MIKE PATTON 50 | His history with Faith No More
The man of a thousand voices, the greatest singer of all time (there exists scientific evidence to prove it), a pioneer of avant-garde crossover music, a composer and performer on countless records, an idol and influence to many. Michael Allan Patton celebrates his 50th birthday today.
To attempt to write an essay on this man's entire career to date would be a hopeless and mammoth task. I do not pretend to be an expert on his impressive and extensive musical history, and no doubt there would be projects I skimmed over or a collaborator I forgot. It's exhausting trying to catalogue an artist with such a relentless musical output. Therefore instead I decided to write an article specifically about his time with the band which initiated his profound success, Faith No More.
So we begin with pre Faith No More Patton who had an early interest in music, the first album he owned was the Star Wars Soundtrack. He was inspired by records in his parents collection, including Elton John and Earth Wind and Fire. However he became a singer by accident.
"I was hanging out with the wrong crowd and ended up at a rehearsal of a friend of mine's band. Their singer didn't show up, so as a joke they asked me to fill in. I had no idea what I was doing, of course—not that I do now—I was really flying by the seat of my pants. But I did it, and it was fun. Then they fired their singer and asked me to do it." - Mike Patton 2013The friend was Trevor Dunn, who'd overheard Patton singing a his own 16th birthday party. The band was called Gemini. Their friendship led to heavier musical tastes such as Slayer and soon these two high school nerds hooked up with Trey Spruance and the formation of Mr. Bungle in 1985.
Faith No More had just recorded their debut album and were on the road with frontman Chuck Mosley, on October 4th 1986 the tour brought them to Humboldt state university in Arcata. In the crowd were an 18 year old Patton and Spruance. After their set the band were hanging out when Spruance handed a copy of Mr. Bungle's very first demo cassette The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny to Mike Bordin.
"Faith No More played Eureka in a pizza parlour place we played dozens of times. There were 6 people there and 3 of them were my friends. It was really bad, a really pathetic show and I remember them standing around the van really upset. Puffy was really uptight wanting to know where to get weed. Nobody was talking to him, I think he asked us because we were just hanging around. But their situation then never even registered with me, touring was unreal, Warner Bros was like a Tom And Jerry cartoon. At that time I didn't wanna know about any of that shit. I gave them a tape and told them, This is what music from around here sounds like, from this region.” - Mike Patton 1993The cassette was passed around the band, some members were unsure but Jim Martin loved it.
"He didn't get the tape directly from my hands NO, God NO! It always kinda makes me wonder, because he likes maybe 5 or 6 bands in the whole world. So why would he like Mr Bungle ever in any form? It may well have been savage tape, but the world is filled with savage music so why would he like this one? I always wondered about that, right to this day. How does Mr Bungle fit in with Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, the DUNE soundtrack, the PLATOON soundtrack and Celtic Folk music? I don't get it, although it was obviously some weird misfortune, a twist of fate. It shouldn't have happened that way, but he was the only member of the whole band who liked that tape." - Mike Patton 1993Patton and friends ventured out to see FNM again in 1987, supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers in San Francisco.
"I never heard from him [Puffy] and the next time we saw them was when they played with The Chili Peppers in San Francisco. I remember it was one of our first San Francisco experiences, y'know, 'Oakies go to the big city' thing. It was a fuckin' nightmare! We were gawking around like we were on Mars. We were going to a big show in the city, we were driving, no parents, no chauffeur, and we parked right outside The Fillmore in an ugly neighbourhood. We came outside after the gig and our tyre had been slashed. We were staying with Trey's grandparents , who were preachers, so we changed to the spare and drove to his grandparent's place, left the car and decided to deal with it the next morning. Where we came from, you parked where you wanted, but I guess we'd parked in someone's driveway and the car was gone. So we thought, 'someone's stolen our car!' God-fuckin'-dammit, we hated the place, we hated the people, we just wanted to leave! We called the police and they told us to try City Tow, which we didn't understand. What had we done to anyone? It was, of course, there and the tyre had gone flat again. They wouldn't tow us to a service station. They just wanted us out. We found a tyre place nearby and just got the fuck outta there. I remember we were just yelling at people, yelling anything at them 'YOU SUCK!' We were driving across the bridge, all bummed out. And I looked over to my right and in this BMW was a business man jacking off! He was waving his dick at us, grinning, and it was like, ‘FUCK! LOOK AT THAT FUCKING GUY!' We were his stimulus, young country boys! We got the full city treatment. We only came back to the city for shows. We saw Venom and Metallica once. I suppose I was just living a miserably content life. knowing there was nothing I would be able to do about it and not willing to go out of my way to change it at all. I never thought or planned anything l never looked through any 'big windows' like that. Even now I don't. I think it's a big fuckin' mistake. I don't WANNA know!" - Mike Patton 1993Fast forward a year to the autumn of 1988 and Faith No More were on the hunt for a replacement singer after the unpleasant sacking of Chuck. Patton was studying English at University and had a job in The Works, Eureka's only local record store, when he got calls from both Martin and Bordin asking him to audition.
"People were calling us and saying, 'Yeah, I heard your tape from Jim Martin and I was like, 'What? Who's Jim Martin?' Then one day I get this call from this old-man-sounding guy: 'Hey man, wanna come down and jam? This is Jim from Faith No More. I just really resisted at first, I was really flobbergasted, like, 'Wow, I can't do this' I wasn't In a situation that I wanted to change." - Mike Patton 1989
"Yeah Puffy called, the band diplomat. And I think the reason I did it was opportunity, to have a laugh, I'm not sure. I know my first reaction was 'I can't'. I was going to school, I was in a band, maybe I could do it on my Summer vacation but I didn't want it interfering with what I was doing up there. As I remember, Puffy was greasing me in a peculiar way like,. ‘We really like your tape and we're thinking of a couple of guys, maybe you could come down and practise." - Bill Gould 1993Patton hesitated at first but eventually made the 10 hour journey to San Francisco with Spruance and Dunn in tow.
" I resisted it. I honestly did. Oddly enough, some of my friends in Mr. Bungle were like, 'Just do this. It doesn't mean you have to leave our band'. At that time, I was more concerned with completing my degree and finishing school. I didn't see Faith No More as some yellow brick road to success or failure anything. I just thought I would try it. The music wasn't quite what I was about at the time but I took it as a challenge." - Mike Patton 2013After Patton, Faith No More auditioned a handful of vocalists (which included a jam with Chris Cornell) but very quickly decided Patton was their man.
The Real Thing
In late 1988 the newly completed five piece set about recording their next album. The music was mostly written already and a selection of songs even had a first draft of lyrics and vocals by Chuck.
"At first, yeah, I was nervous because the other guy had a distinct style and everybody liked him, but they made it very comfortable for me, encouraged me to be myself and do my own thing. The fans were another thing, but I was getting great reactions, so that really helped. The music is still similar to what it was before, but my voice is real different. He was really off-the-cuff, more spontaneous, had his own thing going." - Mike Patton 1990After a short time rehearsing Patton began writing lyrics and it took him around a fortnight to write drafts for the whole album.
"We rehearsed for two months straight. They had all the material on tape, I wrote the lyrics, then in the studio we just had to get the songs tight" - Mike Patton | Raw | 1990
"I was really impressed with Patton. The band had already written all the music, and he was given just two weeks to come up with all the lyrics and melodies. He really rose to the occasion. He's the most phenomenal singer I've ever worked with, and when he's backed against the wall he s absolutely brilliant." - Matt Wallace 2002
"Right from the get-go, Mike's takes on some of the songs were not arty. They were very catchy pop music takes. At the same time, we knew his background and his takes on the other songs were in the complete opposite direction—very arty and weird. And that back and forth kind of embodied what we were doing at the time. It was a weird breed of hard rock with loud guitars and keyboards, and he had the scope to do it. I remember when he first sang us his take on Falling to Pieces, and it was like, "Whoah! He's gonna sing it like that? It was a straight-ahead pop song with harmonies, really slick-sounding. But then a song like 'Surprise! You're Dead! was like extreme, arty, noisy stuff. It was a really neat balance." - Roddy Bottum 2013Sometime in October 1988, FNM recorded at least four of the new songs they had completed with Patton on four track Tascam tape. This demo would be used to showcase their new lineup to the record company.
"When we were looking for a singer, we were just looking for anybody at all. We figured if they could hear what we were playing, if they were musical enough to sink into what we were doing then it'd be OK. The majority of singers didn't have a clue. They didn't hear what we were hearing. Patton already had ideas in his head when he came and tried out with us, and l could tell that what he was doing was on the right track. I had always hoped Chuck would sing a little more soulfully, because I felt that our songs had that potential and it wasn't being used. That was the angle that Patton took, and that's exactly what convinced me. It blew my mind how quickly became up the lyrics for the songs. I have tapes of the early four-track stuff and it was really cool, really exciting to hear." - Bill Gould 1993
Patton's First Faith No More Gig
The next step was for the band to showcase their new singer and songs to the public. On November 4th 1988 Faith No More played at the IBeam in their hometown of San Francisco. Steffan Chirazi, who had already championed FNM since 1987 and had written the band's only magazine feature in Kerrang!, wrote A REVIEW OF THE SHOW.
"The first show I did was in San Francisco about November 1988, and after the gig the bouncer brought this note back and said, 'Some girl asked me to give this to you' I'm like, 'Oh great, cool, neat- my first groupie!' And silly me, the note read: 'You stupid, sexist, macho asshole. What are you doing? Get off the stage. Where's Chuck? He rocks... All this stuff you know. I just went, 'Killer! I'm going home '" - Mike Patton 1990
'It's the real thing and it takes some beating!' - Album of the year 1989 Kerrang!
In December 1988 FNM and their new approved singer went back into Studio D in Sausalito, California (where they'd worked on Introduce Yourself), and when the record was finished they set about what would become two solid years of promotional touring. The album was released on June 20th 1989, but was preceded by the release of two singles. From Out Of Nowhere turned a few heads but Epic sent them spinning. The band themselves had chosen to release Epic in the US in mid 1989 but it wasn't until the single was released in the UK and Europe on January 30th 1990 that it found real success. In fact the record company Slash were it seems ready to give up on The Real Thing until this point.
“More than anything I remember us being in Europe, and our manager would check in with us maybe once a week. He called and said: ‘Your single is blowing up over here,’ we didn’t believe him. We thought he was buttering us up so he could keep us on the road, and we all wanted to go home. I remember landing in the airport, going to the hotel, turning on the TV by chance and seeing the damn thing and going: ‘Oh shit….the jokes on us!” - Mike Patton 1995
Patton introduced masturbation and porn into almost every interview, sidestepping questions that alluded towards lyrical meaning, his musical influences or his personal life. Patton became a schizophrenic interviewee, who used various personalities, in what appeared to be his way of dealing with the sudden fame and fan adoration imposed upon him. These were not characters or a facade he had created, he simply was revealing his true self rather than hiding behind some rockstar mythology. However rather than alienating the fanatical it made him more endearing to them.
"I talk so much about masturbation in interviews because I go on the defensive as soon as journalists start asking about groupies. It's much easier relating to yourself on tour than it is to someone you've just met. Maybe I should say I've grown beyond it and now I'm into farm animals. Too many journalists still believe the rock n'roll myth. From my side it's definitely not like that. A lot of bands are doing it, but they must have had insecure childhoods -- maybe their parents dropped them on their heads." - Mike Patton 1992Patton also publicly berated celebrities in the press and from on stage while they watched, Lenny Kravitz, Sinead O'Connor, Poison.....This often landed him in trouble.
Whether consciously or not Patton found ways to lose the unwanted attention from fans over the next few years. A radical change of image from long haired, hip hop frat boy to greasy, thrift shop, petrol pump assistant ! His stage persona matured from insane clown to brooding masochist.
The Metamorphosis Of Mike Patton
So it's no secret that during the promotional tours of The Real Thing Patton found it difficult to adjust to his new way of life. His distaste for everything was apparent. He rubbed against his fellow band members and the press, behaving like a spoilt brat and constantly suggesting he was about to leave the band at any time to concentrate on Mr. Bungle.
"That was in the period I gave a lot of interviews that I shouldn't have given. I was fed up with Faith No More. Nobody bought our albums and we just kept touring. I was disillusioned. When you're touring, sometimes as a band you get the feeling you're living like rats. You're kept busy and stupid temporarily. You're treated like a pimp treats a whore. And if you don't want to be a part of that, it gets frustrating. We needed people to bang our heads against the wall. I wanted to crawl away. That's why I was delighted to record an album with Mr. Bungle. The interviews I did during that time were pretty negative. I said things like: Faith No More is like a job to me. Because I felt like that. But I don't think I portrayed myself correctly; It made me look like a spoilt son-of-a-bitch more than anything else." "In the end I got what I wanted. And that's good, because being in two bands at the same time is great. It isn't a threat. It's more like a physical need: I found I had to do more. You eat a little too much and then you have to shit some more." - Mike Patton 1992Over the course of 1991 a transformation began. His attitude became more relaxed, it seemed he had come to terms with being a part of FNM and was comfortable in his role. His hobbies became more mature, albeit still rather twisted.
"In a relationship, in the beginning, there's inhibitions. After a while, all of those things fall apart, and that's how you get comfortable with somebody. I think that's probably how it happened. You learn how to fart and cuss in front of them. That's healthy. The way the band operates, politically, is, whoever steps out of line, everyone pounces on him. So if you're constantly afraid of doing something, nothing gets done. When everybody gets a little more comfortable, you can pull out any idea, and it can be manipulated, raped, made fun of, whatever. But still ... that's OK. Because that's how shit gets created; I'm convinced of that." - Mike Patton 1993
"I never knew what kind of band it was. We became a hard rock band by default, it was an accident, but the beautiful thing was that we all knew. We could look at each other and say however bad it got, however much of a pet monkey we became, however much of a pet funk-metal rock band we were, there were 4 other guys who have to deal with it to. And each guy dealt with it in their own little way. There had never been any question of my staying in the band. We started writing the music for this album, and being a part of something so fundamental was what made sure of it for me. The Real Thing' had been like someone'else's music, someone else's band, it had felt like an obligatory thing. They hadn't needed a damn singer, it was just that they had to have a singer. That's why I was there, that's why Chuck was there, we weren't needed we were there."
"Before this album I still threw ideas out, whether that be fool's courage or whatever, so I always had the courage. It was just the fact we started from the pot in the middle where everybody pees into it. We'd done our time, so it felt like we'd been in jail with someone for a while. Like a junkie, it doesn't matter whether you agree with someone's way of thought, what they do for a living or what they do in their spare time, it doesn't matter because whatever it was you were there. Proximity made it happen. And now, of course, we're kinda friends in a weird sort of way." - Mike Patton 1994The change in his appearance was also apparent and the first promo shots from January 1992 and proved that the hair metal poster boy was gone, replaced with the look of a serious frontman.
However the most noticeable development was in his voice, the funk derived nasal sound that had brought him so much attention on TRT had gone and so was the rapping. We would hear his natural singing voice and the extremity of what he was capable of achieving with his vocal chords. Growls, screams, squeals, heavy breathing....the list is endless.
Have you noticed how much more a part of FNM Mike Patton has now become? Patton's development seems to have escaped press probings. The piss-drinking, the tampon-munching, the lurches, the screams, the insults, the jokes, the lyrics, the dark side of 1989s pin-up. He has become the definition for mischievous, curious and warped youths worldwide, a man who will try anything just for, the hell of it. But the biggest strides Patton made were in actually becoming a happy member of Faith No More. When did this penny drop?
"At first, the fruit wasn't ripe," trills Patton obliquely, "but it got riper and riper, and now it tastes really good. But the actual point at which everything finally clicked is hard to pin down. One thing about this band is that there's many things we've either not had the courage or the means to do before; but we're beginning to care less how we're perceived and to just get on with things."
It's probably easier for him now, looking back, to work out why he was so antagonistic when he first joined FNM."The truth is, there were certain things I wanted to know about the band, and I also saw a lot of things I didn't wanna know, so I ignored them. Rather than confronting issues, I found it much easier to ignore them." Was becoming the Metal pin-up kid of 1989 the sort of thing we're talking about? "Definitely!" So your belligerence and antagonism were just to get you through? "That stuff was just instinct. When you enter a volatile situation, with the whole thing spiralling towards the toilet, you just stir it a little more. With this LP, we were all spiralling in the same direction at last."
Were you encouraged to express your weirder, more f**ked-up ideas on the record, such as on Malpractice and RV? "It's not really aggression, it's just feeling comfortable, being able to unload everything. There was just a better forum for extremes."
Did you re-invent yourself, with the new haircut, the uglier tones, the darker personae than in the smooth, white pretty boy of yore? "We'd better talk to the psychiatrist!" So there was no conscious effort to say, f**k this, I'll never be a magazine pretty boy again'? "Nothing conscious. Certain things just happen naturally. When you've toured for two years and you're trapped in a time capsule, you come back f**ked up."
Was there this bitterness of 'missing your youth'? "No, it's just that you get to feel like a rat sometimes, because all you can do is run along with it, chasing the trail of cheese. In the end, you lose dignity - you really do. You end up convincing yourself that you have control when you just don't."
So why is it so much easier now than before? "Explaining that would be like sitting down with your Mom and explaining why you farted at the dinner table three years ago!"
Is it therapeutic dealing with characters in songs, getting your anger out? "No, because sometimes it isn't good to have that shit out in the open." He sighs deeply before smirking, "There's this myth about lyricists and singers, that they're always 'projecting their inner-most secrets', which is horse-shit. Singers are the WORST! They can't hide behind instruments..." - Kerrang 431
The term shit terrorism was first used by Patton himself in December 1992.
"I mean we do our own thing, like I don't use toilets -- I just don't. It's not a wild rock n' roll thing; it's a hobby -- shit terrorism." - Mike Patton 1992However it had become a fully fledged art form much earlier in the year before the label was applied. It was a reaction to living life on the road with Guns 'N' Roses and Metallica. Born out of a distaste for the rock n' roll lifestyle FNM were surrounded by, and a means to fill the long days between gigs.
Patton's preoccupation with poo was first discovered in June 1992 during an interview with Mary Ann Hobbs.
"Sometimes a shit-eating video is so much cooler than watching two people kissing. Do you know what I mean?" - Mike Patton 1992From there it snowballed (eww) and the subject arose more often with stories becoming more sickening. The first act of shit terrorism was described by Patton in an article from August 1992 (not Kerrang! 91 as is widely reported).
"When I was staying in a hotel room once, I took a shit, rolled it into a ball and put it in the hair dryer so that the next guest to dry their hair would get hot shit in their face. Ain't that rock n' roll? I do hope rock stars are a dying breed. People love to lap them up -- you know how something always tastes better if you swallow it quickly." - Mike Patton 1992A second story was discussed in detail and featured in an unknown magazine article (my bad) from December 1992.
"Yeah I pooped on a bench right outside the palace. I couldn't believe it was so easy to get in there. It's the equivalent of US President's White House right? If you we're caught inside there they'd torture and shoot you. I mean the princess could've walked by at any minute, which would've been quite handy coz I could've asked her for some toilet paper, hur hur!" - Mike Patton 1992.This incident was actually witnessed by one reporter, and Patton gave a witty explanation as to why he didn't frequent the gents.
"I have kind of a problem. I don't like to use toilets -- ever." Mike says it stems from a childhood fear of invasive insects in the bathroom. But the singer has turned his aversion to the W.C. into a form of scatological terrorism. Without batting an eyelid, he recounts a story about a meanie club owner who locked Patton and the rest of Mr. Bungle up in his club because he claimed they owed him money. He left the man a special gift in the club's microwave oven. "It started out being a problem, but now it's more of a weapon than anything," Patton says. - Details Magazine 1992There is no actual printed evidence of the legendary tale of Patton defecating in an orange juice cartoon, resealing it and putting it back in Axl Rose's personal vending machine and it was recently proved to be just a myth. However it was Bill Gould who spilt the beans.
"We had fun, bringing those images to the mainstream. But the Axl carton story wasn't true." - Bill Gould 2016FNM's apparent dislike of being on tour with Axl Rose and constant ridicule in the press no doubt led to this rumour.
Patton shares a secret. Axl has TV screens on stage that display the song words in case he forgets them. On the last night of the tour, Mike Patton tells me he wants "to take a shit right on top of those TV screens, in front of tens of thousands of people." - Details Magazine 1992A shit terrorist it seems does not limit oneself to just feces: urine, vomit, spit....it's all good.
Having not followed through with his threat to "take a shit right on top of those TV screens", Patton did manage to succeed in a different dirty protest. During a stadium show in Seville (Spain) he encouraged the crowd to pepper the stage with garbage, one particular bottle was full of urine. Patton climbed up on Axl's monitors and poured the contents over his head.
At Brixton Academy in November of 1992 Patton filled his shoe with his own urine and drank the contents down in two gulps. You can briefly see the act at the 40 second mark in the official video for Easy.
In December 1992 there are eye witness accounts of Patton draining a plastic cup full of urine in front of a stunned crowd at Lyon (France).
Following the limited success of AD and Patton's radical transformation, fans had no idea what to expect from Patton as we went into the next phase of FNM's career. One thing was clear the rift between Patton and Jim Martin had reached unbreachable depths.
"We weren’t having a good time together and it was pretty obvious. We saw it coming for too long, while we were making the ‘Angel Dust’ album. The whole time for two years while we were touring we kept hoping it would get better. After that much time you can’t help but feel like an idiot for feeling that way. Basically, what it came down to was that he couldn’t hold up his weight musically. When ‘The Real Thing’ broke out, it was a shock. It’s kinda like being around somebody you don’t like, like a co-worker or family, somebody you’ve known for a long time but you realise you don’t like them. You get to know them, everything’s okay, you move in with them, everything’s fine but then all of a sudden you realise what’s going on. You realise you don’t like them, so you HATE them, you know. You waste all your energy hating them, you hate them and hate them. So you kick them OUT of your house to pacify this hate.” - Mike Patton 1995During late 1994 Patton, Gould and Bordin secluded themselves in the remote Bearsville studios with Martin's replacement Trey Spruance and new producer Andy Wallace. These changes to the writing and recording environments generated much different results. Faith No More's third album with Patton was aggressive..
"Revenge is good. I think revenge is healthy too, and if you can use music in that way, a sort of therapeutic way for yourself, it can't do any harm. So if King (For A Day...Fool For A Lifetime) is angry in any way, it's angry in a random, chaotic, healthy way. Like the guy who goes into a building, shoots a bunch of holes in the wall and then leaves. He didn't kill anybody.” - Mike Patton 1995
“It was tough with a lot of unknowns, a lot of problems in the band, a lot of insecurity and wondering if we were going to make this record. We weren’t a band for a while. Of course we wanted to continue, but there are other circumstances that play a part. We’re felt like we were getting old. You can only put up a facade for so long. You get a new guy after new guy, and it’s like, how many facelifts can you get? We’re not going to have guys drop off and get new ones, and then have Faith No More reunite. Fuck that.” - Mike Patton 1997King For Day....Fool For A Lifetime was much more organic and hard hitting than its predecessors. It also would contain a track that embodied all of Patton's filthy antics.
Yes KFAD squats and drops out Patton's hideous masterpiece Cuckoo For Caca . On the surface the lyrics seem to describe Patton's old shit eating hobby perfectly however read a little further and it would appear to be a metaphor for drug abuse.....or maybe it's the other way around?
As the underlying themes of KFAD seem to be concerned with the trappings of fame either description would make perfect sense. Patton addressed the meaning while in Venice in 1995.
NME: "Would you call it a shit-eating manifesto?" Patton: "I really don't remember. If I could sit here and write the words out I might be able to remember." NME: A lyric sheet is laid before him. Patton: "it's just....shit. Shit is...shitty people, garbage, everything. What do you think it's about?" - NME 1995Despite a photoshoot by Joe Giron picturing members of FNM on the loo it seemed this would be the last time Patton would elaborate on the subject.
NME: So drinking your own piss, taking a shit wherever you want - these things are still a part of you? Patton: "I suppose so - I did them." NME: You'd do them again? Patton: "Sure, why not ? Why the hell not?" NME: Well, there's the hygienic aspect, the risk of catching or spreading disease... Patton: "Sure, it depends on whose. .. It's supposed to be cleansing, drinking your own piss."
This isn't such a revelation.Actress Sarah Miles has gone on about the health-giving properties of piss-drinking for several years; Gandhi drank pee; gargling urine is said to cure a sore throat; it's actually a remedy practised by many singers - though, curiously, not one their publicists care to highlight. But given Patton's fecal fascination I wondered - had he ever tasted a turd?
Patton: "Sure." NME: Your own shit?
Patton: "Mmmm, yeah."
NME: Is that a sort of therapy or does it just taste nice?Patton: "No it doesn't taste nice." NME: Why do it then?
Patton: "(Sighing) Oh, I don't know. Why would you take acid one day?" NME; It's a psychedelic drug, it causes hallucinations, rearranges the way you see the world. It's a journey, an experience.Patton: "Well there you go - it (eating shit) is a journey." NME: But I wouldn't imagine eating shit brings on an hallucination.Patton: "Well, I guess every asshole has his own thing, I mean, I'm not a shit-eater or anything."Again during this period Mike Patton became a sharper instrument, always fine tuning his art and his persona. He became more erratic and also more relaxed, the book ends of his insanity becoming further apart but more defined. From The Gentle Art Of Making Enemies to Caralho Voador.
Here we briefly depart from our FNM history to include an important part of the story. Having worked with John Zorn on various weird and wonderful projects, in 1996 Patton was encouraged by the producer to release the record Adult Themes For Voice.This recording comprises of 34 tracks of vocal expression. From screaming, moaning, squeaking to barking almost every noise capable of being made by the human (superhuman in Patton's case) voice are included. The album was captured on four track TASCAM recorder which Patton had on him at all times during Faith No More tours between 1992 and 1997, "Recorded and mixed in fine hotel rooms around the world."
This was a spark that fired Patton's future.
"John Zorn asked me to do a vocal record. At first, I was surprised, but the more I sort of thought about it, the more I realised that I could do it, and that I'd had impulses to do it before he'd even asked me.I was a big fan of [Greek-Italian singer] Demetrio Stratos at the time, who'd done several vocal only records that are completely mind-blowing. I knew I couldn't do that, because he's very studied and almost academic in a way. But I thought maybe I could take that same approach and do it with what I'd learned. So, I took a four-track with me on tour and did most of it on the road." - Mike Patton 2013
Album Of The Year
Faith No More toured King For A Day for only seven months, no time at all compared to the two years plus they were on the road promoting The Real Thing. This tour was cut short so that the band could get back into the studio and work on their next record.
However as per usual with FNM, things did not go to plan.The core members went into the rehearsal room with ideas and soon found that was no creative connection with Spruance's replacement guitarist Dean Menta. Patton showed little enthusiasm for the songs that had been written, finding them a little too 'poppy'.
"I was really pissed off about it. He's more inclined to not do something that's a little poppier. The first songs that we wrote, I was really happy with because they were really simple, sort of, effortless. in like that; I don't like temp changes and time changes. It's just confusing and it doesn't speak to me in any pure way. At the time he kind of wasn't into doing it. I imagine if I really pushed it, I could have got him to do something to those songs. But at the same time, if it isn't effortless for him, then I would really rather he didn't anyway." - Roddy Bottum 1997And after months with no satisfactory results the band became dispirited and for the first time in their history each individual pursued artistic endeavours outside of FNM's ranks.
Patton returned to the road with Mr. Bungle to promote their 1995 album Disco Volante, a tour that would extend into most of 1996.
Eventually FNM settled upon new axeman Jon Hudson and in early 1997 the band finally got the chance to reconvene and they began to refine a sound that pleased all five members. They found direction and embarked on creating a more consistent album than KFAD, an album that was more natural to them as a unit.
"It's got more feelings and balance than our previous albums. Possibly it's darker too. I don't think we developed too much from album to album before. But now it's easy to trace [a development]." - Mike Patton 1997The songwriting process this time around came much easier than it had in years. Using Ashes to Ashes as an example.
"The bulk of that song was written the first week. We arranged it here, and then we sent Patton a tape. He was in Italy, but he came up with the lyrics and the singing right away. It was one of those songs that just clicked - one of those songs that we do most naturally. That's our sound." - Bill Gould 1997When Patton returned from his home in Italy he brought with him two complete songs to add to the album.
"He wrote them in about a day. He was really inspired. I remember him coming over here one day, we did some stuff, and then he went home, wrote the songs, recorded them, and gave them to me the next day. He'd written everything: the drums, guitar, bass, and the lyrics." - Bill Gould 1997
During this period we saw Mike Patton become a gentleman, his crisp suits and styled hair complimented his refined majestic crooning tones. Yes there were still moments of manic schizophrenia, however he was much more in control of them.
His attention had begun to wonder from the music of FNM and into more surreal and diverse areas.
In April 1998 the band issued the following statement.
The Spoken Word
A short interlude here to mention Patton's lyric writing within FNM. In the early days Patton was more comfortable explaining his lyrics and would enjoy revealing the twisted tales behind them. He confessed that Epic was concerned with the more awkward moments of sex.
As we moved into KFAD era his answers became more vague.
His attention had begun to wonder from the music of FNM and into more surreal and diverse areas.
In April 1998 the band issued the following statement.
"After 15 long and fruitful years, Faith No More have decided to put an end to speculation regarding their imminent break up... by breaking up. The decision among the members is mutual, and there will be no pointing of fingers, no naming of names, other than stating, for the record, that "Puffy started it". Furthermore, the split will now enable each member to pursue his individual project(s) unhindered. Lastly, and most importantly, the band would like to thank all of those fans and associates that have stuck with and supported the band throughout its history."
The Spoken Word
A short interlude here to mention Patton's lyric writing within FNM. In the early days Patton was more comfortable explaining his lyrics and would enjoy revealing the twisted tales behind them. He confessed that Epic was concerned with the more awkward moments of sex.
"Epic is sort of a warped sexual state of mind. It deals with more material and physical things like sex. The song kind of teases you. but it's frustrated at the same time because the song want's it too. But at the same time it knows that it can't have it." - Patton 1989During the groundwork for Angel Dust Patton was involved from the outset and his approach to lyric writing had developed.The invention of characters and role-play he had experimented with in the songs Edge Of the World and Zombie Eaters was now a fully fledged art form.
"I don't think we have an obligation to clarify ourselves through our lyrics. Or even take a standpoint. All five of us simply couldn't agree on any standpoint. If one of use gets a little too outspoken, he's probably lynched by the others. About the lyrics: it's almost a pity they're printed on the sleeve. Because the public expects a revelation. That the lyrics will say something about our past, our lives. And to make that kind of connection via some lyric is almost dangerous." - Mike Patton 1992During promotional interviews for AD Patton elaborated a great deal as to his process of lyric writing and their meaning. For example Land Of Sunshine was conceived during a sleep deprivation experiment, in which Patton stayed awake for three days drinking coffee and immersing himself in late night TV shows.
"There's these late night TV programmes that you can watch in America, they're like seminars where they teach you how to think positively and strive for your goals. It's a huge scam, it's great. I tried really hard at that and I'm still working on it." - Patton 1992When asked if he was particularly proud of any lyrics on AD he said,
"Maybe Land Of Sunshine because it talks about some of my favourite late-night TV heroes, guys like Anthony Robbins, the motivational speaker who does those half-hour commercials where he wants you to buy his whole seminar package, and of course, my real hero, Robert Tilton, the preacher. Nothing and no one can touch Robert Tilton! 20/20 did an expose on him, and he just blew 'em off. That's a very positive song." - Patton 1992Several lines from are lifted straight from aphorisms found in fortune cookies. And some lines are taken from personality tests written by founder of the Church of Scientology L. Ron Hubbard.
As we moved into KFAD era his answers became more vague.
"Ha ha. Oh my god! My favorite thing, especially on this record, is to write lyrics and not tell the band what I'm singing, and then have them guess what I'm singing. Usually they go, 'Are you saying what I think you're saying?' and it's better than what I wrote. So I just use what they wrote instead. Instead of the word 'horn' it's supposed to be 'hole', and 'came' is not in there either. But I didn't wanna correct you, because it's just too beautiful." - Patton 1995By the time AOTY was released Patton had completely shut himself off from explaining. And insisted that it was up to the listener to interpret his words as they wished to.
"I think that too many people think too much about my lyrics. I am more a person who works with the sound of a word than with its meaning. Often i just choose the words because of the rhythm not because of the meaning. It was important for me that the album has a general mood that can be found in all songs and that it doesn't go in too many directions like we did in the past." - Mike Patton 1997
"Believe it or not, 'Epic' was my best attempt at impersonating Blondie's 'Rapture'. Lyrically, I was more concerned with the rhyme scheme than any other constant train of thought. The lyrics mean whatever you want them to mean. They don't belong to me anymore, they are your responsibility now." - Patton 2005
"I really don’t enjoy writing lyrics at all. I feel like I’m not very good at it. I’m not sure why. I think it comes from early band days where we’d have all the music written and I’d know I had a studio date the next day, so I’d put on a few pots of coffee and just try and write everything at that moment. I don’t know why, but there’s a certain element of panic in writing lyrics that I’m not sure I enjoy. I don’t write lyrics first, ever. I’ve never done that. So, in a sense, the lyrics are a bit of an afterthought—it’s music first. I haven’t found a way to make lyrics super musical.........So in most cases, if I’m writing words, I’ll do a baby-talk version first to see if those sounds work. Then I’ll try and find words that fit those sounds." - Patton 2013
"I hate to be unromantic here, but the lyrics to me are just another instrument. I see them as such, and there's a reason we don't really print them on our records. I don't think we ever have. Maybe we did once or twice and that was just under duress. [laughs] I feel that the words are really up to you. I'm giving them to the public, and I think that, you know, whoever's listening should be able to interpret them the way they want. From word to word and sentence to sentence, if there's a grand meaning, you come up with it, because I certainly can't. I don't have one. I'll tell you. I don't have a grand plan. I write lyrics based on music, on a musical flow, and what sounds good at the time. If I can fit a them into that, then hey, I'm lucky. If not? I don't care. They're just words. If they're political, if they're antisocial or god knows what — if they were, then that's not my problem. I just write them, and it's up to the world to decide what they are. That's my position." - Patton 2015
Making People Sick!
Patton had found new musical fever outside the ranks of the band and was keen to explore things that the confines of FNM wouldn't allow him. So with Faith No More.....no more Mike Patton began to embark on his personal musical adventure. His first project was Fantomas.
"I thought that I had some unfinished business with hardcore and death metal. It had always been a part of my lingo, so to speak, but I never felt like I'd channelled it right and made it my own. I wanted to do something a little more jarring. Vocally, I didn't want lyrics to be involved at all. I wanted the voice to sound like another instrument. It was definitely liberating to do, and I realised very quickly that it made sense to nobody else." - Patton 2013With Fantomas came the birth of Ipecac Recordings, the label Patton co-founded with Greg Werckman on April Fools' Day, 1999. When Ipecac opened for business, so did Patton's creative floodgates. One Patton project after another emerged under the Ipecac banner. After Fantomas came Maldoror , Tomahawk, Kaada / Patton, General Patton vs. the X-Ecutioners and Peeping Tom.
In the years that FNM did not exist Mike Patton became omnipresent releasing up to four albums a year not including guest appearance. This makes for another essay that is better told by Patton Fanatic or Pattonism.
In 2008, after years with little communication, members of FNM reconnected at Roddy's wedding.
"We really enjoyed each other's company. 'Wow, haven't seen you in a while, man, how you doing?' It was very, very casual, no talk of music. But that to me was the start of the idea of us playing together again. It was more about relationships, and people that you've shared a pretty significant part of your life with." - Patton 2015Despite telling anyone that would listen that Faith No More would never reunite, at least with not him at the helm, in February 2009 the band announced their return. Patton addressed this change of heart on several occasions.
"I think,that this Faith No More reunion taught me a pretty good lesson: 'Hey, these things that you've done in the past aren't your enemies.' They're not something to run away from but rather something to just understand. If I'm going to write a piece of music tomorrow, I'm not really going to understand it for another 10 years -maybe, if I'm lucky! The reunion with Faith No More was a really eye-opening experience because it taught me how to appreciate the music that I've done from a distance. When you're in it, you're too close. When you're writing it, it's still like a part of you." - Patton 2013The band embarked on the Second Coming tour and over the next four years they returned to countries where they had the most success and visited places they had never been. Performing their greatest hits to packed auditoriums and areas across the globe.
Mike Patton was relishing his role as never before performing the classic catalogue with happy enthusiasm.
"When Faith No More did a reunion tour, I had to relearn all the stuff I wrote when I was nineteen. And I actually heard more good things than I remembered. It made the entire thing really pleasant, like a homecoming." - Patton 2013The band of course were still pushing against the tide and being their uniquely non conformist selves. They performed their second show to 80,000 metal heads at Download Festival dressed in pastel suits, and opened their set with a Peaches And Cream classic. Patton pimped out in a devilish red get up limped onstage with the aid of a walking cain.
The wicked sense of humour and extreme stunts that made him infamous during the 90s were again astonishing crowds. Abusing security, scaling lighting rigs, hijacking cameras and eating stage debris (a shoe lace at Sziget Festival).
Faith No More did not stop Patton from pursuing his other projects, in fact it seemed encourage him to do more in order to keep the correct balance.
By the end of 2013 he had spent a year touring with Tomahawk, it seemed that this reunion had 'petered out' and yet again the future of FNM was unpromising.
Until the summer of 2014, when the band showcased two new songs at Hyde Park in London.
"Little did I know that the band had been working on a bunch of stuff without telling me. I didn't know that they had been rehearsing all this stuff. I've kept up with our bass player Bill, and we went out one night and had a meal and had some drinks, and he said, "Hey, would you like to listen to some stuff I've been working on?" And I didn't think it was Faith No More at all. I really didn't. I'm listening to it, though, and I'm like, "Oh my god. Okay, I see where you're going here and ... oh boy." It kinda put me on the spot a little bit, but I said, "Hey man, I'm down. Let's do it. Whatever it takes. It's gonna take a while because all of us are busy, and there's no time limit here." That was part of the reason I wanted to do it also, because there wasn't this black cloud hanging over our heads, meaning a label going, "Hey, deliver this by then." We had no deadlines. I can say it really was something that was open-ended and beautiful and genuine — a genuine, creative endeavor." - Mike Patton 2015
"I flipped out when I heard the new collection of music. I didn't know what it was going to sound like, and it totally took my head off. I thought, 'Well, I'm gonna at least try to contribute to this." - Patton 2015Again Patton had to address comments he'd made about FNM in the press.
"There were times in the past 10 years when I definitely thought that would never be the case," he continues. "I'm sure you could pull up all sorts of quotes from me where I'm saying, 'We'll never make another record again, I never want to be a part of that ever again.' But, you know, circumstances change. And it's nice to be wrong; it's nice to admit when you're wrong. And I was wrong! I did not know that this band had more statements in them. Believe me, I was as surprised as anyone when I heard this music and realised that I wanted to be a part of it." - Patton 2015In may 2015 the fifth FNM album featuring Mike Patton was released. Sol Invictus received acclaim from the press but divided fans. It was an album the band had wanted to make, uncompromising and unique just like each of it's predecessors.
"Who knows whether they will like it or not? I never wanted to be a 50-year-old guy making music [for] teenagers. I don’t think any of us did. But all I can tell you is we’re making good shit. I don’t care who listens." - Patton 2015
FNM embarked on Tour Sol Invictus with a fresh attitude and new material. Patton playing the part of the elder rock statesman / showman to perfection, all in white. The band committed to their first all American tour since 1997, returned to festivals in Australia, Japan, and Europe. There were single releases and videos, press interviews, live TV performances, live recordings......this was the triumphant comeback we had hoped for.
In 2016 Faith No More reissued their 1985 debut album We Care A Lot, to promote the release they performed two show with original singer Chuck. Patton went to watch but was not involved with FNM that year.....In fact he hasn't been since 2015.
"If there's more music, which there is, if it comes together in the right way, at the right time, and we all feel good about it, then fine. But it really has nothing to do with the way I feel about it. It's a confluence of energies and circumstances. If the entire band had this mission statement, 'Yes, we're going to make 10 more records' it wouldn't happen. We're very much working on the principle of, 'Hey, we've got something nice going now - hang on to it.' And then Let's see what happens. No promise." - Mike Patton 2015
Faith No More ARE still together but what the future holds for the band or Mike Patton we do not know. Patton's relationship with the band has lasted for nearly eighteen years. And, a bit like Bowie, Patton has evolved with each album by twisting and developing his style to create exciting new music. We can only hope that this relationship thrives.
“I would share but I don’t know anything. So, we’re kind of on an extended break and if something happens, it’ll happen organically and naturally. But I kind of don’t think it will." - Patton 2017
Happy 50th birthday Mike!