Mr. Bungle Released Their Debut Album 29 Years Ago!
Updated: Jun 2
Mr. Bungle's first self-titled album was released on August 13th 1991.
Mr. Bungle is,
"...any kind of asshole, murderer, dickhead, loser, geek, whatever." - Spruance 1991
"Anybody who's teased to the point of hanging themselves is Mr. Bungle." - Dunn 1991
"... the ultimate Mr. Bungle would be anyone who hung themselves with their mother's underwear in order to achieve higher orgasm." - Spruance 1991
In 1991 most the sane world had not any music by Mr. Bungle despite every press article of the era mentioning Mike Patton's sordid past, and the singer also doing is upmost the spread the Bungle word. He wore a 'There's a tractor in my balls ... again' shirt during the MTV adored video clip for Epic and at pretty much every live show, he told every journalist who would listen that he was leaving Faith No More to concentrate on playing with his childhood pals - Trevor Dunn, Trey Spruance, Clinton McKinnon, Danny Heitetz and Theo Lengyel.
"Just the situation of being in two bands is cause for rumours. Being in two bands gives someone ammunition to write total bullshit about me. It's something for the press to pick up on, especially considering that was the case with Chuck, except we don't have fist-fights like they did. This is something else for the press; 'Oh, the singer's got another band, he's not completely loyal, he's cheating, he's committing adultery, the sonofabitch, brat, pig!" - Patton 1990
"Everyone cringes a little bit, but they never say anything to me, so ... They [ the guys in FNM ] are all interested and I think most of 'em like us, but ... I don't know. I guess it's natural to be paranoid. And I guess I would be a little paranoid too. But I've got to do it. It's just something I've got to do. In Mr. Bungle, it's more like a family thing, more like incest. It's not such an employee kind of thing. In FNM, I kind of get the sense that it is more like five separate jobs that need to be done. There's a 'we' in Mr. Bungle. In FNM there's not really one collective 'it'." - Patton 1990
"It wasn't the best fit. But at that point I'd been in Faith No More for a while and, to be honest, there was a lot of concern about me playing in another band. You gotta understand, not a lot of other people at the time—at least not peers of mine—had more than one band. That was pretty much frowned upon. Not necessarily by the people I was playing with, but by record companies and management and so forth. So, I had to really look in the mirror and ask myself if I wanted to do it, because I was stirring the pot. I'm glad I did." - Patton 2013
"I think everyone wanted Mike to realize that this is an unusual juncture in a band's career - just when Faith No More is establishing its overall identity - for the lead singer to commit himself to another group. But if Mr. Bungle can establish its identity while Mike stays committed to Faith No More, we're hopeful it will all work out." - Warren Entner 1991
The Bungle demo cassettes were hard to get a copy of by the time FNM's brand of funk metal had taken over the world - in 91 The Real Thing had gone platinum, the band were worshipped as gods in South America, Guns N' Roses were telling everyone that FNM were the 'best fucking band in the world' and Patton had become a teenage girly magazine pin up. It was no wonder Kerrang! readers were crying out for more Patton vocals and Warner Bros were ready to release it - but with new FNM material months away we turned to Patton's side project. Mr. Bungle were advertised by the record company as Patton's other band and in interviews members of FNM would quickly dismiss them assuring fans that Patton wasn't serious about his position in Bungle.
In fact the opposite was true and 1991 saw the band release their first full length record. Hair metal alt rock fans expecting The Real Thing-esque sounds were sorely disappointed.
"People will buy the record, some for the right reasons, others for the wrong reason. Regardless, they're definitely going to hear the difference immediately. Look, you can sell the CD back for about four or five bucks. See ya in the used bin!" - Spruance 1991
"The best description of Mr. Bungle I've ever heard is from Warren Entner [ Faith No More's ex manager ]. 'I couldn't really relate to it,'he says, 'because it was like you were having an inside joke among yourselves.'" - Patton 1990
The album was built with songs from the bands previous collection of demos which they re-recorded at Different Fur studios in San Francisco. Track one, released as their only single with a video directed by Kevin Kerslake, had it's titled changed from Travolta to Quote Unquote to avoid any unnecessary legal complications.
"Travolta, another collaborative composition, started life as a series/chain of riffs I wrote in college called "A Walk Through Necropolis", which had been scored and part-written for the university jazz band, but to me never had a satisfying bridge section. Later on Patton had written a riff that contrasted perfectly if inserted into this piece, and it was 100 times better and more inspired than any of my own hitherto uninspired solutions. With that addition, and the magic glue of the atonal "come-down" section ('Grease is the Word' etc) which came from a collective improv, the "snake" was complete. By myself, in the context of an independent study college composition class, I'd trapped myself in a morbid snafu with some promising but dead riffs -- but looking back, maybe those were always destined to be resurrected in a Mr. Bungle song.
Travolta's lyric concept (which was very well redacted by Patton), came about in a very unique way. There was a spontaneous brainstorm by the whole band during a long night drive somewhere. For some reason we were obsessing on the hypothetical inner experience of a person who lacks almost all sensory input (deaf, blind, limbless and with mouth sewn shut). Everything he experiences is tunnelled through a highly developed, almost miraculously compensatory sense of smell. He is thrown onto a trampoline --- by who? a sick torturer laughing at him? loving parents attempting to provide something joyful that "normal" kids do? How would it matter in either case? As you might expect from a bunch of alienated teenage delinquent heshers pondering over such questions, we were in collective hysterics over all of this. The truth, though, looking back is that we very much identified with this tragically monstrous character, who in his extreme sensory isolation was effectively living outside of time and space. I say this now, but 400 miles from anywhere, pre-internet, we were receiving our cultural referents in a way that could be compared to breathing through a tiny straw. And in some way, therefore, we were therefore free from their actual influence, free to imagine them any way we wanted to. We weren't thinking this about ourselves at the time, but the Travolta figure exemplifies the idea that when left only with one's imagination, and some vague other impressions from far off, such a suffocated entity might not feel deprived so much as take advantage of the elasticity of his state. To become something of a shapeshifter. In our adolescent gloom, therefore, "Travolta" would of course take on the identities of various megalomaniacs; Hitler and Trump are mentioned, and there's something prescient there about pathological narcissism mixing with the unbounded entrepreneurial spirit, peppered with a life mission of compensatory revenge.
Anyhow, somehow Patton managed to capture the mass evocation of this unfortunate/fortunate hallucinatory character in his lyric, and the song became "Travolta".
Interestingly, Travolta, as a Scientologist, struck fear into the hearts of the Warner Brothers legal department, so after the initial pressing of 20,000 CDs, we were summoned to the legal office and told that the song had to be renamed. Hence, "Quote Unquote". - Spruance 2016
The band secured New York Jazz experimentalist John Zorn as their producer who helped to refine their sound.
"I think it was Danny and Trey who approached Zorn when he was in SF and handed him a cassette tape of some songs and improv sessions we had made in Eureka. He tried to convince us that he wasn’t “commercial” and we might find a more apt producer somewhere else, but we were persistent as we felt that - due to his understanding of many genres - that he would understand us. In essence he helped us mix the album. Scheduling meant he couldn’t make the actual recording sessions. Later, he had us re-do some things and gave us a general guidance. Essentially he put the brakes on a bunch of hyper and overly-excited small town kids who tried, almost successfully to fill up every nano-second of space will some kind of sound. He kept us true to our spirit, however, always deferring to our desires, which was encouraging." - Trevor Dunn 2016
The album artwork was taken from the comic book A Cotton Candy Autopsy by Dan Sweetman with more provided by P. Earwig.
Some fans of FNM couldn't find the thrill of Mr. Bungle while others abandoned FNM entirely for this new deranged music. The debut album by Bungle remains one of the most curious circus rides ever recorded.
"The entire album crackles with a weird electricity and the air of a rock and roll circus gone insane. Which is possibly the closest anyone will ever come to describe Mr Bungle" - Kerrang!