Even though he's slowed down in his golden years, James Brown will always be known as the hardest working man in show business. And while Mike Patton's not exactly gunning for the infamous nickname, he's definitely been giving Brown a run for his money.
Patton — of Faith No More, Fantômas, Tomahawk and about 30 other deranged and wondrous projects — has to work. It's what he does. In addition to running his Ipecac Records label, the anti-rock-star rock star's been putting the finishing touches on the self-titled debut from Peeping Tom, his four-years-in-the-making, long-overdue multi-genre pop masterpiece.
Oh, and he's also tracking vocals for three tunes that'll appear on Massive Attack's forthcoming seventh album, Weather Underground. The one song he's finished thus far for the trip-hoppers "is like a really slow, dirty ballad with mostly acoustic guitar," he said.
Plus he's composing soundtracks for two films (one being friend Melanie Lee's "Pinion"), he recently lent his voice box to the in-development PlayStation 3 game "The Darkness," and he's been writing material for the next Tomahawk LP.
And then there's that trip he's planning to Italy, where — with help from a string orchestra and a full choir — he'll record an album's worth of "my arrangements of '60s Italian pop tunes, which should be fun." He'll also spend some time with composer Eyvind Kang for a collaborative classical choir piece.
That's just the stuff he can remember off the top of his head. "You know, I always forget about some of the things I've done, because you do 'em, and sometimes they don't come out and ... most of it's almost like daily chores or something," Patton explained. "You check it off your list and then it's gone."
And when your list's as long as Mike's, you can't be expected to remember every little thing you've been involved with. Besides, the last four months of Patton's life have been devoted exclusively to finishing the first of three Peeping Tom records in the works, which is due May 30.
"I'm overjoyed to finally have this out of my hair," Patton said. "It's almost cathartic for me — more than any other project I've had. These projects, they're almost like problems. You have them on your work table and they're really fun for a minute, and then you get sick of 'em and you finish 'em off and move on to something else. This one has lingered for a lot of different reasons."
One of the reasons, oddly enough, was proclaimed major-label interest. "There were offers from major labels, and I made the grave error of entertaining some of those offers, and that cost me about a year of wining, dining, singing and dancing and ultimately, I was left holding my n--s," he said. "And I deserved it. I should have known better."
Plus, Patton recruited a laundry list of collaborators, sending tracks across the globe to have other artists add their personal touches. "It was a melee getting all this stuff back," he said.
The initial 11-track Peeping Tom outing will feature a spate of underground and mainstream experimentalists, including Kid Koala; Odd Nosdam; Doseone and Jel of the Bay Area hip-hop collective Anticon; Dale Crover of the Melvins; Massive Attack; Gorillaz beat maestro Dan "The Automator" Nakamura; human beatbox Rahzel the Godfather of Noyze; Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs; Amon Tobin; Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto; Brooklyn's Dub Trio; DJ Disk of the Invisibl Skratch Piklz; and rapper Kool Keith (see "General Mike Patton Drafts X-ecutioners And An Army Of Other Collaborators").
"It's very streamlined, very slick — it's a groove record," Patton said. "I used programmers and producers from the electronic world and the hip-hop world, in some cases. If there's a sound to [the record], it leans into those worlds. There are simple structures. I'm singing, there's lyrics — to me, it's a pop record. It's something I'd want to turn on the radio and hear."
One of the album's highlights, Patton said, is "Sucker," which boasts the pipes of Norah Jones. "It's a pretty vulgar song," he said, laughing. "You don't recruit someone like that unless you ... I mean, I had something real specific in mind for her, and I wanted to take her out of her element and put her in a new environment and make it exciting, and she loved it. She did great. But yeah, you won't recognize Norah. She's cussing her ass off. It's insane. She's like a cruel vamp, and it's super sexy, hot and, yeah, cruel."
After Peeping Tom's unveiling, Patton said he'll reunite with Nakamura to begin work on the second Lovage record — the follow-up 2001's lounge-flavored Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. He said there's no word yet on whether Elysian Fields frontwoman Jennifer Charles would be reprising her role as the Cher to his Sonny, but discussions are ongoing.
And Tomahawk are in "go mode," he added. "There are three or four tunes for the record that are done, and we'll be in the studio by the end of the year. Most of the music's based on old Native American motifs. It's going to be a real quiet, strange record."