How The Late Metallica Legend Cliff Burton Helped Form Faith No More

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Silvio Tanaka from Sao Paulo, Brazil, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons Cliff Burton Photo by Krasner/Trebitz /Redferns / Maluco
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In the rich tapestry of rock history, the threads connecting Metallica and Faith No More weave a fascinating tale. With the indomitable Cliff Burton serving as a pivotal figure., the narrative transcends mere musical collaborations; it’s a story of friendship, shared roots, and the unpredictable nature of creative evolution.

Cliff Burton’s journey into music began in 1975 when, at the age of thirteen, he declared his intent to play bass while jamming with his friend, Mike Bordin, who would later become the drummer for Faith No More. “I met Cliff the first day of 6th grade, I was maybe 10 or 11,” Bordin told Noisey in 2011. “I was the guy with the Black Sabbath t-shirt on, so we became friends. Our friendship was about music, with music, through music. We went to a ton of shows and we loved what was going on in the scene then. One day we were sitting in his room and he said, ‘I’m gonna start playing bass.’ And I was like, ‘OK, I’ll play drums.’ And it was really just an instinct, a reaction. So we learned to play together.”

This spontaneous decision sparked a creative partnership that steered both young musicians away from potential pitfalls in their formative years.

Bordin reminisced about those early days in a 2015 interview with Modern Drummer : “It was something that kept me out of trouble and defined those middle years where I could’ve gone way off the rails and gone the wrong direction.” The duo’s friendship solidified over a shared love for diverse musical genres. With their minds open to sonic evolution, their musical trajectory knew no conventional bounds.

The two friends’ musical journey commenced in earnest with the high school band Fry By Night and later continued in E-Z Street, where Cliff and Bordin found themselves playing alongside future Faith No More guitarist, Jim Martin. Despite E-Z Street’s eventual demise due to interpersonal conflicts, it laid the groundwork for lasting connections.

Jim Martin told Guitar World in 1992: “Our bass player quit, and he told us about Cliff. We started playing with him, and he was already really good, way better than any of the rest of us.”

The band’s songwriting ventured into original compositions, providing a glimpse into the burgeoning creativity that would later define both Metallica and Faith No More.

As ironic fate would have it, the mutual disdain between Bordin and Jim led to the dissolution of E-Z Street. According to Martin: “That band was together for over five years, but Puffy [Bordin] didn’t last too long, because he talked too much shit. He joined some pop-punk band.”

Rather than signaling the end of connections, E-Z Street laid the foundation for an enduring friendship between Cliff and Jim. While attending Chabot College, the two musicians formed their second band, Agents of Misfortune, continuing their sonic journey in a remote property owned by Martin’s family.

Jim Martin recounted the experience in a 2005 interview with Classic Rock, saying: “So pretty much, anything goes. That’s where we did most of our exploratory music projects. And we recorded them on the spot as they happened.” Interestingly, he mentions that a section of one of their compositions, ‘Woodpecker From Mars,’ would later find its way into the legendary Metallica song, ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls.’

Agents Of Misfortune shortly morphed into a band called Vicious Hatred before calling it quits. Shortly thereafter, Cliff signed on with the upcoming metal band Trauma, where he was scouted by James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich of Metallica. As the bassist soon found himself playing in one of the most iconic bands in the world, Jim Martin was temporarily without a musical home. 

Having heard that Mike Bordin’s group was in need of a guitarist, Cliff recommended Jim for the job despite their contentious history from the E-Z Street days. “Jim and Mike Bordin never really liked each other, apparently,” said Faith No More bassist Bill Gould in a 1994 interview. “The way it was put to me was through Bordin – ‘There’s this guy Cliff knows. He’s an asshole, he’s always been an asshole. I was in a band with him and I quit because he was such an asshole. But he can play guitar’.”

Faith No More, then temporarily operating under the placeholder name ‘The Chickenfuckers,’ underwent a transformative period with Jim Martin’s inclusion, eventually becoming the groundbreaking band we know today. Through it all, Cliff Burton remained a trusted advisor and confidante to the band.

“We’d go down the street and visit Cliff, who was recording in Denmark at the time,” Gould told Bass Guitar Magazine in 2015. “That was a huge deal to us. In our early days he’d give us a lot of advice. For example, we fired our first managers because Cliff said they were thieves, ha ha! He was the one with the experience, and that was really crucial in 1982, ’83.” 

He continued: “We were playing really weird music in San Francisco and we couldn’t find any bands to play with. We knew we had something really cool going on, but we didn’t really have a way of getting it out there. It wasn’t like there was a crowd of people who knew we were out there: we were outsiders.”

“I remember Puffy was talking to Cliff at a party and he asked us, ‘How’s it going with you guys?’ and we were like, ‘We don’t even have a manager, we don’t have a record deal, we don’t have anything’ and he was like ‘You’re on step five – you should just think about step one!’,” recalled Gould. 

“That was very sobering advice, actually. It really made a huge difference: after that we were like, ‘Let’s just work with what we have’. And things did work out for us after that.”