Riff Raff

Noise Yes, Pop No If the standard for a great live show is based on how many people in the audience you piss off -- and sometimes, that's true -- Mike Patton deserves some sort of prize for what he did at Slim's last June 18. That night, the former Faith No More frontman assembled his latest project, Fant™mas, for their first live show. The sell-out crowd came mainly for the star power of the musicians involved -- Melvins guitarist Buzz Osborne, former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, and bassist Trevor Dunn, who's also in Mr. Bungle with Patton. What the audience got, however, was a little over an hour of "songs" that were 30-second bursts of piercing, brutal noise, over which Patton would squawk and scream nonsense vocals.

It was powerful if difficult stuff, but many audience members weren't amused. "Make up another one!" howled one disgruntled listener. As if to apologize, Patton closed the show by saying, "Lots of bands have one-hit wonders, we have 30-hit wonders."

For those who didn't get to experience the handful of Fant™mas shows -- or those people who just want to relive the memories -- the supergroup's first album will be released in April on Alameda-based Ipecac Records, a new label Patton created specifically with his friend and manager Greg Werckman to release his own projects, as well as the music of his avant-noise co-conspirators.

It's the first label project for Patton, who originally had some misgivings about doing it. "I'm 30. Do I really want to do this now?" Patton says he asked himself, speaking from San Francisco's Toast Studios, where Mr. Bungle is finishing a new record. "I was lucky enough to have a guy like Greg pushing me. I've done the math, and it's not that hard to do, and it's not that hard to do correctly." Which means for Patton that bands get an appreciative label, a good royalty rate, and advances that don't put musicians into massive debt. Slated for release later this year are records from Maldoror, Patton's collaboration with Japanese noisemongers Merzbow, and three (three!) albums from the Melvins, to be released every three months starting in May.

In the meantime, Patton's been keeping a list of Fant™mas heckles -- "Have you finished the sound check yet?" is one of his favorites -- and both he and Werckman had been assuring major record labels that the resulting album wouldn't appeal to mass audiences, regardless of the members' pedigrees. Because Patton is still under contract with Warner Bros. -- Faith No More broke up last year owing the label one more album -- he had to give them the right of first refusal for the Fant™mas disc. "They refused," says Patton, laughing knowingly.

Patton doesn't have immediate plans for future projects outside of his own works and those of his close collaborators, but he wants to do so. "I hope to expand it," he says. "I don't want to make this a trash bin for my buddies." (Mark Athitakis)

Riot Grrrl Revisited On Feb. 17, Bratmobile met for a rehearsal in Berkeley, which is something the all-female punk trio hadn't done in about five years. In the meantime, drummer Molly Neuman had been keeping busy, working as the general manager of Lookout Records and, until recently, playing in the garage-punk combo the PeeChees. But with bassist Rop Vasquez recently moving to New York City and guitarist Carlos Canedo leaving the group to pursue other interests, Neuman had been keeping her eye out for other opportunities.

She ran into her old bandmates -- singer Allison Wolfe and guitarist Erin Smith -- at last November's CMJ Music Marathon in New York, where she was asked if she'd be interested in picking up where the riot-grrrl semi-icons left off after the release of 1994's EP The Real Janelle. "It seemed like the more we talked about it, it seemed less like a ridiculous idea."

The re-formed group will play a free show Feb. 28 at the Stork Club in Berkeley, then join Sleater-Kinney for a week of Midwest shows starting March 26 in Detroit. After that, Neuman will travel to Washington, D.C., to continue playing and see what happens next. "I'm not counting on it to be a huge, permanent thing," says Neuman. Life, a collection of songs from the PeeChees' 7-inch singles, was released last month on Lookout. (M.A.)

Not to Keep Harping on this Metallica Drummer! Thing, But ... Dustin Donaldson, local drummer and video entrepreneur who released the heavy-metal air-drumming document Metallica Drummer!, says he's going to stop making copies for sale. We regret to say that it's all our fault -- after we reported that Canadian Kevin Dabbs was the man behind the video, Donaldson said that continuing to sell it is "not any fun. The mystery's kind of gone. There's no reason to keep doing this."

The tape has been selling at a steady if unspectacular clip of four or five copies a week, says Donaldson, who still has a batch of about 30 available via mail-order. After that, the video will sink into the abyss of out-of-print status where all rock 'n' roll footnotes go to die, though Donaldson says he may make extra copies for sale at Aquarius Records. So much for our hope that air drumming was going to be the next big thing. (M.A.)

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