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Mike Patton Talks 'I am Legend', 'Mondo Cane'

January 17th, 2008 12:48pm EST
Mike PattonThe many people who say Will Smith's I Am Legend may have noticed something unique about the monsters, namely that they sounded like no other creature to grace the film. That's because every snarl and growl was provided by former Faith No More and Mr. Bungle front man Mike Patton. Mike's always working on something, whether it be managing Ipecac Records, putting out albums under the many monikers he goes by, or providing voice-overs for video games like Valve's Portal or Capcom's remake of The Bionic Commando. Starpulse was thrilled to speak with Mike about I am Legend, and even more thrilled when he started talking about his upcoming album of covers of Italian pop songs from the 50's and 60's, the status of the new Lovage record, and announced a new compilation of Ennio Morricone compositions to be put out by Ipecac.

How did you get involved with I am legend?
Basically, it kind of fell out of the sky. They were looking for vocal effects that were human--they didn't want to use a sound library because a lot of these movies end up using the same effects over and over again. I have a friend that actually worked on the movie and I think he threw my name into the hat and from that point on I think I just got lucky.

How would you describe the experience of providing the voices?
It was great. It was completely alien to me, which made it fun and stimulating. The closest thing I can compare it to is improvisation. It was like doing an improv gig with a saxophone player, except you're watching him on video and he's Will Smith fighting a bunch of guys in motion capture suits (laughs). You had to kind of use your imagination.



I'm really looking forward to "Mondo Cane", your collection of covers of Italian pop songs from the 50's and 60's. Is that the name you're going with for the album?
Yeah, I think so. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to call the album, but that's the name of the project and I think I'm going to stick with it. .

How is it that you developed an interest in 50s and 60s Italian pop music?
I lived there, off and on, for about 6, 7 years. In that time I developed a love for this stuff and I found myself listening to a lot of singers from that era. I also realized the orchestrations were incredible, and that a lot of people who were playing and doing studio work at that time were really on point. I just found myself listening to a lot of that stuff and at a certain point I said to myself "Shat if?" So I just penciled in a project in my mind--this was about 8 years ago, probably--and I finally got around to it, basically.

At that point, I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was thinking about a 4 or 5-piece band. What it ended up growing into was, like, 65 people onstage, with strings and brass--its much more orchestral. I'm glad I waited, because the opportunity presented itself and I took advantage and it was definitely worth waiting for. The stuff is not pop music like we would say. It's very intricate, there's a lot of shit going on, it's incredibly dense. I added, of course, a little bit of my own special sauce, but for the most part it's a crooning record.

When is it that you expect to release it?
Should be summer of '08.

Do you have any interest in releasing a compilation of Italian pop music, perhaps through your label Ipecac?
Well, funny you mention it. It's not on that broad of a scale, but we're going to be doing a compilation of Ennio Morricone singles. He was one of the great arrangers that were working at that time. Everybody knows his film work, but what he'd do, for either kicks or for dough, is he'd arrange tunes for popular singers of the time. I mean, the results were really incredible. You'd just get a sappy ballad, give it to Morricone, and you wouldn't believe the results. Throw a great singer in there, and boom. And he was working like crazy during that time.

Are there film composers and scores you could recommend to the readers of Starpulse?
"Requiem for a Dream", by Clint Mansell, I think is really great. It's going to get old from there. "The Man with the Golden Arm", by Elmer Bernstein. Fellini's "Casanova", by Nino Rota. "Seven Golden Men" by Armando Trovaioli. "Escalation" by Morricone. Bernard Hermann, "Night Digger". I've never seen the film, but the score is incredible.

So, what are some pieces of music that have moved you to tears?
Rosa Passos. Yeah. that'll do it (laughs). Trust me. Unbelievable. And Meshuggah, who are a pretty out there and complicated metal band, and there's a couple of changes they did, and for some reason, I listened to it and that's what happened. If Meshuggah can make you cry, you gotta be a tough guy (laughs). I would say any singer that's really, really got it going on. Any singer that's completely killing it, I'm crying. Tony Bennett, always. Sammy Davis Jr., always. Yma Sumac But that's enough about me crying.

Mike Patton

How about music that's brought on other emotions, say nausea or anxiety?
Those could be construed as a good thing, so let's not get it twisted. This Romanian gypsy group called Taraf de Haidouks. I would put them in that category. I wouldn't say nausea, but anxiety. These guys, they play sort of Romanian wedding music. It's a thousand miles an hour. Its very life affirming; its very beautiful stuff. But it's played at a punk rock pace, which is why I got into it. I was thinking "How can these guys play this fast?" and the more you listen to it, the deeper it gets. If you have some sort of anxiety disorder you would not want to listen to this stuff.

The other album I'm excited about is your follow-up Lovage. What's the status of that?
The music is done. Dan [The Automator] has written all the music, but we don't know when we'll be able to track all the vocals. So, I would think that at some point next year, when schedules free up, we'll track this thing, and have the laborious adventure of finding a home for it. Maybe I'll put it out, maybe we'll go somewhere else; I'm not quite sure what we're going to do with it. But, I would think at some point next year a new Lovage record would hit people's ears.

You've mentioned in the past more Peeping Tom albums.
Yes. But, as usual, I got a little bit ahead of myself. There are many songs that I have in the can, but I won't have a chance to look at them until later in '08. So that won't be a record probably until '09.

What are some other musical projects you're involved in or just thinking about?
This soundtrack that I just did for the film 'A Perfect Place' comes out in March. I guess I'm not thinking about that any more (laughs). Beyond that, this Mondo Cane record comes out in the summer and I'm starting to focus on that. Beyond that, there's a new group that I have with The Automator. Sort of a fucked up R&B record, for lack of a better term. And a couple other things. I take on three or four things at once and I stop and I try to focus on them until they're done and then I can cross them off my list and move on to another few.

What more can you tell me about this R&B record?
Not much. It's in the works. Let's call it "unnamed", at this point. We are, right now, sort of negotiating a home for it. There's not a lot I can really tell you, unfortunately, other than it's gonna be a really fun record!

Interview by Ben Kharakh
Starpulse.com contributing writer