Mr. Bungle

Mr. Bungle's sound and approach is a unique mix of the experimental, the abstract, and the absurd (in other words, the finer things in life). It all began in 1985, in a small California town named Eureka. The group (bassist Trevor Dunn, drummer Danny Heifetz, alto saxophonist Theo Lengyel, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Clinton McKinnon, vocalist Mike Patton, and guitarist Trey Spruance) met while in high school and took their moniker from an extremely corny children's educational film regarding bad habits (it was featured in a Pee Wee Herman HBO special back in the early '80s). The group's first demo, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, was recorded around this time, and soon others followed: Bowl of Chiley, Goddammit I Love America!, and OU818. With each one, their sound became progressively more mutated, until musical boundaries began to melt (metal, funk, experimental, jazz, ska, techno, etc.). Mike Patton landed the lead vocalist slot with Faith No More in 1988 (it was in fact a Mr. Bungle demo that got Patton the job), and instead of breaking up Mr. Bungle, Patton decided to keep both bands going simultaneously. Due to FNM's success (1989's The Real Thing), Mr. Bungle was signed to Warner Bros., who released their self-titled debut in 1991 (with almost all the members going by obscure aliases). The band built a large and loyal cult following on the subsequent tour, as they performed in masks to hide their identities, and played unlikely covers during their set (Billy Squier's "The Stroke," "The Star Wars Theme," John Sebastian's "Welcome Back," etc.). When the tour wrapped up in 1992, Patton returned to Faith No More while the rest of the group focused on side projects (Spruance -- Faxed Head; Heifetz -- Dieselhed and Zip Code Rapists; and Spruance, Dunn, and Heifetz all in the Secret Chiefs 3), with Spruance briefly joining Patton in FNM for the recording of 1995's King for a Day. It took the band four long years to follow up its debut with the superb Disco Volante (1995). A long and extensive world tour followed, with the group widening its fan base. Mr. Bungle quickly regrouped in early 1997 to record an album of their eclectic cover songs, which was eventually put on hold before completion as Patton began a tour with Faith No More and as the others returned to their additional projects. The group reconvened in 1999 for the release of California. Patton would continue working with his myriad projects without paying much particular attention to Mr. Bungle through 2001. Interestingly, the Fantômas album The Director's Cut (2001) felt more like a healthy mix of Disco Volante and California than the thrashing and cut-up theatrics of Fantômas' self-titled debut and thereby left some to wonder about the future of Bungle as its own entity. To that end, it should be noted that the only thing certain with Patton is, in fact, uncertainty.
Greg Prato, Rovi

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