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Members include Trevor Dunn, bass; Danny Heifetz, percussion; Theobald Brooks Lengyel (left group before recording of California, 1999), saxophone; Clinton "Bar" McKinnon, saxophone, keyboards, clarinet; Mike Patton, vocals; Trey Spruance, guitar; Jed Watts (left group, 1986), drums. Addresses: Record company--Warner Bros. Records Inc., 3300 Warner Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505, phone: (818) 846-9090, website: http://www.warnerbrosrecords.com.
In 2004, after waiting five years for the next Mr. Bungle album, fans were disappointed to learn that the band had broken up. Over the course of three albums for Warner Brothers in the 1990s, Mr. Bungle created music that defied description. Borrowing from avant-garde jazz, ska, metal, and pop, the Northern California band intrigued critics and created a large cult following. Ernest Agbuya in Chart Attack described "the baffling vocals of Patton who, by turns, wails like an Eastern-European gypsy, [and] croons, screeches and gurgles," and suggested that this was a band that fit in no category. Mr. Bungle also entertained audiences by wearing masks and costumes, and gained a reputation for its bizarre stage shows. "It's hard to describe Mr. Bungle's music," wrote Adam Levy in Guitar Player, "any other way than 'bizarre.'"
Bassist Trevor Dunn, drummer Jed Watts, guitarist Trey Spruance, and vocalist Mike Patton formed Mr. Bungle in Eureka, California, in 1985. The band's name was taken from a character that appeared on early episodes of The Pee Wee Herman Show, though the band later learned that "Mr. Bungle" had also been the name of a character in the pornography film Sharon's Sex Party. Mr. Bungle recorded its first demonstration tape in 1986, titled "The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny," a recording that managed to combine death metal with a kazoo, bongos, and train whistle.
The following year the band recorded Bowl of Chiley and distributed the tape to local radio stations. While the EP had its charms, Bradley Torreano noted in All Music Guide that the recording was "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 short EP would later turn up as a bootleg titled Bowl of Chiley. Mr. Bungle also continued to evolve, as drummer Hans Wagner replaced Watts, and two horn players, Theo Lengyel and Scott Fritz, joined the band.
In 1988 more personnel changes preceded Mr. Bungle's next recording, Goddammit I Love America!, an EP that included seven songs. Two of these would later be included on the band's first official release three years later. In 1989 Mr. Bungle recorded their last demo, OU818, before receiving a contract from a major record label. The band had added saxophonist Clinton McKinnon and drummer Danny Heifetz for the recording, and half the tracks would be included on the band's first official release. Partly because singer Patton was a member of the popular Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, despite their eclectic approach, received a contract with Warner Brothers. "It doesn't make sense to us that we're with a big label," Patton told Ed Condran in the Hackensack, New Jersey, Record. Their first album for the label was produced by avant-garde saxophonist John Zorn and simply titled Mr. Bungle. "This is a cacophonous, gross, demanding (and not uninteresting) recording," wrote David Hiltbrand in People.
Mr. Bungle sold well and the band toured broadly to support it. "Decked out in kitschy Hawaiian shirts, plastic leis and grass skirts," wrote Jeff Pizek of the Arlington Heights, Illinois, Daily Herald, "they celebrated the transient fa&etilde;ade of pop culture, proving themselves to be talented tour guides with matching subversive smirks." Although well-received, there would be a four-year delay before Mr. Bungle's second album, due to the multiple side projects in which band members were involved.
Mr. Bungle released Disco Volante in October of 1995, an album even less accessible than their eccentric debut. Consisting of mostly new material, the band stretched its musical palette to include everything from techno to tango. Mr. Bungle's stylistic shifts even took place within individual songs, guaranteeing that the only predictable element on the album was its unpredictability. "Mr. Bungle is the musical equivalent of a David Lynch movie," wrote Greg Prato in All Music Guide.
In 1999 Mr. Bungle released its third, and perhaps last, album, California. Whereas the first two albums had indulged in experimental music, California revealed the band's more melodic side, showing an ability to marry experimentation with tunefulness. "To us (the record) is pop-y," Patton explained to Kenn Rodriguez in the Albuquerque Journal. Critics concurred. "Equal parts Frank Zappa and the Beach Boys," wrote Lisa Rose in the Newark, New Jersey, Star-Ledger, "the sound is galaxies away from the funked up thrash jazz and odes to coprophigia ... found on their self-titled 1991 debut."
Following the release of California, Mr. Bungle toured extensively. Beginning in Santa Cruz in the summer of 1999, the band toured the United States and headlined Sno-Core in 2000. In March of 2000 the band toured Australia, followed by a European tour in the summer. Mr. Bungle did, however, tone down certain aspects of its stage show. "This stuff is much harder to play," Patton told Rose. "I was trying to do piano lines and I'm completely fumbling them because the leather bondage mask is stretching my face so tight that my eyes weren't lining up with the eye holes."
In 2004 Mr. Bungle's four-year hiatus from the recording studio became a permanent break. Citing personality differences, the individual members scattered to various side projects and offered fans little hope of an eventual reunion. "We could have probably squeezed out a couple more records," Patton told Greg Prato in Rolling Stone, "but the collective personality of this group became so dysfunctional." Mr. Bungle's fans, however, would have a myriad of side projects to choose from, including Patton's band Fantomas, whose 2001 release The Director's Cut "felt more like a healthy mix of Disco Volante and California," wrote Prato in All Music Guide. Regardless of Mr. Bungle's future, the band's bizarre, challenging musical vision has continued to intrigue, inspire, and befuddle listeners. "Mr. Bungle is not a band so much as they are an experience," wrote Tracie Amirante in the Daily Herald, "an all-consuming adventure into the wide world of music."
by Ronnie D. Lankford Jr
Mr. Bungle's Career
Group formed in Eureka, CA, 1985; recorded a series of demonstration records: "The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny," 1986, Bowl of Chiley, 1987, Goddammit I Love America!, 1988, and OU818, 1989; signed with Warner Brothers Records and released Mr. Bungle, 1991, Disco Volante, 1995, and California, 1999; performed at Sno-Core, 2000; officially disbanded, 2004.
- Selected discography
- Mr. Bungle Warner Brothers, 1991.
- Disco Volante Warner Brothers, 1995.
- California Warner Brothers, 1999.
- Albuquerque Journal, November 19, 1999, p. E15.
- Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, NJ), August 6, 1999, p.8; October 28, 1999, p. 2.
- Guitar Player, March 1999, p. 33.
- People, September 30, 1991, p. 20.
- Record (Hackensack, NJ), February 18, 2000.
- Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), November 5, 1999, p. 9.
- "Mr. Bungle," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com/ (January 10, 2006).
- "Mr. Bungle Do Their Own Thing," Chart Attack, http://www.chartattack.com (January 10, 2006).
- "Mr. Bungle Go Kaput," Rolling Stone, http://www.rollingstone.com (January 10, 2006).
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