|Mr. Bungle was formed in 1985 in Eureka, California. The original line-up included Trevor Dunn on bass, Mike Patton on vocals, Trey Spruance on guitar, and Jed Watts on drums. The band took its name from two short films which appeared in early episodes of the "The Pee Wee Herman Show", in which an ill-mannered, un-hygienic puppet clown demonstrated how good grade-school kids should not behave (only later did band members learn, through Faith No More bassist Bill Gould, that the porn flick "Sharon's Sex Party" also stars a character named Mr. Bungle).
Mr. Bungle's first demo tape, "The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny", was recorded in 1986. It featured a low-fi, fast, death metal style that also managed to incorporate the sounds of bongos, a trainwhistle, a saxophone, and a kazoo. In the next year at least two versions of a tape called "Bowel Of Chiley" were recorded and distributed by Mr. Bungle, mainly to local radio stations. One of these was reproduced and sold without the band's permission (on tape in 1991 and on CD in 1997), creating one of the more popular Mr. Bungle bootlegs, the erroneously-titled "Bowl Of Chiley". The music of "Bowel Of Chiley" was radically different than that of "The Raging Wrath Of The Easter Bunny", mixing the sounds of ska, swing, and funk. By this time drummer Jed Watts had been replaced by Hans Wagner, and the band's new sound required the employment of Scott Fritz & Theo Lengyel as horn players.
In 1988 Fritz was out, Luke Miller was in, and Mr. Bungle released "Goddammit I Love America!" Similar to "Bowel Of Chiley" (described by band members as "a Fishbone rip-off"), but with a tighter sound, two of the seven tracks on "Goddammit I Love America!" would find their way onto Mr. Bungle's first major label release.
1989's "OU818" was the band's final demo tape before finding themselves with a major label record contract. It was also the first to feature drummer Danny Heifetz and tenor saxophone player Clinton "Bär" McKinnon, and contains tracks that make up half of Bungle's first major label release. Combining songs from earlier demos with new ones, it was a little lighter on the ska, and had a heavier overall sound than the two previous releases.
Having established a strong following in Northern California, and with the hiring of vocalist Mike Patton by popular Reprise rock group Faith No More, Mr. Bungle was signed by Warner Bros. Records. Their first album, produced by John Zorn and titled "Mr. Bungle", was released August 13, 1991. There were several new songs on it, but the sound was much the same as that of "OU818", commonly described as "funk metal" by music critics. The album sold well, and Mr. Bungle toured North America successfully to support it.
A multitude of side-projects and artwork delays contributed to the four-year gap between the self-titled album and the release of "Disco Volante" in October of 1995. It was made up almost entirely of new songs, and musical styles combining jazz, techno, tango, and death metal, to name a few, set it apart from all previous efforts. Tours (featuring guest percussionist William Winant) of North America, Europe, and a wildly popular tour of Australia followed its release. They were finally wrapped up with two shows in San Francisco in November of 1996.
Mr. Bungle's last album, "California", was released on July 13, 1999. Theo Lengyel does not appear on it, and is not expected to be involved in any future Mr. Bungle projects (management cites "creative differences" as the reason for his departure). A supporting tour of North America began in Santa Cruz, California on July 12; however, a conflict between Mr. Bungle's record company and past distributors prevented "California" from being available overseas (other than as an import) for several months. Overseas touring was put on hold long enough to allow three consecutive North American tours in support of "California" to take place, including an opening spot at Sno-Core 2000. The band finally made their way to Australia in March of 2000 and Europe in August and September of 2000 before taking a break from touring and recording to focus on the other things going on in the members' lives for a while. At the same time, ideas for new Bungle songs are being shared.
Mr. Bungle experienced a five-year hiatus post-"California", after which the band folded.