It’s a cold day in Melbourne and Clinton ‘Bar’ McKinnon is making unwise comments about construction workers. “What’s with those big burly guys with super short shorts? In California they’d be laughed off the job.” You’re not in California any more Bar. “These guys are huge so I guess you’re just gonna let ’em do what they need to do.”
Yes we are Bar, leave them alone. When not spoiling for a fight, Bar plays saxophone in his relatively new band Umlaut. You’d probably know him from his days as a member of Mr Bungle and The Secret Chiefs, wherein he did lay down some smokey, soulful, violent sax. Sadly for us, those days are over, but happily for us Umlaut’s days are just beginning. The debut album was released in February this year and it is, thankfully, very weird.
“We had the album ready by November last year but the record company decided to put the release off because they didn’t want it to come up against Christmas.” Christmas is terrible for record sales, unless you’re Andre Rieuuuugh. Umlaut is Bar’s first effort at musical dictatorship.
“The guys in Bungle had been encouraging me to put my foot down and be really certain with my ideas and bring like fully formed songs to them, instead of bringing bits and pieces and going ‘if you can use this anywhere that’d be great.’ It’s been a long time coming – this should have happened ten years ago but due to life circumstances etc. I wasn’t able to get focused enough to do it until recently.”
Whilst retaining fiercely protective, complete and total creative ownership of the band, Bar credits Mark Turner for his administrative duties. “I owe so much to Mark Turner, he was a huge asset in terms of getting everything organised, he basically pulled it all together singlehandedly and was absolutely indispensable. Melbourne is a very hip place as far as music and musicians and there’s no shortage of good musos so I’m super lucky that I ended up here, it just made the most sense. Musos sought me out, perhaps on the back of Bungle’s notoriety, I mean who knew a Mr Bungle member was living in Melbourne?”
Mike Patton assists with vocals on the second track on the album, Atlas Face. “I stayed in contact with all the Bungle guys and Patton took the backing track idea for the song and ran with it, he liked it and had ideas that went with it. I sent him like five tracks and he latched onto that one. I always send those guys little bits I’m doing, perhaps just to show them that I haven’t died and that I’m not dry as far as ideas go.” The Umlaut album is proof enough of this fact. “It’s funny, I catch up with the Bungle guys every time they come to town but I haven’t seen my immediate family for almost seven years.”
Isn’t Bungle like a family of sorts? What with the feuds, the ritual sexual abuse and the awkward masturbatory encounters?
“Well, things have progressed between Mike and Trey (who were feuding after a ritual sex abuse fight). Trey went to a recent gig in Cali with Patton and had a lovely chat with him. Mike made a point of telling me about it in late Feb or Jan, saying how great it was to catch up with him so I think they’ve made progress with that and both grown up a lot and realised there’s no point in holding these silly grudges for a large portion of your life. Misunderstanding was at the core of it.” Oh. Not ritual sexual abuse.
“Patton is a forward thinking and impatient guy. He doesn’t really look backwards that much. Now that he’s reunited with Faith No More he’s had to eat a lot of words. You look back at interviews saying he would never ever go back to that band and suddenly all these years later he is back, which is probably why he doesn’t want to do interviews about it. Bungle technically came undone in 2004 which puts us on track for 2014, if we go by that ten year grace period until you can get back in the game. Patton said it was a real shame because we had two more albums in us. I’ve put out an album that stands alone, but anything on there would have been volunteered to Mr Bungle if I’d had that chance, but I guess it was critical that I had that chance to do it solo.”
Surely there’s a few more albums in you yet, Bar? 2014 is a while off. Make sure you check out Umlaut and buy the album, so we have more of this flim-flammery to look forward to!.