Bungle No More?
Mike Patton speaks exclusively with Danny Canak
It has been four long years since I last spoke to Mike Patton. At the time, his former band, Faith No More, had been broken up for a year and his newly established record label, Ipecac Recordings, was about to unleash their debut release. That release also presented the world with the first recorded output from Mike Patton since Faith No More’s demise - a supergroup he had formed called Fantomas. But that was only the beginning. A few months later, the band that he started in high school, Mr Bungle, had released their long awaited third album, California. It didn’t end there. Not content with just sticking to one band and waiting a couple of years between releases, Patton had involved himself in a plethora of other projects and collaborations and guested on a number of albums, from artists such as The Melvins, Tin Hat Trio and John Zorn.
Unsurprisingly, a lot has happened in Mike Patton’s world since then. He was asked to audition for the lead singer role in INXS to replace Michael Hutchence, and more recently was asked to front a new group formed by Slash and other ex Guns N Roses members. However, both offers were politely declined. The man is just “too busy.” Recording wise, there was a second Fantomas album, a combined Fantomas-Melvins live album, a collaboration album that involved Dan The Automator and Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields) that went under the guise of Lovage, a collaboration EP with the Dillinger Escape Plan, and another new supergroup that he had formed called Tomahawk (who released their rocking self-titled debut album in 2001). The band features Patton on vocals, Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard) on guitar, Kevin Rutmanis (The Melvins, The Cows) on bass and John Stanier (Helmet, The Mark of Cain) on drums. With their 2nd album, Mit Gas, due for release next month, I caught up with Mike Patton to chat about the busy year ahead.
Starting with Tomahawk, I asked him to give us a brief rundown on the recording process for Mit Gas?
“It (the recording process) went well. We write over a period of months then trade tapes. Recording took a few weeks. The title is a favorite German expression we like to use. It has to do with drinking water.”
And where do they write their lyrics?
“We all contributed lyrics. I write a lot of mine in the studio or the hotel. There is a lot of down time on the road. I don't spend too much energy on lyrics.”
Speaking of lyrics, one of the album’s standout tracks. “You Can’t Win,” a quirky track with an almost Mr Bungle flavour, features the line “We are the police and now we’re gonna start a riot.” The police uniform has become a regular fixture at many of the band’s live shows and fans will notice that all of their new promo photos feature the boys in uniform. I just had to ask him about the police influence.
“Yeah the cop thing has been fun. Not sure what we are going to do next. It has been cool having cops give us things to add to the uniforms. The billy club comes in handy. It is mostly to amuse ourselves. It gives us POWER!”
Another one of the albums finest moments, an absolute cracker called “When The Stars Begin To Fall,” could very easily have come off Faith No More’s King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime album and would have been an excellent choice for a single. A recent MTV report stated that there would be a video created for the awesome track, however Patton is quick to dismiss this.
“That is not true. We were and still are thinking of doing a video for "Rape This Day," but we don't want to spend much time or money on it and we don't want to be in it. Videos are mostly a waste for a band like us.”
Even though Patton has been more prolific than ever in recent years, he hasn’t released any singles or videos since Faith No More’s demise. He adds,
“Videos cost money. We would rather use that money to make more records or pay bands big fat royalty checks or get hookers and steaks.”
As I spoke to Patton, he was in the studio recording two new albums with his other supergroup, Fantomas. I asked him how they were progressing?
“They are coming along great. One should be out in September and one next year. It is more screwed up noise. One record is kind of mellow.”
The band has already toured Australia twice to sold out shows and have built up quite an underground following. In fact, their last album, The Director’s Cut, debuted in the Top 20 on the National ARIA Charts, which is quite an achievement for a band that have released no singles or videos and rely mostly on word of mouth.
And onto another project that he exclusively revealed the last time I spoke to him, Peeping Tom. Despite the fact that a note is yet to be recorded, this project has become one of Patton’s most eagerly anticipated releases with many seeing it as Patton’s major label follow-up to Faith No More. The last time we spoke, he stated that “it should be a fun group with DJ, choir and other orchestral instruments,” that it would be in the pop vein and that Dan The Automator would produce this monster. Then in 2001, six very catchy demos were leaked over the internet and were supposedly very early demos for Peeping Tom. However, according to Patton, Peeping Tom’s sound will not resemble those. He says,
“No they won't sound like that. We leaked those demos to throw people off.”
There was also a rumour that Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst was eager to sign Peeping Tom to his label and would do whatever it takes to achieve this. But Patton says,
“I don't think Fred knows about Peeping Tom. Especially since it does not exist yet. But I hope he wants it!”
With a handful of other Patton releases due for release this year and the subsequent touring, Peeping Tom’s release still seems a while off. He says,
“I hope it is out by the end of 2004, but have not started on it and no idea who is going to be in it or anything.”
One of those Patton releases will be a collaboration album that he recorded with the X-Ecutioners, the legendary DJ outfit that he met in Canada. According to Patton,
“It is a crazy record. Kind of a battle record. I do my thing and they reply. Dueling banjosesque.”
The album will come out on Ipecac in September.
The last time we chatted, he also mentioned possible collaborations with 3D from Massive Attack and Liam from The Prodigy, a project with Franz from The Young Gods, and a possible duo record with DJ Q-Bert. I asked him if any progress had been made with any of these?
“Those projects are nowhere to be found and probably won't happen. I always have people I would like to work with, but I don't have enough time in the day and sometimes it is hard to get others motivated.”
Apart from the above, what else can we expect from Mike Patton in 2003/2004?
“Maybe a movie, maybe a videogame. Surprises I'm sure.”
With the rest of the year covered, I thought I would delve back into the past and get some closure on Faith No More. I asked him if he would work with any of the guys again or release something new if the opportunity arose?
“I could work with a couple of those guys, sure, they are great
musicians. But not as Faith No More. I got too much else to do. FNM had a great run. There are always offers to go back, but it is more interesting to go forward.”
And do they keep in contact?
“I run into those guys once in awhile. I consider them friends. A lot of people want to know more about FNM. To me it is really simple, but others can't or won't understand it. It was great! We had a lot of success, then it came to an end and we all have other things we are doing now. Why go back to rehash old memories when there is so much new stuff to do?”
Speaking of rehashing, there has been talk over the past couple of years of a major label Faith No More tribute CD that would feature some of the world’s biggest nu-metal acts paying homage to their heroes. Some of the appearances were said to include Korn covering “Surprise You’re Dead,” System Of A Down doing “Cuckoo For Caca” and Papa Roach doing “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.” Not much has been said about the project recently, so I asked Mike if he knew if it was still going ahead?
“No idea. Don't really care as long as I get my cut.”
With that said and referring back to a previous comment made by Patton in regard to the whole issue, the time has come to “let sleeping dogs lie.” The case on Faith No More is now officially closed.
However, one band whose case is not quite closed as yet is Mr Bungle, Mike Patton’s longest running group. A band that have operated on a part-time basis over the years mainly due to Patton’s commitments to Faith No More, meant that they could only find the time to release one album every four years. When FNM disbanded, many thought that Mr Bungle would become Patton’s top priority and that we would see more albums. Things haven’t exactly panned out that way. During our discussion, Patton sadly revealed what many fans have been dreading for the past couple of years. That is, that we may have seen the last of Mr Bungle.
“I think it is over. The guys are spread all over the world and we don't talk to each other. I have not spoken to a couple of the guys since the last tour, years ago.”
With Mr Bungle being responsible for producing three of the greatest and most eclectic albums of all time, one hopes that they will come back together for one last hurrah.
From here we somehow got onto the topic of celebrities.
“I'm not a real celebrity type of guy. I have a few friends that are famous, but they are just friends. Cameron Diaz used to follow Fantomas around. It is still fun to run around with Suge in LA. I hang with Whoopi in NY. I went to school with Kevin Costner. In Texas I kick it with Willie.”
What, no Anthony Kiedis? Fans from way back will recall a feud that developed between Patton and Kiedis that started because Faith No More broke worldwide before the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This apparently got on the nerves of Kiedis, who proceeded to bag Mike Patton’s stage persona claiming that Patton was imitating his style, with Patton then retaliating with some unpleasant remarks about Kiedis. It seems that these comments have stuck with Kiedis and rumour has it that at the 2000 Big Day Out (Australia’s biggest live music festival), where Red Hot Chili Peppers were headlining, there was talk that Mr Bungle would also appear on the bill. With Kiedis still holding a grudge, he ordered organizers to get the band kicked off the bill. Unbelievable! Organizers strongly denied the rumour, but the members of Mr Bungle claimed otherwise.
One of the final things we talked about were his influences. Patton says,
“I'm inspired by everything from music and movies to food and videogames.”
Mike Patton himself has emerged as one of the most influential artists of the past decade, particularly for his work in both Faith No More and Mr Bungle. Does he feel honoured when someone mentions him as an influence?
“No, I'm still alive. I'm in my 30s. I still have a lot to do. That kind of talk will be great to hear when I'm 80.”
That response leaves no doubt as to where the future lies. We will be hearing a lot more from Mike Patton in the coming years and that can only be a good thing.
Tomahawk’s Mit Gas album will be in stores on May 5 through Ipecac.
2003 Danny Canak, email@example.com