THE S/T INTERVIEW: Dan the Automator and Mike Patton, AKA Crudo

By Andrew Parks

Mike Patton‘s only been in New York City for four days, yet he’s already written and recorded an entire album with avant-jazz architect John Zorn and his former Mr. Bungle bandmate Trevor Dunn.

“It’s a three-act rock opera with a mystical alchemy vibe,” says Patton of Six Litanies for Heliogabalus, which is described as “a startling blend of Metal, Contemporary Classical, Jazz and Medieval Music” on Zorn’s Web site. “Wait ‘til you see the artwork.”

Anyone who’s followed Patton’s career since his Faith No More days–believe it or not, they broke up a decade ago–knows the 40 year old is impossible to keep track of. In fact, one of the only ‘accessible’ projects Patton’s released in recent years was his long-delayed labor of love, Peeping Tom–a twisted pop project featuring a mail-order catalog of familiar (Norah Jones, Massive Attack, Kool Keith) and fringe (Kid Koala, Dub Trio, the Anticon. collective) faces. Now that he’s toured the hell out of that record, we’re hearing rumblings of yet another collaboration with Dan “the Automator” Nakamura, quite possibly the quirkiest producer to ever come out of the Bay area (see Dr. Octagon, Gorillaz, Handsome Boy Modeling School). Aside from a track (“Mojo,” also featuring Rahzel) on Peeping Tom, the duo best known for their faux Gainsbourg disc, Lovage: Music to Make Love to Your Old Lady By. According to Wikipedia–not the greatest source, we know, but it’s all we’ve got–Automator and Patton may have a similar project up next. Described as “strange and bizarre R&B” (not, you know, raw fish coated in olive oil), Crudo has already announced an appearance at this year’s Sasquatch! festival.

self-titled locked ourselves in an office with Patton and a patched-in Automator (he was cruising through the streets of San Fran at the time) before whiffs of Crudo were caught by the ‘net, but the following exclusive Q&A gives quite a few hints as to its direction and, more importantly, the kind of beautiful friendship that’s characterized their on-again/off-again career together.

self-titled: You’ve worked with one another for a while now. So let’s be serious then: What’s one thing you always wondered about the other person?
Mike Patton: Dan, I want to know where you keep your pillows in the house. I’ve been using the couch pillows and I’m all chaffed. [Patton’s staying in Nakamura’s NYC place for the week.]
Dan Nakamura: They’re in the closet.
MP: Really? That’s the illuminating answer?
DN: Yeah. Mike, if you’re having a nice meal and want a light after-dinner drink as you digest, what do you order?
MP: This is a tough question, since they’re all so heavy. I might go with a younger scotch. What would you say to that?
DN: What about a cheese plate?
MP: Oh no. Never. Cheese is only for when I’m still hungry. You like that shit though, don’t you?
DN: Yeah, a good bleu cheese or something would work after dinner.
MP: I had a meal in Paris once where all the intermezzo courses were cheeses. I thought that was kinda interesting. We’re just gonna talk about food, you know.

One serious question first: When did you guys first meet? Who called whom first?
DN: We met through

Your soul mates then?
DN: I actually pressed the wrong button.

And what year was that?
DN: What year was the Internet created?

Whenever Al Gore said so, right?
MP: Right. I’d say about 1996. I called Dan first. We hit it off immediately. We bonded over restaurants in San Francisco. We’re also both major Golden State Warriors fans. We share that misery.

The Peeping Tom project was originally going to just be you and Dan, right?
MP: It was, but he’s such an international man of mystery that he couldn’t complete the whole record. So I decided to reel in some other lunatics to help me complete it. Dan, you haven’t even heard the record yet, have you?
DN: I just got it, but had to split for LA, so I haven’t heard it yet.

Why aren’t you bumping that shit in your car then?
MP: Yeah, man. That shit is booming, dude.
DN: There are no subs in the Jetta I’m borrowing unfortunately.
MP: It has a turntable in it though, right, all Elvis style?

Anyway, Mike, what did you think of Norah Jones’ vocals on Dan’s track “Sucker?” A lot of people might be surprised at how sultry she sounds.
MP: She killed it. That’s what I wanted. I sent her the whole tune with a list of instructions. We talked on the phone once.

What were the instructions?
MP: “Here are the lyrics. I want you to be a cruel, sexy vamp. Don’t hold back.”

Did you write the lyrics for everyone?
MP: Not everyone. I didn’t for Kool Keith. I don’t think anyone can.

You still haven’t met him in person, right?
MP: I haven’t but Dan has. Tell us a story Dan!
DN: The best thing I can tell you about him is he knows what day new porn releases come to stores. He’s pretty useful if you’re into researching that kind of stuff.
MP: Sounds like he’s a porn scholar.
DN: He’s a connoisseur. You’ve got to respect someone that has dedication to his craft.

[Dan says to hang on.] While he’s away, tell me something about Dan that you wouldn’t want him to hear.
MP: He snores. Okay, okay. He’s actually a guy who cares; a guy who isn’t in this for the wrong reasons. He’s a kindred spirit in that way.

Dan, do you feel like Mike is doing this for the right reasons?
DN: Yeah. Plus I like the collection of Port and Sherry that he has in his studio.

Have you ever heard any of Mike’s “difficult” albums, like his vocals-only solo record [Adult Themes for Voice, Tzadik]?
DN: I’ve heard it all. I can appreciate it, even the stuff I don’t like as much. Let me just state for the record that Mike has one of the most versatile, incredible voices in rock music.

What’s your favorite record by him that doesn’t involve you then?
DN: Fantomas’ Director’s Cut and Delirium Cordia. The drama in some of those tracks is amazing.
MP: It’s a little frightening. You like Delirium, Dan? That record is kinda rough. [It’s one 74-minute song.]
DN: Yeah. It’s anti-melodic but it makes sense.

What about Dan’s projects?
MP: Like most people, I started with [Dr.] Octagon. It’s a complete “oh my god!” record.

Dan, have you heard the supposed new Dr. Octagon record?
DN: That’s not the real Octagon record. [Dan trails off; Mike laughs.]
MP: The possibility still exists though, right Dan?
DN: Eh, you never know.

It’s been a while since you two did a theme record together, like Lovage. So if you had to do one tomorrow, what would it be?
DN: It could be heavy metal for all we know. I want grunge to come back.
MP: 2010 grunge––is that what we’re on?

You should wear flannel on the cover and don Kurt Cobain masks. What would you call it?
MP: Junkies, Incorporated? Something with Cobain in the title? The name should allude to needles somewhere.

How about Space Needle?
DN: That might work. What are the guys who lay on beds of nails called?

MP: I like Space Needle. This guy’s gonna have to be in the band since he thought of it. This is how projects are born, believe it or not. I remember the whole Lovage thing came out of Dan saying, “You have to hear this other shit I’m working on.” And it had this sleazy, slinky, easy listening vibe. We finished that before Peeping Tom.

One thing I’m wondering before you go, Dan, is what you think of Mike’s actual rhyme skills.
DN: I consider Mike the white DMX.

[Mike starts barking.] He’s really scary like that?
DN: Hey man, DMX is cool.

He’s in your cell phone isn’t he?
MP: Is he Dan? If you type in “D,” does DMX come up? Here’s a question actually: Who’s the first “D” that comes up in your cell phone?
DN: Mine is someone who designs skateboards for Burton. And after that is DJ Shadow. [Dan trails off again.]
MP: Here’s one that smokes yours, then. “Danny DeVito.” I’ll tell you later. Dan, did you just say you started a boy band when you trailed off?

There’s another idea. You need two more people if you’re going to have a boy band, though. So who are they gonna be?
MP: We could have Danny DeVito and Gary Coleman. Has this interview completely disintegrated yet?

I think it did as soon as we hit record.