A highly respected experimental musician with a unique vocal range, Mike Patton could be defined as a musical polymath. He achieved fame for his role as frontman of grunge-era rockers Faith No More, and then took as ... Read more »
A highly respected experimental musician with a unique vocal range, Mike Patton could be defined as a musical polymath. He achieved fame for his role as frontman of grunge-era rockers Faith No More, and then took as many left turns through the music industry as he possibly could. Aggressively uncommercial projects such as Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom and many more made him a difficult man to categorize. He explored the outer reaches of mainstream metal via avant-garde jazz and worked with everyone from Icelandic sprite Björk and jazz-pop superstar Norah Jones to metal titans Slayer and golden-age hip-hoppers Boo-Ya TRIBE. The only similarity that linked these seemingly disparate projects is a love of the experimental and the alterative.
Most rock fans first heard of Patton when he joined Faith No More, but he started out in Mr. Bungle, an alt-rock act with a sly sense of humor that self-released a series of cassette-only albums during the 1980s. It was these cassettes that brought him to the attention of Faith No More, who hired the singer to replace original vocalist Chuck Mosley in 1989. Joining the band after they had already recorded the basic tracks for their second album The Real Thing, Patton wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies to fix the pre-existing songs. Somewhat surprisingly, the aggressive and eclectic album became a belated hit in 1990, thanks in large part to the striking video for this single "Epic," which spent months in regular rotation on MTV. The song also became the band's highest-charting single on the Billboard Hot 100, reaching number 9.
Despite Faith No More's heavy touring commitments, Patton also continued to work with his high school band Mr. Bungle as an outlet for his more eccentric tendencies. Despite the side project's outsider status, Faith No More's popularity led their label Warner Brothers Records to sign Mr. Bungle, releasing their debut eponymous album in 1991. This was swiftly followed by Faith No More's second album with Patton, Angel Dust (1992). It was a more aggressive and complex album, mixing elements of funk, rock and metal. Patton continued to dabble in more experimental waters, collaborating with contemporary jazz composer and musician John Zorn for the first time in 1992, providing vocals for Zorn's album Elegy.
As it became increasingly clear that the one-off chart power of "Epic" was unlikely to be repeated, Faith No More's mainstream moment passed amidst lineup turmoil: guitarist Jim Martin was reportedly fired via a fax message in 1993, and keyboardist Roddy Bottum began devoting most of his energy to his more conventionally poppy own band Imperial Teen. Two more albums, King For a Day . . . Fool for a Lifetime (1995) and Album of the Year (1997) were released, but Faith No More quietly broke up in 1998.
Along with a second album by Mr. Bungle, Disco Volante (1995), Patton began a solo career, releasing 1996's Adult Themes for Voice (which consisted of vocal collages made up of groans, screams, grunts and other non-musical vocal noises) and 1997's Pranzo Oltranzista (another experimental album, this time with a culinary theme) on Zorn's Tzadik label. Patton worked on a diverse range of other ventures following the Faith No More split. He formed the sludge-metal supergroup Fantomôs with Buzz Osbourne (The Melvins), Dave Lombardo (Slayer) and Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle). He worked with Jesus Lizard guitarist Duane Denison and Helmet drummer John Stainer on Tomahawk, whose self-titled album was released in 2001. He appeared on Björk's 2004 vocals-only album Medúlla. Patton's trip hop project Peeping Tom released an album in 2006 featuring special guests including Norah Jones, Kool Keith and Massive Attack. A reunion with Zorn resulted in the avant-jazz project Moonchild Trio in 2006.
Patton also started lending his vocal talents to films, TV and videogames, often playing bizarre evil characters. He provided "Creature Vocals" in the action horror remake "I Am Legend" (2007); was the 'Voice of the Darkness' in the videogame "The Darkness" (2007); provided "Infected Voices" for zombie game "Left 4 Dead" (2008) and voiced the character Rikki Kixx on two episodes of the metal-themed animated comedy "Metalocalypse" (Cartoon Network 2006-) in 2008. After much speculation, Faith No More reformed in 2009 for a series of well-received live shows, including headline dates at some European festivals. Meanwhile, Patton continued to work in film, making a natural progression to soundtrack composition by creating scores for "Crank: High Voltage" (2009) and "The Place Beyond the Pines" (2013).