Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom

[4/5] You know Mike Patton can do anything, right? He makes cartoon music with members of Slayer and the Melvins in Fantômas; scats with NYC turntable wizards X-Ecutioners; breezes through sultry slow jams with Jennifer Charles and Lovage; pushes the boundaries of the hearing threshold with John Zorn; blah, blah, blah. He can probably see through concrete walls and bend spoons with his mind, too, because it turns out that the first installment of his highly anticipated, long-awaited Peeping Tom project is actually worth both the wait (like, six years) and the anticipation. From front to back, the weirdo-pop super-hits-all composed through the mail with various collaborators-just keep on coming. The gems: “Mojo,” a sultry Arabian snake-dance featuring ex-Roots beatboxer Rahzel and Dan The Automator; “Don’t Even Trip,” a power-soul anthem backed by electro-ninja Amon Tobin; and the Dub Trio-backed closer, “We’re Not Alone,” which is the closest thing to Faith No More since Album Of The Year. On “Sucker,” Patton belts out a skronky duet with Grammy-winning songstress Norah Jones; elsewhere, he teams up with screwball rapper Kool Keith, various members of the Anticon crew, trip-hop hypnotists Massive Attack and Brazilian chanteuse Bebel Gilberto. The best part? There’s hardly a stinker in the bunch. (IPECAC)

Rock’s Like:

Faith No More’s Album Of The Year • Lovage’s Songs To Make Love To Your Old Lady By • Dub Trio’s New Heavy

IN-STORE SESSION With Peeping Tom mastermind Mike Patton

I love the chorus to “Don’t Even Trip”: “I know that assholes grow on trees/but I’m here to trim the leaves,” and “You’re still a piece of shit/but I can overlook it today/because you’re still my friend.” What inspired the lyrics?

I don’t know, actually. Probably a lot of coffee followed by a lot of scotch. Lyrics are usually the last thing I do. I write out, like, a baby-talk version of the sounds, and then I match words to those patterns right before I go in. I figure out the delivery, pretty much.

So, when you’re doing vocals for Fantômas, do you just keep the sounds rather than write lyrics?

That’s a perfect example of that, actually. With Fantômas, I usually stop at the baby-talk stage.

I feel like I’ve just uncovered the Holy Grail or something.

Congratulations. [Laughs.] Going back to “Don’t Even Trip,” it’s kind of about redemption, I guess. It’s like, “You suck; we both know it, but I love you anyway. Let’s move on.”

How did you get Norah Jones to say “motherfucker”?

It wasn’t that difficult, actually. You know, most people with high-powered managers and personal assistants and all that can be a nightmare to deal with, but she was totally cool. Her manager was cool; she was great; and she even went to bat for me. [Her label] was giving us problems at first, but she made it happen with them because she totally believed in the project.

Speaking of nightmares, how difficult was it working with Kool Keith?

Well, I had been warned beforehand that working with him can be problematic, but I sort of went through some back avenues–we know a few of the same people–and did it that way. Believe it or not, he was one of the first people to send his track back in. He called me on the way to the studio from the back of a cab to ask me what the song was about. I didn’t know what to say–I mean, I was pretty much gonna leave that up to him–but I told him that the working title was “Getaway.” So, right there in the cab–I could tell he was looking out the window at stuff–he just made up a bunch of lyrics. I was trying to suppress my laughter, and I just said, “That’s it! Write it down.” And he goes, “I don’t have to.” Believe it or not, he sent me a FedEx the next day–and sure enough, it was pretty much exactly what he had recited in the back of the cab.

Was there anyone you tried to get who you couldn’t?

Not really, but at one point I actually heard that Fatboy Slim was interested–which was weird, but I was like, “Well, let’s see what happens.” So, I sent him some music, and he wasn’t into it.

That’s probably just as well.

Yeah, but you never know.
–J. Bennett