The A-Z of Mike Patton

(Image credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

The word ‘genius’ is overused in music journalism, wider writing and the world in general. When it comes to Mike Patton, however, there aren’t enough superlatives to describe the man. From rising to fame with Faith No More and subsequently splitting with the group in 1998, to pulling double duty with Mr. Bungle, working on film soundtracks, the Faith No More reunion and more, Patton has become a voyager of music. An explorer of the eclectic. No genre is left unspoiled; no hairdryer is safe (see J is for… Juice for clarification.) There’s no peg to hang this on nor upcoming release to sell with this feature. We’re just here to salute the solitary, maverick talent that is Mike Patton. Join us.

A is for… Anthony Kiedis

There’s nothing quite like a fat, juicy beef to kick things off, eh? Code Orange and Asking Alexandria this is not – the feud between Patton and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis ran for years. So, basically, Faith No More’s 1989 hit Epic was amazing. You know this. Kiedis accused Patton of nicking his style, because jumping up and down is obviously subject to trademark. Patton ignored Kiedis, seeing as, well, you don’t need to listen to anyone if you’re the singer of Faith No More. So he just went about his business, content in the knowledge that he was Mike Patton. But then, about a decade later, the beef was re-fried. Patton’s other band, Mr. Bungle, were gonna drop their California record the same day as the Chilis’ Californication; California was budged back a few days, followed by Kiedis allegedly threatening to pull RHCP from a summer festival run unless Bungle were removed from the line-up. So Bungle were booted. Patton insulted Kiedis in the press whenever he got the chance, topping things off with a Bungle performance where all members were dressed as RHCP, playing RHCP songs and generally being more entertaining than the Peppers.

B is for… Bungle, Mr.

And now for Bungle themselves. Formed in 1985 while they were still in high school, Bungle released a flurry of demos before being picked up by Warner Bros. and putting out their self-titled debut LP in 1991. Over eight years, Bungle ventured through carnivalesque, ska-laden metal with their self-titled effort; avant-garde, doomy experimentation was ushered in on Disco Volante; California, meanwhile, is the band’s poppiest take on their already unique sound, adding even more genres – doo-wop, rockabilly, Hawaiian, you name it – to the Bungle “bowel of chiley” before fucking off and influencing everyone from Slipknot to, er, Incubus. But that’s all we got from Bungle – a barrage of incomprehensibly odd live shows and three perfect, mind-bending records from some of the planet’s most innovative musicians: Patton on vocals, guitarist Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn on bass, drummer Danny Heifetz and saxophonists Clinton ‘Bär’ McKinnon and Theo Lengyel (although Lengyel wasn’t present for California.) Basically, Mr. Bungle sounded like nothing on earth. They still sound like nothing on earth.

C is for… Chuck Mosley

You’d have thought Patton would feel a bit weird about letting the guy he replaced get on stage with Faith No More every now and again, but ex-FNM vocalist Chuck Mosley did so several times before he died in 2017. Usually it was just to have a crack at some of the older tracks on his own – he even staged a Chuck Mosley & Friends gig featuring his former Faith No More comrades – but, in 2010, Mosley actually joined Patton for a vocal ping-pong match during Introduce Yourself. Not quite like working with the GCSE student who took on your summer job full-time, but still a pretty cool gesture on Mike’s behalf.

D is for… Découpé

We may never truly understand Patton – you’d have better luck cracking the stock market or giving a scene-by-scene breakdown of Ulysses. Musically, lyrically and even just on a personal level, the man is a true enigma. The way in which he writes his lyrics, however, is no secret. He once said, “Often I just choose the words because of the rhythm, not because of the meaning.” As such, Land Of Sunshine’s lyrical backbone allegedly came from a fortune cookie, other lyrics have been stuck together using random words from Frank Sinatra songs and, in the greatest bout of inspiration ever, Patton claimed he “was just driving around and there was a piece of paper on the ground, so I stole it”. A true visionary or découpé dickhead? Er… both.

E is for… Easy

Patton was denied any creative scope on The Real Thing, so it’s no surprise that 1992’s Angel Dust was abundant with the Bungle-man’s eccentricities. The cover of The Commodores’ Easy, however, remains one of the band’s defining statements from this era; rather than appease their audience, FNM delivered a painfully faithful rendition of the 1977 hit – even Patton’s crooning is spot-on here. Still, it earned the band a No.3 slot in the UK charts.

F is for… Fantômas

Fantômas could’ve gotten away with being a straight-up metal band – Patton on vocals, Dave Lombardo drumming, Buzz Osborne playing guitar and Trevor Dunn on bass is more than enough to warrant salivation from the heavy world at large. But nah. It’s a Patton project. Over the course of Fantômas’ queer quartet of recordings, Patton led the group through the darkest of musical alleys; the self-titled debut is essentially the soundtrack to a comic book, each song assigned a page number; The Director’s Cut covers movie theme tunes, most notably The Godfather; the concept of surgery without anaesthesia is explored during the one-song-long, 74-minute Delìrium Còrdia; Suspended Animation, meanwhile, is a batch of 90-second-or-so blasts of cartoon music. Fantômas returned for a one-off performance in 2014, but we crave more. Please, please come back.

G is for… God Hates A Coward

We’ll touch on the genius of Tomahawk later down the line – Patton with members of Helmet and the Melvins? Yes please. Aside from four pretty much perfect records, Tomahawk always brought it when it came to the live arena – when performing God Hates A Coward, Patton regularly donned a respirator to recreate the distorted, demented drawl of the studio version’s verses. It’s very, very good and we implore you to watch it immediately.

H is for… Hitchcock, Alfred

Nathaniel Merriweather Presents… Music To Make Love to Your Old Lady By is the only record by Lovage and, being such, makes an impression before you even hit play. The front cover an unashamed tribute to Serge Gainsbourg’s seminal jazz-bastard N° 2; the title itself a play on an album featuring Alfred Hitchcock, Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Music To Be Murdered By; the song titles Lifeboat, To Catch A Thief and Strangers On A Train areall namesakes to Hitchcock flicks, even lifting samples from their silver-screen counterparts. Produced by Dan The Automator, the Lovage record consists largely of Patton and Jennifer Charles being all zesty and whatnot over trip-hop beats and piano. It’s basically the music that should accompany the end credits of every Tarantino film.

I is for… Italy

For his Mondo Cane covers record in 2010, Patton drew influence from Bologna in Italy, where he’d been residing; as it happens, he’d spent most of his time there listening to Italian pop tunes from the 50s and 60s. “This is like a snapshot of me getting to know Italy,” he said of the record. “It’s the love affair with a great country.” Comprising a 40-piece orchestra, a band of 15 and a choir (all arranged by Mike), Mondo Cane is far grander than your standardlove affair; the sleazy-yet-sweeping rendition of Ennio Morricone’s Deep Down is worth the admission price alone. And yes, Patton does speak fluent Italian.

J is for… Juice

In his book, Rock Star Babylon: Outrageous Rumors, Legends, and Raucous True Tales of Rock and Roll Icons, Jon Holmes claims that Mike Patton did a poo in a carton of Axl Rose’s orange juice. That’s not all. Patton quite literally took the piss as Faith No More supported for Metallica and Guns N’ Roses’ 1992 stadium tour; during the band’s set in Seville, a bottle of urine landed on stage, resulting in Patton grabbing said bottle, standing atop Axl’s teleprompter and treating himself to a makeshift golden shower. He once dubbed himself a “shit terrorist” following an incident where he defecated in a hotel hairdryer so the next guest would get hot shit all over their face, ruining their life forever.

K is for… King for a Day… Fool For A Lifetime

It’s just the best Faith No More album. Despite the odds stacking perilously against them like a timber tower of expectation, the band pulled another caustic classic from their bag of tricks. Keyboardist Roddy Bottom was largely absent due to the deaths of his Father and Kurt Cobain, the band were involved in a car crash – Patton was driving – and guitarist Jim Martin left the group, finally replaced with Mr. Bungle axeman Trey Spruance. But that doesn’t matter. King For A Day… is a genre-killing, arse-shaking masterpiece; Get Out, Digging The Grave and What a Day are catchy as they come; Ugly In The Morning and Cuckoo For Caca are the most aggressive FNM tracks ever, helped to no end by Patton’s mirthful, unintelligible squeals; oh, and Just A Man features a massive choir. So, is this man actually God? Judging King for a Day… as a whole and the band’s performance of the record at the 2011 Maquinaria festival, quite possibly.

L is for… Label

“Like the medicine it’s named after, Ipecac Recordings is here to purge you of the drek that’s been rotting in your tummies.” That’s Ipecac Recordings’ mission statement, and that’s pretty much exactly what it’s done. Formed on April Fools’ Day ’99 by Patton and Greg Werckman (ex-label manager of Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles), Ipecac Recordings dishes out one-album deals to artists which its owners actually believe in. Save for Faith No More and Mr. Bungle, just about all of Patton’s eclectic output has found a home at Ipecac – who else would have released his terrifying tētēma record or the challenging, cherubic Kaada/Patton orchestral collaboration? But it’s not just a vanity affair. Nah. Ipecac’s brought out everything from Melvins to Moistboyz; from Le Butcherettes to Isis.

M is for… Medúlla

Maybe you just know Björk for wearing funny costumes and singing, ‘It’s oh so QUUUUIIIIEEEET!’, but the Icelandic oddity is more than that. Her fifth solo record, Medúlla, was almost entirely a cappella, enlisting Patton’s services on two tracks: Pleasure Is All Mine and Where Is The Line. On the former, Mike’s an angel; the latter, meanwhile, has him unleash a booming bass that sounds a bit like Gollum. The pleasure is all ours, actually.

N is for… Nevermen

We’ll get to Peeping Tom in a bit, but Nevermen is basically the closest you’re gonna get to another PT record. With Nevermen, the band’s sole, debut LP, we’re treated to the ugliest boyband in existence. Patton is one of three vocalists; TV On The Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe and rapper Doseone – the latter also guested on Peeping Tom’s How U Feelin? – complete Nevermen, a tri-pronged fork of the sharpest kind. No frontman is above the other; the record was written democratically, resulting in a country ballad penned by Patton being thrown out. We would’ve liked to hear that one, though. Basically, Nevermen is a much more cohesive piece than the Peeping Tom record, perfectly gelling the electronica/rap/hip hop/rock nightmares of three visionaries together. Their virgin performances earlier this year were cancelled due to a family emergency, so hopefully we’ll see them on the road at some point in the future – it took the project eight years from conception to release, so these songs more than deserve to be toured.

O is for… OST

On top of voicing the rotting reprobates in I Am Legend, Patton’s also applied his more atmospheric, blink-and-you’ll-get-your-arse-sliced-off side to several films’ original soundtracks. A Perfect Place, Crank: High Voltage, The Solitude Of Prime Numbers and The Place Beyond The Pines each boast lavish soundscapes courtesy of Mr. Patton. It still doesn’t make Crank: High Voltage a patch on the original, mind.

P is for… Peeping Tom

“I don’t listen to the radio, but if I did, this is what I’d want it to sound like,” said Patton of the Peeping Tom project. And it is pop music, just filtered through Patton’s perverse periscope. We’re Not Alone (Remix), Don’t Even Trip and Sucker are each sleazy yet saccharine numbers, the latter boasting a performance from Norah Jones in which she gleefully utters “motherfucker” several times. Each track boasts a different collaboration, ranging from Massive Attack to Kool Keith – Peeping Tom ended up supporting Gnarls Barkley on tour, so Patton’s warped pop sensibilities must have had some sort of mainstream pull.

Q is for… Qemists, The

British breakbeat buggers The Qemists have made quite the name for themselves, giving the likes of Enter Shikari and Crossfaith a run for their money on supporting slots. They were always going to be something special, though; often compared to contemporaries Pendulum and The Prodigy, The Qemists possess a perfect knowledge of both rock and dance music, twigging the interest of one Mr. Patton, who ended up guesting on Lost Weekend from the band’s debut LP, Join The Q. As far as opening statements go… that’s pretty decent, right?

R is for… Reunited (and if feels so good!)

The golden standard. If any broken-up band even has a momentary, miniscule moment of yearning, a sniff of cash, they must ask themselves: “Can we do a Faith No More?” If not, a reunion run should be allowed, then please kindly fuck off again. Faith No More did the reunion run. That Download 2009 set. A few shows here and there in the UK; a full-on tour elsewhere, reuniting Patton with the Album Of The Year line-up of Mike Bordin on drums, Roddy Bottom fingering the keys, Billy Gould on bass and Jon Hudson playing guitar. And then the album. Oh, the album. Sol Invictus arrived in 2015 and was everything we’d hoped for; a Faith No More album for the new generation; a record that more than holds its own aside a catalogue of classics. We bet they’ve got another good ‘un in the tank.

S is for… Sepultura

Best known for his ungodly work on Lookaway from Sepultura’s 1996 blockbuster Roots, Patton stuck with the band even when the rest of the planet dropped them like a steamy, nu metal shit following Max Cavalera’s departure. The Waste, a B-side from the Derrick Green-fronted Against, had our Mike on it; Procura O Cara, a Sepultura track from the 1999 flick No Coração dos Deuses, also featured the godly tones of Patton.

T is for… Tomahawk

Conceived following a meeting between Patton and guitarist Duane Denison, Tomahawk is probably the closest thing resembling a straight-up rock band in Patton’s canon. And that says a lot, seeing as Tomahawk’s third LP, Anonymous, was largely based on Indigenous Native American song-structures. And that’s just Tomahawk. They evolved from a sludgy, dirty beast on their self-titled 2001 debut to a fully-fledged, pop-laden Nick Cave mutant hit machine with 2013’s Oddfellows, their fourth and, as of present, latest outing. The same year, Tomahawk rocked up to Reading and Leeds festivals and played Captain Midnight. It was glorious. We want to see it again.

U is for… Underwater Love

A track from The Real Thing that stands on its own two legs – but just imagine if Patton had sung properly on that record! Just think of that spine-tingling line on Underwater Love: ‘Hold me closer, keep me near, I’ll never get enough’, but sung like Just A Man. Matt Wallace, The Real Thing’s producer, remembered Patton’s spiteful mood towards FNM at the time; he’d been restricted from any creative input regarding arrangements and so on, extracting revenge in the most Mike Patton kind of way. In an interview with Hammer from 2009, Wallace noted: “[Patton] was singing really nasally and also his pitch on record was not as good as I knew it could be. I was just like: ‘Why don’t you just hit the notes?’ And he goes: ‘No man, this is my style.’ Because he’d sing the song on tape, and he’d do this amazing, really full voice. I’m like: ‘That’s the voice! Get that on the damn tape!’ He was like: ‘No man, I don’t want to do it’.”

(Image credit: Getty)

V is for… Video games

With I Am Legend as the brain-eating foundation – okay, vampires, zombies, neither are alive – Patton went on to make a fair bit of pocket money screaming into a microphone as a spokesman for the undead. Left 4 Dead and The Last Of Us both feature Mike doing his best impression of a hungry stomach while The Darkness franchise has him as their titular character; a few other games were also bless with Patton’s pipes, most recently the crowdfunded Edge Of Twilight: Return To Glory.

W is for… When Good Dogs Do Bad Things

The Dillinger Escape Plan released Calculating Infinity in 1999, changing the face of music and putting basically everyone to shame. Vocalist Dimitri Minakakis’s exit from the band threw DEP into disarray, resulting in a five-year gap between Calculating Infinity and its Greg Puciato-fronted follow-up, Miss Machine. Betwixt these two gems is yet another classic; Irony Is A Dead Scene is four songs long, comprising Hollywood Squares, Pig Latin, When Good Dogs Do Bad Things and a cover of Aphex Twin’s Come To Daddy. The thrashing, industrial mathcore mess is perfected with a dollop of Mike Patton on top: ‘I’m the best you’ll ever have!’ he screams, opening the face-flaying fury of When Good Dogs Do Bad Things. It’s no wonder Puciato’s vocals on 2013’s One of Us Is The Killer are so reminiscent of Patton; when a force like this pushes its way into a band and absolutely violates it, an imprint is left that never truly washes away, even a decade later.

X is for… X-Ecutioners

Three hip hop DJS in the form of The X-Ecutioners join forces with Patton – well, more like go to war with him on the wonderfully weird General Patton Vs. The X-Ecutioners. Produced entirely by Patton, this sample-heavy, trippy hip-hop mess is contemporary and gritty yet grand; The X-Ecutioners built the music around samples from records and films suggested by Mike. The finished product genuinely plays out like the soundtrack to some sort of upper-tier B-movie. In the best possible way.

Y is for… You Fat Bastards!

The chant still endures to this day. The You Fat Bastards! Live at the Brixton Academy video beamed the Faith No More live experience to an audience of fat bastards sprawled across the sofa, proving that the band were more than just MTV darlings or Red Hot Chili Peppers wannabes or any of the other things that they quite obviously weren’t following The Real Thing’s release. Patton’s performance, in particular, is a far cry from the suave, sophisticated musical matador we witness fronting the band today. Mind you, he still hasn’t lost any of that unhinged, lightning bolt energy – it’s just conducted in a different manner, such as when he returned to Brixton Academy with Faith No More in 2012, getting a security guard in a headlock and trying to make him sing along to Easy.

Z is for… Zu

What a fitting way to tie everything up. Zu are a band hailing from Italy and, much like Patton’s esteemed discography, they’re impossible to categorise; grindcore, jazz, punk, noise rock, mathcore and other random bits seep into Zu’s incomprehensible racket. Patton signed the band to Ipecac for their 2009 record Carboniferous, contributing to the tracks Soulympics and Orc, also touring as a guest musician with Zu later that year.

Alec Chillingworth

Alec is a longtime contributor with first-class BA Honours in English with Creative Writing, and has worked for Metal Hammer since 2014. Over the years, he's written for Noisey, Stereoboard, uDiscoverMusic, and the good ship Hammer, interviewing major bands like Slipknot, Rammstein, and Tenacious D (plus some black metal bands your cool uncle might know). He's read Ulysses thrice, and it got worse each time.