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Ear Surgery 

Fantomas stitch together styles -- loudly

Most people probably remember Mike Patton from MTV, flailing his silken punk-mullet around in the video for "Epic" by his band Faith No More. "Boy, whatever happened to that guy," think Mr. and Mrs. America, waiting to catch his screwy mug on a "One-hit Wonders: Where are They Now?" segment on VH1. "I wonder what he's up to?"

Answer: The same as before -- making people sick, and loving every minute of it. After starting his own label, the appropriately-named Ipecac, Patton set out on a quest to -- as he puts it -- purge people of the drek that sits rotting in their stomachs (after, of course, having been forced down their throats). Now the home for similarly twisted bands like the Melvins, Ipecac also puts out work by Patton's bands Tomahawk and Fantomas (pronounced fan-toe-moss). Who, incidentally, are coming to town this week. And have a new album out, Delirium Cordia. A 74-minute-long album. 74-minute song. About surgery.

When I call bassist Trevor Dunn -- who, along with Melvins axeman Buzz "King Buzzo" Osbourne and Slayer skinsman Dave Lombardo make up the rest of Fantomas -- he is folding laundry. Not a very rock & roll activity, but then again, the Fantomas aren't your ordinary rock & roll band.

Dunn, who has performed or recorded with Mr. Bungle, Junk Genius, Sour Note Seven, John Zorn, Kronos Quartet, Phillip Greenlief, and too many other groups to mention, says he doesn't see the big deal. But how many other bands take inspiration equally from Russ Meyer and Georges Bataille? From Sun Ra to Simone Diaz? Answer? Not near enough.

Creative Loafing: How did you first meet Mike Patton, your band mate in both Mr. Bungle and Fantomas?

Trevor Dunn: We actually went to junior high together -- over 20 years ago now, actually. Jesus! We just sort of met and realized we had similar music interests, basically -- mostly rock and metal -- and we just started trading records and took it from there. This was in Northern California, up in Eureka. We just eventually decided, "Hey, why not play music together?"

What's the creative process like for a Fantomas song? There's so many elements involved, it's almost like composing a symphony, it seems.

Mike pretty much writes all the stuff for Fantomas. There certainly is a sort of cut-and-paste thing going on there. We go through a lot of styles, but it's really more about the shape of the songs. It just so happens that we're into different styles of music so we use them within the same tune. I don't have a set formula when writing a song. But it's pretty much his vision, this band. The rest of us are just trying to make it happen. Or hold on. (laughs)

What are your crowds like now? I know you had some problems in the beginning with people not getting what you were doing, especially on the Tool tour.

When Fantomas did its first tours, there were a lot more boneheaded Slayer fans coming to start mosh pits. (laughs) They were sorely frustrated! We just sort of weeded them out right off the bat, which is a good thing. (But the) Melvins fans are obviously open-minded. You have to be to listen to that band! I've read reviews where people thought that Fantomas was improvising, which blew my mind. We spend hours rehearsing trying to get that shit together. There's definitely a crossover with the Zorn scene and the people into that sort of thing, and those people tend to be pretty open-minded too. Some of the Zorn stuff is incredibly loud and abrasive. Zorn's palette sort of runs the gamut, and so do we.

Was there a set decision to make the album one track before recording began? This one's going to piss off a lot of people who like to do the shuffle thing with their CD players...

That was Patton's kind of vision of this record. From the beginning there was sort of this surgery/medical theme, and a sort of collage composition through composed collage style, I guess you'd call it. We recorded it in sections, and he put it together in the studio. We were even getting complaints about it before the record even came out: "I can't believe you assholes!" To me, there's enough interesting changes happening on the record (to keep one's interest). It's like the 10 CDs in your CD changer, except it's one CD. I don't know what else you'd want to Ping-Pong back and forth with this album, anyway. (laughs)

Fantomas will appear at Tremont Music Hall on Saturday, April 3, along with special guest Melt Banana and end. Tickets are $17, available by calling 704-522-6500.

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