ⓘ Mr. Bungle
Mr. Bungle is an American experimental rock band from Northern California. Known for a highly eclectic style, the band often cycles through several musical genres within the course of a single song, including heavy metal, avant-garde jazz, ska, disco, and funk. Many Mr. Bungle songs had an unconventional structure and utilized a wide array of instruments and samples. Live shows often featured members dressing up and an array of cover songs.
The band was founded in Eureka, California during 1985 while the members were still in high school, and was named after a character in the 1959 childrens educational film Beginning Responsibility: Lunchroom Manners, later featured in the 1981 HBO special The Pee-wee Herman Show. Mr. Bungle released four demo tapes in the mid-to-late 1980s before signing to Warner Bros. Records and releasing three full-length studio albums between 1991 and 1999. The band toured in 1999 and 2000 to support their last album before going on hiatus; ultimately revealing that they had dissolved in 2004. On August 13, 2019, it was announced Mr. Bungle would reunite for three shows in February 2020, which saw them performing their 1986 demo The Raging Wrath of The Easter Bunny in its entirety. Four additional shows have since been added in the same venues.
Although Mr. Bungle went through several line-up changes early in their career, the longest-serving members were vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Trey Spruance, bassist Trevor Dunn, saxophonists Clinton "Bar" McKinnon and Theo Lengyel, and drummer Danny Heifetz. Members were based in San Francisco during the bands tenure with Warner Bros.
1.1. History Self-titled debut 1990–1993
During 1990, the band members left Eureka for San Francisco, in search of greater musical opportunities. Trey Spruance said the change in location influenced the bands style, remarking Halloween show where they mocked us, fuck him and fuck the whole band." Patton went on to claim that Kiedis actions had "ruined" Mr. Bungles career, while Trevor Dunn remarked "It really screwed us up. It screwed up my life in a personal way." When asked if he had exchanged any words with Kiedis over the course of the dispute, Patton commented in 2000 "I have not had words. I dont think his, you know, minders, his gorillas, would let me have words with him."
The animosity between the two bands continued with Dunn later criticizing the Chili Peppers on his personal webpage, specifically their bass player Flea, stating, "Look, Flea, in all seriousness, really isnt that good. I mean cmon Red Hot Chili Peppers were vaguely interesting in the late 80s, but Christ they fucking suck, they suck. Dont talk about it anymore". Patton was asked in 2010 about the festivals and his relationship with Kiedis. Patton said "Its not worth talking about. I’ve no idea what it was about then and I dont know now. But I bet we’d have a warm embrace if we saw each other now." In 2016, Trey Spruance reflected on the feud, claiming that it was a "weird and unprofessional jealous vendetta from a huge successful band towards an industry pip-squeak." He also said that early in their career, the band were fans of the first two Red Hot Chili Peppers albums. Despite his bad relationship with Kiedis, Mike Patton corroborated this, even going so far as to cite the Chili Peppers as an influence on their early demo tapes. However, Trevor Dunn disputes this, and wrote, "I was way more into Fishbone and Bad Manners back in the day."
1.2. History Breakup 2001–2004
The band played what would turn out to be their final concert on September 9, 2000 in Nottingham, England. Following the California tour, the members again went their separate ways to pursue their various side projects. During the early 2000s, Patton was primarily touring and recording with his metal project Fantomas and the newly formed supergroup Tomahawk. Mr. Bungle were assumed to be in another period of self-described "hibernation", with Patton optimistically stating in October 2001 to Kerrang! that "its gotta take a rest. Theres a few of us that arent even ready to face it again for a while. Well put it on the shelf for now and see what happens to it and hopefully revisit it again."
Patton first alluded to the fact that Mr. Bungle would probably not record any more albums in 2003, stating in an interview, "I think it is over. The guys are spread all over the world and we dont talk to each other. I have not spoken to a couple of the guys since the last tour, years ago." Patton reiterated this sentiment in another 2003 interview with Australian newspaper The Age. While no official break-up announcement ever materialized, 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 persons petty jealousy and insecurity, and it led us to a slow, unnatural death. And Im at peace with that, because I know I tried all I could." When asked about a possible reunion, Mike Patton said, "It could happen, but I wont be singing. Some bridges have definitely been burned. It was a fun time and sometimes you just have to move on. I’ve got a lot on my plate now." Trevor Dunn added on his website, "Bungle is dead and Im happy about it" and that "the members of Mr. Bungle will never work together as such again". Spruance, Heifetz, and McKinnon have been more optimistic regarding a possible reunion.
1.3. History Subsequent events 2004–2019
After the dissolution of Mr. Bungle, the members have gone on to numerous different projects. Mike Patton co-founded the record label Ipecac Recordings and is involved with several other ventures, including various works with composer John Zorn, and most notably the bands Fantomas, Tomahawk, and Peeping Tom. In 2004, he was called upon by Icelandic singer-songwriter Bjork to provide vocal work on her album Medulla. He acted in the motion picture Firecracker, narrated the film Bunraku, and did voice work in the movie I Am Legend, performing the infected creatures screams and howls. He also did zombie and other character voices in the game Left 4 Dead as well as the growls for the anger core in the game Portal. Additionally, in 2009 and 2010 Patton embarked on a world tour with Faith No More after they reunited. Trey Spruance is involved with various bands, including Secret Chiefs 3 and Faxed Head. Trevor Dunn joined Patton in Fantomas and recently in Tomahawk as well as forming his own jazz band, Trevor Dunns Trio Convulsant; he also occasionally played bass with Secret Chiefs 3. Danny Heifetzs projects included playing with Secret Chiefs 3 and in a country/punk band called Dieselhed; he now resides in Sydney, and plays in outfits such as The Exiles, The Tango Saloon and The Fantastic Terrific Munkle. Clinton McKinnon also played with Secret Chiefs 3; he now lives in Melbourne, Australia, and plays with The Ribbon Device and Umlaut.
Spruance joined Patton and Faith No More onstage for the first time to perform the King for a Day. Fool for a Lifetime album in its entirety in Santiago in November 2011. Mike Patton recently sang on the Secret Chiefs 3 song "La Chanson de Jacky" in 2012 giving further speculation by fans on the chance of a reunion. Despite this, Trevor Dunn stated in a February 2013 interview with SF Weekly that there will be no Mr. Bungle reunion, saying, "Ive heard the faintest murmurings about it, but honestly I dont think anyone is interested. Its nothing personal, either. We all feel like that band said what it needed to say. It would feel weird and awkward to play that music again. It would take a pant-load of money to make it happen, and honestly, I dont want to do it for that reason. I would prefer to let go of it, respectfully." When asked about Mr. Bungle reuniting in an interview published in February 2014, Patton responded by saying, "Who knows? It certainly doesnt seem like its on the tip of anyones lips, but I could have said the same thing – and in fact, I did say the same thing – about Faith No More, and that happened. And I think it happened for the better."
1.4. History February 2020 shows
On August 13, 2019, it was announced that Mr. Bungle would reunite in February 2020 for three shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Brooklyn. The reunion was promoted as featuring Patton, Spruance and Dunn, as well as guitarist Scott Ian and drummer Dave Lombardo, performing the 1986 demo The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny in its entirety. On August 15, after a strong demand for tickets for all three shows, the band added an additional show to each city. A third L.A. show was added on August 21, bringing the total number of reunion shows to seven. The band stated on their Facebook page that they were not going to perform any songs from their Warner Bros. albums.
During the reunion shows, Mr. Bungle covered songs of various metal and hardcore punk bands such as Slayer, Corrosion of Conformity, Circle Jerks, Crumbsuckers and Cro-Mags in addition to performing three previously unreleased songs which were written during the era of The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny demo: "Glutton For Punishment", "Methamatics" and "Eracist". Although the entire recording was promoted as being performed, non-metal songs from the demo such as "Grizzly Adams" and "Evil Satan" were absent from the performances. The only exception was "Hypocrites", albeit with the ska sections eliminated.
Mr. Bungle collaborated with several guests during the shows including the comedian Eric Andre, who introduced the band at the beginning of their show at February 7, and Jed Watts, the original drummer of Mr. Bungle.
1.5. History Upcoming work
In the weeks following the February 2020 shows, Mr. Bungle posted without comment on their Twitter account pictures taken in a recording studio, hinting at an upcoming record.
2. Style and influence
Prior to the release of their first album in 1991, the Los Angeles Times stated that the band "performs oddball music one critic has described as Bugs Bunny-type jazz." Variety referred to the band as "Zappa-esque Bay Area pranksters" in 2000. Allmusics Greg Prato described Mr. Bungles music as a "unique mix of the experimental, the abstract, and the absurd", while Patrick Macdonald of The Seattle Times characterized their music as "harsh, grating, unstructured, blasting, squeaky, speedy, slow, eerie and strangely compelling". Distinctive features of the music were the use of numerous different instruments, unusual vocals, and the use of unpredictable song formats along with a number of different musical genres. Greg Prato stated they "may be the most talented rock instrumentalists today, as they skip musical genres effortlessly, while Mike Patton illustrates why many consider him to be the best singer in rock". Not all have agreed, with one reviewer calling the band the "most ridiculously terrible piece of festering offal ever scraped off the floor of a slaughterhouse". Journalist Geoffrey Himes criticized the band by stating "the vocals are so deeply buried in the music that the words are virtually indecipherable" and described the music as "aural montages rather than songs, for short sections erupt and suddenly disappear, replaced by another passage with little connection to what preceded it".
Mr. Bungle frequently incorporated unconventional instruments into their music including tenor sax, jaw harp, cimbalom, xylophone, glockenspiel, clarinet, ocarina, piano, organ, bongos, and woodblocks. Journalist John Serba commented that the instrumentation "sounded kind of like drunken jazz punctuated with Italian accordions and the occasional Bavarian march, giant power chord, or feedback noise thrown in". Overlaying this was Mike Pattons vocals, who often used death metal growls, crooning, rapping, screeching, gurgling, or whispering. The arrangement of their songs was also idiosyncratic, often lacking a structured song format and rotating through different genres ranging from slow melodies to thrash metal. New York Times journalist Jon Pareles described it as music that "leaps from tempo to tempo, key to key, style to style, all without warning". Similarly critic Patrick Macdonald commented, "In the middle of hard-to-follow, indecipherable noise, a relatively normal, funky jazz organ solo will suddenly drift in". Some of the genres they utilized include gothic rock, funk, ska punk, free jazz, ska, surf rock, punk, heavy metal, klezmer, kecak, avant-jazz, folk, noise rock, alternative metal/funk metal, pop, doo-wop, electronica, swing, space age pop and exotica, death metal, rockabilly, bossa nova, progressive rock, country and western, circus music and even video game and cartoon music.
The majority of the bands music and lyrics were written by Patton, Dunn, and Spruance, with McKinnon and Heifetz occasionally contributing. Regarding their creative process, Bar McKinnon stated in a 2000 interview that "This band is kind of like a cruel boys club in a way. You bring some ideas and if youre not 100 percent firm about bringing a certain idea to this group, you can watch it get kicked aside and die really quickly."
It has been noted that the band were given an unusual amount of artistic freedom during their tenure with the major label Warner Bros. Records. In a 2016 interview, Trevor Dunn reflected -
2.1. Style and influence Legacy
Mr. Bungles style has influenced many acts from the alternative metal genre, most notably Korn, who have utilized what they have dubbed the "Mr. Bungle chord" A flat fifth chord or "Tritone". James "Munky" Shaffer, one of Korns guitarists, stated in a 2015 interview that Mr. Bungles self-titled debut "set the tone for us and what we went on to do creatively". Brandon Boyd of Incubus similarly cites early Mr. Bungle as an influence, with Incubuss 1995 debut album Fungus Amongus mentioning them in the liner notes. Other prominent artists Mr. Bungle have inspired include Avenged Sevenfold, Big Dumb Face, Bloodhound Gang, Brann Dailor of Mastodon, Chino Moreno, Deftones, Dog Fashion Disco, Doug Robb of Hoobastank, Glassjaw, Limp Bizkit, Snot, System of a Down, Super Junky Monkey, Tub Ring, Twelve Foot Ninja, and Diego Tejeida of Haken. Groups with similar live visuals – such as Mushroomhead and Slipknot - have also admitted that Mr. Bungle were a major influence. In 2016, former Slipknot drummer Joey Jordison said that "Mr. Bungle is one of my favourite bands of all time."
3. Stage shows and image
Mr. Bungle were known for their characteristically unconventional stage shows, where the band members would dress up in costumes and masks. In the early stages of their career they would often wear a uniform of mechanics jumpsuits along with masks such as Madonna, Richard Nixon, Darth Vader, an executioners hood or plastic clown or gimp masks. Bassist Trevor Dunn claimed that initially the reason for the dressing up was to assure anonymity. Regarding their heavy usage of clown and carnival themes, Trey Spruance explained "The thing is, every now and then while driving around aimlessly as teenagers blasting Sodom’s Obsessed by Cruelty album at 3 am, Patton and I would run across these redneck carnivals popping-up overnight on the periphery of town, in the middle of nowhere. We called them "Satanic Carnivals" due to their unexplained phantasmic arrival, and their pointless neon lights no one was around to appreciate as they sparkled up against the dreary fog. The next night, when theyd be open, we’d actually go to these god-damned things. There was certainly a malice to the toothless meth-heads running the barely-functioning rides, and the fights that would break out among drunken loggers, but it was all pretty standard fare – no evil clowns."
The band simply wore stockings to cover their faces during at least portions of the "Disco Volante" tour. The 1999–2000 shows in support of the California album usually featured Dunn dressed as a blonde girl resembling Goldilocks or The St. Pauli Girl, although for the other members this period was largely devoid of masks and outfits due to the increased demands of the music. Mike Patton explained, "This stuff is much harder to play, I was trying to do piano lines and Im completely fumbling them because the leather bondage mask is stretching my face so tight that my eyes werent lining up with the eye holes." Often the theme was related to California, with palm tree props and the band members wearing beach party outfits, including Hawaiian shirts and khaki pants. Occasionally, the band would simply appear in black suits with white dress shirts or dress up in chef costumes, cowboy suits or as the Village People.
Throughout their career, Mr. Bungle also performed numerous covers in their live shows, ranging from tiny snippets to whole songs. The covers drew from a wide variety of artists and genres encompassing hardcore punk and heavy metal songs by the Dead Kennedys, Van Halen and Slayer, movie scores by Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini and John Williams, ska tunes by Camper Van Beethoven, pop songs by Elton John and Jennifer Lopez, as well as hip hop by Public Enemy and Ol Dirty Bastard. They frequently covered Billy Squiers "The Stroke".
- Mike Patton – vocals, keyboards, samples, guitar 1985–2000, 2019–present
- Trey Spruance – guitar, keyboards, piano, backing vocals 1985–2000, 2019–present
- Trevor Dunn – bass, backing vocals 1985–2000, 2019–present
- Dave Lombardo – drums, glockenspiel 2019–present
- Scott Ian – guitar 2019–present
- Jed Watts – drums 1985–1987
- Hans Wagner – drums 1987–1989
- Luke Miller – tenor sax, trumpet 1987–1989
- Clinton "Bar" McKinnon – tenor sax, clarinet, keyboards, piano, backing vocals 1989–2000
- Scott Fritz – trumpet 1987
- Theo Lengyel – saxophone, keyboards 1985–1996
- Danny Heifetz – drums, tambourine 1989–2000