Rumours and conjecture abound in the Mr Bungle camp. Of course any outfit that takes five years between albums, with members focusing in the meantime on a myriad of other, often higher profile projects, is bound to raise some difficult questions. Particularly an outfit as renowned for their groundbreaking and distinctive off kilter musical vision as Bungle. But in recent times the whispers have taken a darker turn as suddenly, not only are internet geeks and feverent Bungleites predicting their demise, but Mike Patton himself has suggested in an interview that perhaps Bungle's days truly are numbered. It probably makes sense for Patton, given his frenetic workload, however it may also be related to the fact that two essential elements of the Bungle family have recently relocated to Australia. Whilst drummer Danny Heifetz is conducting drum clinics in Sydney and guesting with local outfits like the electronic trio The Head, multi-instrumentalist Bar McKinnon has quietly snuck into Melbourne after 2 years of doing odd jobs and concentrating on being a dad in the fun and sun of Northern California. In short, everything but Bungle.
"Bungle is pretty dormant at this stage," concedes McKinnon sadly, muttering the words no one wanted to hear, "it's in this ongoing limbo at the moment and it's hard to say if and when it will click into gear again."
Aside from family reasons, one of McKinnon's motives for the move was related to the pathological inactivity in the camp, with everyone eschewing Bungle for their own pet projects. Whilst Patton leapfrogs from one project to the next, Trey Spruance is reportedly holed up all mad professor like in the hills surrounding San Francisco crafting three new Secret Chiefs albums and bassist Trevor Dunn is touring with Fantomas and doing the downtown New York jazz thing. None of which leaves much time for Bungle related activity. Though that's only the half of it.
"It has more to do with Trey and Mike and a little cold war they've got going on between them," offers McKinnon. "They haven't really been in contact since early September 2000. At the end of our European tour there was a little bit of tension. I mean I don't know really what the deal is with those guys, but they've never been the closes blokes by any means."
After what was a difficult tour, things came to a head following their final show, during which Patton and Spruance clashed when Spruance was 45 minutes late for the bus. "Danny and I left when Mike started in on his tirade with Trey," reports McKinnon. "Ten minutes later when Mike was done ripping Trey a new asshole verbally, he comes up there and points at Danny and I who are just sitting there relaxing and goes "and fuck you and fuck you". He was just upset that we didn't just sit there and glower at Trey and back him up. It's kind've one of those things where Danny and I just look at each other and shrug and go "whatever dude". We're not the policemen in the group and we're not the manager. People are gonna make their plane flights and it's just no big deal."
Though it turns out that the whole incident was a misunderstanding, that Spruance was unavoidably delayed due to family commitments, the two haven't spoken since. And now that both are in the enviable position of no longer needing the other artistically, it doesn't bode well for the future of the group. WHilst for his part Spruance recently swore to McKinnon he wouldn't let Bungle die due to petty ego issues, Patton is booked out for 2003 and Heifetz and Dunn are lukewarm at best about a possible reunion.
"It's just been in 2 or 3 years, since the end of that European tour ity different directions," he reflects. "I can't really wait around for them. Even though I would and I have, I've got so many friggin musical ideas that have been coming through me in the past few years I'm just like I might as well kind've get some of it out there somehow." Recently McKinnon was able to exorcise some of these ideas in a low-key solo set at the Green Room. Playing along to a mini disc, and switching from saxophone to flute, to percussion, and even finding time to get behind the guitar and croon out a few indie folk numbers, the set highlighted his considerable multi instrumentalist talents.
"I just want to get these little ideas out there as they are," he explains earnestly. "I could just hit the distortion pedal and have a wank fest with the sax, but it's been done. Maybe I will some night if it's going that badly. I'll try to chew the mouthpiece off the sax or something. For me I'm more of a sucker for melody and interesting chord progressions an that's what I'm going to do.
"On the Bungle side of things, I'm not going to give up hope and I'll continue to bombard those fuckers with my ideas, like a retarded little brother, and maybe they'll think "yeah there's somebody here that wants to do this". I mean I was just listening to the Faxed Head "Chiropractic" album the other day an it's fuckin' great, the shit that Trey is doing... And I can't help but compare it to Mike's latest offering from Tomahawk which was pleasantly underwhelming to me. Even the little incidental sections are fucking laughable. It's like "what the fuck is going on?" - little guitar noodling, he's done so much more interesting stuff. It's just weird. It's almost like he's kowtowing to the Faith No More fans.
"I've just got so many ideas that I wish I could get
out through Bungle," he continues, "that I wasn't able
to get out through the California album. And it really
shits me that people are sitting there tapping their
fingers waiting for the next release and they have to
take what they can from Tomahawk or Secret Chiefs..."