Secret Chiefs 3 are a fascinating and somewhat difficult to describe experimental music project led by Mimicry Records founder, Trey Spruance (Mr Bungle, former Faith No More). Spruance formed SC3 in the mid-1990s alongside a rhythm section consisting of fellow Mr Bungle band members Trevor Dunn (Fantomas, Melvins, John Zorn, Trio Convulsant, etc) on bass, and drummer, Danny Heifetz (drums), but the lineup has consistently mutated with a revolving door of musicians popping in and out of its ranks since its inception. With so many influences incorporated, it’s difficult to pin down exactly what they do, but their live shows often involve the group dressed as druids and, as I’ve described it in the past, “mixing intricate Eastern inspired melodies and string arrangements with the sound of the apocalypse rolling in.” The truth is that they draw from electronic, Persian, and Arab music, film scores, and endless other musical influences, while utilizing everything from horns, autoharps, and dulcimers to synthesizers, power drills, and everything in between. Among their previous and intermittent members, Secret Chiefs count violinist, Eyvind Kang; vibraphonist/master percussionist, Mike Dillon (Critters Buggin’, Garage-A-Trois, etc) and members of Santa Cruz “Bulgarian Surf” / “Romanian Gypsy-Metal” / “Spaghetti Eastern outfit, Estradasphere.
Since I don’t feel like trying to describe this next part, the following information comes via wikipedia:
“In 2007, it was announced Secret Chiefs 3 has always been a general name for seven different bands, each representing a different aspect of Spruance’s musical and philosophical interests. The seven bands are Electromagnetic Azoth, UR, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, Holy Vehm, FORMS, and NT Fan.”
Did you catch that? Anyway… this year alone, Secret Chiefs have dropped 3 different albums, with another appearing in 2016, all of them being web only releases. The most recent, titled Danse Macabre Superdeluxe, consists of 2 songs involving instrumentation such as flute, organ, piano, harp, and chimes and is attributed to the sub/pseudo/inner/side-band(?), FORM.
Back in 1996, a fairly unorthodox, avante-garde noise compilation full of Christmas tunes was released in Japan. Simply titled, The Christmas Album, it was comprised of left-field interpretations of holiday classics reimagined by such acts as Japanese noise titans Melt Banana (“White Christmas”) and Merzbow (“Silent Night”), as well as Chicago post-rock unit, Gastr Del Sol (“The Bells Of St. Mary”). For their cover, Secret Chiefs 3 took on/contributed “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause” featuring Gregg Turkington on vocals. Although Turkington is likely most well-known by his stand-up comedy alter-ego, Neil Hamburger “America’s Funny Man,” he’s been involved in and performed with several bands of his own over the years and even operated as tour manager for both Mr Bungle and Link Wray.
Earlier today, the following announcement popped up on SC3‘s social media:
“After the brand new Danse Macabre Superdeluxe release went up, Santa’s elves stumbled across a priceless old cassette. Now the old man’s dropped off a FREE GIFT for you to pick up at SC3’s bandcamp page! Karaoke version too. Original with Gregg Turkington (Neil Hamburger) on vocals!”
Check out/download both the original and instrumental versions of the track below, followed by a much more in-depth breakdown via their bandcamp page.
A seasonal obscurity from the archives, free from SC3!
With karaoke B-Side! Backstory: In 1996 William Winant, Trey Spruance and Gregg Turkington (here in character as some kind of depraved boarding house voyeur, not Neil Hamburger) entered Forking Paths studio to record a song for inclusion on a Japanese Christmas album. Other artists on the comp included Merzbow, Melt Banana, Hair Stylistics, God is My Co-Pilot, Gastor del Sol etc. A recently discovered cassette rough mix of this track without the lead vocals prompted this immediate release! The possibilities for your own disturbing yuletide karaoke enactments are enormous. Also FREE to the public! If the spirit of gift giving simply overtakes you after hearing this offering of questionable taste, have a look around at the other SC3 and WoM stocking stuffers on our bandcamp page.
Happy Holidays to you and yours!
released December 20, 2017
Gregg Turkington, vocals
William Winant, snare drum, timpani, tubular bells, glockenspiel, sleigh bells, castanets
Trey Spruance, backing vocals, organ, piano, pads
arranged, recorded, produced, mixed etc at Forking Paths SF by Trey Spruance
The B-side involved some salvaging of the far-from-perfect-audio (a more-than-two-decades-old cassette that’s been forgotten under a house for 18 years). So while we were at it, we went ahead and remastered the original track as well. This’ll be new to most of you in any case…