Mr. Bungle: A Dizzying, Disconcerting, Schizophrenic Tour de Force

It’s here, the first of the series lovingly named “Mike Patton Monday’s”.

Mike Patton, Mr. Bungle

Mike Patton, Mr. Bungle


The Early Days 1985-1990

Eureka, California 1985 High School Students Trevor Dunn, Mike Patton, Trey Spruance,  Theo Lengyle, and Jed Watts got together and formed Mr. Bungle a name taken from Lunchroom Manners a Video on Etiquette shown during the Pee Wee Herman’s HBO Special.

Their First Demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, was recorded during  Easter 1986. Various Instruments where used to include bongos, a kazoo, Saxaphone, and a train whistle to set the soundscape for the fast low fi style of playing and singing.

The Second Demo Bowel Of Chile(’87) featured more ska, funk, and swing elements a review on states “”essentially the sound of some very talented teenagers trying to make their love of jazz and ska come together in whatever way they can”

The Third Demo Goddammit I Love America!, came out in 1988 and carried the same mood and theme as the Second.

Fouth and Final Demo OU818 had some call back tracks and some brand new ones, with a denser, heavier feel to them, and the first recording to feature new members Clinton :bar: McKinnon and Danny Heifetz. It was at this time in 1989 that Mike Patton joined Faith No More while still being very much apart of Mr. Bungle

Self Titled Album 1991-1994

Mr Bungle signed to Warner Bros, and released  their self-titled album in 1991. John Zorn helped produce the album featuring free jazz, carnival music, funk, ska, and metal. Jounalist Bill Pahnelas said “”an incredible musical tour de force, and hands down the best alternative rock record of the year so far” and  critic Steve Huey wrote in AllMusic: “Mr. Bungle is a dizzying, disconcerting, schizophrenic tour through just about any rock style the group can think of, hopping from genre to genre without any apparent rhyme or reason, and sometimes doing so several times in the same song.”

Travolta, the first track off the album had to be changed after the initial pressings because actor John Travolta threatend to take legal action, the song name (not the contents) where changed to ‘Quote Unquote’

In an effort to sell more albums a Mr. Bungle bubble bath was given away with the record.

Disco Volante 1995-1998

In 1995, Warners released “Disco Volante,” an album that further explored the realsm of faux-jazz, fake tango, pseudo-surf, false metal, doppelgangers, and aimless soul searching. Some people were offended that parts of the record were written in a secret, “other worldly” language. Others were offended that parts of the record were NOT written in a secret language.

Critics where on both sides saying “a totally original and new musical style that sounds like nothing that currently exists” or The Washington Post said: “an album of cheesy synthesizers, mangled disco beats, virtuosic playing and juvenile noises”, calling it “self-indulgent” and adding that “Mr. Bungle’s musicians like to show off their classical, jazz and world-beat influences in fast, difficult passages which are technically impressive but never seem to go anywhere”  where as writer Scott McGaughey described it as “difficult”, and was critical of its “lack of actual songs”

Disco Volante included a a liner note that claimed “if $2 was sent to the band’s address, participants would receive additional artwork, lyrics to the songs “Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz” and “Chemical Marriage” and some stickers.” The vinyl release of this album shipped with a 7″ by the then-unknown Secret Chiefs 3.

California 1999-2000

The Third Album, and considered widely as their Magnum Opus, was released in 1999 after another four year break. Robert Everett-Green wrote, “The band’s newest and greatest album does not reveal itself quickly, but once the bug bites, there is no cure. The best disc of the year, by a length.” while AllMusic  described the record as “their most concise album to date; and while the song structures are far from traditional, they’re edging more in that direction, and that greatly helps the listener in making sense of the often random-sounding juxtapositions of musical genres”

On the different style of this album, Mike Patton explained that to the band “the record is pop-y”, before adding “but to some fucking No Doubt fan in Ohio, they’re not going to swallow that.”

California was recorded on Analog Tape opposed to the Digital Recordings more and more bands where opting to use, but with over 50 tracks the songs required the use of several analog machines, resulting in layers of original samples, keyboards, melodies, and percussion.

Warner Brothers Media Information one sheet says this about the new album and band:

Mr. Bungle’s third CD is evidence of a rock band pretending to have roots in rock music. More meticulously orchestrated, more guided by mistake than their previous releases, they continue on a roll of self deprecation while writing music that is out of the range of their instruments.

The new album, entitled “CALIFORNIA,” explores an ambiance new to the band, conjuring up the sultry dance moves of Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire; digging through the graveyard of riffs to find English Pop, Elvis, Neil Diamond, and Michael Jackson. The album is sure to alienate those expecting weird meter-changes and heartless vulgarities. To be sure, this is Western music, chockful of backbeats, strings, and vocal harmonies. But like the original 49ers, the listener is headed into a desert land of draught and famine — the dark side of the California dream.

Topics of charity, gregariousness, and escapism are accompanied by those of suicide, retribution, and apostasy. The band somehow proves to themselves, once again, that they cannot escape their twisted past, or their twisted future. And like Hollywood, the underbelly is glossed over with major chords, sparkling glockenspiels, exotic percussion, fuzz guitars, tears of joy, and plastic smiles. And it’s all in Technicolor, breathtaking Cinemascope, and stereophonic sound! Music to be listened to under the warmth of the cancer-inducing sun. It’s danceable, it’s singable. Grab an umbrella and join the slaughter!

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Kiedis saw Patton performing with Faith No More and accused him of imitating his style. California and Californication where scheduled to be released June 8th 1999 but California was pushed back to not confuse the audiences, Kiedis went on to have Mr. Bungle pulled from several Music Festivals in Europe, RHCP where headlining and had final say over hiring and firing bands. Patton stated, “Our agent was in the process of booking these festivals, and it was becoming apparent that we’d landed some pretty good ones—one in France, another one in Holland, some big-name festivals. Turns out someone’s holding a grudge! We were booted off several bills, specifically because Anthony Kiedis did not want us on the bill. He threatened to pull the Chili Peppers if Mr. Bungle was on the bill.”  Trey Spruance added, “We were booked, months in advance, to do eleven festival dates in Europe. Come Summer, we get a call from the three biggest of those festivals, all of them the same day, saying that we can’t play, because the headlining band retains the right to hire and fire whomever they wish. We found out it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so our manager called their manager to find out what the hell was going on, and their manager was very apologetic, and said, ‘We’re really sorry, we want you to know this doesn’t reflect the management’s position, or the band’s for that matter, it’s Anthony Kiedis who wants this.'”

Halloween 1999

Mr. Bungle parodied the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Pontiac, Michigan on Halloween of 1999. Video can be found here: introduced each Mr. Bungle band member with the name of one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, before covering the songs “Give It Away”, “Around the World”, “Under the Bridge” and “Scar Tissue”, with Patton deliberately using incorrect lyrics. Mr. Bungle also satirized many of the mannerisms of the band, mocking heroin injections, deceased guitarist Hillel Slovak and on-stage antics. Kiedis responded by having them removed from the 2000 Big Day Out festival in Australia and New Zealand, The feud continued with Dunn criticizing the Chili Peppers on his personal webpage, specifically their bass player Flea, stating, “Flea, in all seriousness, really isn’t that good. I mean c’mon Red Hot Chili Peppers were vaguely interesting in the late 80s, but Christ they fucking suck, they suck”.

When’s The Next Record?

A 2004 Rolling Stone interview confirmed Mr. Bungle had disbanded with Patton revealing, “We could have probably squeezed out a couple more records but the collective personality of this group became so dysfunctional, this band was poisoned by one person’s petty jealousy and insecurity, and it led us to a slow, unnatural death. And I’m at peace with that, because I know I tried all I could.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s