Mike Patton keeps the faith 

New band Peeping Tom to play Vogue

Peeping Tom
Sunday, Aug. 6, 8 p.m.
The Vogue
Tickets: $18, 317-239-5151, thevogue.ws

Mike Patton may be rivaling James Brown for the title of the hardest working man in show business. Since bursting onto the music scene in 1988 with the rock-rap anthem “Epic” on Faith No More’s album The Real Thing, Patton has been in two bands at once, often recording side and solo projects whenever he gets a chance.

Patton also founded his own independent record company, Ipecac Recordings, in 1999; the label is home to his bands and experimental side projects. Each album with which he has been involved is bolder than the next: Since his pop-rock days with Faith No More, Patton has branched out into cinematic themes, outré solo work like his album Adult Themes for Voice, and sexy, scary trip-hop with Lovage.

He’s even dabbled in bizarre and compelling concept metal with his bands the Fantomas and Tomahawk. With a career that spans nearly 20 years and more than 20 albums, Patton’s body of work is wildly varied. The only constant with each project is Patton, and his ferocious — but always highly cultivated — quest for new sounds.

“I like to do multiple projects,” Patton told NUVO in a recent interview. “It keeps life interesting, although I sometimes forget which thing I’m in the middle of. I just rotate the projects and it all seems to work out. When Fantomas ends, I head over to Peeping Tom, and mosey on over to Tomahawk with some stops at some other things in between.”

His new band, Peeping Tom, is coming to the Vogue on Sunday, Aug. 6. It’s been called “pop” by critics and fans — in fact, Patton has been quoted as saying that the self-titled album is how he’d like pop music to sound. Yet aside from more accessible beats and guest artists that even Top 40 listeners would recognize, the album is many things: hip-hop, metal, even a little bossa nova. But … pop?

“Look, to be honest, people could be calling it crap, but as long as people are talking about it and listening to it, I’m happy,” said Patton, via e-mail. “I’ve been called the godfather of nu metal, which in my mind is waaaaay worse than being called pop. I call it Peeping Tom. I’ll let everyone else categorize it.”

And people are talking about and listening to Peeping Tom: The album debuted at No. 103 on the Billboard 200, and No. 3 on the top independent albums chart. Peeping Tom even played live in May on Late Night with Conan O’Brien, a first for any band from Patton’s record label. Aside from his stint with Faith No More, this is the first project Patton has done that has garnered such mainstream attention.

Perhaps that has to do with the long cast of guest artists on the album. Patton’s approach to this album was to work as much as possible via e-mail and audio files; with some of his collaborators, the only interactions were electronic, never actually meeting face to face. That method allowed Patton access to unlikely allies like Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto, hip-hop producer Kool Keith and English trip-hoppers Massive Attack. The biggest surprise is Norah Jones on the track “Sucker,” speaking the expletive-sprinkled chorus with a sultry, breathy voice.

“She is ridiculously talented and very nice, which is why I wanted to work with her,” Patton said. “We know the same studio engineer and he suggested her. I was shocked to find out she knew and liked my stuff and wanted to do it. I hope to do more with her.”

Even with guests on every track, the album still manages to sound cohesive; Peeping Tom opens with a dark tune called “Five Seconds,” which feels like Patton’s earlier metal outings. Hip-hop shows up loud and strong on the rest of the record, however: The single, “Mojo,” mixes hip-hop beats with an Eastern hook. Beatboxer Rahzel, who worked with Patton on Bjork’s 2004 release Medulla, drives the rhythm with flawless drum-like percussion. Other tracks, like the bass-heavy trunk rattlers “Don’t Even Trip” and “How U Feelin’,” feel almost like hardcore rap songs with a little rock splashed in.

Peeping Tom is a surprisingly danceable collection: Deep rhythms blend with hard rock guitar riffs and odd samples. The melodies appear simple upon a first listen, but repeat spins reveal an intricate web of sound — Patton’s unique voice, coupled with the influence from each guest artist, is layered several times over, creating a dense and solid feel. The end result is a record that sounds nothing like current pop music, but still manages to be accessible to a wide audience.

With so much going on in each song, translating the recorded material in live performances proves to be a challenge. Patton’s approach isn’t to recreate the album note for note, but instead to offer the audience a new way to hear the music.

“The live show is an interpretation of the record,” Patton said. “I think I’ve assembled a hell of a live band that includes people like Rahzel and Dub Trio.” Imani Coppola, whose trippy album Chupacabra was a sleeper hit in the ’90s, is also in the traveling lineup, providing backup vocals and singing the female vocal parts. “It has been going over very well. It is a musical revue. Quite a party.”

Along with their appearance in Indianapolis, Peeping Tom is also touring with Gnarls Barkley for the rest of the summer. In addition to touring and making even more new music with Peeping Tom, Patton is working on more solo material, as well as a new Tomahawk album. Patton’s year is jam-packed with projects, but he likes it that way.

“I’ve got a lot to look forward to this year with Peeping Tom, that’s for sure,” he said. “Caffeine plays a big part.”

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