MIKE PATTON | 05.07.1999 | Bam
So what if Faith No More actually is no more? Doesn't mean there aren't worlds to plunder. You've seen Imperial Teen (ex-keyboardist Roddy Bottum) grace these very pages, and perhaps you noticed the dreads behind the drum kit on recent Ozzy tours (Mike Bordin). But what's become of whisper-to-scream frontman Mike Patton?
Bay Area Magazine | 05.07.1999 | Don Zulaica
Even Better Than the Real Thing? - Mike Patton Puts His Faith in Fantomas and Mr. Bungle
He's quite busy, thank you very much. Besides forming Ipecac Recordings with Alternative Tentacles veteran Greg Werckman, two notable storm fronts are approaching. The first is the self-titled debut from Patton's hardcore pet project, the Fantomas, with Melvin's guitarist Buzz Osborne, Mr.Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn, and Grip, Inc.'s Dave Lombardo on drums. How to describe it.... Carl Stalling meets Island-era Anthrax? Words for this level of intensity are probably futile, but let's just say when the record hits, Marilyn Manson will have more in common with Stuart Smalley than your mother's worst nightmare.
That's the more immediate future. Then there's what may be an even bigger shocker: the summer release of, as Patton puts it, a "pretty fucking poppy" album from Mr. Bungle? "All I know is that to my ears and the ears of everybody in Mr. Bungle, it's our version of pop music," he says. "We wrote some simple songs, well, they're simple to us. I don't know, it's
kind of Bacharach-esque, a little bit of Beach Boys. Then there's some other shit that sounds like fucked-up Charlie Feathers rockabilly. It still gets around-put it that way."
Bacharach, Beach Boys and Bungle? There aren't too many bands that can mix Korn's nuts with Zappa's schizophrenic sophistication, but these guys certainly aren't afraid to try. We caught up with Mike to talk about both projects.
How did the Fantomas come together?
I just wrote a bunch of fucked-up music that had been swimming around in my head for a while. I probably wrote this stuff two years ago. Sometimes you write things and they get lost on your bookshelf, so to speak, and other times you see them through. And this was one that I really wanted to see through. So it was like, "Wait a minute. I've got to find some people to play this shit." Because this is a pain in the ass to play. I mean, it's fun because it's
challenging, but, let's be honest, it's hard.
How would you describe the music?
Fast. Really, really fast. Hardcore stuff mixed in with some noise, absolutely no improvisation at all, structured down to the bone. It's got a little cartoon music thing going into it, some B-movie soundtrack kind of influence, stuff like that. This music is like constant data being thrown in your face. It's not like verses and choruses. The structure of it is very easy to forget. It's a lot of details. It's a bunch of cherries on top of the cake, with no cake. The goal was to make very weird music that rocked, and I think it happened, and thank God I found the right musicians.
How did you get this group together? Trevor, obviously, you've worked with for
a long time. How did you get to know Buzz and Dave Lombardo?
I knew Buzz from the Melvins, but we were just acquaintances. Same thing with Lombardo. I just met him once. These people came to my mind as I was dredging through as many players as I could think of that would be good to play this stuff. The first drummer I talked to was the drummer in Sepultura, Igor Cavalera, a friend of mine. And he was into it, but he's coming from his own place, and I wasn't really secure that that place was the right place for this music. Meaning, I sent him a tape and he was kind of like, "Well, these are some nice ideas. Maybe we can jam a little bit on this." Whoa! Wait a minute. This isn't jam music, bud. I know it doesn't sound like a song, but that's what I hear as a song. I was like, "Oh, fuck, the drummer is the crux of this thing. In this type of music, you're only as good as your drummer." And then I thought, "Oh my God, Lombardo is the man. Of course!" How could I have possibly not thought of him sooner? These were pretty much my first choice guys, and I called them and they were excited and it worked together a little bit too easily. I'm still waiting for some kind of problems. We all get along too well. The music is fun. We have a good time on the road. It's too easy. Something is going to happen.
Musically, did it come together quickly?
We did a couple shows at Slim's. We rehearsed for five days. They were like 20 hour days-it was brutal. Because not only were we attempting this music, but we were getting to know each other. It's a bit of a psychological adventure when you start a band; you never really know what you're getting. It's a weird gene pool, these musicians. Each one is their own ball of wax. Some more complicated than others. I've known Trevor half of my life, so that was a no-brainer, and that made me feel good. Like, at least there's one guy I'm going to be able to count on. Buzz is a fucking wig, you know? He's amazing. But once I figured out how he worked, how to make him comfortable and excited about this music, everything came together. Dave just chewed it up and spit it out. He's more than the prototype for all metal drummers. But what blew my mind, I think most people that come out of that scene are fucking boneheads. Let's face it. Even if they are good musicians, they don't want to be challenged. They don't want to try new things, especially drummers: "Keep me in the back; tell me what to do." Dave had way more energy than even I had coming into this. At the end of a 20-hour rehearsal he'd go, "I still want to work on this one part of it."
Shifting gears, what's this about the California pop album from Mr. Bungle? Was
it a conscious effort to go for simplicity, or did it just come out?
It kind of came out. But when it came out it was like, "Wow, this is really strange. Let's see it through to the end." You know, let's make this record stand on it's own. Let's not worry about the other records we've made, whether it's going to fit into the grand fucking scheme of things, because there is none. Let's make ourselves happy here.
I take it that the music is stylistically all over the map.
Pretty much. There are contrasts, for sure. I don't know really how to describe it. It's over-orchestrated, put it that way. Pretty much on any point in the record, if you drop the needle, you would say, "This is not a five-piece band." That's going to make for a fucked-up live show. I don't know how we're going to do it, especially the vocals.
You normally did all the harmonies on previous recordings. Are the other members of the band going to be doing a lot of singing live?
I hope so. If not, we're going to have to hire a small choir or something [laughs]. I'm going to have to sit down and run through Harmony 101 with some of these guys. But they can all sing, so it won't be a big deal.
Speaking of big deals, I remember back on the first album there was some controversy over the song "Travolta," where you changed the title to "Quote, Unquote." Did anything ever really happen legally with that?
Absolutely nothing happened. Typical record company bullshit, where they create a problem before the problem has happened. It was pathetic. They were afraid that John Travolta, in between making this movie and that movie and trips to the bank, would fucking have the time to listen to a Mr. Bungle record, get upset, call his lawyer and sue Warner Bros. for millions of more dollars. Give me a fucking break!
So that was kind of rammed down your throat?
[Sarcastically] Uh, yeah. They said we had to change it. At that time I hadn't been through that many of those kind of scares, hoaxes. And we just kind of gave in. It was kind of like they put a gun to our head: "Do you want your record to come out this month? If you do, you had better change the title." And it was literally at the last minute. I don't know, record companies love to do things like that.
What's Bungle's standing right now with Warner Bros.?
I don't know if I'd say we're on the chopping block, but they're watching us. Like a hawk, I think. We're on an album-to-album basis with them; we could be dropped at any time. That's my feeling, and I think that's a healthy attitude. Being on an album-to-album deal is, I think, really great in that you're not tied up for seven years in some situation that you can't stand. What happens is we'll make this record, if it sells a trillion copies, then they'll probably
want to pick up the option for the next one. If it bombs, they might think about dropping it. To their credit, they've never put any constraints on Bungle. So far, they've been incredibly hands off. Almost suspiciously so.Like, "Do whatever you want," which always makes me think they don't give a flying fuck and may just be trying to humor me. I don't know. I always was suspicious of that, so to see any kind of reaction from them is, for us, I think, a promising thing. We'll see.