The most experimental Mr. Bungle record, Disco Volante was released on October 10th 1995.
I Quit (Danny Heifetz) – "a woodblock", production and sleeve art layout and design
Trevor Dunn – bass guitar, "vile" (violin), production and sleeve art layout and design
Uncooked Meat Prior to State Vector Collapse (Trey Spruance) – pípá, keyboards, organ, guitar, electronics, production and sleeve art layout and design
Clinton McKinnon – tenor saxophone, clarinet, keyboards on "After School Special", drums on "Violenza Domestica", production and sleeve art layout and design
Patton (Mike Patton) – vocals, microcassette, organs on "The Bends" and "Backstrokin'", ocarina on "Sleep (Part II): Carry Stress in the Jaw", production and sleeve art layout and design
Theo (Theo Lengyel) – "eb reeds piped in from Ithaca", production and sleeve art layout and design
University of Connecticut school paper | October 1995 | Clint Boulton
Paranoia, extreme psychosis and manic depression are just a few of the adve rse moods one can be thrust into by listening to Disco Volante, the new epic fr om Mr. Bungle. This amazing free-form ensemble featuring Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton is musical chaos. Moreover, it collectively defies any attempts at categorization. The jams are laced with maddening techno, funk and lounge-act b ites in random order. Should anyone want to send their grandparents to early graves, they could play them any three tracks from Disco Volante. Bloody gloves not required.
Metal Hammer | October 1996 | Jonathon Wright **** out of *****
It begins as you might expect when you realise Mr. Bungle is the side project of Faith No More's Mike Patton. "Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead" is a rush of guitar distorsion. Then, as one track runs into another forcing you to guess what you might be listening to, things get infinitely stranger,
The press release, a document which steadfastly ignores such passing details as when and where the album was recorded and who played on it, claims: "We are absolutely thrilled to play danceable funk-metal for anyone who was frozen in ice four years ago". this is a candidate for most misleading statement of the year.
Instead, Mr. Bungle embark on a musical odyssey encompassing (choosing at random) the spirit of 'Ghost Town' period Special's experiments with film music; be-bop horns; a Beach Boys pastiche (without any harmonica); techno pushed to it's limits; and guitars that would cheerfully grace any Napalm Death album.
All of which makes perfect sense. Because, while fuk metal has become a generic term, the names that so often get checked in this context - Gang Of Four, Bootsy collins, the Pop Group, whoever - were all innovators who knew how to mix different music.
The danger here is self-indulgence, and Mr. Bungle don't entirely avoid this trap. but, mostly, just as your attention begins to wander, a snippt of melody pulls you back or a sketchy, surreal vocal is inserted. At one point, for instance, Mr. bungle announce, "My mom is better than your mom and your dad too / She's there when she needs to be there / That's why I'm here today". They sound like the words of an axe murderer. Or the soundtrack to a slasher because, ultimately, "Disco Volante" sounds like a collection of film music. Not U2's big budget material; Mr. Bungle write soundtracks for 60's B-movies or early John Carpenter flicks.
Further information? A phone call to Mr. bungle's press office brings a response along the lines of, "Idon't know who's in the band. If I did they'd all be false names, and everything might change tomorrow anyway." so with the exception of the FNM connection, you're forced to judge Mr. bungle without any preconceptions. which is, of course, the way we should react to all music.
Kerrang! | November 1996 | Jason Arnopp | KK out of KKKKK
If someone invited you to pay £14 for the privilege of sitting at their table and listening to a bunch of college kids spout in-jokes and sniggering behind their hands for 69 minutes, would you hand over the cash? Of course you wouldn't, unless you wre particularly masochistic or just plain demented. But that's basically what Faith No More singer Mike Patton and his Mr. Bungle side-project are suggesting with "Disco Volante". It's not an attractive proposition.
Mr. bungle's first LP gave us a glimpse of exactly how demented Patton would become if given full rein, but this follow-up depicts the man on the edge of a full breakdown. But unlike last year's FNM albm "King for a Day.." - his jabbers, screams and multiple personalities are not entertaining at all.
Featuring Trey Spruance, who played on "King..." before deciding he couldn't be bothered to tour, some of "Disco Volante" is intriguing and impressive. "Carry Stress In The Jaw" and "Desert Search For Techno Allah" show that Mr. Bungle's avant garde doodlings do throw up some good work. They're also technically remarkable.
On the other hand, the vast majority of the album is just irritating. At times, you want to tell Patton and his giggling bunch of Zappa-headed musos to shut the f**k up. but there are more positive things to say about this effort. for one thing, it's commercial suicide, and this has always been an interesting thing about Patton. Faith No More's cover of The Commodores's "Easy" got them into the charts, and proved that the singer could make himself a lucrative career out of real crooning if he wanted to. But no. Patton prefers to write songs about eating shit and generally acting like a child.
Within the bounds of FNM, which are pretty loose when it's all said and done, we wouldn't have it any other way. But this child has just been given too many toys to play with. "Disco Volante" reveals in it's utterly abstract non-structured, chopping and changing styles like a radio dial being twisted continually. It deliberately messes with your head, which doesn't make for much fun after a while.
Mr Bungle is clearly a valve for Mike Patton - allowing him to let off excess steam that FNM doesn't tap into. In FNM, he can go absolutely nuts and howl his face off, but at the end of the day the band write *songs*. There's apparently a side to the singer that doesn't always want to do that. His experiences as a reluctant teen pin-up in the late 80s changed him for life.
That's fine, and it's also fine that we don't have to listen to "Disco Volante" if we don't want to. The average person walks this Earth for about 70 years. While that might sound like a long time, Mr. Bungle still waste too much of it.
AllMusic | 2002 |Greg Prato
Mr. Bungle is the musical equivalent of a David Lynch movie. On its uncompromising second release, Disco Volante, the group focuses its sound a bit more than on its 1991 self-titled debut but still keeps things unruly and completely unpredictable. This is a band whose sole purpose is to break all the pre-existing rules of music and doesn't think twice about taking chances. What they've created in the process is a totally original and new musical style and an album that sounds like nothing that currently exists. The group, whose members go by aliases, may be the most talented rock instrumentalists today, as they skip musical genres effortlessly, while Mike Patton illustrates why many consider him to be the best singer in rock. The group tackles plodding death metal ("Everyone I Went to High School With Is Dead"), deranged children's songs ("After School Special"), and a Middle Eastern techno number that has to be heard to be believed ("Desert Search for Techno Allah"). Many of the songs radically change genres mid-song, encompassing the sounds of Ennio Morricone, John Zorn, Frank Zappa, and other heretofore unthought-of musical mutations. Not music to unwind to after a hard day, but it will challenge your mind when the right mood hits.
Stylus | 2005-11-30 | Cameron Macdonald
For better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.
Mr. Bungle’s “The Bends” is a string of ambient pieces that narrate the journey of a diver getting cut off from his boat and then sinking to his demise in a deep-sea trench. However, there is one segment that has haunted me for ten years to this week, and I do not want it to stop. The piece, “Aqua Swing” begins as a cartoon. The San Francisco band first awakens with a rubber-band synth noise that causes a bass violin to stumble out of bed and a harpsichord to draw the curtain. A bebop riff chimes in from the back of the room, and then the bassline begins to cast the spell. Every time I hear that damn piano that follows, I’m thrown onto the dancefloor throwing down drinks, tables, and patrons. The delirious melodies nearly outgun Cecil Taylor when he treats his keys as a drumset with actual sticks. Mr. Bungle suddenly halts as a 5 a.m. prayer call to Allah is heard outside. Mike Patton then continues the swing and imbues it with soul in his gentle scat that clenches a dagger behind the back—his voice floats in the evening while the band swats at him. The song then abruptly ends with a vintage sound effect of a villain disappearing in a smoke cloud. The too-few minutes of “Aqua Swing” was the first time that I heard jazz that saw reality titled at 45 degrees. In other words, it proved to me that jazz could indeed be surreal, instead of merely being on display at the Smithsonian.
Disco Volante was perhaps the first explicitly experimental album I heard. The group took my 16-year-old imagination to an alien terrain, filled with grotesqueries like angler fish and viper fish, no sunlight for miles, and no chance of staying alive if one ever tried to swim to the surface. Besides the gothic mystique that took cues from HG Wells and 19th century science fiction, the band also delved into a soundworld that seemed arcane, but is more hallucinogenic than retro. “The Bends” perfectly replicated the tacky, but still eerie-as-hell sound effects and musical scores heard in countless 60’s sci-fi and horror flicks. A Merzbow-style sandblast of white noise later washes away all corn and damages human health in the process. There’s also the coda of “Carry Stress in the Jaw” where the band locks into a Cramps-style surfer groove and someone aping Grandpa Simpson chiming in. Or “Backstrokin,’” whose opening flute tone play is more vibrant than that in the Beatles’ “Revolution, No.9” before moving into further intoxicated enchantment under the sea with a lounge-jazz number. That song ends with Patton muttering curses over a guitar that mews out a somber melody. The Spanish soap opera number heavily indebted to Morricone, “Violenza Domestica” is utter camp, but it can’t mask Patton’s wife-beater’s assurances that everything will be all right, amid a construction site of a cacophony outside a window. I was already a fan of Patton when he seemed like the coolest skate-punk/lone high school weirdo in Faith No More. Patton himself eschewed his FNM rasp and proved to be alt-rock’s most versatile vocalist—shifting from Cro-Magnon growls, blue-eyed croons, cartoon blurts, and hyperventilating scats. Given that most of the music I heard at the time was either sold to me by MTV or hardcore punk bands with legacies pre-cooked for consumption, Disco Volante was equivalent to waking up in a foreign country with no money and little hope of learning the native tongue.
Of course, I didn’t like everything I heard. There were a few songs that I could not listen to without winching. The band’s zest for skipping across a dozen genres within one song—often throwing in thrash-metal assaults seemingly thrown in for the hell of it—gave me headaches. I fast-forwarded through the bulk of the album closer, “Merry Go Bye Bye,” where they dump a grind-metal excursion into a garbage disposal. It’s the same way that Mr. Bungle’s 1991 eponymous commercial debut often annoyed me, where the primarily ska band channel-surfed itself through genres. Their Howard Stern-ian outlook on human mating, the female sex and excretion (i.e. Patton’s simulated diarrhea attack) was also a bit much. However, the band was on to something with the finale, “Dead Goon.” Under John Zorn’s production, they narrated a death and ascension to heaven through Patton’s croaks with a modern-jazz rhythm section hovering above.
A decade later, Disco Volante still sounds daring. My ears have received enough damage from noisicians with laptops and white noise generators, that I can now tolerate more of Disco Volante’s discord. The album’s strengths are stronger and weaknesses more annoying. The Danny Elfman-goes-Latin zinger, “Chemical Marriage” is still a gas, alongside the apocalyptic Country & Western opening of “Merry Go Bye Bye,” but the throwaways haven’t increased in value at all. The sludge-metal opener, “Everyone I Went To High School With Is Dead” still seems to be meant to scare away newcomers as the shoddiest in execution is poisoned with gangrene, while “After School Special” is a ballad that still doesn’t find the humor in child abuse (there is none). But it’s to be expected, Disco Volante is an album that illustrates a fantasy world only they, and a cult, could fully understand. It’s the finest sort of San Francisco art-rock: right in line with the Residents’ Eskimo, the Thinking Fellers Union Local 282’s Mother of All Saints, Caroliner Rainbow distributing their records in diapers and used pizza boxes, and DJ Disk’s Phonosycographdisk. Perhaps it is the countless hours hiding under bedsheets and garages, away from the fog and the freezing Pacific air, that forces the escapism.
I, for one, would never want to return outside.
RAVE | October 30, 1996 | Lance Sinclair
IT'S A BUNGLE OUT THERE
There's a point that most of us visit all too infrequently, if ever in our music travelling. It's that point where we listen with ears that are completely open, the aural blinkers that so many of us carry discarded, and sound becomes exciting again. For those of us under 30 years of age, to whom the names Can and Captain Beefheart register more as obscure supermarket items than active musical outfits, Mr bungle present the opportunity to dip a toe (or a leg, or a head) into the waters of chaos, that frequently run uphill.
They have a newish record out called Disco Volante and it is, hands down, the best thing I've come accross since it's release last year. As you've heard, one of them is kinda famous, but that has no correlation to anything here. It's an album that thrawls high and low through stylistic boundaries, regurgitating the sickest blasts of avant metal and free jazz within an eyeblink of each other, dumping techno and Broadway-style pomposity into the one grand genreless blender. Reading or writing about Mr Bungle is basically a futile exercise, because their world is the aural and visceral, and fuck these attempts at study and intellectualising. To dissect something, it has to be dead. I tracked down Trey (guitar), Bär (hornsand keyboards) and Danny (drum action) the evening they arrived on out Antipodean shores.
So you've been in the country for a couple of hours; any impressions so far, other than waiting in the lounge of an airport?
"Well, we go to sit in some declaration line for about an hour," muses Danny, "but the transportation part was fantastic. Right now we're trying to fit in like other people, sleep normal hours like them."
"I love the architecture," says Trey.
"We've been able to get a really good cheap Vietnamese meal," Danny recalls, "Thai Thai, bye bye".
"And we're definitely no slouches or newcomers when it comes to Vietnamese food.," Trey chuckles.
"That's right. We're jaded fucks in that sense."
The Bungle songwriting style has always been something of a mystery. How is it done? Does everyone live in the same town?
"Yeah, we do finally," says Bär sounding relieved.
"When we write music and work on it, we're actually all in the same room a lot of the time," Trey offers, "But the songs vary in how they're written a lot of the time. Sometimes one person will write an entire song, and when we trade parts it's usually a group effort at the arrangement stage." Bär continues, "I've found that a lot of the time it'll be two people working off each other at a time, like I might consult with somebody else, throw out some ideas, like some riffs or whatever, and I'll trust somebody elses opinion on how it should be arranged."
"If somebody's gutsy enough to just show up with a new song, it'll usually work," says Danny.
"You can cram your song down everybody's throat," Trey ruminates, "but if you feel particularly vulnerable about any part of them..."
"Like my songs!" Danny laments.
Trey sympathises, "Unfortunately Danny's songs will never see the light of day, which is a shame, because he's got hours and hours of great music that'll never be heard. The only way to do it is top steal his riffs and use them. if only he'd come forward."
"Over several years," says Bär, "I've realised that there is no real way of going about things. I use to have the idea that things were done in a certain way, so I left a lot of stuff on the backburner under that assumption, but I've been realising that with people like Trey you do just have to put your foot down and stuff it down everybody's throats, insist that it goes a certain way and go into the situation with that idea."
"If there's a disagreement over something, you can just curtail it until it's right, and everybody will know that it's right when it gets there. Everybody's real cooperartive after that." theorises Trey.
Is it hard to work from a purely organisational sense , just physically getting together to play when you're all in other bands as well? Do you have to plan it out, like 'Okay, in September we get together and do Mr Bungle again?"
"Exactly." says Trey.
"Exactly." agrees Danny, "We really need to know a couple of months in advance what's going down"
"We really have to have something that brings us together, like say we have to get ready for a tour or do a recording, we don't just get together to be Mr Bungle, it has to centre around something we're working together on." explains Trey.
It must be nice to work without the self-imposed pressure that so many bands put themselves under, where they just work and work until they're completely burnt out.
"That's insane," Trey concurs, "I pity them. You'll burn out so fast rehesing every fucking day."
"We're pretty good at not letting that ruin what we have." gloats Bär, "It's always fresh , it's always very fresh and happening."
Trey has some words of advice: "The best course of action is, early on, to just train yourself learning death metal because you have to remember so much shit, all this complicated bullshit and fuckin' changes, and then once you finally get around to making other forms of music you'll have this incredible memory archive."
The majority of people on tour will never have seen the band perform live. Can we expect very specific representations of the records, or something radically different?
"They shouldn't expect too much," begins Bär before pausing pregnantly. the whole room burts into laughter.
"No, no, wait! I'm not finished! Actually, you guys are right, that was good. What I mean is that people shouldn't assume anything cause that's kind of a mistake, and if they come in assuming we're one thing they're gonna be vastly disappointed."
"There are some things that are totally representative," continues Danny, while pulling armfuls of strange and exotic items out of his drum case.
"There are things that we've taken massive liberties with, and others as well are pretty much up in the air."
And as pre-packaged stadium rock begins to die another of it's grisly and undignified deaths, take solace in the prescence and rise acts of Mr Bungle.
Before we leave, anything really profound or witty that you've always wanted to say in the press?
"Yeah!" chirps Danny "Fuck NBC!"
I'm not sure how many Australians will relate to that.
"Sure, but I can't say it at home, they'd kill me."
TREVOR DUNN Disco Volante Interview | Faith No More Followers | 10.10.2016
Mr. Bungle's approach to writing music radically changed from the debut record to Disco Volante. Why was this? This album seemed to be driven more by individuals than a team effort. Was this because you now all had more projects on the go?
I’m not sure I’d say our approach was different. It’s true that instead of hanging out on campus where we were all going to school, by the early ‘90s we had relocated to San Francisco and were individually pursuing multiple music ventures. I would say that after our first tour of ’92 we were completely done with that music and it took Danny, Trey and I a solid year to even get together in the same room with instruments. Mike was constantly on the road. Looking back I think that was a big learning period for all of us. We were hungry for different music and culture and we used that time to research and absorb, individually finding things on our own as adults in “the big city”. So once we started trying to figure out what our next musical move was we brought those new ideas to the table. Ultimately our writing approach was the same, just more informed. Also I think each of us was becoming more confident and secure as distinctive writers. It was less about ‘let’s jam and create something’ and more about ‘here’s a concept; here’s what I have in mind’. —not fully, but heading in that direction, which would solidify by the time we got to ‘California’. I have often referred to DV as our “identity crisis” album. I still remember Danny, Trey and I getting together the first time after the ’92 tour. We sat there in our rehearsal studio with our instruments staring at each other with no idea what to do.
The 'Sleep trilogy' was completed on this album. Can you explain a the concept?
I didn’t know it was a trilogy until I wrote parts 2 & 3 and realized I had a running theme that originated with Slowly Growing Deaf. In a nutshell, that song (with Phlegmatics & Carry Stress In The Jaw) explores corporeal reactions to outside forces; the gradual decline of the human body due to social interactions. There is also the idea that while we sleep, our bodies recuperate and our minds deal with what has been imposed upon us. The fruit of that processing is phlegm which accumulates until we wake up and expectorate. I suppose it’s a sort of digestion on the mental level. The song Phlegmatics is more about the internal struggle between lethargy and productivity whereas the other two reflect a bit on misanthropy. The human body deteriorates on it’s own, of course, but as the poet has said, sleep is death’s brother. It’s a fairly pedantic and existential concept to be honest, but also a very personal one. “Slowly..” was inspired by the ironic need to wear earplugs while listening to music and also people’s inability to listen. “Carry Stress…” was inspired by actual teeth-pulling anxiety nightmares and a serious case of bruxism.
Trey said in a recent interview that due to the success of the debut album Warner pretty much left you alone. How did they react to DV?
I seem to remember that they always left us alone. Patton was a big asset to them financially and in that regard it gave us some power because they had to appease him. That, for one, meant giving him the freedom to work with us as he always had. I don’t believe any of our records ever recouped which isn’t that big of a deal for a major label who have much larger fish to fry. For them it is just another tax write-off. And I have a sneaking suspicion that they possibly believed we would “grow up” musically some day and make them some money. We never had much of a real relationship with the small group of people who were supposed to be our A&R folks. Also, there was so much time between our albums that the staff had usually changed by the time we came around again. I can’t say I really remember their reaction or cared one way or the other. I do remember that getting the artwork as we wanted was a total pain in the ass and ultimately failed to a degree. Musically, however, it was a blessing to be left alone.
Was any of the album improvised in the studio or did you have the whole thing carefully orchestrated?
The only moments of improv I can recall are some of the foley sounds on “Violenza..” and a few moments of “The Bends” as well as the breakdowns in “Carry Stress..” and “Merry Go Bye Bye”. The whole record, including those moments, was certainly meticulously crafted starting with early demos and lots of rehearsals. Once in the studio we had it in lock-out and basically lived there for close to two months.
You guys produced the album on your own was this simply because you couldn't find anyone to share your vision?
I remember driving my pick-up truck to Davis, CA with Zorn in the passenger seat on our way to a Masada gig (there was a short-lived West Coast quartet version with Kenny Wollesen, Ben Goldberg and myself). On that trip I asked Zorn about producing DV. I think Bungle had kicked around the idea of having him produce again but we were not 100% sure. Zorn told me he felt that we didn’t need a producer and that we were capable of doing it on our own. He was right.
In 1994 Trey joined and left FNM, did this situation have any effect on Patton and Trey's working relationship in Bungle?
I can’t really speak on that for various reasons. Suffice it to say rifts were established. The extent of the effect and on who is difficult to measure, but Mike & Trey continued to work together for sometime after that, as you know.
There is mystery surrounding 'Spy' or 'The Secret Song'. What is the story?
I suppose it will be good to put this in writing as I am often coerced into telling the story. Firstly, it was never called “Spy”. That is a completely distinct song, “Spy” being the working title. It was later named “Lemmy Caution” based on a character from the movie Alphaville. As I mentioned, we basically lived in the recording studio . We would spend entire days and nights in there without seeing the sun. In addition to this we tried to carry on with some of our normal lives. I had some jazz gigs in town and one night I had to step out early to go to this gig. Unbeknownst to me, while I was out the other guys arranged a song and recorded it. Since I wasn’t there you’d have to ask them how that actually went down, but the song was compiled from our ‘graveyard of riffs’. The graveyard consisted of countless riffs and orphaned phrases that never found a home. Anyone could pilfer from the graveyard at anytime. A few days later I was rummaging around the studio and came across a DAT tape where I discovered a rough mix of this song. Busted. Incidentally that is Bär on drums, Mike on bass and I believe Danny is playing keyboards although I’m not 100% sure. The next level of secrecy was that Mike didn’t know I had discovered the tape. He wasn’t around that day, but everyone else knew that I knew. Later, we were in another studio and I decided to record the old man vocals which were for the most part improvised (as if that isn’t obvious). The plan was to keep these vocals a secret from Mike until the record actually came out. That would have been a very difficult task to uphold. It didn’t work and Mike somehow heard the recording with my vocals. However, the other guys didn’t know that he knew, so when the record came out he pretended to be pissed of about it, saying that the vocals ruined the song. I was the only one who knew he wasn’t really angry. We maintained the secrecy of the song by 1) not listing it on the CD (some people continue to think it’s called “Carry Stress In the Jaw”) and 2) hiding it in a hidden groove on the vinyl. We also never played it live.
Do you have a favorite Mr. Bungle album?
Musically I am most proud of California however they each hold a distinct personality/history for me. Certainly they frame entire eras of my life.