The debut Fantomas album – Patton’s first major release since leaving Faith No More – was intended as a literal musical transcription of a comic book, one which the listener is not privy to, but instead has to decode in the stampeding drums, electric-shock guitar-bursts and gibbered vocals – all postmodern ‘KAPOW’s and ‘KERRUNCH!’s Delirium Cordia was a wordless opera based around an implied story about surgery sans anaesthesia. Suspended Animation tried to make a sonic cartoon about the month of April – each ‘song’ another Tom and Jerry-style japefest depicting an individual day, and sounding fairly accurately like Carl Stalling or Hoyt Curtin might if Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros’ big bands had been pared down to the simple, befuddled resources of Melvins and Slayer.
Carl Stalling – Putty Tat Trouble, pt 6
Melvins – Black Betty
Listened to in isolation, Mike Patton’s soundtrack for Crank: High Voltage, the sequel to a relentlessly high-concept Jason Statham action movie, sounds a LOT like how you might imagine the Fantomas demos to sound. Everything is written and recorded by Patton, with him playing all the instruments (or mimicking instruments with his signature vocals) – much like how Fantomas’ albums are, before the music is handed over to Buzz Osbourne, Trevor Dunn, and Dave Lombardo to transmute. On paper, it seems like a bizarre choice for a major Hollywood property to invest in – Crank being the kind of action film fodder that is lapped up by the Nuts and Zoo Statham-disciple page-gluers, and kind of removed from the more ‘worthy’ genre of movies Patton now makes a living writing music for (The Solitude of Prime Numbers, A Perfect Place, The Place Beyond The Pines).
Mike Patton – The Snow Angel (from The Place Beyond The Pines)
That is until you see Crank: High Voltage.
The relentless, hyper-paced shock and vulgarity of Crank: High Voltage (sold to Patton by its directors as “Basically exactly the same as the first one. But times a thousand.”) doesn’t so much find the perfect visual counterpoint to Patton’s own Wacky Races musical shitfest – it actually completes the score as music.
In an interview prior to the film’s release, Patton described the difficulty he had in arranging music for the film. Patton is the sonic maximalist par excellence. Every one of his post-FNM albums explodes with a million detailed squiggles, poings, flutters, and explosions. It’s simply how he hears music when he composes – what are essentially an array of sound effects bouncing off each other and somehow coalescing into melodies and rhythms. With Crank, Patton talked of being forced to rein this maximalism in, and having to strip the pieces down to much simpler configurations in order to serve the film, although the reasons why aren’t immediately obvious until you see the picture.
Crank: High Voltage, even without Patton’s OCD score, is already pure sonic overload. The foley work – all screeching tyres, gunshots, ejaculating fire hydrants, crunching bones, surgical plops, farts and other orifice-related oscillations, bomb ticks, magazine changes, fuck grunts, pukes, butt slaps, and all-round carnage – already sounds like a classic Mike Patton soundscape in 5:1! (Think Adult Themes For Voice as blaxploitation OST.) And that’s before he’s even played a note of music!
Mike Patton - Wuxiapian (from Adult Themes for Voice)
Instead, the sound editors weave Patton around the foley and diegetic sound of Crank as an extra element, so that the three strands all pull together as a particularly violent composition in itself. It’s full of all the mathematical, stomach-lurching on-the-dime stops and changearounds of Fantomas, but they’re punctuated in the film by Statham’s repeated “CUNT!!!”s, weird racial slurs, and the aforementioned theatre-hell of sound fx.
Mike Patton – Il Cielo In Una Staza (from Mondo Cane)
Although played as something in-between the splatter of Fantomas and the ersatz mania of Mondo Cane, Patton limits his sonic palette to a tormented toy-shop of Speak & Spells, children’s pianos, shakers, rattles, and other ‘joke’ instruments. When guitars do shred into the picture, they’re almost hysterically over-processed, like a weird send-up of the nu-metal FNM influenced but so despised (one of the few non-Patton contributors to the soundtrack is a Linkin Park song, and LP’s front-goon Chester Bennington has a 10-years-out-of-date cameo in the movie).
Viewed as one piece – with your brain-turned off from the genre-destroying, knowing ridiculousness of the plot and dialogue – Crank: High Voltage becomes symphonic, an extended audiovisual opera of ugliness. If Patton were to ever attempt a note-by-note live recreation of the music (as Fantomas attempted with their The Director’s Cut compendium of film themes), you’d sense that he’d only be able to truly do it justice by having Jason Statham there, hard-man frowning, and reading his “CUNT!!!”s and mockney rhyming slang off a music stand; revving engines, shrieking prostitutes, and foley artists smashing melons all strategically placed throughout the audience.
Mike Patton – Chelios (from Crank: High Voltage)
Crank: High Voltage attempts to out-vulgar itself at every turn, it goes beyond being simply ‘offensive’ into delirious surrealism. The film opens with Statham engaged in a mid-free-fall fist-fight from a helicopter before splatting onto tarmac – a direct continuation from the first movie’s ending, except the whole sequence is rendered inexplicably as an 8-bit video game. When Statham later does battle with a Triad who has stolen Jason’s heart from his own body (throughout the film he has to taser or otherwise electrocute himself in the face or balls to keep his artificial “strawberry tart” charged) amidst the pylons of a collapsing electricity substation, the film for no contextual reason switches into a Japanese monster movie parody. Patton is often credited as possessing a kind of ‘musical Tourettes’ – Crank: High Voltage actually has a slapstick character with ‘Full Body Tourettes’. Patton once described himself as “having no race”, Crank: High Voltage burns through racial caricatures as if there were no such thing as racism.
As the author of the near-mythical ‘Video Macumba’ snuff compilation, you can imagine Patton was happier than a pig in scat when he discovered this movie.
Buy Crank: High Voltage