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Interview: Featured Artist – Mike Patton

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Mike Patton is supremely. Supremely artistic, supremely talented, supremely prolific, supremely busy and that last one makes him supremely difficult to get a handle on, to “pin down” both figuratively and literally. In fact this is my second email interview with Mike and I still know fuck all about what makes him tick – but this time I may be a little closer. Here are the facts.

Mike is currently: on tour supporting The Who with his new band Peeping Tom, recording another Peeping Tom album (Mike’s “version of pop music”), recording another album with one of his other bands Tomahawk, just finished an album with Eyvind Kang and is the voice of “The Darkness” in the upcoming new video game of the same name. And that is just in the last year, it doesn’t include running his own record label, Ipecac Recordings, or the vast amount of work he has done with various bands and other eccentric musical artists and of course Faith No More.

Lone Man Mike could easily be defined as eccentric although he may just be more eclectic, choosing/drawn to working with unusual musical artists of all genres. Mike’s musical tastes seem to run the gamut from death metal to Burt Bacharach (easy listening?). Mike is seen as a musical idol by many alternative bands as much for his experimental nature, ever-shifting musical tastes, and impressive vocal talents as for his constant air of mystique. He is an ever elusive figure bordering on reclusive and rarely gives interviews, seeming to feel uncomfortable with the mantel of fame that has been placed around him. He did, however, agree to give me another interview but, again, only an email interview.

I understand you are currently on tour with The Who. What is that like, working with rock legends of that magnitude?

Well, first off, it is indeed an honor to play before The Who. They are indeed legends and treated us great! Of course, a large portion of the crowd are interested in The Who and only The Who, so we are getting a fair amount of indifference and booing, but we expected it. A lot of these fans don't go to many concerts and are focused on hearing the hits they love by The Who. We are in the way.

But we are also getting a fair amount of positive reaction as well. It's always interesting. The Who are in top form by the way. They got Zack Starkey on drums who is a monster!!!

What drives you to be so prolific? So many projects all at once, do you feel driven to succeed at them all or is it more a need to express yourself artistically?

It is not about success or failure. It is what I do. I'm a musician. I love creating music and my tastes vary. Why limit oneself as an artist. That would be like painting the same kind of painting everytime or making the same kind of movie. I like to work and challenge myself. I'll slow down someday, I'm sure.

Being so prolific do you fear being remembered only as the frontman for Faith No More? How much do you wish people would let go of that?

I don't fear that at all. I don't even think about what people think of me. You can't let that get into the equation. All I do is focus on my music. After you create the music you can't control if people will like it or not. Plus, I enjoyed my time in FNM and am certainly not ashamed of that.

If that is how someone remembers me, that is fine with me. I'm not interested in reuniting or anything but I have great memories of those days and it enabled me to do what I am doing now.

 I know that you are planning/working on another Peeping Tom album can you, or will you tell me about that? You’re also working on another Tomahawk album will you please tell me about that? What else do you have on the burner?
Mike Patton
More, more, more! I hope they both come out next year. Also did a record in Italy with Eyvind Kang and a full orchestra. I'd like to do another Lovage record. I did the voice of a videogame character in the upcoming game "The Darkness". I'm the Darkness. I scored a couple indie films. More touring with Peeping Tom. Stay up to date at the ipecac website.

Tell me about your project with Eyvind Kang. What can we expect? When will this be unleashed?

I hope it is out by mid 2007. It came out great. Very beautiful. A full orchestra. Eyvind is very talented.

What would you like to do with your career next? What do you think the limits are for you artistically? Do you think there are any?

I'd like to continue doing what I'm doing. Maybe some more film scoring and videogame stuff to keep me at home a little more. Time is the only thing that limits me.

Why did you start your own record label? How did that come about and what has been the overall effect on your career?

I wanted to have more control and say over my own records plus I knew so many bands that needed an honest label. My manager Greg and I did it in 1999 as a way to release Fantômas, Maldoror and the Melvins. We did not expect it to turn into a real label. It has been a lot of work but very rewarding.

What do you look for when signing new artists to your label?

Originality.

What do you think about the current state of pop/rock/ all popular music currently?

There are some bright spots like Gnarls Barkley, Christina, TOOL, Justin Timberlake, Sigur Ros, but it is mostly stale.

Tell me about Danny DeVito. Are you best friends? I have heard that the story of your meeting is very funny.

Danny is great. He is a multi talented renegade artist who is completely immersed in everything he does. He is also a great father. We met at a Fantômas show at Coachella. His son turned him on to my music. We instantly bonded. Nothing very funny.

It was cool that he was watching our set while all these celebrities were at the other side of the festival watching Coldplay. We had drinks and kidnapped him into our trailer. I think people think it is funny that we are friends. But it makes perfect sense to me. Much respect to brother D!

Mike

What would you say to those fans of FNM, Tomahawk, Mr Bungle etc. who say that you've sold out? Aren't you just an artist flexing your artistic muscle?

I've never been accused of selling out. At least not that I've heard. I've always just done things the way I wanted. Never been persuaded to do anything I did not want to do. If selling out is doing everything DIY through my own indie label then count me in. Not sure what the question pertains to.

I'd love to get the chance to sell out, actually. Accusing anyone of selling out is a cop out anyway. Who makes the rule book that you are supposed to follow as a musician? No rules. No flexing. Just doing what comes naturally to me.

You have worked with some of the most talented and eclectic artists around. Who did you most enjoy working with? What is Bjork like?

There are tons of people I'd like to work with. Morricone, Bachrach, Willie Nelson, Sigur Ros, Beck, etc etc.

Working with Bjork was great. I'd really like to do more with her. I don't really like picking favorites but she would be one for sure. She is very confident and very adventurous. She does it her own way. I respect that.

How has fame changed your life?

Hmmm. I don't feel fame on a daily basis. I guess it has gotten me some good seats to concerts and sporting events and some good meals and good gear. I'm not big in the fame game. I don't usually get noticed or bothered. Watching my friend Danny DeVito really puts it in perspective. He gets hounded EVERYWHERE. I don't envy that, but he is a pro and does not bitch.

What musical artist do you most admire? And why should we all admire them too?

Frank Sinatra. He is the man!

I know this is one of those wanky interviewer questions but I am really interested in the answer to this. If someone who didn't know who you were asked you "So, what do you do?," how would you answer that? Do you see yourself as a musician or is it more complex than that?

Simple. I'm a musician.

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