MR BUNGLE (Warner Bros., 1991)
This is the first CD I was ever on. I was 23 and still lived at my parents house when we recorded it. That's kind of embarrassing. Most of these songs were written over the course of several years and put together, as a band, in the numerous places we used to rehearse in and around Eureka, CA. One of those places was "The Chicken Coops" out in Manila which is a frightening little "beach town" of white-trash hillbillies. My dad used to work at a lumber mill out there. The place was literally an old, abandoned chicken coop with ceilings about 5 1/2 feet high. It was rented by a weird family who used to send their half-wit, stuttering son out to collect the "went money" from us. The song Dead Goon was conceived, almost in it's entirety, from a free-form jam session one cold, damp night in those coops.
We also used to rehearse in the big band room in the music department at HSU. We would drive our cars right through campus up to the music building and rehearse until wee hours of the night, long after any piano students had finished with their Beethoven sonatas. There was a creepy custodian who worked nights we liked to call "The Metal Janitor". He looked like a cross between John Oats and Charles Bronson with a handle-bar mustache and leather jacket. He would peer at us for hours through a small square window in the door and watch us practice. We tried to pretend he wasn't there. I specifically remember working on Stubb-a-Dub in that room. We also started working on an instrumental tune called Captain Asshole that never saw the light of day.
Another place we'd rehearse was Danny's house in Arcata. It was a house full of college students or people that had graduated already and were just hanging around. The cast of characters sort of reminds me now of that movie Slacker. Anyway, Danny had an old reel-to-reel 4-track machine and we made a demo there once called "The Tape" that included early versions of Platypus and My Ass is On Fire and the Mario Bros video game music. Once, the rest of us overstayed our welcome after practice so Danny shit into a styrofoam cup and chased us out of the house with it. The next day Theo relayed a story of how he woke up that day and had no idea how he got home. He was totally sober but could only remember leaving Danny's house. We teased him once about being abducted by aliens but he didn't think it was funny.
Most of the songs on this CD had been previously recorded on our 4th demo "OU818". In my opinion they had a little more fire in them on that demo. I think we were already sick of playing them by the time the Different Fur session began. That might have something to do with why we started dumping samples of pin-ball machines and dialogue from Blue Velvet into the songs. By the way, all the pin-ball sounds in Carousel were recorded at Sharkey's Arcade in Eureka. I started going to Sharkey's when it opened around 1983 or so. I spent hours upon hours of my youth in there playing Berzerk, Tempest, Centipede and Cyclone. Now it's a tattoo shop. The songs Carousel and Egg had been recorded on our 3rd demo "Goddamn It I Love America" in 1988. Parts of Egg and Girls of Porn were conceived in my bedroom with Mike and Trey playing guitar and me on bass. I was about 19 then. I played in this horrible bar band so I never got to hang out much on the weekends. The three of us would jam for a while, then I'd go off to my bar gig and Trey and Mike would go vandalize various parts of the town. One New Years Eve I was playing in a bar that had a huge glass window behind the stage. Mike and Trey hurled a doorknob through the window while I was playing in hopes of shattering the whole thing but it only made a small hole. They proudly showed me later. I got a lot of inspiration from bar hags when I was young. The lyrics to Slowly Growing Deaf certainly came from some of that. (not to mention earlier demo songs Nicotina and Waltz For Grandmas Sake)
Mr Nice Guy was probably my favorite song on" OU818" but for some reason it didn't make the cut for the CD. We also recorded Platypus and a cover of Thunder Ball neither of which made it on to the album. The engineer on that record was a guy named David Bryson who owned Dancing Dog Studios where we had recorded before. He was a decent engineer and put up with our shit so we asked him to work on the CD. He later got rich playing in a band called Counting Crows.
By 1992 Danny was living in San Francisco and I remember crashing on his couch in the Haight the whole time we were recording. What a drag. Trey had his car and we'd have to drive around looking for parking all night. Then we'd set up plastic army men on the mantle of Danny's living room and shoot them off with rubber-band guns. I also remember eating a lot of burritos and thai food. Our friend and fellow Eurkean Rob Green was hanging around and became obsessed with David Lynch's Blue Velvet so it was ALWAYS on in the lounge at the studio. Somehow we had befriended some guy who worked at the Mitchell Bros O'farrell Theater and he would get us in all the time for free. He cried when Eric Carr died. We subsequently befriended a couple of strippers who would hang out in the recording studio and say lewd things into the microphones for us. We really got a kick out of that. We were also friends with a band called The Deli Creeps whose guitar player went by the name of Buckethead. The singer, Maximum Bob, was a big guy who used to light his farts with matches. You can hear him chanting "over and over" at the end of My Ass Is On Fire. So, yeah, there were some weirdos hanging around.
I never liked the album cover. I wanted the black and white clown face on the disc itself to be the cover but I was out-voted. Then we had problems with the art designers. The sky behind the clown was supposed to be red, not blue, as if the fire he lit was ablaze behind him. And the type setting on the back was too screwy for our liking. Oh well. I was excited to be on a CD. On the release day I ran out and bought a copy on CD and one on cassette as well from Best Buy or something. It felt weird to do that. I didn't even own a CD player yet. (You have to remember that this was a long time ago. Cell phones, email and ipods didn't exist.)
I think it took us about two weeks to record everything. In the meantime we had met John Zorn while he was in SF performing. For some weird reason we gave him a tape of our free-form jam at the Chicken Coop, and for some even weirder reason he liked it. We had considered other producers: Thomas Dolby would have cost $50,000 which was half of our budget. Frank Zappa was too busy, and probably not feeling so well either. Supposedly when he heard the CD he said that he wished he would have been responsible for it. That's pretty cool. However, none of us were really huge Zappa fans contrary to popular belief. We just thought he would "get" us. We used to shop for records at a small store in Santa Rosa called The Last Record Store. It was there that we discovered Zorn's Spy Vs Spy and the first Naked City record. It was impossible to find records like that in Eureka. Zorn wasn't able to be there for the recording but he showed up for the mix. I guess we got our advance from WB because Trey and I started staying at the rock and/or roll hotel The Pheonix in the Tenderloin. There was a Chris Isaak song that was always on MTV and I'd try to watch Twin Peaks whenever it was on. We mixed one song per day. Zorn and Bryson would set up a mix and then we'd show up in the afternoon and put in our two cents until we were happy with it. We did some additional recording then as well: Zorn had us use a real B-3 organ, brought out David Shea to add some turntables and got a great solo out of Bar. We forced Zorn to play a solo on Love is a Fist. He introduced us to the spicy pork torta from Taco Loco on 24th st.
Though I look back on some of this music with horror I think it really represented us in our youthful, small-town escapism. All we had to think about in those days was music, sex, food, quadrapelegics, the circus, dogs and auto-asphixiation. A glimpse of Eureka through the eyes of kids who had to get out. All the samples were recorded by Trey on a portable DAT recorder: the arcade games from Sharkey's; the screaching tires of Trey's car (heard in Stubb); the quarters dropping into the porn booths at the Century Theater in SF. I recorded the train sequence and the domestic violence blurb (just before Love is a Fist) on my Sony cassette recorder with a condenser mic. Yep, those were the days of our lives...