Comic-Con 2011: 7 Minutes With Musician and The Darkness 2 Voice Actor Mike Patton
The word genius is used far, far too often in discussions of popular music, but given the range of his interests and the successful execution of so many different musical styles, it’s no mystery why Mike Patton’s fans are so quick to apply the word to him.
Mike Patton might be the single most idiosyncratic figure in modern American music. In a career spanning more than 2 decades, he has defined himself as an uncompromising, classification-defying artist of tremendous range and skill. Perhaps most well-known as the second (and most successful) lead singer for metal/funk band Faith No More, he released Avante-garde punk with his band Mr. Bungle, experimental metal with the super group Fantomas, collaborated with legendary Hip Hop producer Dan the Automator on Lovage, even released an album of covers of Italian pop songs from the 50 under the moniker Mondo Cane. The man gets around.
In 2007, Mike provided the voice for the titular demonic power in The Darkness video game based on the long running comic series. He’s back to do it again for The Darkness 2, and after The Darkness 2 panel at Comic Con 2011, I got to sit down with him for a brief interview about about his work with the game, his approach to voice acting and even his upcoming projects. And I managed to do it without collapsing into fanboy squee. Barely.
GAMEFRONT: One of the things you spoke about during The Darkness 2 panel is how you essentially winged it, that you weren’t thinking of a specific character while performing. Your music career on the other hand has been defined by the way you switch characters.
MIKE PATTON: A little bit.
GF: Like ‘Ok this time I’m going to be an Italian Crooner’, this time I’m going to be a latin playboy who gets all up on (Elysian Fields and Lovage singer) Jennifer Charles’?
GF: While you’ve only done a few voice acting roles, do you find that you approach them the way you approach your music?
MP: In a certain way, yes, but normally in my own projects, the script is here. (Mike indicates his brain.) And I can get away with following my own ideas. When you’re working for someone else it’s a whole other game, more like a guest spot on someone else’s record.
GF: What about cover songs? Mondo Cane, which I brought up a second ago is an album full of covers, and you’ve done some very famous covers like ‘Easy’. Do you find any similarity between your voice work and the covers you’ve done?
MP: No, I wouldn’t say that. Most of the cover work I do musically, I try to put a stamp on. I don’t see the need to do it note for note, I try to get my hands dirty and mess it up. Voice acting is a lot closer to the vest.
GF: So not a lot of improvisation?
MP: Absolutely, I’m taking a lot more direction. I’m just a tool.
GF: As for that work, when I played The Darkness for the first time, and hearing your work again now, I was curious if you have listened to any other voice actors for inspiration.
MP: Not a specific person, I’m actually (laughs) not familiar with a lot of voice actors.
GF: Was there anybody you were thinking of when you were working on The Darkness and The Darkness 2?
MP: More an ambiance, a vibe. It’s more like hardcore singers, black metal, the techniques in that kind of music. It sounds like processing but I was inhaling a lot of the time to give it a strange effect that was actually organic.
GF: You’re treating your throat like a digeridoo is what you’re saying?
MP: (laughs) exactly!
GF: Can you talk about the process of recording your work for The Darkness 2? How many takes, how many sessions?
MP: I did 2 sessions of maybe 4 hours each.
GF: Damn. That has to be tough on your voice.
MP: Yeah, it’s harsh but I’ve been doing it long enough.
GF: Do you play video games? Are you a gamer?
MP: Yes. Mostly.
GF: Mostly? So what are you playing these days?
MP: I’m still playing Red Dead Redemption so I’m a little behind.
GF: That’s a good game to be stuck on…
MP: Oh yeah, I spend hours just riding horses around! You screw around, I never play any missions, I just blow things up. But the Rockstar games are good for that.
GF: Speaking of that kind of game, during the panel, they (I indicate the creators of The Darkness 2) talked a whole lot about wish fulfillment being a huge appeal of the series. Do you find that wish fulfillment is something you get a lot of thrill out of? Did it affect how you approached the role?
MP: Absolutely. After doing those sessions, I remember the studio was near my house and I’m walking home and I kept expecting tentacles to come out of the corners. Same thing with Vice City, you want to steal that scooter. Or like one of the Mafia games, the one that just came out recently?
GF: Mafia 2?
MP: Yeah, like in Mafia 2, you end up just seeing a new world where you can pretty much do whatever you want. As I was saying in the panel, I think [The Darkness 2] is a great adventure to go on.
(At this, Marc Silvestri whispers something that sounds like ‘f*ck yeah’. Immediately after, the minder attending the meeting indicated that my time was up.)
GF: OK, Last question, and this is totally not video game related at all, but can you give us a hint as to when another Lovage album is coming?
MP: A lot of the music is already written and we’re just arranging the time to finish it. It’s going to be the same crew [Dan the Automator, Jennifer Charles, Mike Patton). We’re pushing to get it out sooner than later.
And with that I left politely. But to be honest, I was freaking the hell out. I LOVE Lovage and the confirmation that a new record is forthcoming makes me even more interested in playing The Darkness 2. Well played, Mike Patton. Well played.