When given the chance, former Faith No More frontman Mike Patton usually gives up the goods on the various percolating projects he has a hand in. Even when those projects are years away from public consumption (as most of his current projects are), Patton almost always blabs, providing every pertinent detail a music journalist could want — from the names of the other players involved to the visual ideas he's mulling over for the eventual album art.
But that was the old Mike — new Mike is more cautious these days, while he would have leaked like a sieve in the past. There would be no gut-spilling this time around, folks.
When asked what's been keeping him busy, he brings up his forthcoming collaboration with Dan the Automator for a record he'd previously described as "DMX for white people." When asked about the project's name, he demurs.
"I don't think Dan wants me to talk much about it, so I better put a cork in it," he explained. "I probably shouldn't talk about it. I have a big mouth. I have to watch it these days, because there are a few things that, especially those that are just getting off the ground, where in years past, I would just spill the beans. But now I'm feeling more protective of it, and worrying about jinxing it, because a lot of these ideas don't come into fruition, and I look like a total fool."
He did, however, talk at length about his contributions to the forthcoming Will Smith flick "I Am Legend," which opens Friday. Patton voiced the cannibalistic, nocturnal mutant survivors of a manmade plague that wiped everyone off the face of the Earth, except the Fresh Prince.
"It came out of the blue, man," he said about being asked to work on "Legend." "The film's producers and sound people wanted the creatures in the movie to sound somewhat human, but not the standard. I guess what most movies in that genre use are pitch-shifted animal sounds and stuff like that. But they wanted this to sound closer to a human being, and they thought, 'Why don't we contact some musicians?' I guess they called a few guys, and they ended up with me."
Patton spent four hours in a recording studio, trying to mimic the film's vampire-like baddies. He said it was much like his improv gigs, only with a television placed in front of him, so that he could watch rough footage of the film's evil forces. Sometimes he'd even get direction, like, "You have a steel rod poked through your eye, and you're falling out of a building — make it emotional." It was tough, he said, to not laugh during certain parts of the process: "At times, the creatures I was attempting to impersonate weren't creatures at all, but goofy-looking guys in motion-capture suits."
"They tried to talk about it a little bit, and we all kind of looked at each other with funny expressions, and then we looked at the footage, just to give me an idea of what the scenes were like, and the cadences, how it moved, the peaks and the valleys, blah blah blah," he said. "I said, 'OK, I think I get it.' I improvised the whole thing over a four-hour whirlwind, and it was a lot of fun.
"I've always been interested in film, so to get involved in any way in the genesis of making a film or music for a film is fascinating to me," he added. "I sat there with my mouth open the whole time. To get a chance to do what I do and have it integrated into a gigantic project like that was pretty cool."
Patton also has a film score on the way, which he wrote and recorded himself, for the 20-minute independent film noir "A Perfect Place." The film's soundtrack, which Patton will release through his label, Ipecac, runs more than 40 minutes.
"A normal composer would have written 10 minutes," he laughs. "It was my first soundtrack, so I erred on the side of caution, and once I got into it, I wrote variations and alternates, and I wasn't thinking at the time about how much music it was — I just wanted the director to be happy and [have] plenty of weapons for each scenario. It's going to be a CD-length soundtrack, even though it's longer than the film. I also did the film's source music, so every time you see a guy get in a car and turn the radio on, that music, I did. It wasn't just like, 'Write a cheerful goodbye scene.' "
As far as how it sounds, Patton said it crosses every genre imaginable, but "the main themes have a big-band, almost jazz sort of slant. I was listening to a lot of ['Magnificent Seven' composer] Elmer Bernstein, so I was trying to steal a little bit from him."
Next year will also see the release of Patton's Mondo Cane, which was recorded live in Italy with the help of a full orchestra. Patton conducted the group through a number of his interpretations of 1950s and '60s Italian pop music.
"It'll be out next summer, and was something I'd wanted to do for eight years," he explained. "That should be a good one, and it's unlike anything I've ever done."
Fans will have to wait until '09 for the sophomore LP from Patton's Peeping Tom, and the second Lovage record — while written — will also have to wait until after 2008. Same goes for the next Fantomas record, the singer said. Next year, though, Ipecac will release a ton of new material, including an LP from Rahzel, another Melvins record, an Ennio Morricone compilation and the next installment in Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme's Desert Sessions.
"I'm starting to become conscious of putting too much stuff out there," he confided. "I really don't want to put more than a couple of records out a year, and I think that makes sense — on an artistic level, but also for my label."
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