Monthly Archives: February 2019

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Jockstrap,” Tomahawk (2001)

I’ve read a couple different reviews of Tomahawk’s first album, also called Tomahawk, and they refer to “Jockstrap” as a tune with a “jazzy undertow” or song featuring “jangly blues.”

When I listen to “Jockstrap,” I don’t really hear either country or the blues. To me, this song is kind of droney rock with a few punk explosions that break up the monotony. I don’t love this song, but I don’t mind it either.

In the YouTube comments for the video below, somebody said the song was ripping off Faith No More’s “Be Aggressive” (we’ll get there eventually), while somebody else said it reminded them of Marilyn Manson’s “Beautiful People.” I’m not sure I hear either song in “Jockstrap,” which just proves to me that nobody knows what the hell this song is supposed to be.

An old interview with Tomahawk guitarist Duane Denison—probably the driving force of the band—and drummer John Stanier might have given us a clue why there are so many different opinions about what the song sounds like.

“I wanted [Tomahawk] to be a rock band in the sense of you play songs. Songs, meaning you have auditory landmarks, recurring motifs, things that recur throughout the song,” Denison told TV Eye in 2003. “[Patton] does a lot of experimenting stuff, things where it goes all over the place, where the thematic continuity can sometimes be in question.”

Countered Stanier: “Each Tomahawk song has a complete mood of its own.”

Perhaps the mood for “Jockstrap” is a simple one: Maybe it’s just completely schizophrenic.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Ore D’Amore,” Mondo Cane (2010)

Out of everything on Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane album—where he sings covers of Italian pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s—“Ore D’Amore” is my favorite. It’s Patton at his crooniest best, and there are a few occasions in the tune where his voice just absolutely soars.

There seem to be two separate versions of this song from 1967: one by Ornella Vanoni and another by Fred Bongusto. I like Vanoni’s version a little better, probably because Bongusto’s song sounds a little too similar to Patton’s version (and yes, I know Patton’s version came 43 years later, so it’s technically Patton that sounds like Bongusto).







The quality of Patton’s recording is obviously much better than those from more than 50 years ago, and his voice goes a little deeper, gruffer, and richer than the previous two versions, which I dig. Clearly, Patton’s talent is more than sufficient to compete with the earlier versions.





Especially if you listen to one of his live versions.



As Consequence of Sound noted in its review of the album, “You do not have to be fluent in traditional Italian speech or opera to fully experience this music. Mondo Cane is a time machine, guided by Mike Patton, a backing band, and a 40-piece orchestra into contemporary Italian pop music, with the usual avant garde flare that makes Patton what he has been and always will be.”

The website also wrote that “Ore D’Amore” was a song of “mobster swagger circa 1950.” Considering the suits Patton wore when he gave his Mondo Cane concerts, that’s perhaps not a bad description at all.

Previously from Mondo Cane:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Totem,” Tomahawk (2007)

The first two Tomahawk records were some of the most mainstream music Mike Patton has participated in since his Faith No More days. But the third album, Anonymous, was a departure, as it paid tribute to Native American music while giving Patton and the rest of the band plenty of room to interpret the material.

We’ve already touched on “Sun Dance,” the only single to be released from the album. “Totem” is a heavier tune with a haunting guitar, pounding drums, and ancient chanting (even the moments of clapping sound a little creepy). Patton sings softly for most of the song before changing his tone and getting a little more intense.

Here’s a live version where Patton has some fun with the crowd before the band breaks into the song. Patton is pretty intense when he’s singing, but he’s got nothing on drummer John Stanier.

In 2007, Duane Denison—Tomahawk guitarist, formerly of the Jesus Lizard, and the man who (and I’ll certainly make note of this in every song I cover off Anonymous) got the inspiration for this album while touring Native American reservations with Hank Williams III (!)—was asked how the project would be received by Tomahawk fans.

“I think they’ll like it,” Denison told MTV. “It’s a bit different from the previous two albums, which are fairly straightforward modern rock. But really, this album’s not so different for us. It’s still a rock album, and people who like what Patton does expect him to continually do different stuff. So, some people might hate it and think it’s a stupid idea, that it’s pretentious crap and ask us what we were thinking. Other people will like it because it’s different and well done. We’ll just have to see.”

I’m not sure the album or this song is pretentious—I lean toward no—but there’s no question it’s different. And I think well done.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “My Ass Is On Fire,” Mr. Bungle (1991)

By the time Mr. Bungle released its self-titled album in 1991, Faith No More and Mike Patton were riding high because of the success of “Epic.” That’s probably why Warner Bros. released this ad touting Mr. Bungle’s major-label debut as Patton’s “serious weird new project.”

In reality, though, Mr. Bungle predates Patton’s time in Faith No More. The band formed in 1985, and according to Patton, Mr. Bungle’s origin was the byproduct of failed previous relationships.

“It was kinda like a merger between two bands,” he told Sounds in 1991. “One really horrible gothic metal band, which our guitarist and original drummer were in, and one really horrible metal band which did Metallica covers, which is the one Trevor (Dunn, the bassist) and me came from.”

The Sounds story at the time described how Mr. Bungle was nothing like Faith No More, and Patton even explained it to the author who wrote, “Sitting in a quiet corner of a London pub, Mike Patton warns by way of introduction that a Faith No More interview is one thing, a Mr. Bungle interview is something entirely different.”

The same applies to the music, including “My Ass Is On Fire,” which runs through a gamut of brass-tinged metal with a jazzy flavor that also features turntables and a siren.

Nearly a decade later, while supporting its third album, Mr. Bungle had a slightly different take on “My Ass Is On Fire.”

For a song in which he screams, “It’s not funny, my ass is on fire,” the later version feels much more mature. And yet it rocks even harder.

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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 (!).
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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