I Am Legend's Mike Patton Shows Us A Perfect Place to Score! [Exclusive]
The legendary composer is dipping his hands into the world of film and has stopped by to chat about it!
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The legendary composer is dipping his hands into the world of film and has stopped by to chat about it!
"I may eat my words one day. I will swallow my mistake. You're never going to break!"
That above quote comes from the new Mike Patton album "A Perfect Place". This score is from Derrick Scocchera's short film of the same name. And it's a complicated soundtrack that, much like all of Patton's work, stretches through many different genres of music. Of note to most hardcore Patton fans is that he is actually singing on a few tracks here. While some of the music is orchistrative in its nature, there's also a pop song and a ragtime ballad included. It is a full-blown work of genius that almost overshadows its visual counterpart. In fact, the Ipecac album is twice as long as Scocchera's debut.
Movie PictureAfter listening to the music, you will definitely want to check out the short that Derrick, a visual genius in his own right, created. The film is being included on a two-disc DVD/CD soundtrack set that is coming our way March of 2008. The narrative revolves around a pair of bumbling friends trying to dispose of a corpse. I'm sure that it will be an excellent addition to the Ipecac catalogue.
But wait, there's more. Mike Patton's vocals are also going to be heard in theaters around the world this Friday. That's right, the man with the golden throat is lending his talents to the Will Smith thriller I Am Legend. He will be voicing the vampiric humanoids that rule the dark, deserted streets of a plague-ravaged New York City. He is also set to do voice-over work as the main character for the video game Bionic Commando, and he will be creating a slew of vocal sound effects for the video game Left 4 Dead.
This all comes on top of his nonstop musical outpour which includes work with such bands as Fantomas, Peeping Tim, Mondo Cane, Tomahawk and a dozen other collaborations that are too many to name. Like every year since he started his own record label, 2008 is going to be a very busy year for Patton. I'm amazed that he even had any time to talk with us. But he graciously cleared a bit of space off his schedule to chat with me about his upcoming projects. And when he had to unexpectedly cut our discussion short, he even gave me a call back later to make up for it. Which was very awesome and generous on his part.
Here's our conversation:
Mike Patton: Oh, nice!
I kind of want to talk about that first. How did you get involved in the creation of the soundtrack for A Perfect Place?
Mike Patton: I knew the director. And he gave me a call. He knew I was eager to get my feet wet in the film-scoring department. He called me and told me what the concept was. And I said, "Yeah." Geez, a year passed. He contacted me again, and he showed me the finished project with some temp music in place. I tried my best to accommodate.
You didn't have any hands on with the process of making the actual film?
Mike Patton: Me? No. He basically handed me a finished product with some guide tracks of where he wanted music. Just to give me an example of the moods he was looking for. All I did was the music.
Did you find anything that sort of influenced this particular work? Did you look at any other composers or film scores in constructing it?
Mike Patton: Well, the score is a bit of a strange bird. Most film scores have one vibe, and they stick with it. That's all well and good. But he wanted many different styles and many different genres. Yet, he wanted a principle theme to remain throughout them. He wanted a similar through line throughout each piece. I wrote the initial main theme. And then I did a twist version of it. And then I did a big band jazz version of it. I did a couple of rock pieces in there. Shit, I used a Rudy Vallee piece. There was a Thirties crooning ballad that he wanted me to write. Elmore Bernstein was an influence. This soundtrack is all over the map genre wise.
So he had an idea mapped out. Something he specifically wanted. And he pretty much gave that to you.
Mike Patton: Yeah. Yeah. In some cases, he would leave it open. He would say, "I am dragging the body down the hill in this scene. What do you think?" I would give him a couple of examples, and we would figure out which one he liked best. In some cases, he would lay the music over the visual too see what worked. Sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn't.
From doing a little bit of research, I know that your fans get really excited when they find out that your are actually singing on an album. And you do that here, on this score. Was that something the director wanted from you for this project?
Mike Patton: He asked for one vocal version. And it was a variation on one of the themes. I thought, "Yeah. That is a good idea." It's what composers of the period would do. The would make a principle theme. And then the would make a vocal out of it. And they would release it as a single. But I don't think that is going to happen in this case.
You don't think you'll release it as a single?
Mike Patton: No, I don't think we will release the vocal version as a single. But I did want to incorporate vocals on a few of these pieces. Especially for a couple of the source music pieces. There is an operatic track. It is not really even part of the score. It comes from when a woman turns on her Victrola. She is playing a 78 in her room. And the music just happens to be something that I wrote, there. A couple of tracks are the sound of twisting the knob on a radio. I composed a piece that matched their movements.
I wanted to ask you about that. That's track 3 and 11, I believe. What was the process of doing that? Did you create each little piece of music that is heard in there?
Mike Patton: Nah. Some of them were actual recorded bits that I got off the radio, and then others were little bits that I wrote. I wrote each thirty-millisecond piece of music.
Going back to putting that song out as a single. You put Mojo out as a single, and it did pretty well. Right?
Mike Patton: Yeah, it did pretty well. Singles these days, unless they are on the radio a lot, just don't make a lot of sense. Doing it as an Itunes single, it did pretty well.
Is it hard to put something out as a single nowadays?
Mike Patton: It's not hard. I just don't know that it would do that well. (Laughs) That's just based on what it is. Having my own label, I have to look at things in a realistic bottom line manner. It would be cool to have a single. But I'm not going to do it as a vanity project. I am perfectly aware of my position in commercial music (laughs).
I wanted to ask you about Fantoma Films. Is that a company you are somehow involved with? Or are you just distributing A Perfect Place for them through your record label?
Mike Patton: The director of A Perfect Place? Derrick? That is his company. By day, he works for Zoetrope With Coppola. And he also has his own imprint and DVD company. He releases a lot of great films on DVD for the first time. He did a special box set of Sam Fuller. Just tons and tons of stuff. He is doing some really great things. That is actually how I met him. He had a DVD store in San Francisco and I used to shop there a lot. Actually, it was a laserdisc store. God, I'm showing my age.
Speaking of Coppola, have you seen Youth Without Youth yet? I'd love to get your thoughts on that film if you have seen it.
Mike Patton: Actually, I haven't. You know what? Can I actually call you back? I've got to leave. I have a meeting in twenty minutes and its way across town. But I can call you from the car if that's cool.
Sure, that would be great.
Mike Patton: Hey, it's Mike Patton calling you back.
Mike Patton: Sorry about this, man.
So, you are in the car driving somewhere?
Mike Patton: I am.
That's funny. I was just talking about A Perfect Place. Can you tell me a little bit about the distribution of that? You are going to release the short film through Ipecac with a CD of the soundtrack?
Mike Patton: Yes. We are going to do a double package, special edition DVD and CD.
Now, did you guys do that to keep it from being bootlegged on the internet? Sort of make the film an added bonus for buying the CD?
Mike Patton: Not really. Basically, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. It is a short film. It would be hard for it to get distribution. I was hoping to put the soundtrack out anyway. And we both felt the same way about it. It's hard to get it out there. What better way than to stick it under your own umbrella. That way we can have control over it.
I sort of want to touch on I Am Legend, too. It is coming out this Friday, the 14th. Have you seen the film yet?
Mike Patton: No I haven't. Only some really great scenes that I did the voice work on. That is about it.
Now, I got a chance to talk to the director last week. And I talked to him a little bit about your contribution. And he said that you were someone that he considered having do the score.
Mike Patton: Did he? That's what he told you? That's flattering. I would have loved to do that. Are you kidding?
The film is scored by James Newton Howard. He was someone that was contracted to do the film score beforehand. But, is that something you would have done? Are you interested in scoring a big film like that?
Mike Patton: I would like to do more film scoring period. Whether it is a big film, a small film, or just anything. I feel like I have a lot to learn, and what better way to do it than on the job?
Well, now, how did they approach you to do the creature voices for "I Am Legend?
Mike Patton: I had a friend that was working on the movie, and I believe that he suggested me. To be honest, I think I just got lucky.
How did you go about creating the sounds? Did you just go into a room and look at that stuff, and do it?
Mike Patton: Yeah, basically. They described the sort of sounds they were looking for. They did not want to use stock footage for creatures like that. What they do is use a lot of diggi-down animal voices and stock library stuff. And they wanted it to be more human. The showed me some stuff. And I would improvise over a ten or fifteen minute clip. I'd just try and follow it. They showed me the scene once, so I could sort of follow it. I would just improvise to it. We would lay down a bed. We'd do it like that. And then we would go back and hit really specific bits. You know?
The question everyone is going to want to know after this film comes out is: Is Will Smith going to be on the next Peeping Tom record?
Mike Patton: (Laughs) I hadn't really thought about that. Something tells me that would be quite a long shot.
I don't know. I always talk to different people and sometimes you come up. I just talked to Jack Black the other day and I found out he was a fan of yours. You never know.
Mike Patton: Did you say Jack Black?
Yeah, there is actually a video on our site where I am wearing a Mike Patton shirt. A shirt with you on it. And he was talking about you a little bit.
Mike Patton: No kidding. Go figure. Who would have thunk it? It is nice to know that people are listening.
You are doing more video games and film work. You do one, and then you start to do more. Is this something that is on a roll. Is it something that you foresee as going bigger?
Mike Patton: That remains to be seen. I really don't have any delusions of grandeur or lofty aspirations. I would love to do more of it. If that leads to bigger and better things, fine. If it doesn't, hopefully I can get involved in more things that push me creatively.
Well, on that same note, I know you did the film Firecracker. Where is acting on your radar right now? Is that something you want to do more of? I read what you had to say after the film came out. But I am wondering how you feel about it right now?
Mike Patton: Well, to be honest I have my hands so damn full that I haven't thought about it much. Again, that was sort of a set of circumstances where it all fell in my lap. It was sort of like with the soundtrack. It just felt like a really comfortable situation to learn in. The director was a friend of a friend. He made me feel really comfortable. Again, I was trying to talk him into letting me do the music for the film. He said, "No, I really want you to act. I want you to try this. And I want to make it easy on you." And he did. I think the results are pretty hit and miss on my part. But, again, that is how you learn. And I consider that a learning experience.
You obviously saw Ebert's review of that film. I know he is not a barometer of the film, but he got that film out there. And he gave it four stars.
Mike Patton: He did. That was quite a surprise to all of us. And we were really happy about that.
I noticed on IMDB that you are supposedly working on a film called Pinion, if I am pronouncing that correctly. Is that something you are still working on or involved with?
Mike Patton: Well, I started working on it, and then the director lost funding somehow. It sort of turned into a tailspin. To be honest, I think they pulled the plug on it. I don't know. I am not really sure. I have tried to contact the director, and she has dropped off the face. I'm not sure that it's ever going to happen. Unfortunately. The one thing Firecracker taught me is what an incredible process it is to actually get a film made. Not just to write it. I mean to get the financing, shoot it, and then go sell it when you are done making it. My hat goes off to these indie filmmakers. They must have an incredibly thick skin.
You also have a video game called Bionic Commander coming out, I believe?
Mike Patton: Bionic Commando. Yeah.
Is that something you were given a script for? Does it actually have dialogue in it?
Mike Patton: It has a script. And I am the lead actor. So, yeah, I will be reading the script on that one. I will be doing quote-unquote acting on that one.
That is great. Has anyone like Pixar ever approached you? Maybe that is a long shot, but I could see you voicing a cartoon.
Mike Patton: Again, nobody has approached me about that, but I am all ears. It is something that is quite fun to do. And it is similar to what I do with music. I go into a studio. I have a script, so to speak. Some notes on a piece of paper. A set of lyrics. And I bang it out.
Now, I have to ask you about this. I don't think I've seen you comment on it yet. There is this clip that is all over the internet from All My Children. Where they talk about you on that soap opera. I'm wondering what your reaction to that was?
Mike Patton: Uh...I'm speechless. That was completely out of left field. I have no idea who is writing for that show. But he is probably fired by now.
Yeah. I thought it was pretty funny. I was sitting there in the daytime when it came on TV in the other room. And I heard, "Mike Patton"? Uh, what? What is going on with this?
Mike Patton: (Laughs) Rewind! I really...I don't know what to say about that. There must be some freak working on that program. That is all I can tell you.
Do you think any of this video game or voiceover work has come out of that?
Mike Patton: Out of that All My Children thing? Let me think? If that helped me land any kind of work, I guess I owe them one. But...(Laughs) I don't know how that bit me in the ass. But if it did, I'm not complaining.
When I was doing a little bit of research for this interview, that clip is the first thing that popped up in a Google search for your name.
Mike Patton: Do people even watch that show? That would be my first question. (Laughs) I mean, who cares about a fucking soap opera? I guess there are some old people watching.
Sometimes, when I had cable, it was on in the house. I wasn't paying attention to it, but I was aware of when that happened. I guess there are people watching it.
Mike Patton: Hey, Maestro. I really hate to do this to you, but I am really late for this meeting. I am really going to have to call them and let them know I am late. If you have some more to talk about, can I call you back again?
Mike Patton: I will have much more time to talk when I get out of this thing at around 5:30. Would that be possible? That way I wouldn't have to keep rushing with you.
Yeah. That would be awesome.
Mike Patton: Great. I appreciate it, man. See ya. Bye.
Mike Patton: Hey, It's Mike Patton calling you back, again!
Cool. Well, this time I want to touch on the DVDs you have coming out from Ipecac. We have a pretty extensive DVD site here, and I want to get the word out on this first one you did. Patton/Kaada Live. Now, why did you choose that for your first performance to make available on DVD?
Mike Patton: That's a good question. This was something that we were only going to do one time. We aren't going to tour this record. The entire band is a bunch of Norwegians. And they are all very busy. They are all session guys. And they do a lot of film work. This, that, and the other thing. With everybody's schedule, it was a really hard thing to pull off. It is not something we will never tour. It wasn't a band, per say. It was more like a studio project. The fact that we even accomplished playing a show live, we thought it would be a good idea to film it. Kaada brought a friend along that directed it. He shot us practicing. We did three or four rehearsals and then played. And they documented the whole thing. It came out really good. So, I was like, "You know what? We should put this out as a DVD."
Are you guys planning anything else? Are you planning to do the Mondo Cane or Peeping Tom DVDs?
Mike Patton: No plans. With Mondo Cane, someone filmed the performances but I haven't seen them yet. I have to admit. I am not crazy about music DVDs. Just the thought of sitting and watching a full concert, you know? From front to start is hard enough in person for me. Let alone on a fucking DVD. To me, unless the footage looks really spectacular...Unless it's a one-time project that I want to document, I have no burning desire to do concert DVDs. That being said, every now and again someone does something really cool. And the next one we will be doing after Patton/Kaada live is The Fantomas Melvins Big Band. That is a similar case. It was a friend of Buzz's, from the Melvins, that happened to be at one of the London shows. And he said, "Hey, I am going to do this whether you want it or not. You don't have to pay me, blah, blah, blah." I was like, "Okay. No harm. No foul." And he sent footage. It is fucking stunning. He did a bunch of visual effects. It is more than just a concert. There is animation in it. It is really well done. We will be putting that out in the summer of 2008.
Does youtube have any effect on releasing some of that stuff? I noticed that the Patton/Kaada stuff is already on there. I'm wondering, does that ever effect your decision to release something?
Mike Patton: No, not really. I wasn't even aware that it was on youtube. Most of the youtube stuff looks like shit. I don't know. I'm not on youtube enough. I'm not that big of a watcher to let it effect any decision like that.
Good. I'm glad to hear that. Now, looking at your Ipecac website, I noticed you had a subscription for toys. Was that your idea?
Mike Patton: No, this toy company contacted us. Basically, they were fans of the label. And it turned out that I had a bunch of their toys. We were mutual admirers. This was probably a year or two ago. We mentioned that it would be cool to maybe one-day do something with one another. Not thinking about what that would be. They proposed it. They did a couple of mock-ups just for fun. And I thought they were pretty cute. Initially, we were going to do just one band. We were just going to do the label. But it looked so nice, they decided to mock up a few for our various bands. Man, they all looked great. So we decided to do a little deal with them. The package set idea came later.
I went and looked at that, and I noticed that they are all sold out all ready.
Mike Patton: Jesus. Really?
Yeah, does that surprise you? They sold out the same day they put up the subscription for them.
Mike Patton: Wow!
I know that every new year on Ipecac, you give a little preview of what is going to be coming out. Can you give us a little sneak preview of what you have lined up for 2008?
Mike Patton: Oh, boy. Let me think. There is a Dub Trio record. There is a record from Rahzel. There is another one called Bohren & Der Club of Gore. That is a German group. We have another Desert Sessions. The Mondo Cane. A Perfect Place soundtrack and DVD. Gosh, I know I am forgetting some other things. Shame on me. There is pretty much one a month for the whole year.
That is great. Can you talk at all about what is going on with Peeping Tom 2? I have heard a little bit, and seen a couple of jokes from you sort of thrown around. But I haven't heard any real substantial information. I don't know if you are willing to share any of that right now?
Mike Patton: I have been kind of toying with it a little bit. But I haven't been looking at it in earnest. And I probably wont until mid-next year. I have too many other pressing engagements. But there is definitely going to be another record. Or maybe two. At this point, I wouldn't want to throw any names of guests that I have in mind. I don't want to jinx any of them that I am currently trying to track down.
What does the live roster look like for you at this point? I heard that you were going to tour the last Tomahawk record, but that didn't happen, right?
Mike Patton: We never really booked any shows for that. Our intention was to make a really nice studio record. And we never even talked about playing it live. We are starting to entertain that idea now. We just got offered some shows in Europe. We will see how it goes. Mainly, not to sound lazy, but that is going to be a motherfucker. It is going to be a really hard record to pull off live. I think we will have to augment our band. We will have to hire two percussionists. Maybe someone to do electronics. We will have to get a new bass player. There will be a lot of work involved. I wouldn't rule it out just yet. But it is going to be quite the beast to tackle.
Now, are you going to bring Mondo Cane to America?
Mike Patton: No plans yet. At this stage, it is pretty much a Europe only project. I am doing some dates with that group in June and July. There are some dates in Holland. And there are some dates in Italy as well. I would love to do it in the States. Its just a really...I made Tomahawk out to sound difficult. This thing is really difficult. It is an orchestra. And you have to plan any live performances about a year in advance. We are talking about sixty people on stage.
I saw a clip of that. I think it was on youtube. I saw the people that were there. It looked crazy.
Mike Patton: It was a lot of fun. I'd never done anything like it. And I hope to do more of it in the future. It is a really hard thing to tackle. Putting together a budget for something like that involves getting sponsorships from communities. It is really a pain in the ass. Ultimately, it is worth it.
How did you put that backing band together?
Mike Patton: Some of them I knew. Some of them were recommendations. Some of them were friends of friends. The arranger that I worked with on that project suggested a lot of those musicians. And they were really great. I am trying my best for this next string of dates to keep the band in tact. It will obviously change depending on the venue we are in.
Now, about the rumor that you are cooking up something with Danny DeVito. I'm wondering if you can extrapolate on that at this time? Or if that is still under wraps?
Mike Patton: The only thing that I am cooking up with Danny DeVito right now is some sort of a steak dinner. (Laughs) There's really nothing. We are just buddies. And I think at some point we will figure something out to work on. Right now, there is nothing planed.
Do you ever see yourself being in a film with him?
Mike Patton: Like I said, I wouldn't rule it out. More than anything, I would love to score a movie he is in. Maybe something like that. But, who knows? Sometimes, a lot of projects start from steak dinners. That is were ideas are tossed about.
I've noticed that a lot of your music from the Ipecac label...Not your own music, but some of the bands you have on your label, have been appearing on Grey's Anatomy. How did that come about? Did you have a hand in that, or do the producers of your show just like your music?
Mike Patton: Yeah, that is coming from this one guy. There is obviously someone working on that show that has some taste. Go figure. And some of our bands have been really lucky recently. We also have higher music placement people to clear our stuff. We have these clearinghouse type places, and they did a great job with landing that show. Its crazy.
I do have one Faith No More question. I know you really don't like to touch on the past. But I noticed on Itunes and some of the digital jukeboxes, Land of Sunshine isn't anywhere to be found. I know in the past that you said you took lyrics for that from a Scientology booklet. I am wondering if there is some connection there? Is there some legal issue that has kept this song from being a part of Itunes?
Mike Patton: I have no idea. I didn't know it wasn't available. I wouldn't think there would be any trouble with that. Most of the lyrics I took from fortune cookies, to be honest. I wouldn't think there would be any problem like that. I have no idea why that is the case.
well, I noticed that it was missing from Itunes. And now I see that it is missing from a lot of other places whenever I look up the Angel Dust album. I thought maybe you knew why that was.
Mike Patton: Weird. No clue. I've never looked for Faith No More on Itunes. Maybe that's why I never noticed it. But, no. That is weird. So, if you were to download it, it would be a partial album? It wouldn't be the whole album?
Yeah, on Itunes it actually says "Partial Album". That's why I checked it out. I was wondering why they only had a partial album for that. And I looked it up, and Land of Sunshine was missing. I'd remembered that sometime in the past you'd said that some of the lyrics had come from a Scientology pamphlet. And I know right now they are upset with a lot of stuff. I thought maybe that had something to do with it's disappearance.
Mike Patton: Well, you would think that they'd have bigger fish to fry. But, God, who knows? God help them. Jesus.
I'll bother you with one last question, and then I'll let you get on your way. Do you have any plans in the foreseeable future to write an autobiography?
Mike Patton: God, no! I've got nothing to say. I do my talking with the music. I'm really not even a very good interview. I don't enjoy talking about myself very much. If someone wanted to write something, that is fine. But I would kindly ask them to leave me out of it.
Yeah. Understandable. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk with me today.
Mike Patton: No sweat. Thank you for your time and your interest, man.
I am really interested in seeing some of this stuff that you got coming up.
Mike Patton: Cool.
I Am Legend opens this Friday, December 14th. A Perfect Place score and film arrives in stores March of 2008. And sorry, but true, all of those cool Ipecac toys are sold out. No Mike Patton action figures for you this Christmas. Maybe next year.