365 Days of Mike Patton: “Pig Latin,” Dillinger Escape Plan (2002)

I’ve had three opportunities to see Dillinger Escape Plan, a legendary mathcore metal band if there was such a thing as a legendary mathcore metal band. The first was in about 2000 when DEP was opening for Mr. Bungle. But the Atlanta show was sold out, we couldn’t find scalped tickets, and I missed it. The second came circa 2012 when the band opened for Mastadon at a club show in Austin, but I arrived too late to see DEP. Then, on its final tour and its final time coming through Austin, I was out of town. On all three occasions, I blew it.

But Patton didn’t blow his chance to work with DEP. At the time, around the turn of the century, DEP—which specialized in highly technical, extraordinarily fast metal that relied more on screaming than harmonious vocals—was in between lead singers. After the remainder of the band had recorded a handful of instrumental tracks, Patton said he’d contribute the vocals. What was born was a four-song EP called Irony Is a Dead Scene.

Turns out Patton and DEP were a pretty damn good match.

As for how the collaboration came to be, DEP guitarist Ben Weinman told Metal Sucks, via Ultimate Guitar, that the seeds of a partnership began during that Mr. Bungle tour.

“[We] just realized we were like-minded. We had a similar creative process, and it would make sense at some point to work on something together,” Weinman said. “So fast-forward to a couple of years later, we were in between singers. … I was like, ‘Hey, maybe Mike wants to sing on these.’ What we do is put out an EP in between singers and that’s how we keep relevant while we’re searching for a guy.

“And we sent Patton the songs and he said, ‘Hey if it’s something that I feel like I can do something over it makes sense, I’m down.’”

Two weeks after sending him the songs, Patton had a demo of his vocals ready. It was apparently that simple.

Here’s some behind the scenes footage of Patton recording the EP, including some snippets of “Pig Latin” and how Patton made a couple of his vocal choices.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Everything’s Alright,” Neil Hamburger (2019)

Man, I love musical theater, and the first big Broadway-style show I ever saw live—Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera—is still one of my favorites. I haven’t heard much of Jesus Christ Superstar, Webber’s 1970 rock opera, but now that Mike Patton has collaborated with comedian Neil Hamburger to cover that musical’s “Everything’s Alright,” I had to give the original a listen.

And I dig it—which surprised me because I didn’t care for Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, which had been released by Webber only two years earlier and which just seemed really outdated by the time I saw it in the first decade of this century.

Here’s the original “Everything’s Alright.”

And here’s the version created by Hamburger and Patton and, yes, Jack Black (!).

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/0JlvBGve9KWy8lVKD1VDxD
Here’s who Neil Hamburger is, via the Duluth News Tribune: “Hamburger is not a real person, but a comedian character played by a man named Gregg Turkington. The way Turkington presents Hamburger is as an old-school comic that somehow soured due to depression and alcohol abuse, a tuxedo-clad relic with a wicked combover who took a wrong turn at the Catskills in about 1961 and never recovered. Or something. He’s miserable and unfunny, and that’s what makes the whole deal transcendentally hilarious.”

I had never heard his version of “Everything’s Alright” until just now. Hamburger sounds like a Muppet singing his part, but Black shows off his vocal range, singing high and giving it that Black flavor that never delves over the line into comedy. Meanwhile, Patton’s singing reminds me of his Mondo Cane work (including “Scalinatella”), and at the end of his cameo, his voice soars like it should.

Patton and Black make this song tolerable. But if you enjoy the original version better, well, I don’t necessarily disagree with your opinion.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Naked In Front of the Computer,” Faith No More (1997)

Straight out of the late 1990s, when people were just beginning to embrace the internet and email and all the possibilities of both, this song on Faith No More’s Album of the Year record was written solely by Patton (a rather rare accomplishment for this band). He apparently was fascinated by the power of being online.

“Actually, this song is about email,” FNM bassist Billy Gould told Keyboard Magazine in 1997. “Patton is kind of obsessed with the idea of how people can communicate and have relationships over the computer without talking or ever meeting. So this is an extreme version of that concept. Funny thing is … the image of someone sitting naked in front of a computer might not have made sense to people a few years ago, but now everybody knows what it means. It’s become part of our culture.”

Yes, and you probably don’t need me to spell out what Gould (and Patton) are talking about. After all, there aren’t too many reasons to be nude in front of your laptop screen.

A number of reviews for Album of the Year—which was the band’s last for 18 years—were not kind, and it’s hard to blame them. It’s my least favorite Patton-led FNM album, and Rolling Stone wrote, “All in all, Faith No More are floundering around desperately, groping for a sense of identity and direction in a decade that clearly finds them irrelevant.”

Maybe FNM was (slightly) irrelevant at the time, but the song’s title and subject matter have not gone out of style. These days, everybody knows what sitting naked in front of your computer means.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Charade,” Fantomas (2001)

The only Fantomas record I’ve listened to more than once or twice is the delightful The Director’s Cut. While most of the Fantomas catalog is too inaccessible for even me to enjoy, the band’s second album featured covers of movie soundtrack songs in the way only Mike Patton could.

“Charade” is the final track on the album, and it comes from the 1963 film that starred Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.

Compare Henry Mancini’s version of the 1963 version …

… To the Fantomas cover nearly 40 years later.

The general framework of the songs are pretty similar except for, you know, the screeching guitars, the general creepiness, the overarching aggressiveness and Patton’s low-to-high-to-screaming vocals. The earlier version was nominated for an Oscar but lost out to Papa’s Delicate Condition. Patton’s version was nominated for nothing.

But it still scored good reviews.

From Pitchfork: “Beginning with a demented samba-beatbox from Patton, ‘Charade’ vacillates between an incredibly smooth, jazzy melody and a spitfire speed-yodel stomp. As the dubbed-in crowd applauds, the melody gently returns with more hyphen-encouraging mayhem. And suddenly, it’s very clear how this will all end: ‘YAD DA DA DADA DA DA DADA YAD DA DADA DA DA DA DADA!’”

NME, meanwhile, called the song “some of the finest moments” on the album. It’s one of the few times a Fantomas track reminded anybody of Faith No More. That makes it a small victory in my eyes.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “White Hats/Black Hats,” Tomahawk (2013)

When Tomahawk convened to record its Oddfellows album, it needed less than a week to be written and recorded. This was a tight musical unit, and even though a new bassist had been hired, it was Trevor Dunn, the bassist in Patton’s other bands Mr. Bungle and Fantomas.

There doesn’t appear to be any great backstory to this song. It’s just Patton growling and then singing. Then growling some more before opening his voice once again.

There’s plenty of highlights on Oddfellows, which was Tomahawk’s first new release in six years. This song isn’t necessarily one of those highlights. But it’s pleasant nonetheless, and sometimes that’s good enough.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Everything’s Ruined,” Faith No More (1992)

After the astonishing success of The Real Thing album—Mike Patton’s first effort with Faith No More and a certified hit, thanks in large part to the single “Epic”—the band had to figure out what to accomplish on their follow-up album, Angel Dust. Aside from perhaps guitarist Jim Martin, nobody wanted a repeat of their rap/funk/rock sound from The Real Thing. The band wanted something different.

“If you just look at the transition from The Real Thing to Angel Dust, that’s a band that’s absolutely willing to let go of something that was really successful,” producer Andy Wallace told Diffuser. “They could’ve done The Real Thing Pt. 2 and probably made a really nice living, but they decided to really distance themselves from that sound that they helped create and move in a completely different direction. And their instincts were right: Angel Dust stands the test of time.”

Aside from the music video that was released (more on that in a sec), there’s not much strange about “Everything’s Ruined.” It feels like a straight-ahead rock number with a fairly straight-ahead vocal performance from Patton.

Even keyboardist Roddy Bottum once called it “radio friendly” and a “pop song.” In fact, the working title for the song was reportedly “The Carpenters,” because it was such an easy listening tune.

“It’s one of the more straight-forward rockers we have on this album,” Patton said, via Faith No More Followers. “Compare it to something like “Surprise You’re Dead” (we’ll get there) from the last album. I think you’ll see how we’ve changed. You can’t put your finger on it, but it’s there. We’re getting better at playing what we’re visualizing.”

The music video, on the other hand, is strange.

It features the band (and other random people) playing in front of B-roll like video footage (a bride and groom walking, pigs in a pen, men riding horses, two people sunbathing, etc.).

The reason for the amateurish video was simple. According to bassist Billy Gould, it had to be low budget.

“The easy answer is, Warner [the band’s music label had] spent the video budget on “A Small Victory” and “Midlife Crisis” so that when it came time to “Everything’s Ruined,” there wasn’t much left,” Gould told the Faith No More Blog in 2012. “It was our idea to take this further and make a video as cheap as humanly possible, in one of those video booths like they had at county fairs, where you sing and dance in front of a blue screen. We didn’t quite get to do that, but we got it as close as possible.”

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Ars Moriendi,” Mr. Bungle (1999)

There are quite a few Mr. Bungle songs that change drastically in tone throughout a four-minute song.

They’ll go from jazz to death metal. They’ll go from klezmer to operatic. They’ll go from doo-wop to, I don’t know, scatological. That’s what “Ars Moriendi,” from Mr. Bungle’s final album California, accomplishes. Though California is certainly Mr. Bungle’s most accessible album—and it is, by far, my favorite—NME calls the band, which formed a few years before Patton was tapped as Faith No More’s lead singer, his “truest, sickest love.”

The song title is Latin, and it means “art of dying.” And man, it is schizophrenically paced.

NME describes it as “mixing Arabian skirmishes with blitzing metallic riffage and note-perfect [elevator] muzak.” All of that is true. But the 29 seconds I love the best are the raging Arabian-tinged techno beat that morphs into downright hard rock (it goes from 1:17 to 1:46 in the song). It harkens back to Mr. Bungle’s second album on the song titled “Desert Search for Techno Allah” (don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get to it.).

Also, the final lyrics of the song are fantastic. “So feast on me/All my bones are laughing/As you’re dancing on my grave.” It reminds me a little of the title track off FNM’s King For a Day when he sings, “Don’t let me die with that silly look in my eye.”

I dig those kinds of vague sort of callbacks to earlier parts of Patton’s career. I have no idea if Patton did that on purpose. But I kind of like to imagine that he did.

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