Author Topic: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality  (Read 1732 times)

Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« on: May 17, 2019, 06:29:48 PM »
The Good:  Mr Bungle, Peeping Tom, Fantomas, Dillinger Escape Plan EP, Mondo Cane, the Lovage album, (most) Faith No More, (some) Tomahawk, (some) John Zorn stuff.  That's a resumé that'll last him in good stead for several lifetimes, but is centered largely around the 90s/early-2000s and, with the exception of Fantomas and Peeping Tom, is largely reliant on the creativity and talent of other musicians. 

Patton, though, is often credited as an avant-garde musical genius (and spends a lot of his time as a composer now), yet I'm growing less and less convinced of this.  The stuff he takes the reins on, especially over the last decade or so, is often forgettable at best and I don't think his compositions are worth much at all.  Conversely, his collaborative efforts are pretty dull too.  He's just released a single from his upcoming collaboration with Jean-Claude Vannier, and it's extremely dull:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjPBa6wvaDc  Something like this comes out every year or so, and is then instantly forgotten.

It's hard to knock someone so clearly talented and prolific, but you do wonder if maybe he's spreading himself thin across all of these projects.  I feel like I've listened to at least a few tracks from each project, but are there any highlights I might've overlooked?

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2019, 07:31:21 PM »
I always prefer the idea of Mike Patton to the actual Mike Patton.

An exercise in mind alteration, not by drugs, booorrrring, but staying up for 3 days, great!

Just one, problem, the lyrics are rubbish.

Writing a song called Mid-Life crises, not many songs about that written by someone so young, sounds like it could be interesting, reads the lyrics.

Oh.

And so on.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2019, 07:57:12 PM »
I actually like his lyrics, for the most part, although he seems to have more or less eschewed them entirely in recent projects like his Kadaa collaborations.  He often claimed he didn't think too much about meanings or messages and instead chose words that sounded the best, but I think that undervalues some pretty clever things going on in some of them.  Most of the best Bungle lyrics were written by Trey Spruance, though.

McFlymo

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2019, 09:30:37 PM »
I'm a fan of Patton's lyrics too.

I didn't realise he didn't write the Bungle lyrics, but they are quite cool (I knew that Spruance wrote many of the lyrics on California, but what about the first album?)

The lyrics for Tomahawk's first album are very evocative and reinforce the feel of the album really well.

Have to agree about Patton's recent output though.

The soundtrack stuff has never been fantastic. The Crank 2 soundtrack is amazing for the sheer breadth of ideas and it's very Patton, in the vein of his frantic leaps about, similar to the Fantomas stuff, but the Crank 2 soundtrack was 2009!

The 1922 soundtrack has a very dense sound that feels like the end of the world. It's thick and heavy but not particularly original or memorable.

Feel the same about the Kaada / Patton stuff. It's well put together, but totally forgettable.

Dead Cross feels like a boring macho thing with none of the inventiveness of the DEP stuff or the humour, or fun of Tomahawk. (and the less said about Patton dropping the "N" bomb into his lyrics, the better. See also his "my black friends said it was ok" defence) ...

Two recent-ish things from Patton that I was impressed by:

The Tango Saloon - Transylvania - https://open.spotify.com/album/1ghznwWD1A7B1sB6qizNGb?si=zWe8OE84TDeruAnV9rP4Zg

And Tetema - Geocidal https://tetema.bandcamp.com/
 

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2019, 09:40:49 PM »
Two recent-ish things from Patton that I was impressed by:

The Tango Saloon - Transylvania - https://open.spotify.com/album/1ghznwWD1A7B1sB6qizNGb?si=zWe8OE84TDeruAnV9rP4Zg

And Tetema - Geocidal https://tetema.bandcamp.com/

Haven't heard these, cheers!  I'll give them a go.

As for Bungle lyrics, as far as I know it was a pretty collaborative effort, but certainly the ones I've found individually impressive (such as "None of Them Knew They Were Robots") were written by Spruance.

McFlymo

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2019, 09:53:31 PM »
ooo hope you enjoy those two!

I think you must be right, re: the Bungle lyrics. None of Them Knew... and Retrovertigo are very similar to all the lyrics I like off the first album, such as Quote / Unquote, Slowly Growing Deaf and Egg.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2019, 10:02:28 PM »
Loved Mondo Cane and Peeping Tom. Thought a 2nd album was meant to be happening for both, but I guess the FNM tour(s) and album might have messed with his plans somewhat.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #7 on: May 17, 2019, 10:05:11 PM »
I don't know anything by him but his record label Ipecac has put out some great stuff so he's alright by me.

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #8 on: May 17, 2019, 10:08:21 PM »
I was a pretty obsessive fan of the man in my early teens (god, about ten years ago now or something), and Mr. Bungle was probably my first substantial introduction to what I considered "weird" music. I found that first album, with its combination of clown iconography and the lowest of gutter humour, quite scary at that time, to the extent I didn't listen to it for a good few months after I first discovered the band's existence. I probably would have been buying into that whole tedious "Patton Is God" thing at the time, and assuming that he was behind all of it too of course.

Honestly, on reflection I don't really find much of his stuff to be all that essential, the classic FNM and Bungle stuff aside. He's obviously, as you say, a very talented person, but I feel that he's less of a one-off genius than somebody who works best when there are other equally talented people working alongside him, as opposed to being deferential to The Great Mike. He doesn't really seem much inclined to up his game or anything.

Song's fine though I suppose.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #9 on: May 17, 2019, 10:20:38 PM »
ooo hope you enjoy those two!

I think you must be right, re: the Bungle lyrics. None of Them Knew... and Retrovertigo are very similar to all the lyrics I like off the first album, such as Quote / Unquote, Slowly Growing Deaf and Egg.

Far as I know, Retrovertigo and Quote/Unquote were written by Trevor Dunn.  Could be wrong, mind you, and it's not easy to get a definitive answer since most tracks are credited ambiguously to all of them.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #10 on: May 17, 2019, 10:22:25 PM »
Loved Mondo Cane and Peeping Tom. Thought a 2nd album was meant to be happening for both, but I guess the FNM tour(s) and album might have messed with his plans somewhat.

A second Mondo Cane album should have been simple enough, since the first was apparently a composite of various live recordings and they've been performing at least two albums' worth of material at any given show since they started.  Probably not especially profitable, mind you.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2019, 10:24:58 PM »
A second Mondo Cane album should have been simple enough, since the first was apparently a composite of various live recordings and they've been performing at least two albums' worth of material at any given show since they started.  Probably not especially profitable, mind you.

He's announced some Mondo Cane shows recently, so hopefully the follow up is forthcoming.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2019, 11:43:46 PM »
Far as I know, Retrovertigo and Quote/Unquote were written by Trevor Dunn.  Could be wrong, mind you, and it's not easy to get a definitive answer since most tracks are credited ambiguously to all of them.

Pretty sure "Travolta" is all Trey. "Robots" definitely is, though a couple of the guitar riffs were concieved by Patton way back in the early demo days. A friend and I interviewed Trey on the Disco Volante tour, and we specifically asked about who wrote what on the debut. I have the recording, but I've not listened to it since 1996, as we were being such dweeby fanboys. From memory, though, I thnk Trey wrote "Travolta", "Stubb (a Dub)" and "Egg", Trevor wrote "Slowly Going Deaf" and (I think) "Dead Goon" (nobody else came up with that bassline, that's for sure). "Girls Of Porn" and "Squeeze Me Macaroni" are obviously Patton songs, and he supplied (most of?) the music for those as well. "Love Is A Fist" and "My Ass Is on Fire" are (maybe) Patton lyrics, but with more musical input from the others. Trey said they had a huge collection of ideas on tape from rehearsals and home demos, referred to as the "graveyard of riffs", and there were "stacks and stacks" of tapes, apparently. These were presumably the source for those old Patton riffs on "Robots".

I read an interview with Trevor where he went into the writing process, but I can't remember where.

Have not kept up with Patton solo at all, but I've mostly enjoyed the projects I decided to check out. Mondo Cane is good fun in smaller doses. Fantomas is fantastic, though some of their later stuff got a bit too much. Patton/Kaada is the reason my friend and co-interviewer - years later - managed to get Patton in on a little film project, as he's worked with Kaada on other things. I didn't take to their album very much, but I caught this 2005 live show on YouTube, and liked that a lot:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MacyRdGkAyM

Especially enjoyed Geir Sundstøl's contributions on lap steel. Not your typical festival fare, probably best enjoyed while mostly sober.

In general, though, I share the feeling that he's spreading himself very thin, to the extent where much of it looks and sounds like him just turning up and "being Mike Patton" over someone else's jam session or laptop cacophony. But there's simply too much material for me to fairly judge most of it on merit.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2019, 11:54:23 PM »
Oh, and I like Dead Cross. Seeing Jello Biafra guest with them (on YouTube, not in person, sadly) just put the biggest grin on my face.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2019, 01:44:48 AM »
That’s fascinating, thank you.  I actually didn’t know Patton had that much musical input into Bungle, except maybe for some tracks on Disco Volante.  Would love to hear that interview with Trey Spruance if you have it handy.

I saw Secret Chiefs 3 open for Dead Cross (who cancelled their show, due to Patton falling off a skateboard).  I admire everything that goes into it, but I can’t properly get into it in the same way I did with Bungle.  It doesn’t feel complete.

Shaky

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #15 on: May 18, 2019, 02:38:15 AM »
I actually don't mind that new track but the days where I absolutely chomped at the bit for new Patton are long gone. The last thing I rushed out to buy was the Tetema album from 2014. It's not bad, and sonically it has some interesting stuff courtesy of Anthony Pateras, but I've felt no real compulsion to listen to it. It's one of those projects that would probably have been improved by reducing Patton's role. Subtlety has never been the guy's strong point, even when he's tackling quieter material, and he frequently comes across as overbearing. The other issue with being so versatile and prolific is it's got to the stage where we've sort of heard it all by now, especially that manic scatting thing he does.

That said, he can still surprise when I least expect it - the last Tomahawk album had some strong vocal stuff considering the previous LP was sorely lacking. And I'd fucking love Mike to do the electronic Fantomas album he first mentioned years ago. Delirium Cordia was a glorious change of pace.

Re Patton's lyrics, I've never found them to be an issue. He has said several times that he doesn't care at all about their content and just works with sounds he likes and that's fine. It's never bothered me that Midlife Crisis, for instance, doesn't say anything about being in a middle-aged rut. It's not what I expect from FNM.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2019, 02:48:39 AM »
Mid-Life Crisis is supposedly about Madonna in the 90s, if that makes any difference.

Yeah, I feel pretty much the same as you, Shaky.  I suppose it’s always a slightly bitter pill when you realise someone who absolutely inspired you in so many ways (as Patton’s work did when I was 18/19) can barely motivate you to click on a free Spotify link anymore.

Delirium Cordia is an absolutely fantastic piece of work, though, and I would’ve loved to see Fantomas do more concepts like that.  When I spoke to Buzz Osborne, on a chance meeting in a London about 8 years ago, he said that he’d love to do anything with Fantomas, but it’s all about waiting for Mike to give the go-ahead.  I guess we’re still waiting for that, but they did play a couple of one-off shows here a year or two back.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #17 on: May 18, 2019, 03:02:59 AM »
That’s fascinating, thank you.  I actually didn’t know Patton had that much musical input into Bungle, except maybe for some tracks on Disco Volante.

It is surprising, because he never plays any "real" instruments onstage, though FNM fans might remember him playing a bass guitar, teaching Jim Martin "Malpractice" in the "Making of Angel Dust" footage (hours of which was leaked from the MTV archives). Also, I believe he basically recorded the first Fantomas record on his own, and at the show in Oslo where we interviewed Trey, Patton played drums on a one-off cover of an Emperor song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HKGvCTEErpg

Would love to hear that interview with Trey Spruance if you have it handy.

If I ever dig it out and don't find it too embarrassing, I'll let you know. He talked a little bit about recording DV, and about their listening habits (reflected by their many eclectic covers). He talked about Secret Chiefs 3, which hadn't released anything at that point, and even gave some background on The Holy Vehm (one of SC3's seven sub-bands), who wouldn't appear on CD for another 8 years. As you can tell, this interview was a personal highlight, however brief and clumsily handled. Trey Spruance is a very impressive character, and extremely forthcoming. But here he was talking to two awestruck fans barely out of their teens, so just about any interview out there is going to be better value, I think.

I saw Secret Chiefs 3 open for Dead Cross (who cancelled their show, due to Patton falling off a skateboard).  I admire everything that goes into it, but I can’t properly get into it in the same way I did with Bungle.  It doesn’t feel complete.

Heard about the skateboard incident, real shame. SC3 took a while to click for me. My aforementioned friend was more enthusiastic about them from the start, but the first two albums are still a mixed bag for me, particularly the debut. Superficially, it felt a little samey and generically "Arabic-sounding", while the production is underwhelming and there's too much random noise happening. It wasn't until I got "Book M" and the live album "Eyes of Flesh, Eyes of Flame", that the melodies and rhythms started sticking in my mind, but from there, it was a short way to full-on fandom. There's quite a substantial discography by now, and it's growing more eclectic with each release. I like it all, but for someone dipping their toe, I'd recommend some of the full shows available on YouTube as great free gateways. Outside of special "themed" shows, they have very varied set lists, with a little bit of everything.

Here's a taste from their latest album "Malkhut", their second collaboration with John Zorn:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6HIcr8Cj9o

I'd plug SC3 for another page, but it's a Patton thread, and I gotta go to bed

Shaky

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #18 on: May 18, 2019, 06:04:53 AM »
I find listening to a whole SC3 album frustrating - the consistency isn't quite there for me - but some of their songs are amazing.

They released 4 brilliant EPs in 2007 (and re-recorded a handful of those tracks a few years later). The krautrocky "Drive" is gorgeous:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvzSbu3HLIw

And "Kulturvultur" is quite the banger, the sort of sufi-surf madness I'd like them to do more often:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SH6Vl0qWy5A

alan nagsworth

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #19 on: May 18, 2019, 08:00:10 AM »
I’ve only just woke up so I’ll say more on the matter later, but I was talking to an old friend about Patton recently and he echoed a lot of your thoughts, Noods. Particularly he said after the Kaada collab, he went and listened to all of Kaada’s other stuff and very quickly realised that the album with Patton was by far the worst thing Kaada had ever done.

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #20 on: May 18, 2019, 12:35:29 PM »
I don’t like Mike’s voice anymore, I find it kind of grating. Again, to echo the thoughts above, I feel I’ve heard it all before and would be very surprised if Mike surprised me ever again. Maybe the overfamiliarity has manifested into a dislike of 'Mike' ...it's kind of a shame.

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #21 on: May 18, 2019, 08:49:45 PM »
Dead Cross are dead disappointing and i think i said in the other thread that i hadn't been knocked out by anything Patton since Suspended Animation (which is fucking remarkable). I don't really bother to keep up with him now and i haven't listened to the Crank soundtrack, but the other albums under his own name i've heard don't seem to offer much beyond the occasional Morricone-inspired bit of lushness.

It's such a shame when you remember how productive he was in the late 90's/early 00's not to mention his collabs with Melvins, Bjork, DEP, Zorn etc. Not all of it was great by any stretch, but i was still interested in where he'd go next. I think the best thing about him now is the music he puts out on Ipecac, with a special mention to Farmers Market.

Can't agree with the op about Peeping Tom being top tier. I always thought that was a really tedious record considering the talent involved (on paper i'd love to hear him work with Amon Tobin... on record not so much).

Still a great frontman though.

McFlymo

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2019, 09:39:36 PM »
I'm reluctant to bash Patton too much, as I agree that, given he's been fairly prolific since the 90s, of course it will eventually be impossible for avid fans to be surprised or impressed by each new thing he puts out there.

I try to listen to his stuff and disconnect from what I already know about his back catalogue and appreciate it on its own merits, but even then, very little since 2014 has grabbed me.

But as the OP said, even with just his work with Bungle, FNM, Fantomas, Tomahawk, John Zorn, Patton deserves serious cred. His vocal range and diversity of terms of vocal styles etc, alone. Never mind his creative input into Fantomas. (His Adult Themes For Voice solo album is also still something very special to me)

If we were asking, "when did Patton's career jump the shark?" I'd have to say it was the Peeping Tom album. As said above: On paper, WOW! What a line up!! It seemed that album was years in the making and I was quite excited at the possibilities. It was a massive let down in that sense.

I would also agree that his voice doesn't particularly delight me anymore. I wasn't blown away by his contributions to the last FNM record, although his vocals on Tomahawk's Oddfellows were decent (they'd lost the edge they had with the first two albums, but it was a good effort).

purlieu

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #23 on: May 18, 2019, 10:26:43 PM »
He suffers from the fact that a lot of his appeal has been his skill in coming up with new, surprising and offbeat things. There's only so often you can do that, and once you begin to repeat yourself, it stands out a lot more than when a more 'conventional' musician does it (I've had this with Nurse With Wound in the last ten years).

My introductions to his work were Mr. Bungle's self-titled album and Fantomas' Delirium Cordia, both of which utterly blew me away. A lot of his stuff is in genres that don't appeal to me so much, but I've usually been able to appreciate the originality of what he's done, but on the odd occasion I check out new stuff in recent years it hasn't blown me away.

McFlymo

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2019, 12:47:23 AM »
It's one of those things I often wonder about: When "great" artists, who built a reputation for being groundbreaking or "challenging", make music to satisfy their own creative urges, is it fair to criticise it for not being groundbreaking / original etc?

For example, I like that Aphex Twin didn't try to be "groundbreaking" when he released Syro (and his subsequent output), because it would have been boring had he attempted an artistically ambitious follow up to Drukqs. Instead he made an album that sounded like Aphex Twin just enjoying himself. While I find the music a bit disappointing, I'm heartened that he didn't give into the pressure to try and live up to some "legend" status that people have created around him.
 
Although at this point, I'd really like some good Patton output again, the bad pile is getting a little too big and risks overshadowing his brilliant moments.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #25 on: May 21, 2019, 12:59:59 AM »
Right, I think the difference here is that it isn't just one project (like Aphex Twin), it's spread out over multiple projects.  If he'd stuck with Faith No More and kept putting out comfortable yet high-quality material with them, I doubt anyone would mind too much.  It's the fact that he's coming out with some "new and exciting project" every few months and it's almost always underwhelming and dies off as quickly as it started (whatever happened to the Nevermen, for instance?).  Then it's onto something else. 

I think it's more his approach than the respective quality of each specific piece of work.  Back in the day, he'd have his two or three main projects and turn up occasionally on a Bjork album or whatever, but now it seems to be more of him getting together with whoever for an afternoon and knocking out some material.  When Dead Cross is probably his biggest actual "project" of the past 5 years, that doesn't bode too well - especially since, as I understand it, he was brought in to do vocals at the very last minute.  And it's pretty not good, but that's neither here nor there.

chveik

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #26 on: May 21, 2019, 01:03:09 AM »
sadly he's not a very good improviser. in his collabs with Zorn, Moonchild and al. I wish he would just shut the fuck up sometimes.

Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #27 on: May 21, 2019, 01:07:37 AM »
sadly he's not a very good improviser. in his collabs with Zorn, Moonchild and al. I wish he would just shut the fuck up sometimes.

He's certainly a bit overbearing in some of those, but fucked if he doesn't come out with some incredibly impressive stuff.  I know people will often say he copies other "avant-garde vocalists" when he gets into the Zorn stuff, but he's outdone almost all the greats at various points as far as sheer skill and consistency go.  I saw Diamanda Galas recently (on a rare live performance) and she was fucking awful, which is a shame given how much I adore and appreciate her 80s/early 90s recordings.  Patton I've seen live a few times in various configurations and has always been note-perfect.

Shaky

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #28 on: May 21, 2019, 01:14:39 AM »
I've mixed feelings about the Patton improv-thang. On one hand I'm intrigued because it's Mike and his mighty pipes, yet on the other it's rarely anything I want to listen to ever again. Admittedly, I've not seen him do that sort of stuff live and that's the whole point of a lot of these projects.

Thinking back, I think the rot set in for me with Peeping Tom and the third Tomahawk album. There was potentially an interesting soundtrack-esque album somewhere in the latter but instead it has Patton screaming and making silly sounds all over it, somewhat spoiling the atmosphere.

chveik

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Re: Mike Patton: Quantity over Quality
« Reply #29 on: May 21, 2019, 01:17:40 AM »
He's certainly a bit overbearing in some of those, but fucked if he doesn't come out with some incredibly impressive stuff.  I know people will often say he copies other "avant-garde vocalists" when he gets into the Zorn stuff, but he's outdone almost all the greats at various points as far as sheer skill and consistency go.  I saw Diamanda Galas recently (on a rare live performance) and she was fucking awful, which is a shame given how much I adore and appreciate her 80s/early 90s recordings.  Patton I've seen live a few times in various configurations and has always been note-perfect.

I haven't had the chance to see him live. I was perhaps a bit unfair, because Zorn also has the same "quantity over quality" problem, and his Moonchild stuff would still remain flawed without Patton.