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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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Take This Bottle,” Faith No More (1995)

If you once enjoyed Faith No More and yet stopped paying attention after its biggest hit “Epic” was released in 1990, you might remember the guitarist with the long black frizzy hair and the long black beard who looked to be about 20 years older than the rest of the band.

You know, this guy on the right.

That’s Jim Martin, and he played on the first four Faith No More albums (two of which were not fronted by Mike Patton and which we are completely ignoring on the 365 Days of Mike Patton (well, there might be a few exceptions to that because, in reality, we care a lot)). He managed some great guitar work on The Real Thing and Angel Dust albums, but he was kicked out of the band in 1993. The problem apparently was that Martin didn’t want to adapt to playing new music. The line on Martin has always been that he wanted to keep making The Real Thing over and over again and balked at the new direction the band was taking with the Angel Dust follow up. So, keyboardist Roddy Bottum fired him by fax.

“Getting rid of him was a real cleansing exercise,” Bottum said, via Metal Hammer. “There’s no point keeping someone in the band who’s only there for the money or something. Jim wasn’t committed to what the band wanted to do. I’m good at sacking band members. And by fax was such a… 90s way of doing things.”

Patton apparently did not enjoy his time with Martin at the end.

“Mike HATED Jim, wouldn’t even look at him on stage unless he was about to throw something at him,” Bottum said.

That was apparently the inspiration for the country-tinged song “Take This Bottle” from the King For a Day album. It’s because Patton apparently used to throw bottles at Martin while on stage.

“We weren’t having a good time together and it was pretty obvious,” Patton said in that Metal Hammer interview. “We saw it coming for too long, while we were making the Angel Dust album. The whole time for two years while we were touring, we kept hoping it would get better. After that much time you can’t help but feel like an idiot for feeling that way. Basically, what it came down to was that he couldn’t hold up his weight musically.

“When The Real Thing broke out, it was a shock. It’s kinda like being around somebody you don’t like, like a co-worker or family, somebody you’ve known for a long time but you realize you don’t like them. You get to know them, everything’s OK, you move in with them, everything’s fine but then all of a sudden, you realize what’s going on. You realize you don’t like them, so you HATE them, you know. You waste all your energy hating them, you hate them and hate them. So you kick them OUT of your house to pacify this hate.”

I don’t particularly love “Take This Bottle,” but when I saw FNM live in 1997 with my buddy Jeremy and his brother Mike, we had a cool tale to tell from that show.

In the last minute or so of this song, Patton retrieved a bottle of red wine and began shaking it at the crowd so it would splatter on anybody who was close enough to the stage. Mike was close enough, and I remember him coming up to us after the show, a sweaty beast with red streaks on his white undershirt. He had a big smile on his face. He had taken (what was inside) the bottle, and he had walked away loving it.

At least Patton didn’t throw it at him.

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365 Days of Mike Patton: “Roc Raida …” General Patton vs. the X-ecutioners (2005)

Yes, Mike Patton has a couple of albums that could be labeled hip-hop.

It apparently took Patton two years to create this collaboration album with the X-ecutioners, a group of hip-hop DJs out of New York who have worked with the likes of Cypress Hill and Linkin Park. As All Music explains, “Patton sends hip-hopping turntable masters the X-Ecutioners a bunch of oddball records, then the X-Ecutioners create ‘sound blocks’ out of the albums and send them back to Patton for final tweaking and song-building.”

The result reeks of turn tables, jazz, old movie clips and not a ton of easy listening. But with Patton, sometimes we must persist regardless.

While I wouldn’t take in the entire album in one long 45-minute listen, it’s fun for these short, tight songs to pop up on my iTunes playlist every now again. Especially in the case of “Roc Raida: Riot Controls Agent/Combat Stress Control,” just so I can hear Eddie Murphy tell me, “I will kick your ass,” over and over again.

365 Days of Mike Patton: “Ricochet,” part 2

After my three-part series on Faith No More’s “Epic,” I wasn’t planning on writing more than a single post of anything else from Mike Patton’s discography. But after posting my take on “Ricochet” earlier this week, my Twitter buddy @d2k2d2k2 reminded me of something I very vaguely remembered from FNM’s performance on Conan’s old late-night show in 1995.

The next night, FNM was in a sketch featuring O’Brien and former band leader/drummer Max Weinberg. Conan started it off by saying Weinberg had been jealous at FNM’s reception for its performance the night before. Weinberg denied it. And then Conan showed Weinberg not-so-subtly trying to disrupt FNM during the course of “Ricochet.”

Naturally, a brawl between FNM and Conan’s band then broke out.

Good stuff from 24 years ago. The funniest parts for me were Weinberg going after FNM’s Mike Bordin in a battle of the drummers and that, unlike the real performance, Patton didn’t forget his opening cue. This time, he sang the song right on time.

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

Mike Patton likes creating themes for his various albums with his various bands. Fantomas recorded an album covering famous movie soundtrack songs. His Mondo Cane record is a collection of various Italian pop songs from the 1950s and 1960s. His third album with Tomahawk—after Faith No More, this is probably his most mainstream band—followed that pattern.

Like Fantomas, Tomahawk was a super group featuring Duane Denison (Jesus Lizard) on guitar, Kevin Rutmanis (Melvins) on bass and John Stanier (Helmet) on drums.

Anonymous was a collection of Native American compositions—which, as noted by Pitchfork, was (and this might be the most random sentence you read today) “researched by Denison while touring reservations with Hank Williams III.” “Sun Dance” was the only single to be released from the album, and yes, it sounds like a song that was originally a Native American composition that was researched on a reservation with a country music legacy star. Except this features Patton mostly chanting “Hey ya” over a grooving bass line and a mystical guitar sound.

Pitchfork isn’t exactly known to be nice to musicians in its reviews, and as the author wrote regarding Anonymous, “And here I thought Patton had run out of ways to alienate people and limit his own appeal.” But this song (and most of this album) is a pleasant listen, even if Denison’s influence is felt more than Patton’s.

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