Mike Patton, Jean-Claude Vannier Collaboration Predicated on Versatility


Vocalist Mike Patton (left) and French composer Jean-Claude Vannier clicked at a 2011 Serge Gainsbourg tribute concert. Their album, Corpse Flower, is due out Sept. 13 on the Ipecac imprint.

(Photo: Courtesy Ipecac)

Even given those reference points, with Vannier and Patton at the helm, there was no chance the album would be a conventional one. On “Ballad C.3.3,” they transform an Oscar Wilde poem into a harrowing spaghetti western, Patton delivering lines in a husky spoken word style that nods to Gainsbourg’s delivery on “Melody.” For “On Top Of The World,” he moves among whistling, soulful grooves and a swaggering chorus that wouldn’t sound out of place in a T. Rex tune—if Marc Bolan ever raged about vengeance plots. And though there’s no shortage of pretty sounds, absurdism abounds in this sonic universe: On the title track, which could fit in a sequel to Little Shop of Horrors with its plants-with-insatiable-appetites theme, Patton rhymes “Coco Chanel” with “carnivorous hell” in a low-pitched faux-French accent.

While Patton’s charismatic performance and quirky lyricism might be the initial draw for some listeners, he and Vannier have created a compelling example of how vocals and instrumentals can come together in stunning artistic cohesion. And that sort of interplay is part of the point.

“One thing that I’ve always hated about being a singer, there’s this notion that a singer’s supposed to inject his personality in everything that he does and put his stamp on everything. I’ve never agreed with that approach,” Patton said.
Ultimately, with any of his projects, Patton’s mission is to serve the material the best way possible, and he views his voice as a means of achieving that.

“When I’ve worked with, say, a noise guy, I’m not going to write a pop song for him; we’re going to make fucking noise,” he said. “If I’m working with a jazz guy, I’m going to use his strengths and hopefully learn something from him. If I’m doing an orchestral record, that’s a whole different set of vocabulary. So, for me, it’s really about just recognizing where I am in any particular musical environment and then using whatever tools that I can to not dominate or mess it up, but fit in. That’s what I was trying to do with this record, too. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, I’m just a singer here. I just work here—I’m just another instrument.’” DB

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