Mr. Bungle
Origin Humboldt County, California, United States
Genre(s) Experimental rock
Avant-garde metal
Various others
Years active 1985–2000, 2020–present
Label(s) Warner Bros. Records
Faith No More
Secret Chiefs 3
Peeping Tom
Trevor Dunn's Trio-Convulsant
Website www.mrbungle.com
Mike Patton
Trey Spruance
Trevor Dunn
Danny Heifetz
Clinton "Bär" McKinnon
Former members
Theo Lengyel
Hans Wagner
Jed Watts

Mr. Bungle was an experimental rock/avant-garde metal group from Northern California. The band was formed in 1985 while the members were still in high school and was named after a children's educational film. Mr. Bungle released four demo tapes in the mid to late 1980s before being signed to Warner Bros. Records and releasing three full-length studio albums between 1991 and 1999. The band toured in 2000 to support their last album but as of 2004 is considered disbanded. Although Mr. Bungle went through several line up changes early in their career, the longest serving members were vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Trey Spruance, bassist Trevor Dunn, drummer Danny Heifetz, and Clinton "Bär" McKinnon on saxophone and woodwinds.

Mr. Bungle were known for their distinctive musical traits, often cycling through several musical genres within the course of a single song. Many of their songs had an unconventional structure and utilized a wide array of instruments and samples. Live shows often featured members dressing up and an array of cover songs. An ongoing feud with Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis escalated in the late 1990s, with Kiedis removing Mr. Bungle from a number of large music festivals in Europe and Australasia.

Even though they were signed to a major record label, the band never experienced significant commercial success during its lifetime and only released one music video. Nevertheless, Mr. Bungle achieved worldwide popularity due to a large cult following.[1]


Early days (1985–1990)[]

Mr. Bungle formed in 1985 in Eureka, California while the members were still in high school. The band initially consisted of Trevor Dunn, Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Theo Lengyel, and Jed Watts. Watts was subsequently replaced by Hans Wagner, and he by Danny Heifetz, while Clinton "Bär" McKinnon joined in 1989.Negele S, Don S, Scott H, Fogel C, Wall Sl, Kennedy HL. Mr. Bungle FAQ. www.bunglefever.com. Retrieved on 2006-09-23.</ref> The band's name was taken from Lunchroom Manners, a 1960s children's educational film which was featured in a Pee Wee Herman HBO special in the early '80s.Lunchroom Manners (1960). Internet Movie Database. Retrieved on 2008-02-23.</ref> A puppet named Mr. Bungle was the main character and was used to teach children good manners and hygiene. In 1989 Faith No More bassist Billy Gould told Patton about a pornographic video called Sharon’s Sex Party, which also starred a character known as Mr. Bungle.

Soon after forming, the band's first demo, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, was recorded during Easter of 1986. It featured a fast, low-fi, death metal style, though it also utilized a trainwhistle, a saxophone, bongos, and a kazoo. The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny was followed by the demo Bowel of Chiley in 1987; this recording featured a different style incorporating the sounds of ska, swing, and funk. Bradley Torreano noted in Allmusic that the recording was "essentially the sound of some very talented teenagers trying to make their love of jazz and ska come together in whatever way they can."[2] In 1988 Mr. Bungle released their third demo, Goddammit I Love America!, which was musically similar to Bowel of Chiley. Their final demo tape was OU818, released in 1989; this recording was the first to feature tenor sax player Clinton "Bär" McKinnon and drummer Danny Heifetz. OU818 combined songs from the earlier demos along with some new tracks having a heavier overall sound than the previous releases.[3][4] In 1989 Mike Patton landed the lead vocalist position with San Francisco's Faith No More, getting the job after Jim Martin of Faith No More heard him on a Mr. Bungle demo.[5] Patton decided not to break up Mr. Bungle, and continued to be a member of both bands simultaneously. Having established a strong following in Northern California, Mr. Bungle was signed to Warner Bros., who released their self-titled debut in 1991.[4]

Self titled debut (1991–1994)[]

Their debut, Mr. Bungle, was recorded a year after Mike Patton was recruited into Faith No More and was produced by jazz experimentalist John Zorn. Released on August 13, 1991 the album contained several new songs and was similar in style to OU818. The record mixed metal, funk, ska, carnival music, and free jazz, but was normally described as "funk metal" by music critics.[3] Almost all the members went by obscure aliases in the album credits. To promote the album in some stores, a Mr. Bungle bubble bath was given away with copies of the record sold.[6]

It received mostly positive reviews with journalist Bill Pahnelas calling it "an incredible musical tour de force, and hands down the best alternative rock record of the year so far".[7] On the style of the album, critic Steve Huey wrote in Allmusic "Mr. Bungle is a dizzying, disconcerting, schizophrenic tour through just about any rock style the group can think of, hopping from genre to genre without any apparent rhyme or reason, and sometimes doing so several times in the same song."[8] His criticism of the album included commenting that it was "unfocused" and "a difficult, not very accessible record".[8]

The first track was originally called "Travolta"(Template:Audio); however, the actor John Travolta took issue with this title and threatened legal action. With the encouragement of Warner Bros. the song name was changed and on later pressings of the album was called "Quote Unquote", which is also the title of an unauthorized John Travolta biography by Bob McCabe.[6] They created a video for "Travolta" and submitted it to MTV. However, the station refused to air the video because of images of bodies dangling on meat hooks.[9]

The album sold well despite MTV refusing to air their video and a lack of radio airplay.[9] Following the release of the album the band toured North America building a cult following. Their popularity was partly due to unique stage shows where they often performed with masks to hide their identities and playing unlikely cover songs during their concerts.[4][9]

Disco Volante (1995–1998)[]

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Due to artwork delays and the band members' many side-projects, it was another 4 years before Disco Volante was released in October 1995.[3] This, their second major release, has a different tone and style to earlier Mr. Bungle recordings.[10] While the self-titled album was described as "funk metal", with Disco Volante this was replaced with the label "avant-garde" or "experimental."[9]

The music was complex and unpredictable with the band continuing with their shifts of musical style. Some of the tracks were in foreign languages and would radically change genres mid-song. Featuring lyrics about death, suicide, and child abuse,[11] along with death metal, children's songs, and a Middle Eastern techno number, music critic Greg Prato described the album as having "a totally original and new musical style that sounds like nothing that currently exists".[12] Not all critics were impressed with the album, with The Washington Post describing it as "an album of cheesy synthesizers, mangled disco beats, virtuosic playing and juvenile noises", calling it "self-indulgent" and adding that "Mr. Bungle's musicians like to show off their classical, jazz and world-beat influences in fast, difficult passages which are technically impressive but never seem to go anywhere".[13] Additionally, writer Scott McGaughey described it as "difficult" and was critical of its "lack of actual songs".[9]

Disco Volante included influences from contemporary classical music, avant-garde jazz, electronic music pioneer Pierre Henry, Edgar Allan Poe, John Zorn, Frank Zappa, Penderecki, and European film music of the 1960s and 1970s such as those composed by Ennio Morricone and Peter Thomas.[9][12][14][15][16]

The album notes also contained an invitation to participate in an "unusual scam" - if $2 was sent to the band's address, participants would receive additional artwork, lyrics to the songs "Ma Meeshka Mow Skwoz" and "Chemical Marriage", and some stickers.[3] The vinyl release of this album shipped with a 7" by the then-unknown Secret Chiefs 3.[6] The vinyl release was also unique for having a song somewhat hidden in the grooves of the record, which partly explain the lyrics referring to it as a 'secret song' despite being a part of the song "Carry Stress in the Jaw". The 'secret song' was actually an internal reference to the fact that the song and all instrumentation was done without input from Trevor Dunn, who, when finding out about the song in the recording studio, added the vocal tracks mentioning that "I know the secret song now...they wouldn't tell me... but somehow I found out"[6]

Mr. Bungle supported this record with extensive tours through the United States, Europe, and Australia during '95 and '96, with the tours widening the group's fan base.[4] In 1996 Theo Lengyel retired as Bungle's original sax player and keyboardist due to creative differences.[3]

California (1999–2000)[]

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After another 4 year break between albums, the band's third album, California, was released on July 13, 1999.[17] Ground and Sky reviews have described California as Mr. Bungle's most accessible[18][19] and while the genre shifts are still present,[20] they are less frequent, with succinct song formats resulting in an album that The Associated Press called more linear.[21] Allmusic described the record as "their most concise album to date; and while the song structures are far from traditional, they're edging more in that direction and that greatly helps the listener in making sense of the often random-sounding juxtapositions of musical genres".[22] On the different style of this album, Mike Patton explained that to the band "the record is pop-y", before adding "but to some fucking No Doubt fan in Ohio, they're not going to swallow that."[23] The album was well received with music critic Robert Everett-Green stating "The band's newest and greatest album does not reveal itself quickly, but once the bug bites, there is no cure. The best disc of the year, by a length."[24]

File:Trevor Dunn.jpg

Trevor Dunn in concert supporting California

Additionally, the recording process for California became much more complex. The group chose to record the disc on analog rather than digitally[25] and some songs required several 24-track machines while utilizing more than 50 analog tracks.[21] As a result each song contains detailed layers of original samples, keyboards, percussion, and melodies.[9] The album displays influences from Burt Bacharach and The Beach Boys, while blending lounge, pop, jazz, funk, thrash-metal, Hawaiian, Middle Eastern, kecak, and avant-garde music.[18][19][20][26][22] The band did 5 tours to support this record. For the most part, perhaps with the exception of the Sno-Core 2000 tour where they were often booed, the band did have success attracting an audience.[27]

Feud with Red Hot Chili Peppers[]

The album itself was scheduled to be released on June 8, but Warner Bros. Records pushed it back so as not to coincide with the Red Hot Chili Peppers similarly titled album, Californication, which was to be released on the same day. Mr. Bungle was known to have had a bad relationship with the Red Hot Chili Peppers' frontman Anthony Kiedis.[6] The feud began when Kiedis saw singer Mike Patton performing with Faith No More and accused him of imitating his style. Kiedis stated “Yeah I watch that 'Epic' video, and I see him jumping up and down, rapping, and it looked like I was looking in the mirror. The thing is, I had no problem with him personally. I mean, I love 'The Real Thing,' and I liked his vocals on that record. I mean, when I heard the record I noticed subtle similarities, but when I saw that video it was like, 'Wait a second here, what the fuck?".[6] Mr. Bungle took offense to Kiedis' comment, sarcastically threatening Kiedis in the press.[6]

While touring in support of California, Kiedis had Mr. Bungle removed from a series of summer festivals in Europe; as the headlining act at the festivals The Chili Peppers had final word on the bands that would appear.[6][28] Patton stated “Our agent was in the process of booking these festivals, and it was becoming apparent that we'd landed some pretty good ones—one in France, another one in Holland, some big-name festivals. Turns out someone's holding a grudge! We were booted off several bills, including a really big festival in Australia, specifically because Anthony Kiedis did not want us on the bill. He threatened to pull the Chili Peppers if Mr. Bungle was on the bill. Now, rationalize that one! That's so fucking pathetic! I mean, this guy's selling a million records! We are not even a speck of dust on this guy's ass! What's the fucking problem?"[29] Trey Spruance added "We were booked, months in advance, to do eleven festival dates in Europe. Come Summer, we get a call from the three biggest of those festivals, all of them the same day, saying that we can't play, because the headlining band retains the right to hire and fire whomever they wish. We found out it was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, so our manager called their manager to find out what the hell was going on, and their manager was very apologetic, and said, 'We're really sorry, we want you to know this doesn't reflect the management's position, or the band's for that matter, it's Anthony Kiedis who wants this.'"[30]

As a result, Mr. Bungle parodied the Red Hot Chili Peppers in Detroit, Michigan on Halloween of 1999. Patton introduced each Mr. Bungle band member with the name of one of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, before covering the songs "Give It Away", "Around the World", "Under the Bridge" and "Scar Tissue", with Patton deliberately using incorrect lyrics. Mr. Bungle also satirized many of the mannerisms of the band, mocking heroin injections and on-stage antics. Kiedis responded by having them removed from the 2000 Big Day Out festival in Australia and New Zealand,[6][28] stating “I would not have given two fucks if they played with us there, but after I heard about some Halloween show where they mocked us and read another interview where Patton talked shit about us, and I was like, you know what, fuck him and fuck the whole band."[6] The feud continued with Dunn criticizing the Chili Peppers on his personal webpage. He also criticized their bass player Flea stating "Flea, in all seriousness, really isn't that good. I mean c'mon Red Hot Chilli Peppers were vaguely interesting in the late 80s, but Christ they fucking suck, they suck".[31]

Mr. Bungle's end[]

Following the 2000 tour the band again went on hiatus. Rumors circulated that the band had dissolved, with some members stating that the band was “over” while others insisted it was just "in limbo".[3] In 2003 Patton alluded to the fact that the band would probably not record any more albums stating "I think it is over. The guys are spread all over the world and we don't talk to each other. I have not spoken to a couple of the guys since the last tour, years ago."[28] While no official break-up announcement ever materialized, a 2004 Rolling Stone interview confirmed Mr. Bungle had disbanded with Patton revealing “We could have probably squeezed out a couple more records but the collective personality of this group became so dysfunctional, this band was poisoned by one person's petty jealousy and insecurity, and it led us to a slow, unnatural death. And I'm at peace with that, because I know I tried all I could."[1] When asked about a possible reunion, Mike Patton said, "It could happen, but I won’t be singing. Some bridges have definitely been burned. It was a fun time and sometimes you just have to move on. I’ve got a lot on my plate now."[32] Trevor Dunn adds, on his website, "Bungle is dead and I'm happy about it" and that "the members of Mr. Bungle will never work together as such again".[31] Spruance,[33] Heifetz, and McKinnon[34] have been more optimistic; in response to a 'Mr. Bungle regrouping' question, Spruance stated “I hope so because that band could take over the fucking world if it wanted to."[33]

After the dissolution of Mr. Bungle the members have gone on to numerous different projects. Mike Patton co-founded the record label Ipecac Recordings[35] and is involved with several other ventures, including various works with fellow avant-garde composer John Zorn (who also produced Bungle's debut album), and most notably the bands Fantômas,[36] Tomahawk,[37] and Peeping Tom.[38] He acted in the motion picture Firecracker[39] and did voice work in the movie I Am Legend, performing the infected creatures screams and howls.[40] Trey Spruance is involved with various bands, including Secret Chiefs 3 and Faxed Head. Trevor Dunn joined Patton in Fantômas as well as forming his own jazz band, Trevor Dunn's Trio Convulsant; he also occasionally played bass with Secret Chiefs 3.[9][41] Danny Heifetz’s projects included playing with Secret Chiefs 3 and in a country/punk band called Dieselhed;[9] he now resides in Sydney, Australia, and plays in outfits such as The Tango Saloon and The Fantastic Terrific Munkle.[42][43] Clinton McKinnon also played with Secret Chiefs 3; he now lives in Melbourne, Australia, and plays with The Ribbon Device [44] and UMLäUT.

Style and influence[]

All Music's Greg Prato described Mr. Bungle's music as a “unique mix of the experimental, the abstract, and the absurd”,[4] while Patrick Macdonald of The Seattle Times characterized their music as "harsh, grating, unstructured, blasting, squeaky, speedy, slow, eerie and strangely compelling".[11] Distinctive features of the music were the utilization of numerous different instruments, unusual vocals, and the use of unpredictable song formats along with a number of different musical genres. The majority of the music and lyrics were written by Patton, Dunn, and Spruance, with McKinnon and Heifetz occasionally contributing.[45][46] Greg Prato stated they "may be the most talented rock instrumentalists today, as they skip musical genres effortlessly, while Mike Patton illustrates why many consider him to be the best singer in rock".[12] Not all have agreed with one reviewer calling the band the "most ridiculously terrible piece of festering offal ever scraped off the floor of a slaughterhouse".[47] While journalist Geoffrey Himes criticized the band by stating "the vocals are so deeply buried in the music that the words are virtually indecipherable" and described the music as "aural montages rather than songs, for short sections erupt and suddenly disappear, replaced by another passage with little connection to what preceded it".[13]

Mr. Bungle would incorporate unconventional instruments into their music including tenor sax, Jew's harp, cimbalom, xylophone, glockenspiel, clarinet, ocarina, piano, organ, bongos, and woodblocks.[15] Journalist John Serba commented that the instrumentation "sounded kind of like drunken jazz punctuated with Italian accordions and the occasional Bavarian march, giant power chord, or feedback noise thrown in"[47] Overlaying this was Mike Patton’s vocals, who often used death metal growls, crooning, screeching, gurgling, or whispering. The arrangement of their songs was also idiosyncratic, often lacking a structured song format and rotating through different genres ranging from slow melodies to thrash-metal.[21] New York Times journalist Jon Pareles described it as music that “leaps from tempo to tempo, key to key, style to style, all without warning”.[48] Similarly critic Patrick Macdonald commented "In the middle of hard-to-follow, indecipherable noise, a relatively normal, funky jazz organ solo will suddenly drift in".[11]

Some of the genres they utilized include heavy metal,[22] funk,[22] free jazz,[22] surf rock,[18] punk,[48] klezmer music,[48] ska,[9] kecak,[26] avant-jazz,[20] folk music,[49] noise rock,[20]pop,[22] doo-wop,[49] funk metal,[26] electronica,[50] swing music,[22] space age pop and exotica,[22] death metal,[22][49] rockabilly,[22][26] bossa nova,[22] progressive rock,[19] country and western,[22] Circus Music [22] and even video game and cartoon music.[26]

Mr. Bungle’s style has influenced many recent funk and metal bands, most notably Korn, whose guitarists utilize what they have dubbed the "Mr. Bungle chord".[1] Brandon Boyd of Incubus also cited Mr. Bungle as an influence.[51] Although Patton has stated that he considers it an insult when people cite him as a forefather of Korn and Limp Bizkit, stating "I feel no responsibility for that, it's their mothers' fault, not mine."[52]

Stage shows[]


Mike Patton in costume live in 1991

Mr. Bungle were known for their stage shows, where the band members would dress up in costumes and masks, often wearing a uniform of mechanic's jumpsuits along with masks such as Madonna, Richard Nixon, Darth Vader, an executioner's hood, or plastic clown or gimp masks.[14] Bassist Trevor Dunn explained that initially the reason for the dressing up was to assure anonymity.[53]

The shows for the California tours, while still involving various members in costumes, were largely devoid of the masks and outfits due to the increased demands of the music.[21][54] Mike Patton explained "This stuff is much harder to play, I was trying to do piano lines and I'm completely fumbling them because the leather bondage mask is stretching my face so tight that my eyes weren't lining up with the eye holes."[55] Often the theme was related to California with palm tree props and the band members wearing beach party outfits including Hawaiian shirts and khaki pants.[21][56] Occasionally, the band would simply appear in black suits with white dress shirts or dress up in chef costumes, cowboy suits, or as the Village People.[47][57]

Throughout their career Mr. Bungle also performed numerous covers in their live shows, ranging from tiny snippets to whole songs. The covers were by a wide variety of artists and genres encompassing movie scores by Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, and John Williams, pop songs by Elton John and Jennifer Lopez, hip hop by Public Enemy and Ol' Dirty Bastard, to punk and metal songs by Dead Kennedys, Metallica, and Slayer.[6]


Main article: Mr. Bungle Discography

Demo tapes[]

  • 1986 - The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny (Ladd-Frith Productions: USA)
  • 1987 - Bowel of Chiley (Playhouse Productions, Rastacore Records: USA)
  • 1988 - Goddammit I Love America! (The Works: USA)
  • 1989 - OU818 ("B" Productions: USA)

Studio albums[]

  • 1991 - Mr. Bungle (Warner Bros. Records: USA)
  • 1995 - Disco Volante (Warner Bros. Records: USA)
  • 1999 - California (Warner Bros. Records: USA)

Band members[]


  • Mike Patton - vocals, keyboards, samples
  • Trey Spruance - guitar, keyboards
  • Trevor Dunn - bass
  • Jed Watts - drums
  • Theo Lengyel - saxophone, keyboards
  • Mike Patton - vocals, keyboards, samples
  • Trey Spruance - guitar, keyboards
  • Trevor Dunn - bass
  • Hans Wagner - drums
  • Luke Miller - horns
  • Theo Lengyel - saxophone, keyboards
  • Mike Patton - vocals, keyboards, samples
  • Trey Spruance - guitar, keyboards
  • Trevor Dunn - bass
  • Danny Heifetz - drums
  • Clinton "Bär" McKinnon - reeds
  • Theo Lengyel - saxophone, keyboards
  • Mike Patton - vocals, keyboards, samples
  • Trey Spruance - guitar, keyboards
  • Trevor Dunn - bass
  • Danny Heifetz - drums
  • Clinton "Bär" McKinnon - reeds

Martin Fosnaugh and Scott Fritz made brief appearances as Jew's harpist and trumpet player on the first demo tape; Scott Fritz also played trumpet on Bowel of Chiley. Additional musicians often performed and recorded with them. Percussionist William Winant toured with Mr. Bungle in 1995 and 1996 and again in support of California, in 1999. Ches Smith filled in for William Winant at a few shows. The first leg of the California tour also included keyboardist Jeff Attridge, who was later replaced by James Rotundi. Ches and James toured with the band full-time for Sno-Core 2000 and the Australian tour in support of California.[6]


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External links[]

Template:Mr. Bungle Template:Mike Patton