Trevor Roy Dunn bass player for Tomahawk, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle, Madlove, Trio Convulsant, Endangered Blood, John Zorn and much more celebrates his 50th birthday today.
Dunn grew up in Eureka Humboldt County, CA a school friend of Mike Patton.
"Mike and I met in junior high, when we were about 13. We were kinda inseparable in high school. We hated everyone else. We mocked everybody and had nicknames for everyone—it didn't matter if we knew them or not. Like most high schools, most of our peers would go out on the weekend and get completely drunk, but he and I decided not to drink at all. We were basically straight-edge all through high school, even though we didn't look it. We'd go to parties and not understand why people were drinking themselves into oblivion. Now I get it. But back then I was a little naïve." - Dunn 2013
"We'd go down to the railroad, hop the freight train to the next town, and then hitchhike home. We were kind of obsessed with it, actually. It was super fun on a summer night. We'd write songs based on the rhythms of the tracks—Mr. Bungle had a song called 'Freight Train' In fact, the first Mr. Bungle album has a 10 minute sequence of us on the freight train that I taped on my little handheld tape recorder." - Dunn 2013He began his musical career at a very early age playing his mums claranet."
"My first memories of 'writing' music are of constructing some sort of dramatic narrative on a neighbor's upright piano probably around the age of eight. I also recall messing around on my older brother's guitar with the top three strings in first position, which I now recognize as a simple way to connect triads with pivot tones. I was also writing lyrics to songs that didn't exist while in grammar school." - Dunn 2013He was influenced by Metal, Jazz and Classical music.
"Once I started playing electric bass, my older brother was playing guitar, and he was getting me into rock music. But then in the ’80s, I was taking private lessons and I had teachers turning me on to all these great bass players – a lot of fusion guys, mostly. But at the same time, I was in high school from ’82 to ’86, and I was totally riding the crest of metal the whole time, following the progression of it. I mean, that movie Heavy Metal had an influence on me, the animated film, and getting the soundtrack for it and hearing about all these bands. And going from rock music slowly into heavier and heavier music, and then Metallica came out, and then Slayer, and pretty soon, it was all about how fast a drummer could play double bass. And by the time I graduated in ’86, Reign in Blood came out, and that was the pinnacle.Trevor played with Patton in their first band Gemini and formed Mr. Bungle with Patton and Trey Spruance in 1985 at high school.
In the meantime, my friend was working at this record store, and he’d get a bunch of records and bring them over to my house after work, and I’d tape them all – all these obscure European metal bands. Some [were] more obscure than others. I was really into Mercyful Fate and Exodus, these bands that were doing, I thought, really interesting things. But at the same time, I was learning to play Charlie Parker tunes on electric bass like Jaco [Pastorius] and listening to my first Miles Davis record. So I guess I had my friends in high school, and we were listening to metal together, and then I’d go home and practice and check out jazz. But for me, it was all just music." - Dunn 2011
"I was a senior in high school, and we just started getting together and playing. I met Trey [Spruance], the guitar player, and we had a music theory class in high school, which was pretty unheard of (laughs), and he and I were like, “Man, we’ve got to play music together”, and I was already playing with [Mike] Patton and some other metal cover band. So, yeah, we immediately started playing metal covers and slowly started writing stuff. And you know, Trey had a theory background too, so yeah, [we were] definitely applying some of that stuff. Even in college, I would learn something in theory class, some weird cadence, and I’d be like, “Oh wow, maybe I could apply that to a metal riff, even it’s it’s obscured somehow”. - Dunn 2011
"The first time we jammed, we played classic hits of the Big Four, you know—Megadeth and Metallica songs. Then we started writing our own. Our first demo was total death metal, basically. But at the same time, we were all interested in different kinds of music. Trey and I were checking out jazz and classical. Patton was into all kinds of different stuff, too, and eventually we got burnt out on metal and started doing other weird stuff." - Dunn 2013Mr. Bungle's first gig took place later that year at the Bayside Grange in Bayside, CA.
"It was this community centre on the side of the road near the forest, kind of in between Eureka and Arcata. There were probably four bands or something, and I think it cost like four bucks to get in. It was just after Halloween, so there were some Halloween masks laying around and we decided to wear them— partly as a way to mock the metal scene and how serious it was. Eventually it caught on, which is why we ended up wearing costumes all the time. We also got into the habit of throwing stuff into the audience. There was a local bread company in town called Big Loaf. Somehow we came across this box of discarded Big Loaf bags, so we threw them into the audience and everyone started wearing them on their arms as sleeves." - Dunn 2013Dunn graduated high school the following year. Dunn went on to pursue a music degree while Patton enrolled as an English major at Humboldt State University.
"As a musician, Mike always kind of pissed me off because I started studying music at a young age, took private lessons, got a music degree, practiced hours and hours on my instrument, and he's one of these guys who doesn't have to practice at all. It took a while for me to understand that he has perfect pitch and a really great ear. He can hear a style of music or a certain phrasing, and it all comes naturally to him. The rest of us were all mimicking styles that we liked, but he can just do it." - Dunn 2013From here Patton went on to join Faith No More, Dunn forged a working relationship with John Zorn after he produced Mr. Bungle's debut album. He became very much a session bass player working with artists such as The Melvins, Phillip Greenlief , Tin Hat Trio, Ben Goldberg and Shelley Burgon.
He continued to work with childhood friends Spruance and Patton with Secret Chiefs 3, Fantomas and other projects. In 2012 he took over from Kevin Rutmanis in Tomahawk.
Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant has released two albums with guitarist Mary Halvorson and drummer Ches Smith.
"Part of [Trio-Convulsant] was listening to jazz and being frustrated that it wasn’t heavy or abrasive enough, and then listening to rock music and being dissatisfied it wasn’t harmonically adventurous enough. So [it was] basically trying to combine those things. I think of that band as just a combination of two things: jazz and rock, which is kind of what fusion is, but I also don’t want it to be a fusion band. I want it to be more like old jazz and new rock. The idea of playing jazz chords – they’re some of the most dissonant chords in music, aside from Xenakis or Penderecki or stuff like that. But in terms of having a band, why not play some crazy jazz chord loud and distorted? It’s just gonna make it that much more in-your-face and effective." - Dunn 2011In 2009 he released the album White With Foam with the group Madlove featuring Sunny Kim on lead vocals, Ches Smith on drums, Hilmar Jensson on guitar, and Erik Deutch on keyboard.
"I felt a void in what I’ve been creating in terms of the kind of music MadLove performs. I wanted to write music that was more intuitive, less heady, and just write some – so-called – straight up rock music!" - Dunn 2010Most recently Dunn has worked with Qui and Dan Weiss.
Trevor has been very helpful with our page and is always ready to chat, here are some of the great interviews we have conducted.