After a five-year recording break, experimental rockers Mr. Bungle are officially done. “I’m at a point now where I crave healthy musical environments, where there is a genuine exchange of ideas without repressed envy or resentment, and where people in the band want to be there regardless of what public accolades may come their way,” says singer Mike Patton. “Unfortunately, Mr. Bungle was not one of those places.”
The multi-member band (whose core members included Patton, guitarist Trey Spruance, bassist Trevor Dunn, saxophonist Clinton “Bar” McKinnon and drummer Danny Heifetz) originally formed back in the mid-Eighties in Eureka, California, while its members were still in high school. Then Patton joined Faith No More before their commercial breakthrough, 1989’s The Real Thing. The boost in exposure landed Bungle a recording contract with Warner Bros., which released 1991’s Mr. Bungle, 1995’s Disco Volante and 1999’s California.
Although Bungle never matched Faith No More’s commercial success, they gained a large cult following and influenced recent funk/metal chart-toppers — most notably Korn, whose guitarists utilize what they’ve dubbed the “Mr. Bungle chord.” Also, long before Slipknot, Bungle donned masks onstage to hide their identities.
“We could have probably squeezed out a couple more records but the collective personality of this group became so dysfunctional,” Patton says. “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.”
With Bungle now removed from his schedule planner, Patton will spend next year focusing on his myriad other bands. Peeping Tom, for which Patton plays all of the instruments himself, will finally release an oft-delayed debut, and there will be records by Fantomas and Tomahawk, as well as General Patton vs. the X-ecutioners, a collaboration with turntable specialists the X-ecutioners. The singer has also recently branched out beyond rock — into acting, in Steve Balderson’s Firecracker; and scoring, for the forthcoming video game, Bully.
And of course, Patton continues to run his label, Ipecac, which will release new material from the likes of Washington, D.C., noise-mongers Orthrelm, British prog-rock duo Guapo and ambient one-man band the Locust. “When something is important to you, you find a way to make the time,” the multi-tasking Patton says. “Or rather, the time makes itself.”