|Itís almost impossible to interview Mike Patto. He laughs, he
dances, he sings, he smokes, he jokes and he swears before he finally
settles down to his inquisitor.
But if patience is one of your virtues and you wait long enough, you will get a pleasant surprise. For Mike can give a really impressive if very informal interview. He is lively, talkative, very intelligent and seems to know about almost everything thatís going on in the music scene.
The name of Mike Patto rings a lot of bells in a lot of places and Iím not surprised. He has been involved with so many different people and in so many projects that by now anybody who is anybody knows the name and the talents associated with it.
Long before he became singer/songwriter, percussion/electric piano player of Spooky Tooth, the lean, long-legged Virgo had been making his presence felt in bands. Even if I were to write briefly about all the different projects he has been involved in I would find myself the authoress of a much valued book called something like A Simple Manís Guide to Mike Patto.
But for those who want their memory refreshed or those who have not heard much about this incredible character, I will be brief in outlining his long and distinguished career.
The man who seemed born to be on stage made his singing debut in a band called The Bo Street Runners. The band evolved into Pattoís People and in 1965 into the impressive sounding Chicago Line Blues Band. When the band split Mike did the usual things that out of work musicians do until he joined the London Youth Jazz Orchestra.
Later he was sent along to see a band called Timebox because they needed a singer. He got the job. The band was poised to be a commercial success but for various reasons it didnít quite make the grade. Timebox was forced to change its name. ĎWe got so many number one hits, we just had to change our name. It got embarrassing!í said Mike in his jokingly-serious manner. So the name was changed to Patto.
The band stayed together for six years and much to the disappointment of Mike and all those concerned, it just didnít happen. Mike says of the band, ĎIt should have made it. It had everything that a band should have to make it.í
When the band eventually disbanded Mike in his usual manner just went out and got another band together. This time it was Dick and The Firemen, an unusual name with an incredible line-up. Although the band received popular acclaim, it again didnít make it.
Mike, not one to be easily put off by failure, looked around for another venture to employ his talents and this is where Spooky Tooth came in. At only two daysí notice Mike joined the band and since then has been touring with them in America, where he now lives and does a lot of his work.
With his personality now firmly planted in the band he has plans to make a solo album and all sorts of other things. I spoke to Mike at his publicity office in London. He was in a gay and frivolous mood after having had two lunches and quite a lot to drink.
He is finding Spooky Tooth an incredible challenge. He has fitted in really well with the band and apart from his difference of opinion with Gary Wright who left the band as a result, everything is going well.
He speaks highly of the rest of the band. It has, Mike feels, a lot of potential and this must be exploited. Other members are Val Burke, bass player, originally from Jaimica, Russ - ĎHeís going to be a gas because heís so young and so full of ití - Mick Jones, 'a lovely guitar player - very intelligent player; writes good and he is a good singer.í
In America, Mike says, Spooky Tooth is like a legend. ĎItís billed as the legendary Spooky Tooth.í The bandís latest album, The Mirror, on which Mike makes his album debut with the band, is released over here. With this album he hopes that the band can recapture the attention of the English audience. What if they donít respond to the boys magic? Mike says quite bluntly, ĎIím not going to make an old corny line about "I hope to make it in my own country because thatís the place I want to make it." I donít care, you know. Music really buzzes and goes on in the States. If they pick up on it over here, well thatís great, Ďcause that means that your mumís proud.í
Music, Mike feels, is an Ďincredible challengeí. Describing his insatiable interest in it, he says ĎItís like two grand masters playing chess every day. You think you must run out of moves but something always comes up. Itís an incredible challenge to come up with something a bit fresh.í
Since that day when a piano was delivered to him at the wrong house, Mike has been absorbed in music.
It really is his life. He says candidly, ĎI know Iíve got a bizarre sense of humour, but the thing is Iím deadly serious about music . . . Iím not just a quipping idiot. Iím good at my gig; Iím good on stage; I can do things; Iím singing better. Iím learning all the time. Itís a very serious thing for me.í
Mike takes his writing seriously too. This began when he was with the Patto band. Then he wrote lyrics, someone else adding the music. To date he has written about forty complete songs. He told me that he deliberately tries to incorporate everyday phrases into them. ĎYou can get abstract and fool everybody, so you think, but you donít really.í
Although he is very blunt about certain things, surprisingly he is reticent about other matters. He refuses to tell me his age, almost with the same bashfulness as a woman. Ď1 refuse to answer that,í he says, and then adds, ĎIím eighteen.í He has been married for seven years, has three children and says if he ever retires he would not stray too far from show business. ĎIíd use my head and my mouth to be in the business somehow.í
Mike cannot really see himself working for a regular boss: ĎIím too lippy.í
Plans for the future include a solo album. ĎI want to do an album that is very consistent. I want the tunes to be very similar . . . round a theme . . .Ď Mike is also keen on producing someone. ĎWhen youíve been in the business for a while you realise that it is quite a big thing to get into. I would like to do some producing. I really would . . . I would like to produce myself but I donít think I would be objective enough.í Tours of Europe are also planned for the New Year so do look out for the band, theyíll probably be coming your way.
Also watch out for Mike. Heís had many offers for all sorts of things, so he is likely to be turning up in all sorts of funny places. But music will always be his first love. He says, ĎWhy I like it so much is because my personality isnít affected. I donít have to watch my pís and qís with people. Iím accepted. If Iím not, well, thatís just hard luck!'
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