The eccentric US rock guru roared onto the scene as frontman of mavericks Faith No More and Mr Bungle. Since then, Mike Patton has been one busy dude: founding his record label Ipecac Recordings, launching his bands Fantômas and Tomahawk, and being a voice actor in videogames and films such as I Am Legend, in which he lent his growl to the zombies. His latest album, Mondo Cane, is a typically experimental feat – live orchestral covers of 1950s and 1960s Italian pop songs, including Ennio Morricone’s ‘Deep Down’. And there’s the little matter of the Faith No More tour this year. Hectic? Prolific Patton wouldn’t have it any other way…
Mondo Cane, in which you cover mid-20th century Italian pop songs, is a left turn. How did it come about?
It might seem like a left turn to other people, but it’s perfectly natural to me. I lived in Italy with my now ex-wife for about six years, on and off. While I was there I fell in love with this music, and thought that I’d try something like Mondo Cane if I was feeling brave enough. At last I’ve had an opportunity to work with an orchestra, fleshed out these songs and warped them the way I wanted to.
Was it difficult to sing in Italian?
Speaking Italian is second nature, but it was hard to sing it. I’d developed singing shortcuts in English that made things easier for my voice, but they had to go out the window because they distort Italian pronunciation.
You worked with a 40-piece orchestra, a choir and a band on Mondo Cane. Can you tour with it?
Yeah, we’re doing a European tour in July, and we might even make it to the UK; there’s a hole in our schedule and we’re trying to make it happen. But it’s not easy. It’s such an ambitious project, and I want to make sure everyone gets paid well and we don’t financially lose our ass doing it, so I’ve been forced to scale it back. The orchestra and band will be smaller, so now I’m working on new arrangements. It’ll sound different.
Does the crowd expect different things from you when you perform Mondo Cane than when you’re with Faith No More?
Man, you’re asking the wrong guy about crowd expectations! I don’t know what people expect. I just hope they walk away with some kind of fulfilment. The music’s all I’m concerned about. But they’re two different experiences. Faith No More is unbridled, and allows for plenty of improvisation and crowd interaction. But, when it comes to Mondo Cane, concentration is supreme. I have to follow the conductor and my score, so I can’t concern myself with entertaining the audience.
This summer you’re touring Mondo Cane, then with Faith No More. Is it weird switching between them?
No, it’s refreshing. Doing different projects back-to-back is great, I’ve done it loads and it’s exhilarating. I get excited towards the end of one tour because I know the next thing’s coming up. It’s like a perpetual vacation.
How’s the Faith No More reunion that started last year going?
It’s really fun. The interest in it has surprised us. We’ve also been surprised by how much we’re enjoying it. It’s interesting to see how our perspectives have changed over the years.
You bashed out a cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’ at Download Festival last year. Are you a fan?
Man, I don’t know if I want to go there! I’m not that familiar with her music. I just inject covers from time to time, and that song was one of those earworms I couldn’t shake off, so I had to release it.
How do you decide which project to do next?
I’m going through a list I’m behind on. I’m like a film director who has three or four movies up his sleeve and whichever one gets financed first gets moved to the front of the line. But after doing a record like Mondo Cane, it’d be nice to do something harder and more abrasive.
You contributed to an Alan Moore audio book, which is out this summer. What’s that about?
I’m only on one track and I did it long distance so I didn’t meet Alan, but the audio recording has an ensemble playing music in the background to Alan’s wild prose. It sounds really strange – I’ve never heard anything like it.
What’s the weirdest thing you wore during your Mr Bungle days?
We used to be fascinated with bondage outfits, especially masks, but it reached absurd levels. Once I went on stage wearing a mask with a horse bridle on it, and tried to sing through it. Halfway through I thought: “What the fuck am I doing?” It became a sport – trying to find the most obtrusive object I could wear and still sing. When our music became more complex to play we left that shit behind.
You had a feud with Anthony Kiedis in 1999 which led to Mr Bungle being taken off several festival bills. Are you friends yet?
It’s not worth talking about. I’ve no idea what it was about then and I don’t know now. But I bet we’d have a warm embrace if we saw each other now.
How did you develop your side career as a voice actor?
I ended up doing it by chance. I knew someone who worked on videogames and they approached me to do some voice work. I’ve mostly been doing moans and screams, like the voice of the zombies in Left 4 Dead, but I also did Bionic Commando – that was more akin to actual acting, repeating every line in the script about 50 times.
How do you find the time to fit all of these projects in?
I’m dedicated and driven and I feel comfortable with it. I’m frightened of losing the will to do this, losing my voice or running out of ideas. That could happen at some point, so I want to take advantage of what I’ve got while I still have the spark left.
Mondo Cane is out now on Ipecac