Yesterday (March 23rd), we broke the news that Mr. Bungle are re-recording their 1986 demo, The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, which the band — featuring vocalist Mike Patton, guitarist Trey Spruance and bassist Trevor Dunn — recently played in (nearly) its entirety at their first live shows in two decades. Anthrax's Scott Ian and original Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, both of whom joined the group for those momentous performances, have also been part of the recording sessions. Below, in part two of our exclusive studio report, Spruance gives more insight into those sessions, as well as the twisted history and inspiration behind the group's forthcoming album, due in the fall via Ipecac Recordings.
WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND THE TITLE THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY? I KNOW YOU MIXED THE DEMO ON EASTER, BUT YOU COULD HAVE MADE ANY NUMBER OF DIFFERENT REFERENCES TO THE DAY.
[Laughs] It's a stupid story. Trevor and Mike had this ... I wouldn't call it a band, but they did this thing where they would freak out into a tape recorder. That artifact of their friendship, which was like improvised death-metal craziness, was called Turd. This is before Mr. Bungle. And the future drummer of Bungle, Jed Watts, and myself had our own version of that called FCA. Both of these "bands" were just screaming improvised lyrics. In fact, "Anarchy Up Your Anus" is an FCA song that Mr. Bungle covered on that first demo tape. We did a few FCA covers in early Bungle, and "the raging wrath of the Easter Bunny" is just a line from an FCA song.
I'M GLAD YOU MENTIONED "ANARCHY UP YOUR ANUS." I WAS GOING TO ASK IF THAT WAS YOUR OWN TAKE ON METALLICA'S METAL UP YOUR ASS.
I guess it is, yeah. [Laughs] Good point. You gotta understand, the way these FCA songs came together, the drummer and myself would just improvise. We'd do, like, 10 short songs in 15 minutes and then we'd go back — without listening to it — and we'd write lyrics. I'd overdub bass, and then we'd scream the lyrics in one take. First take was the rule — had to be first take. The lyrics were written in the moment, on the spot, so there's zero thought going into this stuff. It's stream of consciousness.
And I should clarify this, because Trevor will get mad: That's just the FCA shit. When it comes to the straight-up Mr. Bungle stuff, like "Spreading the Thighs of Death" and "Sudden Death," those are very, very meticulously crafted, both lyrically and musically. It's nothing like the FCA stuff.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT "SPREADING THE THIGHS OF DEATH"? IT'S A FANTASTIC SONG TITLE.
All of those riffs and lyrics are Trevor's. He worked on it for a long time, and we figured out how to present it. Trevor writes very poetic lyrics, and you really see it in that song. He had some amazing turns of phrase back then, when he was 16 and I was 15. Some of those lyrics are still pretty good, even though they sound like they were written by a person who's sexually disturbed. [Laughs]
WELL, HE WAS A TEENAGE BOY — SO IN A WAY HE WAS SEXUALLY DISTURBED ...
[Laughs] For sure. The other thing we thought [during the re-recording] was, "Are we gonna get in trouble for these lyrics?" And then we thought, Wait a minute: We were all virgins when we did this tape. Death-metal virgins!
DID YOU JUST RE-RECORD THE EIGHT SONGS FROM THE EASTER BUNNY DEMO, OR WILL THERE BE EXTRA MATERIAL INCLUDED ON THE NEW RELEASE?
We re-recorded most of what's on the demo and then we recorded a bunch of the cover songs that we did at the live shows. We haven't decided what exactly is going on the record yet, but obviously we're going to prioritize the Raging Wrath stuff, because it is a re-recording of that demo. Maybe a cover or two will make it, but I'm not sure yet.
DID YOU LEAVE THE DEMO SONG "GRIZZLY ADAMS" OFF THE RE-RECORDING? I NOTICE YOU DIDN'T PLAY THAT ONE AT THE REUNION SHOWS.
We didn't play "Grizzly Adams" at the shows, but I think it's going on the record. And then a song called "Evil Satan," that's one from the demo that we didn't record. But there are three songs that were written during that time that were constructed by the time we did the original Raging Wrath demo, but we never recorded. So those songs were resurrected and they're going on this new album. One of them is called "Glutton for Punishment," another is called "Methmatics" and the last one is "Eracist." Trevor actually found his original lyrics for "Glutton for Punishment" from back in the day, but the other two have freshly constructed lyrics.
DID TREVOR WRITE THE NEW LYRICS, AS WELL?
Trevor started writing "Methmatics," but then Mike ended up doing it. And then "Eracist" is all Mike — he wrote the riffs also.
WAS THERE ANY DISCUSSION AMONG THE BAND ABOUT THE PROS AND CONS OF RE-RECORDING A DEMO VERSUS WRITING AND RECORDING ALL NEW MATERIAL?
No. That didn't really occur to us, because this music is strong. And if we're gonna revisit our origins, this is a very comfortable place to be for all of us. There's always been a difference between how fans look at the band and how welook at the band. That's true for most bands, but for ours more than most. We never stopped being metalheads in our minds, even though we've grown all these other appendages. So for us, going back to the roots is totally exciting. And I think it's the same for Lombardo. He's been doing a lot of hardcore gigs with the Misfits and Suicidal [Tendencies], plus all this avant-garde stuff, but he hasn't been playing straight-up thrash for a while — so in a way it's like a coming home for him, too. So we have all this great material, plus these two fucking guys who are our heroes — we'd be idiots not to record this.
DID THIS WHOLE PROCESS TAKE YOU BACK TO THE MID-EIGHTIES?
It totally did. Our first show was in '85, and I started recording this demo on my four-track sometime before that, like, maybe October of '85. We did the drums in Jed's garage, and then we overdubbed guitars at my house in Eureka. We did the vocals at Trevor's house. And I ended up making the re-imagined demos at the same house in Eureka — my parents still live there. My wife and I were moving out of our house, so we stayed with my parents for a while. So there I was, in the same freaking house where the original happened, with the same guitar and everything. [Laughs] So I really went all the way back to '85.
PUT IN CONTEXT, THE DEMO CAME OUT IN '86, THE SAME YEAR AS MASTER OF PUPPETS AND REIGN IN BLOOD — AND ARGUABLY THE APEX OF THRASH. DID THAT STUFF HAVE AN EFFECT ON YOU?
In Eureka, we were really isolated from other scenes and what was going on in the Bay. What we learned from this process is that we had a fantasy about what it was like to be a thrash/death-metal band in the scene, but that fantasy was absolutely not what it was actually like. We had a fantasy about what riffs are and what those bands play. Our music is weirder. It's intricate and bizarre. We thought we were doing it — we were trying to sound like Metallica and Slayer — but we weren't doing it. We were slowly becoming Mr. Bungle, and I think isolation is what helped incubate all that weirdness.
BUT YOU GUYS WERE PLAYING METALLICA AND MEGADETH COVERS BEFORE YOU STARTED WRITING ORIGINALS, WEREN'T YOU?
Yeah. OK, so Mike and Trevor were in a band called Gemini that was playing mid-tempo metal, like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden kind of stuff. Then they formed another band that was more speed metal — that band was called Fiend. They were a thrash band, and they were playing Metallica songs and I remember they played "Black Magic" by Slayer. My first band, which was called Torchure, was also with the first drummer of Mr. Bungle, and we played a more Mercyful Fate style of metal — but without a vocalist, because we couldn't find one. Torchure ended up opening a show for Fiend, and that's how we all met. The story goes that both Trevor and Mike were kicked out of Fiend — which is true, but I'm not sure what the nature of the dispute was. So when they got kicked out, we all decided to form a band together — a crazy speed/thrash/death-metal band. That's really the genesis of Mr. Bungle.
ARE YOU STILL IN TOUCH WITH ORIGINAL BUNGLE DRUMMER JED WATTS?
Yeah — he came down and sat in with us on "Anarchy Up Your Anus" in San Francisco last month. He's awesome.
LAST BUT NOT LEAST, DOES THIS RE-RECORDING OPEN THE DOOR TO A NEW MR. BUNGLE ALBUM?
We're taking it slow. Even with this re-recording, we didn't make formal plans. I think the next step honestly wouldn't be a new record. But who knows? It seems like we're able to all make music together and have a great time. There are definitely less obstacles than there were before — let's put it that way.