CALIFORNIA (WARNER BROS. 1999)
Another two or three years went by between albums when none of us were thinking about Bungle. Personally speaking, I NEVER expected that band to make me any money and so in the meantime I focused on my vocation as a freelance player and as a composer. I mean, a guy's gotta eat, right? Everyone else focused in their own directions as well, so the collective writing of California did not happen organically. By this time Mike had moved out of the Shotwell Bomb Factory and was, understandably, ready to not share his living quarters with the band anymore. We started renting a room at Downtown Studios in the lovely Hunter's Point district. Our room was great for recording because it had a separate control room with a window. The rehearsal room slowly but surely filled up with road cases, boxes of merch, Lowery organs, percussion instruments, people's dirty cloths, CDs and garbage. I used to get so disgusted that I'd bring my vacuum cleaner from home just to run over the floor a couple of times. Danny and Trey started collecting organs actually. At some point there were as many as six in there including a B-3 with a Leslie cabinet. Trey did a lot of his own work out there, and we all used the space for various rehearsals, but the days of us sitting around coming up with material together were over. Everyone worked on their songs or riffs at home and then we started trading tapes.
I had acquired a Fender Rhodes for $100 and I borrowed my housemate's Kurzweil keyboard. Those, along with my 4-track, were the fundamentals of my writing sessions. Again, though we didn't really hang out anymore, we all ended up writing somewhat melodic "songs". We never talked about it. It just happened. Vanity Fair started as a verse I wrote (much slower than it ended up) inspired by Marvin Gaye. I didn't know what to do with it so I slapped a weird bridge on it and gave the tape to Mike. He sped it up and did a Jackson 5 thing with it and then wrote some lyrics about castration. The Holy Filament came from a melody and chord progression I had abandoned from the DV writing sessions. The intro/bridge came to me after seeing Paris, Texas. Retrovertigo just spilled out in about 20 minutes while I was at the Rhodes. The working title for Pink Cigarette was "Neil Diamond". None of Them Knew... contained a riff that Mike wrote back in the Bowel of Chiley days. ( Any riffs that didn't have a home ended up in The Graveyard of Riffs. Anyone was allowed to corpse-snatch from the tombs at anytime). Bar's contributions to Air-Conditioned Nightmare are some of my favorite parts of the record. I'm not sure what Trey was thinking when he wrote Golem II. And Mike's influences of Roumanian gypsy music and Kecak are pretty obvious. I also wrote a short song called Praise of Folly which, I think, we even mixed. That and a very ABBA-esqe tune that Trey wrote didn't make the final cut.
I think Pro-Tools had yet to be so omnipresent as it is today. Either that or we were just idiots because we recorded that entire album on tape. We started with 24-tracks, and when we ran out of those we synced up ANOTHER 24-track machine. Then we filled those up and had to hook up an ADAT or two. We ran into a lot of SMPTE problems. Also, we never adhered to the rules of one-instrument-per-track. Nooooooooo. Anywhere there was a few seconds of blank tape we crammed in some percussion or a bass overdub or something. Total nightmare. There are 14 guest musicians, we recorded in four different studios and mixed in three. We spent our entire recording budget for the first time. That happened despite the fact that we did a lot of recording onto ADAT at our rehearsal space in the wee hours when no other bands were around.
When we were mixing our A&R guy from WB came down the the studio to "check out the new stuff". I was upstairs with him playing a mix of Retrovertigo when he suddenly got bored and walked out of the room right in the middle of the song. I was offended to say the least. It became clear to me that the only reason we were still on this major label was because they were hoping for a FNM hit. They wanted to assign a big name producer but we declined due to the fact that they wanted US to pay for it. We certainly had hopes of actually getting some airplay with some of these tunes but WB wouldn't pay for a re-mix, and, of course, did YOU see any promo for California? You have to understand that there ARE ways of manufacturing popularity. You can pay radio stations to play your records like Limp Shitzcup did; you can open up for huge bands that will pay you squat; you can play Ozzfest and PAY to play. Fuck that. We had no interest. We had our core audience who would reliably show up to any shit-hole we played. Someone at WB actually said they they thought we were "close" to having a hit record. The seemed to think that if we made a 4th CD it would be more accessible than anything else we'd done. Oh how little they knew us. Chances are, the 4th would have been 74 minutes of non-stop, unlistenable noise.
We had a real manager for the first time ever, and actually started making money on the road. We'd toured the States three times with California and had to hire a new sound engineer each time. Our live set up included three keyboard channels that triggered an array of samples that we took FROM THE RECORD. I never got that. I didn't understand why we didn't either simplify, rearrange or re-orchestrate the songs to play live. I'm not a big fan of playing to rhythmic loops. First off, the guy who triggers it has to be really precise. Second, the song sounds the same every night. Maybe it's the "jazzbo" in me, but I like the music to breathe a little. The live set up was a drag and I had it easy! I think if we had tons of money and could have put together a small orchestra/big band and stage show we could have done wonders. But we were still just a bunch of kids with big ideas. Our last US tour was Snowcore (aka, Bore-core, Medio-core, etc). I was against it from the beginning and was the last hold out to agree to do it. That audience hated us and that tour did nothing for our careers. It felt like more of a slap in the face: Getting 35 minutes a night to open up for some shitty, popular metal bands. That said, I had a blast in Mertyl Beach where I thought the crowd might actually kill us. I spent a lot of that tour in the back of our bus playing Crazy Taxi. I also spent my birthday in Kansas City at Applebee's.
Everything you've ever heard about the Red Hot Chile Poppers screwing us is true. I'm not sure why they did it other than a non-singer's jealousy. They kept us off of festivals in Europe, Big Day Out in Australia and they had the release date of our record postponed while they released Californication. Ultimately they screwed ME out of a lot of money for which I will forever harbor anger. The best part is they had full support from their record label. Yeah! Go WB! Aw, fuck it....it wouldn't be zen of me to harbor anger. They don't deserve the attention of my emotions. I'm over it.
We also did a short tour in Australia and then our final tour in Europe. It got to the point where members were going the the tour manager in private and requesting not to share hotel rooms with certain other members. Yeah, that sharing rooms shit will kill you. We didn't know that would be our last tour. It ended sourly but no one doubted that the show would go on. About two years later I started having nightmares about being on stage with Mr Bungle. That's when I knew it was time for me to let it go. I made the decision on my own without ever consulting anyone. It felt like the right thing to do and I stand by my decision. It's been six years since our last show.
I don't want to end this on a negative note, however. The other guys in Bungle were some of the biggest musical influences in my life. I experimented and learned a lot in that band. I can't believe we were as successful as we were playing that shit. I mean, it was just weird shit that we came up with. We didn't care. We wrote what we wanted. We never had much label or press support but that never stopped us. I used to choke on my own tears of laughter with some of the ideas we had, many of which never got out of the rehearsal room. Like an entire record based on the periodic table of elements where each song represented an element, or how we one day wanted to spend our recording budget on a shark cage, a 50ft crane and a carbon dater, or the video idea for Techno Allah in which we rode camels into a space ship that landed in the desert---sort of a Lawrence of Arabia meets Close Encounters........, or writing a record of Musak.......oh, to be young and full of fire.........