ULTRABUNNY is a “Noise Rock” act that has a long pedigree in DIY and Alternative Culture scenes on the East Coast. Their stage act involves weird costumes, masks, a light show and sometimes Go- Go dancing. Their recordings are well received, come in strange formats, and are filed under “Ubiquitous Ephemera” at better record shops on the east coast. Over their respective careers they have continually pushed music into new and uncharted territories. Bob and Malcolm have been playing together for over 20 years. They remain at large.
Bobby Bunny: Hi, Iím Bobby Bunny.† Iím lead vocalist, play guitar and other non-traditional noise making instruments such as delays, pitch-shifters and modulation and perform on my homemade Korgasmatron Mk II, and in a studio setting I take our studio recordings, and do overdubs, add synths, more guitars or bass, effects and more vocals, and then mix and master them for whatever medium they will be released on.† I also make the band websites and share graphic design duties with Malcolm.† If you talk to Ultrabunny on Facebook or MySpace or wherever you see us online, thatís me as well.
Malcolm Tent: Bass, guitar, drum, cheap keyboard, claves. I started this band with Bobby Bunny in 2002 after I almost died from a spider bite.
Bob: The story of Ultrabunnyís genesis is both long and not very flattering.† Essentially, Malcolm and I had created a band called BunnyBrains in 1988 and throughout the 90s it had changed to something we no longer enjoyed participating in.† One night in 2002 we decided to take it back to our original vision and started playing shows as BunnyBrains 88.† Despite the fact that I had created the band name 14 years previously, and specifically wrote in the manifesto that BunnyBrains were meant to be a ìfranchisableî band allowing multiple bands to be called BunnyBrains if they so wished to be and as long as they connected to each other in spirit, the other Bunnies gave us grief and bizarrely threatened us with legal action, so we chose the name Ultrabunny to let it be know we were the True Bunnies.
When the band started was there any sort of goal in mind? Were you trying to be like an act that influenced you?
Bob: Well in 1988 when we started BunnyBrains I was mainly inspired by awesomely funny noise bands of that time, such as Happy Flowers, Butthole Surfers and subconsciously, Flipper, (who was the first live band I had ever seen)† But on the founding of Ultrabunny we were honestly ONLY inspired and influenced by ourselves from 1988.† We wanted to recapture the freeform fun and limitless expression of the 1988 BunnyBrains.
Malcolm: My goal has always been maximus raucous. I personally do not emulate anyone, although when I was a kid I wanted to be Mark Farner.
I’ve seen the live shows, is the recording process vastly different?
Malcolm: We record in exactly the same way we perform on stage, minus the strobes and smoke machine and pig heads. We get together in a room, and wing it. The only difference is that in the studio we might redo a track a couple of times, looking for different ways to approach it. Later we might overdub some stuff. But fundamentally, we record live and in the moment.
Bob: Well, our records are either pure live recordings, done on analog 4 track, usually edited segments from various shows put out as a single album, and these are entirely done by Malcolm.††Or we go into a studio and record the drums, bass and guitar in one take on Malcolmís 4 track cassette deck or 16 track digital deck and then I do all the rest (add guitars, overdubs and vocals) at home on Garageband or Logic Pro and send these back to Malcolm for approval.††Occasionally we just record drums and bass††and I do everything else in headphones but I can get nitpicky if I have to think too much about it and those songs end up being a bit overproduced.
To digress for a moment; as individuals the two of you have had a long history of involvement in the Punk/Noise/Alternative scene. Could you go into that a bit?
Bob: Scenes come and go and while BunnyBrains had been embraced by the punk, alt and noise scenes, Ultrabunny is not welcome there.† We are considered either too rock for the noise people or too noise for the rock people. We get along with all the bands we play with but its never really been a scene.† Individually, Malcolm has deep roots in the Florida and CT hardcore scenes of the 80s and I was involved sort of in the indie alternative scene when I played in Beme Seed back in 1990, but I certainly am not a scenester.† I would say Ultrabunny are loner iconoclasts.† Always outside the fringes of whateverís currently popular.
Malcolm: When I first learned that there was such as thing as a local band that could play a local venue and release music on a local label, it was very hard to go back to arena rock. I started my first punk band in 1983 and Iíve been going pretty much nonstop ever since then. Donít die…. DIY.
Long story short: I am co- owner of Trash American Style, which for 21 years was a brick + mortar record store. When our grease eating, scum cooking landlord screwed us out of our lease in 2007, we took Trash on the road. Since then we’ve been peddling vinyl and related culture from the back of a station wagon and from our kitchen. No griddle scraping landlord is going to make us work a job.
Since 1984 I’ve had a label called TPOS. My main mission in with the label is to release music that I like, which these days is mostly by myself and by Ultrabunny. In the past I’ve released material by Antiseen GG Allin, Atom And His Package, Charles Manson, Drop Dead, THOR, Harvey Sid Fisher, 76% Uncertain, Agothocles, and a host of others.
What I’ve always striven to achieve with the store and the label is to get music and ideas out to the public that would otherwise be difficult to access. I love turning people on to new ideas and new sounds and I get off bigtime on receiving new sounds and new ideas from my friends, fans, and customers. Beats working a job any ol’ day
How do you manufacture and distribute your new vinyl offerings?
Bob: Malcolm does all of that
Malcolm: we get pressed through the usual channels, i.e. a pressing plant somewhere. Distribution is done mainly at gigs and on tour. There are a few record stores that carry our releases (and they are listed on our website) but we have our greatest success peddling directly to the survivors of our shows.
Although UB rarely plays outside the east coast, what are the audience reactions like?
Malcolm: Actually, we play a lot in Ohio and people dig us there. Our friends and fans in Ohio are demonstrative and supportive and we love them. We do fairly well in the South as well. Chicago was also a good stop. Audience reactions are typically the same wherever we go. When we start playing, we clear a bunch of the audience out of the room, but whoever remains grooves on what we do. There seems to be a higher proportion of people who remain to people who leave when we play out of state.
Bob: Actually we play the mid-west more often than the east coast, or so it seems.† Pretty much any show outside of our home base of Connecticut or New York City gets us a great audience.† Locals are really blase at times.† I guess that comes with living in the big city, you cant put too much attention into every show you see, but in smaller cities the enthusiasm is much greater.† But it really depends on the venue, some NYC or CT shows weíve done were very well appreciated and probably the most fun weíve had was playing on a sidewalk in the Dominican neighborhood of northern Manhattan where people off the street just stopped in their tracks to watch us and gave us all sorts of compliments. Weíve never been ridden out of town on a rail, I think that even if only 3 people showed up to see us (it HAS happened) that those 3 really enjoyed themselves and wondered why so many others missed out, which in a way makes us a cooler experience as weíre still under the radar and a good band to follow if youíve ìseen it allî already.
I’ve alternately been told all of UB’s “songs” are improv or that they are meticulous weird structures. Which is it?
Malcolm: A mix of both. We have a few set pieces but we never play them the same way twice. ìSquirrel Attackî is the closest we have to a ìcompositionî and itís constantly morphing. Every time we change drummers the set pieces obtain a new feel and approach.
Bob: Thatís really up to you to decide.† We do our part in making the music and its entirely your job to decipher it.
UB seems to have gone through a few drummers. What sort of Spinal Tap thing is going on there?
Malcolm: Drummers be weird! Even by our standards.
Bob: Weíve had 3 drummer in 10 years.† Our first moved away to Philly and commuting to shows was just very inconvenient.† Our second had grander aspirations of playing guitar and we encouraged that, just not with us.† Our current drummer plays in a pop band on the side but likes the challenge of making cutting edge noise rock.† Perhaps one day we will find a drummer who can dedicate themselves to our eternal vision, but then again they may just explode.† It happens.
Every couple of years the noise “scene” surfaces briefly in the music press. What do you think of the idea of a noise scene? Was there ever such a thing?
Malcolm: Iíve never seen evidence of such a thing, but I live on a chicken farm in Connecticut.
Bob: Yeah, Noise is always coming around for each new generation who thinks its a novel pursuit.† what these kids are lacking though is basic rock roots.† Its hard to describe but thereís a huge difference between compelling noise and dull noise and like any art it takes lots of experience.† My major gripe with the noise kids is their lack of stage etiquette, taking way too long to set up and tear down for only a 15 minute set where they turn their back to the audience.† Regardless of your musical bent, you are still a performer and should act like one, not just goofing around in your momís basement.† Beyond that I doubt noise will ever go mainstream, well except for computer sequenced glitch techno type stuff, just because its so unstructured and atonal.† It gets popular for a while then retreats and disappears until some journo rediscovers it.
Of the instruments in the live show, which have you invented or modified?
Malcolm: My gear is all standard, but I like to detune a lot. I also enjoy using my bass as a percussion instrument and Iím investing soon in a violin bow.
Bob: Weíre a basic rock set up of guitar, bass and drums, but I always pay attention to new ways to make sound, as long as its easy to set up and use in a touring situation and wont break easily.† So I invented the Korgasmatron which is a Fender Telecaster body with various and changeable synths and effects Velcro-ed to it.† The equivalent of these suitcases of tables full of gear the noise kids use, but more presentable and requiring no set up.† Its currently comprised of 3 tiny Korg synths, two iPhones, an iPod and a microcassette player, but it will expand or contract as I find better and simpler gear to use.† Ideally Iíd love to just velcro two iPad Minis and 3 iPod touches to it as music apps for iOS devices are reaching an amazing potential.† Iím also building a keyboard version based on a Korg Poly800 †which is also self contained, strappable, †and battery powered.
Why the decision to press vinyl records in the age of the MP3? Do you think the music industry as it is has much of a future?
Malcolm: Unfortunately, the music industry is a malignant cancer which will not go away. We choose to stay far outside of it because trying to play their game is a losing proposition. They are evil and clever and have a highly developed survival instinct.
As far as vinyl, vinyl sounds best. It has romance and resonance. Itís fun to watch a record spin on the turntable. MP3ís are ear torture and have no personality whatsoever. You canít make a hand numbered, hand assembled limited edition MP3 and show it to your friends.
Bob: I pretty much feel the music industry is long dead and should stay dead. There’s nothing coming out of the industry that interest me at all, except reissues of music I already own. We make records because records are real. I have no problem with mp3s, especially for convenience. I pretty much only listen to mp3s (on my phone while on the subway) and thatís fine. But I still love records because they are an object with weight and worth and emotional attachment. When I pick up one of the records in my collection I know it has a history, and provided enjoyment to myself or a lineage of previous owners dating back to its pressing which in many cases in 40 years ago.
I grew up not only listening to vinyl, but my dad collected Edison Diamond Discs and Wax Cylinders from 100+ years ago and it gives me pleasure to know our records may still be in someone’s collection in 2112. (next to a Rush album perhaps?)
Could you quickly summarize the formation of the original BUNNYBRAINS and the events that led to the birth of ULTRABUNNY?
Malcolm: I joined the BunnyBrains on the second day of their existence. Soon thereafter, I invited this individual to be our lead singer. The resultant collaboration produced some rewarding moments, but it was ultimately more trouble than it was worth. After a few years, I quit the BunnyBrains. I gave the band to the lead singer and took some time off from the concept. Meanwhile, Bob and I would see each other periodically and we’d always talk about collaborating again.
Hence, Ultrabunny. Weíve been at it over 10 years now and Iíve loved every moment of it.
Bob: Did that in question 1
Quick! Dream show and venue? Best show and venue so far?
Malcolm: Flipper once talked of wanting to have Journeyís PA system and a sports arena and putting on a gig and having 10 people show up. I rather like that idea.
Bob: Best show so far was our last show.† (Lit Lounge NYC, Nov 2012)† But really, honestly we keep getting better and I’m amazed that each show is more fun than the last, especially after playing together for 25 years.
Dream show would be hard to say.† Iím pretty much over opening for bands I’ve idolized since Iíve already done it.† And we realize our music sounds best in the setting of a smaller house so huge venues are not on our wish list.† My dream for the last 25 years still stands at having 15 die hard fans in each city come to see us and touring the country with that in mind.† Thatís really all I secretly desire.
Malcolm: So many! The Happy Dog in Cleveland; Stone Tavern in Kent, OH; Amma House in Arlington, VA; Gebo House in Brooklyn; The Empty Bottle in Chicago; and The El ëní Gee in New London, CT all come to mind immediately. Even playing Shea Stadium in Brooklyn in the sub freezing cold was an experience to remember.
Bob: Thanks Kevin for the questions and the opportunity to express ourselves non-musically!
Interview with Ultrabunny by Sarah Pelletier – 2005
1) Could you introduce yourself?
Bobby: We’re Ultrabunny, from Danbury, CT. We changed our name from BunnyBrains 88, to declare our domination of all bunny bands, and also cuz there’s a rumor going around that all bands with the number 88 in them are neo-nazi skinheads. I have no idea how that started, but suffice to say, we have far too much hair to be skinheads.
2) Could you tell me about the other band members in the band?
Pete: They are twice my age and have longer hair than I do
3) How did you guys meet and how long have you been a band?
Bobby: I used to frequently go to Malcolm’s store Trash American Style back when it first opened in 1986 or 7, and I always bugged him with my shameless self promotion of my band Invaders From Sears. His band and mine played a few shows together and then we started playing in each others bands and starting new side projects every week. BunnyBrains was one of these projects; it wasn’t either of our main bands, but it was where we could get out our most creative aggressions. We intended it to be “the worst band ever in the history of the world” and sadly, their are many more bands out there that ended up worse than we were. So basically Malcolm and I have been playing together on and off for most of two decades. Pete is also a regular customer at Trash and thus when we were looking to reunite the original BunnyBrains and needed a drummer, Malcolm recruited Pete and it was a very wise choice I must say.
4) What type of band do you consider yourself and what type of people are you reaching out towards?
Pete: As Bob has said, “We’re a band for “fucked up deaf people with no shame or taste.”
Malcolm: We walk through a 50 foot thick styrofoam wall and we attract those with the fortitude to walk with us.
Bob: Yeah, that says it pretty much. We’re NOT a whole bunch of types of band, like we’re not a noise band, not a psych band, not stoner rock, not space rock and not pretty much of any one genre really. We dont really have any peers that sound like us, which is sad, cuz we’d love to be part of a scene. We’d love to reach out to everyone who’s tired of mainstream music and our goal is to corrupt the disenfranchised youth of america and abroad. Listen to us and be loathed and pitied by your friends.
5) Who have influenced you guys?
Bobby: People always compare us to Flipper, but its not a conscious influence for me, just a coincidence. BunnyBrains back in 88 was originally inspired by Happy Flowers and Butthole Surfers, but with our bent. Lately I find myself looking to classic rock a bit (Lynyrd Skynyrd for example), or back to basics like Eno.
6) What other bands have you guys played in?
Pete: 7 Mary 3
Bobby: Pete was in The Fugue and a few other local bands. Malcolm was in a bunch of punk, hardcore and death metal bands, and I played in this psych band on Rough Trade called Beme Seed. Malcolm and I played for GG Allin at one time.
7) do u have a record label? if not who would you like to sign u guys?
Pete: Death Row
Bobby: We have two new records out on Equation. Its a US/UK boutique label for connoiseurs of collectible vinyl, run by Bill Bailey, who is our good friend and a big Hawkwind fan. We also have some CDs out on Malcolm’s house label TPOS, famous for Antiseen and GG Allin (going strong for 21 years now), and my net label Bilge Dasto. We have a few small labels who are fans of ours and we’re open to working with any on a project by project basis, but the days of being signed are pretty much over. A contract is pretty much limited to one record these days.
8) Have you recorded any albums? how many?
Pete: Every show is an album if it’s recorded
Bobby: Yeah, Ultrabunny (BunnyBrains 88) has 2 vinyl records out (The Squirrel Attack ep box set in its varied forms) and about 10 live CDs. We’re hoping to put out a double live album soon and then go into the studio and work on finishing our full length studio album. We also have old stuff from our early days (BunnyBrains ’88 Demo, TheBunnyBrains Double LP) and some rarities lying around in bins somewhere. As the BunnyBrains, we did a bunch of stuff, but thats not that important right now.
9) What are your favorite songs on these albums?
Pete: This Year The Theme of the Prom is The Tetragrammaton
Malcolm: Kuwait from the Double LP
Bobby: We’re not really about songs per se, it more about the performances, since we improv everything. We’ve had some excellent live shows, but only a few were recorded. If I had to pick something form the records, I’d sayContracted Civilian Interrogator from the new Squirrel Attack box set, and Envelopes & Toaster Ovens from the ’88 Demo.
10) do you ever get nervous before performances?
Malcolm: No, but I feel bad for the audience sometimes
Bobby: Sometimes, but it always goes away the moment I hit the stage.
11) What’s your favorite part of being in a band?
Pete: Playing music
Malcolm: Ecstatic peace
Bobby: getting to hear the music really loud and entertaining people
12) Are you guys having fun?
Bobby: Of course, we have the most fun band ever, we really like each other and we love our audience, how much more fun can you have?
13) What are your plans for the future?
Pete: Hopefully try to keep the kewlness, right?
Malcolm: Crush Maim, Mutilate, Crucify
Bobby: More music, more shows, more records, merch, media, just more of what we do and we wont stop even if you beg us to..
Thanx sooo much for the interview you guys!