Despite an initial yearning to become a weatherman - he used to make tapes of his own weather reports and give them to friends and family – Mike Patton formed his first group, Mr Bungle, while still at school in the Californian nowhere-town of Eureka. Taking their name from a Pee Wee Herman children’s educational film regarding bad toilet habits, Mr Bungle were the sound of America’s late eighties suburban youth: bored, hyperactive and listening to far too much death metal. After an early demo tape, 'The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny', mistakenly fell into the hands of Faith No More’s infamous metalhead guitarist ‘Big’ Jim Martin, Patton was called in to audition as a replacement for the San Francisco bands recently departed maverick frontman Chuck Mosley. Despite never having ‘sung’ before, other than imitating the shrieks and growls of adolescent heroes like Turd and G.G. Allin, the band were sufficiently impressed with Patton’s ability to flit unthinkingly from pop melodies to cheesy rap breaks to heavy metal slaughterhouse, and the teen was quickly drafted in to work on Faith No More’s third album.

Despite an uncomfortable start – Patton claimed to have joined the struggling group only to secure major label backing for Mr Bungle, and the rest of the band initially seemed to despise him – their 1989 album, 'The Real Thing', went multi-platinum on the back of the rap-metal crossover hit Epic. An eponymous Mr Bungle LP appeared in 1991, produced by John Zorn it featured a bizarre, almost random, mash of styles from jazz funk ska to lounge death metal operetta. Keeping the two groups functioning side by side, Patton, despite a hazardous and long running feud with Jim Martin, went on to record a further three albums with the now highly-influential Faith No More before dissolving the group in 1997.

Since then he has worked with everyone from crooners like Burt Bacharach and Serge Gainsbourg to Japanese noise artists such as Merzbow and Melt Banana. His first solo album 'Adult Themes for Voice' was recorded in hotel rooms whilst touring the world with FNM. A "spoken-word" project, the album was notably Patton-esque in that it contained no actual ‘words’ to speak of. An F.T. Marinetti-inspired sequel, 'Prazo Oltranzista', supposedly was to be a ‘classical’ concept album, although similarly any actual ‘musical’ content seemed purely accidental.

After founding the Ipecac record label to “put out music that we like and to treat artists fairly. We don't have much of agenda. We just put out stuff that we think is unique” (current signings include the laptop-melting Kid 606 and off-the-wall Japanese trio Ex-Girl), Fantômas, Patton’s most high profile project since Faith No More, issued their debut in 1999. An avant garde ‘supergroup’ featuring former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, The Melvins’ Buzz Osbourne and Mr Bungle’s Trevor Dunn, Fantômas was initially conceived as a sort of soundtrack to a fictional comic book. Their recently released 'The Director’s Cut' album meanwhile took established movie themes, from Twin Peaks to Rosemary’s Baby, and reinterpreted the works in a deconstructed rock format. Their theme from 'The Godfather' for example, featured manic drumming and speedfreak guitar with Patton screaming "The Godfather!! The Godfather!! Woo-ha!!”, over the top of the whole bloody mess. Mentalist.

Another eight or so ‘side-projects’ are already in the pipeline, including acting roles, new groups Tomahawk and Peeping Tom and another supergroup featuring members of Massive Attack and The Young Gods. Another Mr Bungle album will "probably" occur at some stage, although he tells me that despite the renewed interest in Faith No More there is no chance of reunion: “we have been offered that and no I would NEVER do it.”

God only knows what Mike Patton will do next, although considering an internet search on his name revealed the adjectives: irreverent, raucous, rambunctious, outrageous, complex, freewheeling, boisterous, nihilistic, malevolent, rowdy, reckless, aggressive, quirky and volatile, be certain that it is sure to mess with your head.

DM : After so many obscure, avant garde albums, do you miss anything about the teen idol status you had in your early days with Faith No More, and were albums like 'Adult Themes for Voice' and 'Maldoror' (recorded with Merzbow) an attempt to sabotage your image as alternative rock icon?

MP : Teen idol status? I missed that. I don't consider the music I do as obscure. It might not be what is considered mainstream. Things are going great!!! I make the music that I enjoy and feel like making. If people like it great, but I am not trying to prove anything or attain any status. I really don't think I have ever been considered an alternative rock icon.

DM : It is rumoured that some of your new projects are of a more mainstream, accessible nature. A Peeping Tom demo, currently doing the rounds on Napster, is reminiscent of prime FNM or Bungle. Are you ready to compete again?

MP : Christ! What is it with this competition thing. IT'S MUSIC!!!! ART!!!! It ain't sports. I don't do market research. Also, there is no such thing as a Peeping Tom demo. Dan and I have not recorded a note. What you heard is a bunch of songs that were put together for various projects I was working on a couple years ago by a producer I decided not to use. They are not real lyrics or songs. I enjoy many types of music and I enjoy being in different bands. It keeps it interesting for me. I always have ideas in my head. All types of music. When you are on the road a lot you have a lot of time to form ideas. Everything inspires me.

DM : Do you ever worry that some of your more leftfield and unexpected albums may be interpreted as 'ironic' rock gestures, or for being wilfully obtuse? Or was this your intention all along?

MP : You are really stuck on this, huh? I don't care how you interpret my music. That is the beauty of art. Ironic rock? Is that the new genre? I don't have a role. I make music to feed my family. Look, whenever I record, I hope millions of people buy it and enjoy it, but that does not always happen. Oh well. I make music, because that is what I do for a living. I ain't a millionaire. In case you still don't get it, it is not about stardom for me. I'm always up for a challenge if it interests me.

DM : How comfortable are you with your past?

MP : I'm very comfortable and proud of my past.

DM : If you had to erase one song, album or moment from your career, what would it be and why?

MP : I wouldn't do it.

DM : What are your thoughts on the forthcoming FNM tribute album and how do you feel about the bands status as progenitors to the nu-metal scene?

MP : Let sleeping dogs lie. Don't blame us for nu-metal.

DM : Fantômas seems like a unique attempt at articulating non-musical pop culture forms in a musical way, and it would seem that things like comic books, films and porn are as much influences on your work as music. Discuss.

MP : Porn? Like I said, everything inspires me. Food is a huge inspiration!

DM : What has the reaction to the Fantômas live show been? Do people come along expecting a full fists in the air rock show and is your cover of the Slayer classic 'Angel Of Death' an attempt to compensate for this?

MP : It has been great. I am shocked how many people enjoy it. It is great. We do 'Angel of Death' because it is a great song and a change of pace for Fantômas. We like to keep it interesting for ourselves.

DM : Finally: a major label exec puts a gun to your head and forces you to make a record with either Jim Martin or Fred Durst. What happens?

MP : Stay tuned. There was no gun involved but Fred and I have something cooking for you.

Fantômas - The Director’s Cut is out now on Ipecac. www.ipecac.com











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