It's half-way through Faith No More's Saturday night set at Coachella and Mike Patton is already being groped and grabbed by the audience. No sooner had the band begun to wind down its cheeky rendition of Michael Jackson's “Ben” than the crooner leapt into the pit of festival-goers, his microphone clenched in his mouth, as a sea of sweaty hands tumbled the crowd-surfing frontman back toward the stage.
“Yee-haw!” someone shouted high above the festival roar. It might have taken over a decade for Faith No More to reunite after the band's 1998 split, but it took only 20 minutes in the desert for the audience to fall back in love with them.
Patton's stage presence with Faith No More has always bordered on maniacal, and his playful yet aggressive interaction with the audience is what people come to expect (and want), like they'd be disappointed if they weren't getting slapped around or barked at.
Prior to Coachella, I asked Patton some questions on the subject of audience interaction and about Faith No More's reunion during our interview for CAMP magazine, an exclusive put together by URB, Golden Voice and Vans, and distributed solely for die-hard campers at this year's music and arts festival.
“With Faith No More, even though we're a bunch of old men, what I remember about our best shows is some sort of confrontation with the audience,” Patton said. “I didn't even have to think about it … When we started doing these shows, that element about what I do when I perform came back. It's not planned, it's not thought out. I really even sometimes think to myself, 'Hey let's just play the show tonight, don't be an asshole, don't pick a fight, don't do this, don't do that…' and then things happen, you know?”
Patton continued, “Part of what Faith No More shows are is chaos and unpredictability. Just trying to keep that alive and survive at the same time. Let's just take Fantomas at Coachella [in 2005]. Really my issue was not to stir up any shit or even talk to the crowd or even acknowledge the crowd. I want to play the music as best as I can. I want to make it as perfect as I can. Really it's more like a classical music recital. It's a completely different approach and completely different results. With Faith No More I'm a little more free. To me it's more like rock and pop music so I've got a chance to 'entertain the crowd' or fuck with the crowd and I try and play that up.”
Playing it up is an understatement. Saturday night at Coachella the band took the stage dressed in suits, Patton slowly making his way to the mic stand using a walking cane, and started the set slow with a cover of “Reunited” by Peaches and Herb. Yeah, the Faith No More guys still have their senses of humor firmly intact, but the old man schtick only lasted so long before Patton ditched the cane, rolled up his sleeves and the band launched into the decidedly more aggro “From Out of Nowhere.” Like a maestro pugilist Patton crouched and hovered on stage as if to pounce, and then leapt towards the audience with a flick of his tongue, cracking his microphone chord like a whip.
The rest of the set included “Caffeine,” “We Care a Lot” (and we cared even more that Chuck Mosely wasn't in attendance to
botch sing it like he did earlier in the week at San Francisco's Warfield gig), “Last Cup of Sorrow,” “Surprise! You're Dead,” “Midlife Crisis,” and “Epic,” amongst others.
Added bonus? During Faith No More's last song “Just a Man,” Danny DeVito (actor and Limoncello enthusiast) darted across the sage, all smiles and with his shirt flying wide open. DeVito wasn't the only return Coachella attendee still stoked on the thee-day festival, however. There's a reason Patton keeps coming back as well, whether with Faith No More this year or with Fantomas, Peeping Tom or Rahzel in years past.
“To be honest, [Coachella] is one of the few festivals that I will play at and also go see a bunch of bands,” Patton said. “I feel like in some strange way I am in decent company. That alone gives me the comfort to want to keep coming back with whatever configuration I may have, and this time it's a no-brainer with Faith No More. Most festivals you get in and you get the hell out [laughs]. You don't want to talk to anyone; you don't want to see anyone. That's kind of my festival etiquette. I'm not proud of it. [Festivals can be] incredibly impersonal and not conducive to making good music.”
He continued, “There's good shit at Coachella and that tells me that the people that book it know what they're doing. Seriously, all you gotta do is make a list [of bands you want to see] and then do your best to follow through on it. The hardest part is you're going to miss about half of what you want to do because the stages are so far away.”
So who was on Patton's list of bands to check out this year?
“Ooh. Well, this is a guilty pleasure: Corrine Bailey Rae. I know. It's so embarrassing but I have to say it. I love her voice. I want to see her sing. So I'm going to see her. I'm going to see a moment of Jay-Z, of course. Gorillaz I am curious about. Gil Scott Heron, come on! I want to see that. I want to see Sly and the Family Stone. Is there any really new vital stuff? Oh, Dillinger Escape Plan! I'll go see them.”
Bummer about Sly Stone, but we hope Patton got to enjoy the others. 'Til next year…