There’s always been an inclination in Mike Patton’s music towards being cinematic. Even before he began getting involved with film and video game scoring, he was referencing films in Mr. Bungle albums and scoring bizarre scenes in his head with his solo work. When he sat down to compose the second Fantômas album, he took his boldest step into film music within his career so far. The Director’s Cut, released in 2001 through his own label, Ipecac Recordings, is a collection of film scores brought into Patton’s loud and bizarre universe.
Composition of The Director’s Cut
The way most Fantômas music comes to be has been described by Mike Patton in interviews:
“With this band I do it all myself. I have a clear idea of what I want to do, that’s the way we started…for now it seems to work really well this way. I record everything myself and then teach it to everybody. I show them what I want and they try to get as close as they can.”
Patton has clearly stated that this is how The Director’s Cut was written, which should come as no surprise considering the idea behind the album. Patton chose all the film scores himself, re-arranged them in his own manner and then had his band members replicate those arrangements in the studio.
Production and Personnel
The band’s lineup would consist of only the core members of Fantômas, with no additional musicians. That is, Dave Lombardo on drums, Buzz Osborne on guitar and Trevor Dunn on bass guitar. The choice of several locations probably had to do with the availability of the various band members, since all of them are on other projects. The locations listed on the record are Grandmaster Recorders in Hollywood, Hook Studios in Studio City and Division Hi-Fi in San Francisco. Final mixing was done Sunset Sound Factory, Hollywood.
As with this album’s predecessor, Fantômas (1999), Mike Patton took over production duties as well. To aid him with engineering and mixing the record, he would count with frequent collaborator S. Husky Höskulds. The Grammy-Award winning engineer would also work on Delìrivm Còrdia and Suspended Animation, as well as some of Patton’s film scores several years later.
Finally, the mastering of the album fell in charge of George Horn, who gave The Director’s Cut its final touches at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA. George also worked on the first Fantômas record.
The Sound of The Director’s Cut
Even the avid Mike Patton follower would be somewhat unprepared for the first listen of The Director’s Cut. Although the idea is very ambitious and sounds interesting on paper, taking it into actual music is a different thing entirely.
The majority of the tracks, such as “Cape Fear”, “The Omen” and “Experiment in Terror” are very close renditions, replacing the most obvious elements, such as the main string or vocal chorus motifs with some iteration of Patton’s vocals. Usually, the main difference is that they feature heavy guitars and the insane blast beat drums of Dave Lombardo on some sections, but stick very true to the originals in terms of harmony and structure.
However, other tracks such as opener “The Godfather” and “Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion” drag the original’s progressions and main melodic themes way beyond the point of immediate recognition. In the case of the former, the theme of Mario Puzzo’s story is repurposed into extreme metal with scat lyrics. With the latter, the main motif is transported into a surreal landscape of chugging guitars, processed vocals, and even violent synths. The rest of the album isn’t short of similar surprises which are perhaps best left for your ears to discover.
Duration 2:45 | Original: Nino Rota
Duration: 2:38 | Original: Karl Ernst Sasse
Experiment in Terror
Duration: 2:40 | Original: Henry Mancini
One Step Beyond
Duration: 2:57 | Original: Harry Lubin
Night of the Hunter (Remix)
Duration: 0:58 | Original: Walter Schumann
Duration: 1:49 | Original: Bernard Herrmann
Duration: 3:20 | Original: Krzysztof Komeda
The Devil Rides Out (Remix)
Duration: 1:37 | Original: James Bernard
Duration: 2:25 | Original: Ronald Stein
The Omen (Ave Satani)
Duration: 1:479 | Original: Jerry Goldsmith
Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer
Duration: 3:07 | Original: Robert McNaughton
Duration: 2:03 | Original: John Barry
A funny thing, as you may have noticed, is that the thirteenth track “untitled” is only 5 seconds long and consists of nothing but a shortly-sustained synthesizer note. This reflects the common superstition that the number 13 is an unlucky number, especially in horror films.
Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion
Duration: 4:00 | Original: Ennio Morricone
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me
Duration: 3:28 | Original: Angelo Badalamenti
Duration: 3:04 | Original: Henry Mancini
NME stated “God knows how the various composers reacted to this gleeful butchering. But it takes genius to realise that Nino Rota’s Godfather score could be immeasurably improved by a man barking…”
Pitchfork Meida said “…a few liberties have been taken. That’s okay. The Director’s Cut is as cinematic as its source material, without bearing much resemblance at all to the type of music normally pegged as ‘cinematic’ (or the source material, really).”
Release and Legacy
As Mike Patton has cemented his reputation as a film score and video game composer, one might find The Director’s Cut to be a stepping stone towards that work. If anything, it proved that Patton’s abilities to endow his music with cinematic qualities wasn’t just the result of images evoked in the listener’s mind, but of an actual calculation towards mood-capturing and even storytelling.
To this day people consider the second Fantômas album the most accessible of the band’s catalogue and one of the landmarks of Patton’s career. As such, it was given the rare privilege of being performed live entirely and for no less than a DVD. In case you want to see how some of those brutal sound experiments are actually performed by four dudes on stage, you can watch the whole thing on The Director’s Cut: A New Year’s Revolution.
The album’s cover features a harrowing rendition of Dziga Vertov’s ‘Man With A Movie Camera’ done in a collage fashion over dark, velvet curtain-like red. The whole packaging has a film-tape style frame and on the jewel case version the CD is printed like an actual movie reel with the repeated image of a distressed woman.
The artwork, as with most of his works, was conceptualized by Patton himself and then brought to life by Nordic graphic designer and illustrator Martin Kvamme. Hence the fact that they are both credited for the artwork in The Director’s Cut.
As with many of the participants on the second Fantômas record, Kvamme is a frequent Mike Patton collaborator over the years. He has also designed covers for Peeping Tom, Tomahawk and Faith No More, as well as various artists within the Ipecac catalogue.