Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mondo Cane) and renowned French composer Jean-Claude Vannier, who is perhaps best known for his work with Serge Gainsbourg, release “Corpse Flower” (on Ipecac Recordings), a 12-song album.
“Jean-Claude and I met while working together on a Gainsbourg retrospective at the Hollywood Bowl in 2011,” explains Patton. “We bonded immediately. I could see he had a dedication and attention to detail that was relentless so the respect I had for him in my mind was magnified in person. We spoke loosely about working together in the future… and it took some time, but after a few years I contacted him and we began to ignite some sparks.”
“I would send Mike rough versions of the songs to get his thoughts, then I’d wait impatiently, staring at the clock, until I received his response,” offers Vannier about the process the duo used to create “Corpse Flower”. “He made my music awaken with his unique perspective and interpretations of my songs. A formidable vocalist, with a sense of humor, Mike and I created a strong, beautiful and sincere collection of music, as well as a friendship.”
A variety of musicians, both in Los Angeles and Paris, took part in the recording of “Corpse Flower” with the Los Angeles team including Smokey Hormel (Beck, Johnny Cash), Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck, Air, Nine Inch Nails) and James Gadson (Beck, Marvin Gaye). The Parisian players are Denys Lable, Bernard Paganotti (Magma), Daniel Ciampolini, Didier Malherbe, Léonard Le Cloarec and the Bécon Palace String Ensemble. The lyrics for “Ballad C. 3.3.” are drawn from Oscar Wilde’s “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” poem, which was initially published using the name C.3.3. The album’s striking imagery was shot by famed Japanese- American photographer Kenro Izu.
How did you meet?
Mike Patton: Jean-Claude and I met while working together on a Gainsbourg retrospective at the Hollywood Bowl in 2011. I was familiar with his work and was a big fan so I just shut my mouth and did what he told me! It was a complicated project with many different singers, a full band and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Watching him navigate that kind of musical landscape with various players and vocalists in such a pressurized environment that was truly inspiring. He did it with laser intent and grace.
Jean-Claude Vannier: After our performance at the Hollywood Bowl I went to San Francisco with my two daughters. Mike and I became friends, he took us to various spots around town including City Lights Books. We began to discuss a collaboration but it was very indefinite. In 2017 Mike reached out to me about working together and I was immediately enthusiastic.
What made you want to work with each other?
Patton: We immediately bonded. I’m not sure why. Most likely over some shared instincts. I absolutely loved the way he conducted, he was patient and understanding while also not afraid to bust balls and make demands that the music asked for. He kicked my ass in a really beautiful way! I knew I could learn from him. I could see he had a dedication and attention to detail that was relentless so the respect I had for him in my mind was magnified in person. We spoke loosely about working together in the future and it took some time, but after a few years I contacted him and we began to ignite some sparks.
Vannier: I like working with Mike because he is a formidable vocalist but with a sense of humor. Sometimes he’s funny, sometimes he’s strong, he can be a crooner and something else entirely if he chooses. He brought my music to life with his perspective and interpretations of my songs.
What was the process of creating this album?
Patton: Between Paris and San Francisco, we traded ideas. Then the language and landscape of the record took its own organic shape. Jean-Claude recorded a certain set of musicians in France (including all of the strings) and I assembled a hand-picked Los Angeles band to handle my parts. We both wrote, arranged and produced our own separate groups, then I mixed them with my trusted engineer (S. Husky Höskulds) in Los Angeles. We both were very happy with how these two universes were able to work harmoniously into one salty soup!
Vannier: I would send Mike rough versions of the songs to get his thoughts and see what songs spoke to him. He’d respond with lyrics, some arrangements and general moods. After we settled on what songs we’d focus on, I recorded a string ensemble in Paris, using musicians from Opera de Paris, and he recorded in Los Angeles, overdubbing with a marvelous band, and then the tracks were mixed by the famous Husky.
How was the experience?
Patton: Fucking great. Totally rewarding and educational for me. There were many humorous moments with Jean-Claude correcting my horrible French vocal delivery and pronunciations.
Vannier: I learned a lot of things, including some English! Friendship, human exchanges, the way Americans approach music and the enthusiasm I shared with Mike in building a strong, beautiful and sincere collection of music, like driving a truck with two seats. Every time Mike sent me music with vocals, I was so happy, I impatiently watched the clock to see what time it was in San Francisco.