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Sinister Seven: Mr. Bungle visual artist Eric Livingston

Wednesday, October 21, 2020 | Interviews, Music


To celebrate the Halloween launch of the rerecorded THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY DEMO (read our review here), the new record from Mr. Bungle (the mighty Mike Patton’s first band), RUE MORGUE reached out to the influential group’s guitarist Trey Spruance, the album’s visual artist Eric Livingston and their “Eracist” video director Derrick Scocchera, for a trio of Sinister Seven interviews. Here is part two of those three…

San Francisco’s Eric Livingston is a subversive provocateur. A true punk, in a Joe Coleman way, visually. A total artist, really. The sometime musician (All Leather, Entropy Density) has toured as a lighting designer with huge mainstream acts–including Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Tool and Nine Inch Nails–for a decade now. However, when the heavily inked man isn’t on the road, he crafts beautiful yet frightening visuals for weird and wonderful, eccentric bands.

After working with Ipecac Recordings on many projects (like Patton’s Dead Cross), Livingston went all-in into Mr. Bungle’s 2020 revival. In addition to doing all variations of the aforementioned new album releases, Livingston directed the “Raping Your Mind” video (a stroboscopic and exuberant mindfuck you can see at the bottom of this page), as well as the trailer for Bungle’s Halloween streaming concert, which has a JACOB’S LADDER-meets-NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD-spoof vibe, while referencing John Carpenter’s masterpiece HALLOWEEN in many ways. RUE MORGUE questioned the artist about his love for horror, his connection with Patton and all that Bungle business.​

How have horror films inspired your work?

If it wasn’t for horror films, weird music and skateboarding growing up, I wouldn’t be alive today. I like everything from [Roman] Polanski to [Frank] Henenlotter, and I used to worship makeup artists like Dick Smith, Rob Bottin, Tom Savini and Rick Baker. A lot of that has influenced my artwork over the years. You can see that in all the art for Dead Cross; I got to make some spooky paper stop-motion animation for their “Seizure and Desist” (2017) music video and some schlocky practical effects for “My Perfect Prisoner” (2018). The video I did for “Disease Control” (2018) by [Justin Pearson of Dead Cross’] Planet B was heavily inspired by Lloyd Kaufman’s work, and the one I filmed for Mike Patton’s project with Jean-Claude Vannier, “Chansons d’amour” (2019), was very horror-inspired as well.

How long have you been a Patton fan?

I listened to a lot of avant-garde and obscure noise music during childhood. It just appealed to me. So I landed on Bungle sometime in the early/mid-’90s. I had already been introduced to Naked City, which was huge for me. John Zorn is a treasure. It was Mike’s work with Zorn that really got me paying attention to what he was spitting. And of course, all those dudes have had rad projects along the way: Trey with Secret Chiefs 3, [Trevor] Dunn playing bass on everything and it all rips–fucking Slayer and, yeah, Anthrax.

Do you remember the first time you met Patton?

First time I met Mike was 2002ish. He came to this amazing hole-in-the-wall venue in San Francisco, The Pound, to sing some songs with my pal’s band [The Dillinger Escape Plan, with whom Patton recorded the IRONY IS A DEAD SCENE EP]. I remember him being the only one sporting a flannel and a gold chain [laughs]. Working with him and Ipecac Recordings on respective projects is great. Greg [Werckman, Ipecac Recordings founder and Patton’s manager] and Marc Schapiro do a killer job over there running the biz.

How did you get involved in directing the “Raping Your Mind” video, and what was the original plan?

Back in May, Mike sent me an e-mail asking if I wanted to work on the layout and packaging for the new THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY demo. After a while, I offered to animate a video. They originally were going to have me make a simple lyric clip, but I had already started to mock up some drawings they liked, so I figured, let’s embellish. I pretty much just went for it with the animation on my own. We have a similar sense of humor, and a love for the art of fuckery.

What were you trying to do visually, and how much of your imagery is to be included in the actual record packages?

With the animation, I was just trying to get a rise out of people, and drop some Easter eggs here and there for old Bungle fans. I did get to embellish on the packages a bit. But Junko [Mizuno] created the main bunny logos. As far as the album and variants go, Trevor was a huge help in the direction, since he is the human binder keeper of all the gratuitous old Polaroids and flyers. Trey was also a huge help on the sigil designs. I highly suggest grabbing the Yearbook Edition for the candid photos.

You also directed the Halloween streaming concert’s trailer. Tell us about that.

So, Greg Werckman sent me a pompous advert from a self-absorbed rock star and said, “We need to parody this!” So I shot some footage and collected some from others, composed it all together and recorded the score using some beat-up old instruments. I acted as The Gimp for posterity. And, voilà… Originally, I had animated an advert that mimicked the Silver Shamrock commercial [from HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH]. But the opportunity to make a sarcastically pompous commercial to mock the other one was the way to go, I think.

Probably wasn’t an easy shoot, COVID-19-wise?

Some footage was shot by me, and some was shot by their respective significant others; huge thanks to them. For the narration, originally, a certain comedian was going to spew all over it, but then Mike got a missed voicemail from God [a.k.a. a pitch-shifted Werckman, as Spruance revealed in our interview], so we decided to let God speak to you all.

Livingston is currently working on another record project for Ipecac Recordings (to be released in 2021), and on DORMOUSE, a surreal horror feature currently set to air on Netflix in early 2022. For more information about Mr. Bungle’s Halloween streaming concert, click here.