Ranking 12 of Mike Patton’s Projects, From Harsh-Noise Duos to Sci-Fi-Themed Avant-Metal Supergroups
Mike Patton isn’t prolific, he’s a maniac. Since joining Faith No More in 1989, the idiosyncratic vocalist has frantically spawned side projects, while willing into reality collaborations on the side of those side projects. Some artists he may work with over the course of decades, some he’ll get a cup of coffee with and make a record out of what transpires (being a co-founder of Ipecac Recordings helps expedite the process). The result is a discography that has more detours than a Morrissey tour. And we figured, what the hell, let’s rank the Patton projects as we deem fit. Caveat: This is not a completist list. There are too many side hustles to not go overboard, so we mostly kept it to bands and supergroups specifically, as opposed to the totality of his lineage.
You’re only as good as those you surround yourself with, right? Welp, Patton has never lacked players primed for supergroup status—and this one, formed in 1999, includes Duane Denison of the almighty, the greatest… the Jesus Lizard, as well as John Stanier of Helmet and Battles. Mit Gas (2003) is their best, twisting straight-up hard rock (and, hey, punk!) around drugged-out prog metal, rather than the other way around, as is often the case with Patton.
Cinematic, absurd, sci-fi-infused avant metal, you say? OK. The theme of each Fantomas album is executed in whatever obscure method makes the most sense to Patton alone. The Director’s Cut (2001) features interpretations of theme songs from movies, while Suspended Animation (2005) is wayward cartoon music. There are almost as many asides of what sounds like a children’s choir being run through a fax machine as there are Dave Lombardo China cymbal rampages. Oh right, Slayer’s Dave Lombardo is in the band. King Buzzo, too.
3. Dead Cross
With Justin Pearson of the Locust and Retox and even more Lombardo, Dead Cross is as straight-up thrash and hardcore punk as a Patton project has been. The group’s fresh 2017 self-titled debut album is scourged by blastbeats and speed-metal riffs, but also enough shrieks-to-growls to appease Patton enthusiasts. Plus the mutative leader seems open to appreciating the bulldozer-like bluntness of Dead Cross—which is a mindfuck in and of itself.
4. Faith No More
Blasphemy! Faith No More can’t be this far down a Mike Patton listicle! Too bad, we make the rules, and the glam-funk hard-rock sound of 1989’s The Real Thing has not aged like a fine wine—though it is still fun to think about how it helped create a rivalry with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, essentially over the cadence with which Patton delivered his lyrics. Also, let us appreciate the chasm of weirdness that Faith No More descended into during the ’90s, no doubt helping nudge Patton toward bizarre side projects.
5. Mr. Bungle
Patton at his most Patton. Mr. Bungle is a schizophrenic feast of genres (free jazz, doo-wop, punk, circus music, etc.) run through a sausage grinder. If you’re on board with Mr. Bungle, chances are you worship at the altar of Patton in perpetuity. Mr. Bungle is the host of his discography, really, with every subsequent Patton project seemingly taken from some five-second tangent and developed with greater depth. “Squeeze Me Macaroni,” off of their 1991 self-titled full-length, is still a special kind of hell.
When this one-off project between Patton and Australian composer Anthony Pateras—their sole album being 2014’s Geocidal—hits a stride of swirling percussion and ambient electronics, it can be a hypnotic trip. “Tenz” is a slow cycling build of Patton’s vocal impulses, eventually crescendoing before receding again into the background.
7. Dillinger Escape Plan
Math-heavy metalcore freaks Dillinger Escape Plan were frontman-less and nearly three years removed from Calculating Infinity, when Patton stepped in to lay down vocals for their 2002 EP Irony Is a Dead Scene. His character ties together very well with how Dillinger’s rhythms stagger forward like a George Romero film on double-speed. “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things” is the cornerstone of the record.
Pairing Patton with the harsh-noise Japanese composer Merzbow (aka Masami Akita) is a test of fortitude. The duo’s 1999 album She at times mirrors the eerie sounds of wind writhing around cliffs, while “11 White Tears of the Maggot” features high-pitched stabs of distortion.
9. Peeping Tom
This is what we imagine ’70s lounge music might sound like if composed in an opium den full of metalheads. There’s only been one album to date, a 2006 eponymous full-length, and it’s chock-full of collaborators like Kool Keith, Massive Attack, and, uh, Norah Jones. Still, it’s a fascinating foray, if for no other reason than that it’s laid-back… for Patton at least. As he says on “Mojo,” “Roll it up and smoke it again/Now line me up and snort it again.” Sure thing.
A trio of frontmen (Patton, Doseone of Themselves and Tunde Adebimpe of TV on the Radio) join forces for a mishmash of off-kilter rock and hip-hop and pop with enough stops and starts to brutalize a transmission. The confluence of personalities and talent and genre worship should result in a record much more interesting than their 2016 self-titled debut actually is.
11. Weird Little Boy
Patton has worked with avant-garde composer John Zorn quite a bit over the years, particularly as a part of his Moonchild Trio. Weird Little Boy was a fleeting project the two released in 1998, featuring explorations of negative space and occasionally rapidly deconstructing guitar-rock riffs.
Headed up by hip-hop producer Dan the Automator, this downtempo project released one record, 2001’s Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By, with Patton and Jennifer Charles providing vocals. It’s chill and Patton is appropriately creepy, his croak slinking alongside the hazy beats.
Mike Patton will be wearing his Dead Cross hat on the Riot Fest’s Roots Stage on Saturday, September 16th at 3:20pm, before Danzig and At the Drive In.