Mike Patton’s Agenda: Touring With Peeping Tom, Humiliating Mark Hoppus And Danny DeVito

Peeping Tom frontman says fall U.S. tour in works; discusses Dan the Automator project.

It was more than five years ago that Mike Patton’s faithful followers first heard that the eccentric mastermind had started compiling a who’s who of collaborators for a genre-bending project he was calling Peeping Tom.

And for five years, those fans waited — wondering when, if ever, the inaugural Peeping LP would surface.

The oft-delayed album sort of became the former Faith No More frontman’s Chinese Democracy, with Patton devotees growing increasingly skeptical that the project would ever materialize. But unlike Axl, Patton delivered, and Peeping Tom’s self-titled debut hit record stores two weeks ago at #103 on Billboard‘s album sales chart.

“I’m not quite that insane, please,” said Patton, scoffing at the Axl comparison. “Give me a little credit, man! It was a learning process for me, making this record. Not having a band in front of you that you can sort of direct, and then press ‘record’ and say, ‘One, two, three, four — let’s go,’ I mean, it was very different.”

Compiling Peeping Tom‘s 11 tracks was an exercise in patience. Patton crafted the tunes, then dropped them in the mail to the musicians who had agreed to lend him a hand — a list that included artists ranging from Kid Koala and Massive Attack to Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto and Norah Jones (see “Norah Jones Curses Up A Storm For New Mike Patton Project” ).

“I’d send out a track and start working on something else,” said Patton, explaining the Peeping Tom delay. “You don’t sit around for the mailman to come, you work on other sh–. And that’s what I did. It was really something I worked on over a period of several years that was in the background of my life.

“I think I’ll approach it differently the second time around,” Patton continued; he had intended to release the second Peeping Tom LP this fall, but said it’s looking more like 2007 for the follow-up. “I know the process now, and the pitfalls of the process. Maybe I’ll rack up some frequent-flyer miles and visit some people and record with them.” Patton said he didn’t impose deadlines for the first record, so it became “kind of like a long fishing trip, trying to reel in all this stuff.”

For the second Peeping Tom effort, Patton said he already has several tracks in the can that didn’t fit into the overall theme of the first record — songs he’d worked on with producer Richard Devine and Cypress Hill’s DJ Muggs. He also has a lengthy wish list of possible collaborators, none of whom he’d mention, “because I don’t want to jinx it.”

One person he’s been openly pursuing for the project is Björk. Patton contributed to the Icelandic singer’s last LP, the nearly a cappella Medulla, which featured an all-star cast of eccentric vocalists, also including former Roots beatboxer Rahzel, English singer Robert Wyatt and Japanese vocal pyrotechnician Dokaka.

“I’m going to see her in a few days, and it’s something we’ve been talking about,” he said. “She was supposed to be on this album, but couldn’t. We’ll eventually find a way to make this work.”

In the meantime, Peeping Tom has lined up a handful of North American gigs next month, including stops in Costa Mesa, California, on July 20; a pair of shows in Los Angeles on July 23 and 24 (supporting Gnarls Barkley); July 27 in Chicago; and an appearance at the Hedpeth Festival in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, on July 28. This fall, Patton said Peeping will be mounting a full U.S. trek.

“This little string of dates kind of materialized and I sort of saw it as a challenge to get it together,” he said. “It’s a preview, a little teaser.” Patton has assembled a band featuring several artists who appear on Peeping Tom: drummer Joe Tomino, bassist Stu Brooks and guitarist Dave Holmes of Dub Trio; keyboardist Keefus Ciancia; backup singer Imani Coppola; DJ Mike Relm; Rahzel; and electronics wizard Alap Momin of Dälek.

“There’s a few options on the table for this fall,” he said. “Massive Attack is going out, we’re talking about doing some dates with them. And if we do go out with them, we’re going to be doing our own shows on the side. It’s a nine-piece band. It’s going to be a f—ing party, what can I say?”

Patton et al. recently shot a video for first single, “Mojo,” with director Matt McDermitt (Backstreet Boys, Motion City Soundtrack) that features cameos by model Rachel Hunter, Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, Blink-182′s Mark Hoppus and Patton buddy Danny DeVito. DeVito plays “a guy watching late-night TV in a wife-beater and boxers” who flips through the channels and gets bombarded by “each commercial and infomercial and Bowflex ad you’d see at 2:30 in the morning,” with most of the album’s collaborators playing roles in the re-created spots.

“It’s a pretty cute, haunting video,” said Patton. “[Nakamura and Hoppus] are thrust into a fake episode of ‘Cops,’ and they’re getting harassed, beat-up and generally abused.”

As for Patton’s other projects, he said Fantômas, which boasts Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne, Mr. Bungle bassist Trevor Dunn and Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, is on hold until next year. Patton says he’s “way behind” on work with Tomahawk, his band with former Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison, ex-Helmet drummer John Stanier and Melvins bassist Kevin Rutmanis.

He’s also working with Nakamura on “a whole new thing, which will be just the two of us,” he said. “It’s going to be kind of like DMX for white people. That’s the concept. I think Dan wants me to bark like a dog.”

And when it comes to his defunct act, Mr. Bungle, Patton said he has no plans to revive the experimental funk-metal band.

“Things die for a reason, and in Bungle’s case, it was a lot of reasons,” he said. “It was great while it lasted, but not something I’d go crawling back to. It was really just one of those things that … it’s like when you have friends in high school, and you start creeping up on age 40, those friendships can take other directions and diverge. That’s pretty much what happened.

“It was basically just a lot of personal differences and differences in the way we approached the band, and work ethic. I wish we could have put more records out. We probably should have,” he lamented. “The ones we did put out were OK, though.”