Mr. Bungle were a ‘90s avant-garde rock band that carved out a bizarre niche somewhere between Naked City and Frank Zappa with their second LP, Disco Volante, a wild, unpredictably genre-jumping headfuck. Because their debut LP was, though definitely weird and twisty, still more of an identifiably funk-metal record, the band held a large appeal to proggy dude-bro music fans whose thirst for eccentricity outpaced what Primus were prepared to offer. If that’s the reputation by which you know the band, and that turns you off, I get it, but I’d encourage giving Disco Volante a fair hearing.
The band were able to pull off such aggressively uncommercial music on Warner Bros. Records partly because the early ‘90s were such an indulgent, lucrative period for the industry, but also because of the band’s singer. Mike Patton had achieved a measure of clout in his other job as the frontman for Faith No More whose The Real Thing album and its single “Epic” had become hits. But though Mr. Bungle’s debut came after Faith No More’s success, Bungle was Patton’s first band, formed in 1985 when its members were still in high school.
Their high school talent show has turned up on YouTube. They go here by the name “Bister Mungle,” because, well, high school boys are just that hilarious.
Amazing how many elements of the band’s later notoriety are already in place here, especially the unabashed zaniness and the genre-hopping.
Remarkably, members of this goofy kid band would go on to play in a huge number of bizarro rock and avante-garde outfits. Apart from Faith No More, the versatile Patton has been a member of the experimental metal band Fantomas, founded Ipecac Records, and collaborated with artists as diverse as John Zorn and Dillinger Escape Plan. Indeed, the man’s discography is too prohibitively long to go into here. Bassist Trevor Dunn is also all over the place, having played in Fantomas, Tomahawk, his own Trevor Dunn’s Trio-Convulsant, and even The Melvins. And Bungle guitarist Trey Spruance has long helmed a heavy-friends side project called Secret Chiefs 3.
The band’s name came from “Lunchroom Manners,” a short educational film that found a measure of cult status when Pee-wee Herman screened it during a performance that was taped for an HBO special. Here it is…