The Untouchable: Mike Patton on Mondo Cane and Faith No More's Second Coming

The chameleonic Mike Patton talks to The Skinny about falling in love with classic Italian pop and ponders a future for Faith No More

Feature by Dave Kerr | 29 Apr 2010

Since reuniting with alternative metal godfathers Faith No More last year, Mike Patton has indulged himself little time to continue with other projects, but this month the boundary-crossing maestro resurfaces in his own right with a love letter to Italian music clenched between his teeth.

Dubbed Mondo Cane, the long-incubating project finds the vocalist commanding an ambitious, heartfelt set of folk, civil rights and film score songs collected from the 60s, delivered fluently in their native tongue with the backing of a 40-piece orchestra. Still catching his breath after Faith No More’s headlining set at Coachella, Patton reveals why Mondo Cane was an album he had to make.

Not a lot has been made known about Mondo Cane since you started the project a few years ago. How did it originate and when did the album come into fruition?
“The stimulus in doing it came about when I was living in Italy around a decade ago. It just took a while for the opportunity to present itself, to work with an orchestra and really bring it to life in the right way. But the record basically started around two and a half years ago when we did our first three concerts; I recorded them all, took the material and made the record out of it.”

Mondo Cane’ comes from a cult Italian shockumentary from the 60s where bizarre cultural practices from all over the world are presented to provoke the Western audience – how does that tie in with this album?
“It’s also an old Italian saying, almost a mild curse that means ‘the world has gone to the dogs’, or ‘it’s a dog’s world.’ Also, of course I was familiar with the movie and all its connotations so I wanted to give a little bit of a – how would you say – unexpected twist to a record like this, which is pretty easy on the ears and pretty linear. I needed to balance that out with a provocative title.”

You’ve made no secret of your admiration for Ennio Morricone compiling and releasing the excellent Crime and Dissonance collection on your own label a few years ago so it stands to reason you’d look at some of his work here. How did you discover these other songs?
“Living there, if you go into immersion mode you can find all this stuff, there was a lot of record store combing, a lot of them came from friends who’d make me tapes. A lot of the time I wouldn’t be listening to it as pop music per se, as entertainment; I’d be listening to the arrangements and the incredible sounds that were created during that time. That, as much as anything, is what made me fall in love with this stuff and want to do my version of it – my tribute, in a way.”

Did you feel obliged to stay respectful to the tone and sentiment of the original recordings? Did the gloves come off eventually?
“I knew I would interpret these pieces aggressively – but I didn’t want to murder them, because there has to be an element of respect there and to really just commit some kind of a crime in the name of nostalgia would not be cool… I wouldn’t sleep so well.

“Then again, you have to get your hands dirty; you have to tear things apart and rearrange them, but maybe keep an element – a melody or a certain sound that was important to the piece – keep that intact. So it became a bit of a Rubik’s Cube, and the project took on a much larger scope once I realised I had to do it with an orchestra and not – let’s just say – a four piece band.”

Speaking of which, has the recent Faith No More reunion given you a fresh appreciation and perspective of what that band achieved in its original existence?
“Yeah, I would say a little bit. Maybe more so that it’s something we should feel collectively proud of, and really not hold any personal grudges about. I don’t think we’ve ever been happier playing this stuff, or closer as people. It’s interesting to see how time treats situations like that.”

Do you see a future for the band beyond these shows, given that the chemistry and demand is still there?
“You know, it’s very tempting to want to say yes, and that would probably be the correct answer. But right now, we’re more concerned with doing what we set out to do, which was a limited run and keep it special. Keep it without obligation whatsoever. Show up and play. I think that is one of the things which has improved our moods and really, it’s been about music; no promotion, no videos, no extraneous adventures. I would venture a guess that this is going to be it, but hey – this is what our focus is now – once this is all over, maybe we’ll sit around, have a laugh and talk about the future. But right now I think it’s way too early to say.”

And what’s next for Mike Patton? Is Mondo Cane a project you’re willing and able to tour?
“I’m working on another score, for an Italian film which should be out later in the year. Mondo Cane is doing a tour in Europe in July, believe it or not, it’s a hell of a time to put it together but we’re going to be over there for around a month.”

Finally, who do you hope Mondo Cane will appeal to?
“Anyone with a little sense of curiosity and a couple of ears on their head, I think that would work... basically, anyone with a heart!”

Mondo Cane is released via Ipecac on 3 May.

Mike Patton will tour Europe with Mondo Cane and Faith No More this summer.