Here's my Herald interview with Mike Patton who, while best known as the former front man of Faith No More, has a massive body of music outside of the FNM sphere. He still has the best voice in rock, despite his best efforts to shred it on his Fantomas records. If you're a Faith No More fan looking to delve into Patton's other work, here's five albums that will get you started:
Mit Gas (2003) - Tomahawk: The second album from Tomahawk, Patton's hard rock/metal collaboration with Duane Denison (ex-The Jesus Lizard) John Stanier (ex-Helmet) and Kevin Rutmanis (Melvins). It's aggressive and dark but intelligent hard rock. The opening track Birdsong is unnerving. Full of Patton's cinematic mash-ups, sound effects and with some great guitar and drum work, one of his best post-FNM efforts.
California (1999) - Mr Bungle: Patton's last recording with his Mr Bungle band mates is my favourite. Every musical style imaginable is crammed onto this eclectic, innovative record, which manages to build nicely on previous Bungle efforts like Disco Volante while keeping things fresh. Patton's voice is fantastic and with song tiltes like The Airconditioned Nightmare (a tip of the hat to Henry Miller) and Retrovertigo, you can't lose.
The Director's Cut (2001) - Fantomas: Patton's take on classic movie scores from the likes of
Cape Fear, Der Golum and Rosemary's Baby. A slick, subversive collection of covers that have forever changed my impression of the original music. Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer is spine tingling, while Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me is one of my favourite Patton tracks full stop. Intelligent arrangements and interpretations form start to finish.
General Patton vs. The X-ecutioners (2005) : Patton teams up with New York hip hop trio the X-ecutioners on this schizophrenic collection of war-themed songs. Sampling heavily from numerous films, Patton's hard rock meets the X-ecutioners hip hop beats with interesting results. The 22 songs are short and energetic. A departure from Patton's previous more instrument-driven work, but strangely catchy and as creative as anything he's done.
Romances (2004) - Kaada Patton: A bunch of quiet, delicate tracks featuring Patton's lyrics and soundscapes inspired by classical compositions by the likes of Chopin and Brahms. Some lovely atmospheric moments even if Romances seems stuck in one gear for the length of the album. Has shades of Sigur Ros throughout thanks to Patton's high-pitched, effeminate singing.
PATTON'S PRIVATE UNIVERSE
After all the noisy experimental albums and genre-bending collaborations, Mike Patton should know his place in the world.
The former Faith No More front man and his cohorts were booed off the stage at several Who gigs.
“Who listens to the Who?” asks Patton, in explanation. The cross-over audience, it seems, wasn’t there.
“I mean, when you’re opening, it never really ever works. It’s like going to war in some sense,” he says down the phone from San Francisco, where General Patton as he’s known in another musical incarnation, is trying to figure out what Peeping Tom members will accompany him on his own headline tour down under.
If the Who tie-up seems as ill-matched as Faith No More’s fraught tour with Guns and Roses in the early nineties, it also shows Patton’s unwillingness to be put in one box musically.
Peeping Tom is about as mainstream as Patton has gone since the FNM days, but the music, if more accessible than his other current projects, reflects the diverse range of collaborators on the album – hip hop star Kool Keith through to Massive Attack, rapper Razhel and hip hop producer Dan “the Automator” Nakamura among them.
“A lot of people think it should be top 40, a lot think its bullshit. I really can’t be too concerned,” says Patton.
“I’m glad anybody likes it [but] it’s nice to be thought off even in a negative way.”
A tribute to Michael Powell’s 1960 psychological thriller of the same name, Peeping Tom
is a seedy, noirish affair, as musically diverse as Faith No More’s experimental masterpiece Angel Dust.
“This is my version of pop music,” says Patton who hadn’t even met some of his Peeping Tom collaborators prior to sending them demo tracks in the mail. He simply contacted their agents or asked music industry friends to put him in touch.
That started back in 2000. Peeping Tom for years was a virtual album created by a virtual band, with Patton pulling together the samples between recording sessions and tours for his key projects, experimental group Fantomas and the electronic-tinged hard rock outfit Tomahawk.
It’s a style of music making Patton, a versatile musician and programmer, has long been comfortable with.
“It’s nothing new really. You want to work with as many people who share your vision. I don’t think it is ground breaking,” he says.
He didn’t get his dream Peeping Tom guest line-up – there’ll be another chance at that with Peeping Tom 2 which is already in the works. But the man known for breaking up his thrash metal live performances with Britney Spears and Karen Carpenter covers, again reached out to his softer musical sensibilities.
Such was the case with silky-voiced songstress Norah Jones, who took a real risk entering Patton’s musical lair, given the lyrics he penned for her Peeping Tom track.
“What makes you think you’re my only lover? The truth kinda hurts don’t it motherf**ker,” she whispers on Sucker.
The risqué lyrics have attracted much attention for the pop singer-songwriter, but the brief track is one of the less impressive on Peeping Tom, which is at its best on the electro-pop rock of Don’t Even Trip and Mojo.
The music video for the latter feature’s Patton’s friend Danny DeVito slouched in front of a TV set watching late night infomercials, one of which features Kiwi model, Rachel Hunter.
“The director pulled her in,” says Patton of Hunter’s appearance in the music video. He has no idea who she is, so I give him some background on Glenfield’s greatest export.
“Congratulations!” he shouts down the line with all the mock enthusiasm he can muster.
Where Patton’s inspiration for Peeping Tom comes from is hard to tell. He admits that musically, he lives in his own “own little universe”.
It’s a phrase he has used in several interviews. While you can interweave tracks from Patton’s now defunct side project Mr Bungle with Faith No More and Tomahawk songs to uniform effect, it’s hard to know what’s at the centre of Patton’s creative universe – and what inspires his more unusual Fantomas and solo voice projects.
“In terms of the over all concept… I take it as it comes,” is all he will say.
After numerous Peeping Tom gigs, he’s even unsure of who is listening to the album. “It’s hard to tell whether they’re meat heads or hipsters.”
If Patton was mischievously hoping to find himself in the Top 40 with Peeping Tom, which was released a full year ago, he’ll have been disappointed. It hovered around the 100 mark on the Billboard albums chart though the single Mojo briefly claimed fortieth spot on the Billboard rock chart.
Still, the album has been the biggest commercial success so far for Patton’s independent music label Ipecac, which since 1999 has developed an impressive roster of quirky and experimental artists and cut through the big label red tape for Patton’s numerous projects and collaborations.
Patton will follow up his tour down under with the release in July of Anonymous, the highly anticipated new album from Tomahawk, Patton’s collaboration with Duane Denison and John Stanier.
“The album is basically Duane’s baby. He had the idea of doing original arrangements of native American public domain material,” says Patton.
Six Litanies for Heliogabalus, a new collaboration with the prolific avant-garde instrumentalist John Zorn was released in March.
“It’s some of his best work,” says Patton, who is squeezing in two short European tours prior to bringing Peeping Tom down here. One is with experimental Austrian musician Christian Fennesz, the other Mondo Cane, features “Italian golden-era pop tunes” re-arranged by Patton with chorus singers and orchestra.
“I took them and arranged them and put them into my language,” says Patton.
Touring Peeping Tom is a logistical nightmare.
“The people involved?” Patton sighs.
“It’s very hard to guess. The band has varied every single time on tour. Everything with Peeping Tom is kind of a guessing game. It’s constantly exhilarating, but also exhausting.” Don’t expect Norah to appear.
While the musical collaborations continue at a furious pace, Patton seems as laid back and unwilling to take himself or the world too seriously as he’s ever been throughout his varied musical career.
An unedited interview with MTV filmed in 1992 during the making of Angel Dust is doing the rounds on YouTube and shows a bored looking Patton cracking jokes and eating junk food as his band mate Roddy Bottum tries to coax the right sound out of his keyboard. You wouldn’t think one of the most influential rock albums of the nineties came out of those sessions.
If he has repeatedly come across in the press as dismissive of his achievements with Faith No More, Patton says it’s because he was always uncomfortable being the focus of the media’s attention.
“The Faith No More stuff isn’t about me. It was a band. Maybe that’s where a lot of journalists got the wrong idea,” says Patton.
“You don’t just pluck a song off a tree and put vocals on it. It takes a lot of work to put this shit to life.”
While he’s showing no signs of shaking his workaholic music making habits, Patton, a 20 year resident of San Francisco, wants to keeps expanding his musical universe – but spend more time at home.
“I’m a little tired of traveling the world, jaded as that may sound.”