Faith No More’s Bill Gould on his true Balkan rakija “Yebiga,” future plans & more

Faith No More’s Bill Gould is not only an active musician and record label owner, but also the owner of Yebiga, an acclaimed brand of authentic rakija.

As a co-founder of legendary band Faith No More, Bill Gould first found international success when the 1987 single “We Care A Lot” took off. Faith No More would go on to mainstream success just a few years later when 1989’s The Real Thing took off and the group became an MTV staple. The band would eventually go on hiatus in 1998, remaining broken up until 2009.

Bill Gould never slowed down, even during Faith No More’s years off, not only playing with other artists (including Fear Factory and The Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra) but also starting the Koolarrow Records label. While speaking with Gould on March 31 about the forthcoming Koolarrow release of Talking Book II – also featuring Gigante Sound co-founders Jared Blum (Vulcanus 68, Vision Heat) and Dominic Cramp (Borful Tang, Lord Tang) – I inquired about what else he likes to do with his time, and he brought up Yebiga.

Yebiga is Gould’s own label of rakija. For those unfamiliar with rakija, it is a South Eastern Europe spirit which dates back to the 11th Century, Yebiga is made in cooperation with one of Serbia’s premier families of distillation, using 100 percent natural ingredients. It carries a proof of 86 and is matured for a minimum of 18 months in local Serbian “Quercus petraea“ oak barrels. Produced from various regional fruits, Yebiga’s “Prva” is considered to be a textbook slivovica. Notably, Marina Abramovic featured Yebiga for her reception in Belgrade, 45 bottles to represent the 45 years since she had last performed in her homeland.

On the origins of Yebiga:

Bill Gould: A big one, which I actually discovered with Faith No More back in the early 90s, was traveling. Especially traveling in Eastern Europe where bands didn’t really go very much. I’ve gone out to the Balkans quite a bit and they have a spirit there that’s called rakija. It’s ubiquitous over here, but kind of unknown over here. I decided to start a label and start importing it.

They’ve been making rakija since the Ottoman times. Every family has their farms that they grew upon, their grandmothers grew up on, they know the fruit from that farm. They distill it and they know the water from the area. It’s very sophisticated. I teamed up these people in the middle of Serbia from a farm they’ve probably had for a couple hundred years. It’s this plum slivovica that’s absolutely incredible. It’s aged in oak that’s from the property, actually, Serbian oak. There’s nothing like it in the States. It’s very exciting to be part of something like that.

On whether Yebiga has gone over well with any of his rock peers:

Bill Gould: I was just touring with MC50 and brought multiple bottles with me while touring. Kim Thayil from Soundgarden, who plays in MC50, is Yebiga fan #1. He was the first person outside of my circle to try it. He took a real shine to it – I had to keep it out of sight on the tour bus. (laughs)

In addition to the recent release of Talking Book II, Bill Gould and Faith No More will be hitting the road for a late summer 2020 tour alongside Korn with select dates also including Daron Malakian & Scars On Broadway, Helmet, ’68 and Spotlights.

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Have you tried rakija before? What do you think of introducing this to a wider audience? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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