still, though I’m spooked by fire and I can’t eat barbecue or mescal or anything with a smokey after taste. Too soon.
Mike: I can’t even imagine what that is like…I love barbecue. Can we expect another musical from you?
Roddy: Yes, I’d like to create another opera that’s about the fall of a nation. Particularly America in this political climate.
Mike: I’d be into that. Now, I was going to go and see Sasquatch with my mom. She’s in her 70s and maybe a little old fashioned. Do you think my mom would have a good time, or would I regret bringing her?
Roddy: I got some of my best criticisms from people older than myself. I’m 55. I like to think of the themes as universal though there are some elements of incest and drug use that seem to disturb people. How open minded is your Mom?
Mike: She’s pretty cool, I think she can handle it. Could Sasquatch get a CD or DVD release?
Roddy: I honestly like to keep the opera in the realm of ‘shrouded in mystery.’ In keeping with the allure and mystique of Sasquatch, the being, I would prefer that the only people who witness my monster and my music are the ones in the theatre who come to see it. It’s too easy for people to listen to something online. I’m not into the lazy attendant factor of that, if that makes sense.
Mike: It does, I have heard stand-up comedians say similar things. It should be just in the moment. Moving on, can you update us on the next Imperial Teen record? I heard it was in the mixing stages.
Roddy: We just finished the record, mastered it last week and are working on the album artwork. It’s got 10 songs, it’s called Now We Are Timeless and it will come out on Merge Records July 12.
Mike: I hope you don’t mind a little fan-geek questioning. I am a music collector. I pride myself in having “almost everything” for many bands I love, but one “holy grail” item would be a live Faith No More bootleg with Courtney Love on vocals. I have been searching for years…decades! Does such a thing exist or is that era now lost to the sands of time?
Roddy: I believe the only audio recording of Courtney singing with us is on a VHS recording of a daytime public access television show recorded in San Francisco in 1984. Courtney wore a dirty white slip and brought into the studio bags and bags of old flowers she collected from the flower mart. We decorated the stage and lit incense and performed in dashikis.
Mike: If it exists, I will find it one day! Regarding Faith No More, I think Sol Invictus is a fantastic record. Among your best. I usually give the rare “5/5 star rating” to Introduce Yourself, Angel Dust, and King for a Day. Now I have added Sol Invictus to that list. You don’t strike me as the kind of band that puts out albums you aren’t happy with, but the reception to Sol Invictus was overwhelmingly positive. With a few years hindsight, how happy are you with Sol Invictus today?
Roddy: I think it’s a strong record, thank you. I’m glad we were in a position to not have to pander to radio playlist or whatever. We made the record we wanted to make and really didn’t compromise at any stage.
Mike: Is that you on vocals in the verses to “Motherfucker”?
Roddy: It is, yes, and thank you for noticing.
Mike: Do you have any other projects cooking currently that you can tell us about?
Roddy: I’m in a band called Nastie Band. Our record will come out in April. It features an 84 year old singer, a pair of identical twins, a drummer and guitarist and many theatrical elements. It’s a performance band, very dark. Another band I’m in is called Crickets. We’re going away this weekend on a writing retreat. Michael O’Neil and JD Samson are both in that band and we liken ourselves to a wobbly dance sound a-la Tom Tom Club. We have our first show in New York in February.
It sounds like 2019 is shaping up to be an exciting year for Roddy Bottum. Be sure to check out the Nastie Band in April, and the new Imperial Teen record Now We Are Timeless in July. Thank you Roddy for the chat!