DISCO VOLANTE (WARNER BROS, 1995)
About a year after recording the first disc we finally toured. We had done some small week-long stints on the West and East Coasts but the tour of '92 was our first real tour and it was basically us kids in charge, let loose on the US. I remember complaining a lot and worrying about getting enough sleep. I guess I'll never change. We came home with a little bit of money but also a bill for $5,000 in damages. A good six months went by before Trey, Danny and I played music together. The first time we got together after that tour we just sat around with our instruments staring blankly at each other, somewhat embarrassed, not knowing what to do. It was the first time in our lives we actually HAD to start thinking about writing a record. Mike was busy with FNM but he was kind enough to let us use his house for rehearsing. We had a little makeshift ADAT recording studio set-up and there are hours upon hours of documented experimental pieces, improvs, half-baked ideas and crank phone calls. "Rehearsals" usually started with a trip to the taqueria. Then we'd stay in the studio all night wasting time to the point of delirium. We came up with this stupid game called Three Notes. The point was, we'd all randomly play three notes in sequence, but we couldn't go home until all three of us landed on the same last note. Totally retarded.
We never heard anything from WB and by the time we were ready to record again the entire staff had changed anyway so nobody knew us. That was fine. Mike was on tour a lot, I was playing "jazz" in "restaurants", Bar was driving a shrimp truck, and god knows what the other guys were doing. The separatism had already started. That said, we all ended up on the same page in terms of making a really weird, somewhat conceptual album. I started bringing my upright bass to rehearsals and some of the stuff I wrote on this record is clearly steeped in some kind of jazz. Carry Stress in the Jaw, for instance includes a section that is directly inspired by Tim Berne. I lived in Dog Patch in SF at this time. My girlfriend lived in Florida so I had a lot of time to sit around and write "rock songs" (Phelgmatics) based on a twelve-tone row. Trey was listening to his own collection of weird stuff as well---exotica, electro-acoustic, noise, middle eastern, techno. I remember him going to raves a lot back then. Mike was really into Joe Meek, the Peter Thomas soundtrack to Raumpatrouille, Kagel and the tangos of Troilo. He would show up between tours to work with us and add his beautifully low-fi input (i.e The Bends). With all this weirdness I realized it was time to revamp Platypus. Danny, Trey and I spent hours deconstructing and literally imploding the original arrangement to the point of superimposing the "verse" with the "chorus". I think that's still my proudest lyrical input. And Bar (!) finally stopped referring to Bungle as "you guys" and started writing for the band.
We recorded at Brilliant which was an amazing room located near idyllic 6th st and Market right around the corner from Tu Lan and Cancun. I used to ride my bike to the sessions every day. Once we saw a crack whore shitting between two parked cars. Supposedly they filmed pornos next door though we were never privvy. Good times. Hmmm, thai and mexican food, shit and porn....themes that seemed to follow us around. I think Brilliant was sold and torn down. The last time I was there was to record the first Fantomas record and at one point the board actually started smoking.
We'd start recording around noon and be at the studio until 2 or 3 in the morning. It's all we did for at least a month. I spent several days trying to find a bandoneon player through the musician's union. Luckily the Broadway show Forever Tango was in town so I went and introduced myself to the musical director. Somehow I managed to get the master, Lisandro Androver from Argentina to come by and record our off-kilter tango. He didn't speak any English but I'm pretty sure he thought we were nuts.
One night I went home from the studio a little early. Probably had a gig. That night everyone else stayed up all night recording the Secret Song. We had worked on parts of it for a while but never came up with a solid arrangement. Mike played bass, Bar on drums and Danny on keyboards. I found out about it weeks later when I came across the tape lying around in the control room. Mike wasn't around that day so I recorded the vocals without him knowing. Later, he found out about my vocals but he and I decided not to tell anyone else that he knew. When the record came out Mike pretended to be totally pissed that I added vocals....I forget what happened next. We also worked at Hyde Street Studios where we recorded a 12 minute, extended noise version of Everyone I Went To High School Is Dead. We had done a lot of recording at Mike's house and actually used some of those tapes on the record. There was another long piece that Mike arranged called "Spy" or later "Lemmy Caution". It was sort of a collage piece probably inspired by Zorn's Spillane. We spent a lot of time and money on that one, and even tried to revamp the recording for California but it never fit in anywhere.
The artwork was a bit of a fiasco. I found the cover art in the SF public library as I was researching deep sea diving which was one of the main themes of the record. I think the print on the US release looks like absolute shit and that's mostly because of the kind of paper it's printed on. The vinyl version looks amazing. We tried to use a bunch of art-work without getting permission first, and WB jerked us around a lot with what was allowed and what wasn't. Plus, both myself and Mike were out of town a lot while the packaging was being put together. Lots of miscommunication. As a result, I don't think any of us were truly happy with the booklet. One of those delirious rehearsals we recorded was tagged on to the end of the CD, but originally we wanted it as a pre-ID. In other words it was supposed to be only accessible if you rewound from the beginning of the first song. WB nixed the idea.
I have since noticed several strange similarities between the artwork on the first and second CDs.
We mixed in LA and this time it took us two days per song. Through another miscommunication I found myself double booked. I was scheduled to play four nights with Zorn's Masada (West Coast version) at Radio Valencia in SF at the same time we were mixing in LA. I can't believe I did this but I ended up flying to LA every other day and then back the same night to do the gigs. What a drag. Good ol' SouthWest airlines.
The touring for this album was only slightly more active. We did the States, Australia and Europe. In general I recall all of the touring to be a pain in the ass. We were based in SF but our first show of the US trip was in Minneapolis, so it began with a three-day drive. The show was a disaster. The European leg was in the Wintertime. We had some half-assed cargo bus, a clueless roadie and a crook for a road manager. We came home from that with zero dollars in our pockets.