Mike Patton probably owns a Blackberry.
The former Faith No More and Mr. Bungle frontman has always juggled his many musical whims like the finest project manager, but in 2005 his personal digital assistants might need their own personal assistants.
The 37-year-old musician has recruited Oakland, California, DJ crew the X-ecutioners for his latest project, General Patton Vs. the X-ecutioners. Released February 22, Vs. is a characteristically varied affair, featuring the general's vocal acrobatics, skittish needle-dropping and quick cut-and-paste genre changes. And, like a growing number of musical collaborations, most notably the Postal Service, the songs were all completed via the mail.
"I sent them boxes full of records and said, 'Chew on these,' " Patton said of his first self-produced project, arranged and mixed entirely on his home computer. "And I spent all my free time editing it, chopping it and doing my best to mangle it." Challenging the status quo of DJ culture was the goal. "You tend to hear the same breaks and samples. My main focus was to give [the X-ecutioners] a palate that they weren't familiar with. Basically, I sent them a bunch of really weird f---ing records."
Though frenetic and cacophonous, the album does include conventional song structures that Patton calls "islands" of respite from the chaos. A video is being planned for the track "Get Up, Punk!" but don't expect Faith No More-esque camera mugging: The clip's aesthetic is likely to be more in the style of the "Grand Theft Auto" video games.
But this is just the first of many projects scheduled for 2005.
Now unencumbered by corporate red tape (he lost eight months when he briefly signed to a major label), Patton is readying his solo project recorded under the name Peeping Tom. The self-titled LP, a purported "return to pop," will finally see the light of day this fall on his own outsider label, Ipecac.
Four years in the making, Peeping Tom was not only delayed by label politics, but again by working with the unknown. "The music, to my ears, is relatively simple," he said. "But it's one of the more challenging things [I've done], 'cause I didn't have a band, I didn't have anyone to say, 'Play this, play that.' "
The list of producers onboard for the project reads like a cavalcade of who's who in adventurous beatmaking: Dan "The Automator" Nakamura, Cypress Hill's DJ Muggs, Massive Attack, Amon Tobin, Australian DJ collective the Avalanches, and Odd Nosdam (Clouddead) and Jel (Subtle) of the Bay Area hip-hop collective Anticon.
Guests on the album include Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto and rapper Kool Keith. Patton has more than 30 songs in the can and will likely release two albums' worth of work — one of A-game material and then, later on, the far-from-leftover leftovers collection.
"Reeling in all these people has been like a long fishing trip," said Patton, who's still hoping to rope Björk into the project. (Incidentally, Patton recently remixed the Icelandic singer's "Where Is the Line," and the two have talked about doing an album together.)
However, before that, on April 5, the singer will release Suspended Animation, the fourth record from his unpredictable and mostly instrumental group Fantômas. This time, the dissonant noise group will let its hair down with an album for kids. "It's our good-mood record," Patton laughed. "It's very playful, comical and light on its feet. It sounds like 'Romper Room.' We're gonna have to tour day-care centers."
With his almost pathological preoccupation with making music, something has to fall by the wayside. Those awaiting his harder-rocking outfit Tomahawk might not want to hold their breath. "[Tomahawk guitarist Duane Denison] has written a great set of tunes, but the ball is in my court," Patton said. He doesn't expect the record to be released this year.
In the past year, Patton has already appeared on Björk's Medulla and Handsome Boy Modeling School's White People and has starred in the indie film "Firecracker." So what could possibly be next for this workaholic multitasker? It all depends on with whom he breaks bread.
"Every time [Dan 'The Automator' and I] go out for dinner, there's a new project on the table," he said.
"I don't have a life outside of this sh--, needless to say. I have to make an effort about things like going to the grocery store. That stuff reminds me that I don't live in the real world, and you know what? I'm thankful."