Mike Patton: Life is Good

April 16th, 2002 | Category: Interviews

Though his time with Faith No More is undoubtedly one of the least interesting things about him, the story goes that when Mike Patton joined that band, they had their entire next record written — except for the lyrics. Patton wrote the lyrics to fit the music for their soon-to-be-multiplatinum third record, The Real Thing: no small feat. This record and the subsequent hit single/video “Epic” brought the rap/rock genre-hybrid blaring into the mainstream. Love it or hate it, popular music is still haunted by it.

Mike Patton

The band’s masterwork, the follow-up, Angel Dust proved that the previous record’s ad hoc situation obviously held Patton back. As critically-acclaimed, expansive and beautiful as the record was, it marked the beginning of the lengthy end for Faith No More.

No matter, Mike Patton was deconstructing every other other genre in his original band Mr. Bungle. He was also kicking around solo experiments with John Zorn and by the time Faith No More finally disbanded, he had several other music projects headed in several other directions and eventually started his own record label, Ipecac Recordings (which has since released records by such artists as Kid606, dälek, Melvins, James Plotkin, Isis, and Skeleton Key, as well as Patton’s own projects Tomahawk, Fantômas, Peeping Tom, etc.).

Patton maintains an almost cartoonish public facade. If you’ve ever witnessed Mr. Bungle or Fantômas live, you know exactly what I mean. “He’s crazy,” is often said in reference to him. Under the mask though, is a true artist in ever respect of the word.

“Mike Patton is one of those guys who does whatever he wants,” Rob Swift of the X-ecutioners told me recently (Rob and the X-men are working on a record with Patton for Ipecac). “As crazy as it may sound, as goofy as it may sound, he tries it. Working with him has helped me be a little less inhibited about trying things that may not be what people are expecting.”

By now, fans of Mike Patton’s work have come to expect anything and everything. The following brief interview keeps coming back to the same point: Mike Patton does what he wants, unfettered by anyone’s expectations.

Roy Christopher: You’ve seen just about every side of the music industry — from heavy rotation on MTV and SPIN cover stories to decidedly obscure sonic experimentation. Do you see the current musical milieu as one where artists — if they so choose — can truly express themselves and gain exposure at a level where potential listeners will find their output?

Mike Patton: I think you are looking at it in a different way than I do. As an artist, I think it is important to focus on the art. There are too many that don’t and that is what creates boring art. I really just try to recreate the ideas that come to me. I’m not setting a sales goal or targeting a demographic. I just do what I do and what I can do. I am having a great time doing it. It can be done.

RC: With your many musical projects — especially the solo vocal releases and the work with John Zorn — what is it that your looking for or trying to express?

MP: Once again, I did not have a goal in mind. John offered me an outlet to experiment and I did. It was a great creative outlet.

RC: What are your goals with your label, Ipecac Recordings?

MP: To put out interesting releases, that we enjoy. To treat artists with the utmost respect. To be unique. And of course to have a proper home for my music.

RC: Do you consider the cultural ramifications of your output when making music?

MP: Christ no! My music has no cultural ramification. It is entertainment for others, work for me. I’m not recreating the wheel or curing a disease.

RC: Are you just having fun with whatever comes to mind?

MP: Life is good.

RC: Is Mike Patton a scholarly fellow? Do you read a lot, and if so, what do like to you read?

MP: I’m not scholarly, but I do like to read. I read a bit of everything. I enjoy both fiction and nonfiction.

RC: Given your obvious penchant for various musical styles, who are some of your all-time favorite artists?

MP: This is always a tough question. How ’bout Sinatra?

RC: Mr. Bungle and Fantômas put on the most intricate live shows I’ve ever seen. How extensive are your rehearsal sessions for tours and recording?

MP: Rehearsals can be pretty long and hard. That is why I always try to work with hard working musicians who are good players and can think on their feet.

RC: Is there anything else on which you’re working that you’d like to bring up here?

MP: I’m working on a lot. The first Peeping Tom record, new Fantômas & Tomahawk records, a record with the X-ecutioners and just finished an Ep with Dillinger Escape Plan. Of course for all the latest dial up www.ipecac.com.

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