FANTÔMAS released their debut album 'Amenaza al Mundo' 20 years ago!
Fantômas was Mike Patton's first complete band venture outside Mr. Bungle and Faith No More, the group released their debut self-titled album, sometimes referred to as Amenaza al Mundo, on April 26th 1999. It was IPC-1, the first official release for Patton's new label Ipecac Recordings.
"Fantomas is thoroughly, hyper-composed. Every little sound, every scrape, every cough is meant to be that way. We rehearse it and play it the same way every night precisely. Music's about detail and if the detail's are right, what's the point?" - Patton 2001
After the demise of Faith No More, Patton began expanding on the ideas he had written for his 1996 solo album Adult Themes For Voice, "Doing that record gave me the tools to do some of the things I would use later in Fantomas."
He wrote an album of schizophrenic, avant-garde metal songs. As he described them, "...short, sharp bursts of sonic explosions. They slice and dice their way through genres like hardcore, death metal, sound effects and even explore soundtrack experimentation in such creative ways as to avoid falling into stereotypes."
Towards the end of his time within FNM he recorded rough demos.
"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 2013
"Like I do with nearly everything I write, I basically made a rough recording of myself playing all the instruments, which can be very comical. When you're starting a band, it's like a chemical experiment. You don't know how guys are gonna respond, especially to music that's as angular and abstract as Fantomas is. I didn't know how Lombardo was gonna hear this. I had no idea. I write down everything, put it on a tape, and say, 'That's it. Play it. And you know, a lot of it's hard to decipher, so I'll have to sit down with Buzz or Dave and show them exactly what I want, and if there's a part that comes along - well, I'm open to suggestion, let's put it that way. But that music is, more so than any of my other groups, about precision and execution. There is a right and a wrong way of playing it. And I really feel like my rote is to illustrate very clearly what to do and what not to do." - Patton 2005
He then had to find a group of musicians suitable to play this specific set of tunes, in a very particular way. His first thought for drums was long-time friend Igor Cavelera (ex Sepultura), however at time the logistics of working for different countries proved impossible. Patton then turned to Dave Lombardo.
"We'd only been sort of acquaintances in the past, but I reached out to him and he was probably more excited about it than anyone. He called me back leaving a rambling message about how much he was into it. He was doing, like, mouth-drumming on the phone. That's when I realized, 'I think I found my guy.'" - Patton 2013
"I was surprised that I completely understood it given how complex the movements are, but it made sense to me. When I received the cassette with all the music I wasn't only intrigued, but blown away at how complete the demo was. He could have released it as was." - Lombardo 2016
Patton called upon his best friend Trevor Dunn for bass, and approached Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne for guitar.
"It was like writing down a Christmas list, and it wasn't a very deep one. I got all my first choices. I didn't know how they would respond to it. I knew Buzz, but not that well. Trevor was really my only sure thing, he was like the security blanket, meaning if it all went belly-up, I could cry on his shoulder." - Patton 2005
Trevor was on board without hesitation and was accustomed to Patton's working techniques.
"I was blown away by the demos he gave me, but when he told me who was in the band, I couldn't believe it. I'd met Buzz a couple of times, but I didn't know Dave at all. I mean, when Slayer released Reign In Blood in 1986, that was kind of it for Mike and I as far as metal goes. We figured it couldn't get any better than that, so we kind of stopped listening to it. I thought he had a lot of balls to call those guys up, but he did, and they were both into it." - Dunn 2013
Buzz was also up for the challenge.
"Mike had all the music worked out in advance. For the record, I have nothing to do with the music in Fantomas. No one other than Mike does. We do not jam, ever. There's no discussion of any of us coming up with anything that's different or better. People always ask me what it's like to collaborate with Mike Patton, and I always say I have no idea. I've never done it. It might be fun, but I've never had that experience. I think Mike's a super-talented guy, and I'd really like to do a real collaboration with him in some form of another. But I've always wondered why he didn't just put the Fantomas demos out. I thought they sounded fine, personally. I didn't understand how we were gonna make it any better, I still think he should put them out." - Osborne 2013
The album mimicked a comic book in its structure. It was labelled Book 1. and featured 30 tracks, each named for a page and listing a number of frames, or panels, of action. The only track that didn't follow this pattern was number 13, which was two seconds of run-off from track 12.
"I've always been curious about what you can and can't do when indexing tracks on a CD. I wondered if you could skip one. You can't. If you notice, on the CDs, track 13 appears. It goes for one and a half seconds, which is the bare minimum that it can be, and I indexed it at the end of 12 so you barely notice it. But it does appear, for one and a half seconds. I never really got rid of it. And initially, I just thought I wanted to have an idiosyncratic thing on the Fantômas records, and I want to keep it that way every time. I chose 13 for obvious bad luck and protection reasons, and wanted to keep doing it throughout all of our records. But after [2004's] Delirium Cordia, I realised I'd broken the mould, so fuck it." - Patton 2005
Once the record was recorded Patton had the task of selling this noise to a record company for release. He enlisted the help of Greg Werckman who had experience with Alternative Tenticles. After being turned a way by Warner Bros. the two decided to self release the album, and Ipecac Recordings was founded.
"Ipecac really only came about because we couldn't find anybody to put the Fantomas record out. When everybody heard the band's line-up they got a hard-on. But those people with hard-ons walked out of our live show with limp dicks, and we didn't hear back from any of them. Then Greg talked with me, and it became something I had to do with him. "As much as I've pooh-poohed it over the years, there is a community of people I like to work with, whose music I love and who are friends."When I started writing 'Fantomas', it came from frustration. I wanted to make a metal record that I would buy. I timidly called Dave Lombardo, almost apologising for the music, telling him that I didn't know if he'd be into it. He called me back, saying, 'It's incredible, can't wait to play this'. Some kids will like it, others will think it's artsy-fartsy horse-shit." - Patton 1999
The cover of the album was put together by Patton and his wife and is a an edit of the poster for the 1965 French movie Fantômas se Déchaîne, translated in Spanish as Fantômas amenaza al mundo or Fantômas threatens the world. In inlay features sections of the French comic book Danger Diabolik.
The music itself received positive feedback from the press with AV Club saying, "Amenaza al Mundo blurs into a haze of metal riffs, but that's probably the point: The screeches, moans, and hardcore beats are as fun as they are funny, yet also perfectly suitable for hanging in the air like aural wallpaper." Kerrang! labelled the record as "Must hear noise".
The debut album from Fantômas serves as a gateway for Mike Patton's impressive catalogue and 20 years later is a a testament to his eccentric genius.