Monthly Archives: June 2019

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Highway Star,” Faith No More (1998)

Faith No More (and Mike Patton) loves to play cover songs. You probably have heard its most famous non-original tune—“Easy,” by the Commodores. But the amount of other bands’ material that FNM has played throughout its concert career is seemingly endless.

That includes Deep Purple’s “Highway Star,” a song released originally in 1972 that was revitalized by FNM on its final tour in 1997 (before it reformed more than a decade later). According to setlist.fm, the show I saw in Atlanta that year was only the third time the band had played the tune live (though I have no memory of that song at that concert).

The first time FNM fiddled with the song came a few days earlier in Columbus, Ohio. According to New Faith No More, “They did Highway Star like 6-7 times and they were busting up laughing each and every time … in fact if I remember correct at one point Jon [Hudson, the guitarist] started to play “Ashes to Ashes” but Mike stopped him, said the crowd wasn’t good enough to hear that, and they played it again.”

Eventually, a live version made its way to FNM’s post-breakup greatest hits album.

Here’s the Deep Purple version of “Highway Star.”

And FNM’s frenetic live version.

Unlike Deep Purple’s six-minute song, FNM boils it down to about 60 seconds. So, if you don’t enjoy FNM’s cover, at least you don’t have to listen to it for very long.

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: YouTube vocal coach reaction, part 2 (2019)

I enjoy watching vocal coaches on YouTube analyze professional singers’ live performances. I enjoy Beth Roars’ channel the most. And of course, as this 365 Days project should hint, I enjoy Mike Patton’s wide music range as well.

This is the second time I’ve analyzed the analyzers (on Day 46, I wrote about this vocal coach’s reaction to a live version of “Midlife Crisis”), and in this case, Roars looks at a variety of Patton songs (because his style is so varied, that’s absolutely the correct approach, although she only listens to his studio recordings).

Roars admits she doesn’t know much of Patton’s work, so she’s obviously in for a treat.

The first two songs she hears are “Get Out” and “Evidence,” which are separated by only one song on the King For a Day album, and her eyes widen at the different vocal styles. Then, she hears “Cuckoo for Caca,” also on King For a Day, and she exclaims with a laugh, “I can’t believe how different it is.”

Throughout her video, Roars marvels at his voice control and his full vocal cord closure. She admits that she’s blown away by his performances.

“It’s like I’m listening to a different person in each clip,” she said.

Yep, and it’s always fun to see somebody experience Patton for the first time—especially if it’s a vocal coach who can truly appreciate his talent.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “A Small Victory,” Faith No More (1992)

Faith No More played some of the biggest shows of its career in 1992 when the band took the opening slot on the Guns N’ Roses/Metallica co-headlining tour. FNM had its biggest hit with “Epic” off The Real Thing album a few years earlier, and in 1992, it had released the Angel Dust follow up. To celebrate that album, FNM played for two months with two of the biggest bands in the world.

I was reminded of that on Tuesday when I went to a relatively small outdoor venue to watch GNR bassist Duff McKagan play his new Americana-sounding, slight country-twanging album, along side a few GNR deep cuts. It was a great show, but there had to be less than 1,000 people there—a long way from when I saw GNR play stadium shows in Houston (in 2016) and in San Antonio (in 2017).

And it was a long way from the GNR/Metallica/FNM tour that was awfully unenjoyable for FNM.

As noted by Faith No More Followers, Slash and Axl Rose loved The Real Thing, and FNM knew how big a shot it was getting to tour with GNR and Metallica.

“It’s fucking amazing that we even got on the tour, one of the biggest tours in the world,” bassist Billy Gould said in 1992…. “I mean, aesthetically we’re different. I think it’s good though. I’ve gotta give Guns N’ Roses credit and give Metallica credit, too. Right now it’s really responsible of them to pick bands that are different because they didn’t have to do that. They could pretty much tour with anybody.”

But it wasn’t always so great for FNM. During the tour, Gould expressed how uncomfortable he felt with the intense atmosphere backstage.

“I hate the whole circus thing, we all hate it,” he said. “But at the moment we don’t have the power to do what we want to do, so we still have to eat a little bit of shit. We almost have the power to control what we do, but not quite, so we’re just gritting our teeth and getting through it best we can. Every band in the world might think they want to open for Guns N’ Roses, but lemme tell you, it’s been a real ugly personal experience, having to deal with all the shit that surrounds this fucking circus. I’ve always hated that aspect of rock music and I’ve never wanted to be part of it, so to find myself being associated with a tour this big kinda sucks.”

Plus, FNM wasn’t always so well received by the GNR and Metallica fans.

“I’d thought our presence there would be totally misplaced,” Patton said in 1992. “We said: we may not like GNR, we may not like playing in open air stadiums in broad daylight, where we sound like shit and look like shit on a much too large stage that wasn’t built for us, and we may not like the fact that people are paying too much money for a ticket…that’s all true. But the fact is: it’s a very good opportunity to reach a large audience that otherwise wouldn’t have come to see us. And that’s good. The other side of it is that we want to headline again. It will happen in October. Playing with a roof over our heads. We’re at our best like that.”

McKagan and Patton, as far as I know, never played together (though McKagan played the role of the “Gimp” at an L.A. FNM show in 2015). Patton was rumored to have received an invitation to audition to be the lead singer of Velvet Revolver—a Slash/McKagan/Matt Sorum post-GNR band. Patton declined.

Anywhere, here’s “A Small Victory,” a song that’s not exactly a favorite of mine from Angel Dust. But that’s OK. Nobody who went to see GNR and Metallica in 1992 heard that tune either. According to setlist.fm, FNM didn’t play the song at all during that monster stadium tour.

Previously from Angel Dust:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Vanity Fair,” Mr. Bungle (1999)

When Mr. Bungle released its third and final album California in 1999, there was no doubt that it was a departure from the band’s first two albums. It was more melodic and more mainstream. Hell, it was more cohesive.

That wasn’t by accident.

“The only thing I can really say about it is that there are more songs on this record than we’ve ever written together in the past,” Mike Patton told the AV Club in 1999. “When we started writing for this record, it became apparent that we were all writing in the song form more than we ever had, and we said, ‘Hey, it would be fun to do a record of songs.’ As opposed to operettas or jazz improvs or, you know, noise pieces—whatever the hell you want to call them. We thought the stuff seemed really strong, so we stuck with it. It felt natural. An electro-acoustic noise piece or whatever just wouldn’t fit on this record.”

One result is “Vanity Fair,” a song pretty much unlike anything Mr. Bungle produced. It’s about as mainstream as the punk/metal/ska/avante garde/noise/etc band could get. With some doo-wop thrown in for good measure.

According to bassist Trevor Dunn, he was originally going for more of a sultry vibe.

“I had written a slow Marvin Gaye style verse with an awkward bridge and I had sort of lost faith in it as a complete song,” he told Faith No More Followers. “Patton felt more inspired to do something with it than I did and he sped it up into a sort of doo-wop style and wrote a melody over it.”

Though the music is upbeat, one theory gives it a depressing pall. According to New World Ocean

“Vanity Fair,” addresses a society succumbed to the superficiality of cosmetic surgery.  The song’s title could be a reference to the 1846 novel by William Thackeray, a satire on 19th Century English middle and upper class society.  “The reality Vanity Fair reveals is the ugliness in a capitalist society. Thackeray said describing the reality must expose much unpleasant facts”.[28]  Patton reveals the ‘ugliness’ of plastic surgery in the first line:

“You’re not human/You’re a miracle/A preacher with an animal’s face.”

“Animal’s face” is a reference to collagen, a group of proteins found in animal tissue that is widely used in Botox and plastic surgery.  However, the ugliness of the lyrically matter is juxtaposed by what is perhaps the most appeaseable musical matter there is: Doo-Wop.  This displays the album’s essence of irony over nostalgia.

An ironic Patton tune? Sounds about right to me.

Previously from California:

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Motherfucker,” Faith No More (2015)

I saw Hamilton the other night. It was stunning, one of the most amazing performances I’ve ever seen live. The lyrics and the singing and the choreography and the ending—and the pre-performance and post-performance buzz in the theater—it was just an incredible three hours to watch professionals ply their craft.

Naturally, one moment reminded me of Faith No More.

In the days leading up to the performance, I listened to the first two songs on the Hamilton soundtrack. I had never heard any of the music from the show, and I figured I should immerse myself into at least a couple of tunes just so I could get my bearings before I entered the theater.

And the first song of the show, Alexander Hamilton, reminded me of Faith No More’s “Motherfucker.” Listen for that early piano work and the building tempo in both songs. For a few seconds, it sounds the same.

Here’s “Alexander Hamilton.”

And here’s “Motherfucker.”

So, kind of similar, right? Anyway, when I saw Faith No More in 2015, this is the song that opened the show. And though it’s not the quick-paced banger FNM started their shows on previous tours I saw (“Digging the Grave” on the King For a Day tour and “Collision” on the Album of the Year tour), it was actually a great way to start a concert.

The tension between the two vocalists, that haunting piano, the drummer boy beat. And then, the explosion. Here’s how I experienced it in Austin.

Just like Hamilton, it still gives me chills.

Previously from Sol Invictus:

To follow along on the 365 days of Patton, click here for a list of each day’s post.