How Ennio Morricone Influenced The Music Of Mike Patton
Updated: Jan 7
The legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone has died at the ago of 91
The composer, known as 'The Maestro' died last week in Rome due to complications after a fall. Morricone, who scored more than 500 films, is widely regarded as one of cinema’s greatest composers, winning a long-overdue Oscar in 2015 for his work on Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight.
His work on spaghetti Westerns directed by childhood friend Sergio Leone such as For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly began a illustrious career in the film business which brought him countless awards and adoration.
It is therefore no surprise that Mike Patton has gained influence from Morricone's work throughout his career.
Patton's love for cinema music started at a very early age, "I grew up in a really small town," Eureka, California, "Movies were, to me, like a way out. It was an escape valve. I remember having my parents drop me off at movies all the time. It would be slasher films like Butcher Baker Nightmare Maker ... Star Wars was one of those, as well."
"I go back and look at it, like — what was I thinking?" he continued. "I think a part of it, actually, [was that this] was before I was a 'musician,' I think what I was doing was listening more than watching. So really, my first experience with film was more auditory than visual."
The impact that film had on his music was apparent from Patton's earliest work and you can see the singer disguised as characters from A Clockwork Orange in the video for Faith No More's Falling To Pieces, hear quotes from Blue Velvet on Mr. Bungle's debut record, and lines from various movies in the lyrics of King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime.
Patton first covered Morricone's music in Mr. Bungle, the band played versions of Città violenta (1970) as early as 1991. During their Disco Volante tour La lucertola (1971) was added to their set. And for the band's final 2000 tour Morricone's Metti una sera a cena (1969) was played.
In 2001 Patton's demented supergroup Fantômas released their second album, The Director's Cut, a collection of cover versions of horror theme music from films and television. In the track listing was a cover of Morricone's theme song from the 1970 crime film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.
In 2005 Crime and Dissonance was released via Patton's label Ipecac Recordings. It is a compilation album of Morricone's film score work put together by experimental rock musician Alan Bishop. The album features work ranging from the later 1960s to the early 1980s, and contains scores taken from films of several different genres.
"I'm a big fan of his. And let's just say you walk into a record store—it's daunting when you look in his section, so many fucking releases, and then re-releases and compilations. Basically I felt that most of them culled from similar sources.When the opportunity presented itself to do a Morricone comp, I was really excited, but then I thought, "I don't want to do another one of those." This guy Alan Bishop from the Sun City Girls, he's a big Morricone scholar. He put together a big list of things, and we went through them together and basically chose what to put on there. And it was a matter of licensing and some of it was kind of difficult, and it took awhile to put together. But ultimately, it's one of the releases we've put out that I'm most proud of." - Patton 2008
"Mike Patton has pulled together a rare collection of Morricone tracks that reflect his connection to the Maestro via a shared passion and commitment to the extreme and the experimental. Psychedelic Sitars, heavy breathing, screams, screeches, electric guitar feedback… much of Morricone’s language here keenly intersects with the abstract metal soundscapes of Patton’s own music giving us fresh insights into their deeply powerful and uncompromising aesthetics. Both artists have straddled the pop and experimental worlds throughout their careers, creating a body of work that is honest, authentic, meticulously crafted, imaginative and cathartic. Both artists have also suffered from a measure of misunderstanding. But the music lives on. Like all great music the bizarre miniatures that comprise this remarkable set are still as fresh as the day they were recorded (some thirty to forty years ago) and now through the generosity and vision of a youthful and committed contemporary music master, they reach a new generation of ears to inspire even newer vistas of creativity. It is the responsibility of the few to carry the torch of truth and integrity through the dark ages we find ourselves in and this heroic set of soundtrack rarities shows us that the spirit of freedom is, has been and always will be alive and well. One only has to look for it." - John Zorn 2005
It was in the lesser know work of Morricone that Patton found real enjoyment.
"Incredibly elegant writing and orchestration from the maestro…This music was written for an early Dario Argento film, so there are plenty of slasher elements, but they are handled with the grace and conviction of a modern classical composer. Void of any of the normal musical scare tactics are heard, this is precisely why it is such an effective piece." - Patton on Four Flies on Grey Velvet
Nods to the Maestro's work can be heard on all of Mike Patton's film scores from 2008's A Perfect Place to 2018's 1922. However in 2010 Patton released what could not only be a love letter to Italy but also a love letter to Morricone - Mondo Cane.
An true inspiration for Patton during the arrangement of this album was Morricone. Two of his songs feature on the album Deep Down from the Mario Bava film Danger: Diabolik (1968) and Quello che conta.
"It comes from a movie that I love to death called Danger Diabolik. I was always a fan of the tune and the soundtrack. It's not a known Ennio Morricone song or soundtrack. In fact, it's not even available except for bootleg. I always thought it'd be a great song to cover. The funny thing about Morricone is that, especially here in the States, everyone knows him for the westerns and the really dramatic stuff. However, he also did arrangements for pop singers and at least a couple of those made it on to my record. He did a lot of work with singers of the day and made, I think, what could be banal, surface-style pop into really deep, orchestrated, tense and compelling music." - Patton 2010
"What I am really inspired by right now is The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. It’s a Dario Argento film — one of his early films and a great one. Morricone did the soundtrack, and it’s just absolutely, mind-blowingly complex, and really fun. Really amazing. The instrumentation is just gorgeous — tons of shit going on, super dense. It makes what would normally be a slasher film into a really elegant affair. That’s a wonderful example of how influential a soundtrack can be." -Patton 2010
In 2013 Mike Patton's Mondo Cane performed on the same bill as Morricone at Bicentenario de la Florida in Chile.
Rest in peace a true musical genius.