The Georgia Straight Issue December 7, 1995
Chants of "Bungle" invite feedback retribution
(by Kevin Smith)
Despite elaborate attempts at subterfuge, Mr. Bungle is best-known as Mike Patton's other band. The Faith No More singer might perform in a mask and record under the name Vlad Drac, but such measures have failed to prevent widespread awareness of his membership in the oddball group. Ironically, Patton's presence has enabled Mr. Bungle to release its resolutely noncommercial music through Warner Bros. Records and to play to sellout crowds.
Taking its name from an insipid hygiene-and-manners film for children, Mr. Bungle - which plays the Commodore Ballroom on Wednesday (December 13) - formed in Eureka, California, in 1985. The band recorded two thrash-metal demos - Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny and OU818 - in the late 1980's, but by the time the band hooked up with cutting edge saxophonist and composer John Zorn, who produced its debut album, avant-funk grooves had joined the earlier thrash elements and bizarre lyrics, creating a unique brand of black-humoured weirdness. The strange got even stranger on the band's 1995 follow-up, Disco Volante, which dispensed with conventional song structures altogether, replacing them with cut and paste audio collages.
On the phone from a theater in Athens, Georgia, sax player Clinton McKinnon - who performs under the name Bar - explains the differences between the two albums. "The band gets tired of doing any one thing for too long; it's constantly evolving. It's never pigeonholed into any one thing, other than it's going to be annoying. And we rehearsed and recorded the first album all together as a band, but the new album was pieced together."
McKinnon says Patton and guitarist Trey Spruance - alias Uncooked Meat Prior to State Vector Collapse - were mostly responsible for constructing Disco Volante. "A lot of times I'll have a part but I won't know where to put it, so I'll throw it to Trey and Mike. They're really good at arranging stuff. So you can blame it on them."
The Mr. Bungle bio blames Warner Bros. for the band's anonymity. Not true, says our sax-playing source. "It was more Mike trying to downplay the fame that was happening to him when Faith No More erupted in 1990. It wasn't ever planned out; it just kind of happened. And then it became this routine thing where we wear masks and stuff."
Mr. Bungle's other members play in various bands, but ones too obscure to necessitate any secrecy - although when guitarist Jim Martin left Faith No More, Spruance filled in on a temporary basis. Eventually, though, he decided against full-time membership. "He didn't wand to be chained down to that whole moneymaking machine, because he's go so many side projects. He's kind of a slut."
Obviously, Mr. Bungle is bound to attract Faith No More fans, which McKinnon finds "kind of annoying". However, the response has been better on this tour than on the first one. "They've been listening a little better," he notes. "The last tour was kind of grim. There were a lot of vindictive 15 minute feedback sessions where we're dicking with the audience because they're lame; if they weren't receptive to the opening band, or if they chanted 'Bungle, Bungle' during the opening band, we'd make 'em pay for it." Remember, you have been warned.
Thanks to James Kneip.