Peeping Tom has been billed as the closest Mike Patton has come to making pop music since he was a teenager singing "Epic" in Faith No More. Indeed, Peeping Tom is a studio-born Patton project, built ground-up from samples taken from e-mail collaborations with experimental favorites and bona fide pop stars alike—Amon Tobin, Kool Keith, Massive Attack, Bebel Gilberto, Norah Jones. Sure, it's surprisingly accessible, especially for someone who's spent the better part of the last decade-plus collaborating with people like Bjork, John Zorn and Merzbow in wildly experimental contexts. Still, closer to the mainstream with Peeping Tom, Patton's not sure if this is pop music.
"I'm working within a pop context, meaning I'm using the song form, but is it popular music? I doubt it," says Patton, from his home in California. "But I feel that it's a broad enough stroke—pop music—there's a lot of room to maneuver in that little box. It's a bigger box than maybe most people think."
Both inside and outside of that big pop tent, Patton's a busy musician, often working through multiple ideas at once. The trick, he says, is compartmentalizing various inspirations: "The way I can make music out of the music in my head is by creating parameters. If I don't do that, it's just a bunch of noise ... no organization, no frame of reference. It's just a bunch of colors on a canvas."
Peeping Tom was first several of Patton's jumbled ideas—sometimes sent to himself via his answering machine—that hadn't found a home. Patton became fascinated with the notion of electronic rhythm parts, so he immersed himself in sampling for the first time.
"Anytime you put down your instruments of choice, the things you normally write with and which with you're comfortable, you're going to write different things," Patton says. "That's what I wanted to do."
The result is an intriguing panorama of ideas, from the spacey, explosion-specked "Your Neighborhood Spacemen," featuring Anticon's Jel and Odd Nosdam, to the off-kilter jazz-funk track "Sucker," with Jones crooning obscenities. For the Eastern-tinged, trip-hop-meets-metal of "Mojo," Patton—in his best FNM voice—croons, "Oops, I did it again." Yeah, he has. Now, let's see if he and Dan the Automator can do it live, too. —Chris Parker
Peeping Tom plays the Cat's Cradle Thursday, April 5, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance, $18 day of show.