Tomahawk’s Trevor Dunn: The Gun Shy Interview

Trevor Dunn

While the rest of the music world’s eyes were on the Grammys last weekend, Tomahawk bassist Trevor Dunn was on a plane to Seattle, playing Sudoku, totally oblivious to the awards ceremony.

“I got to Seattle, had a reuben sandwich and a couple of beers and went to sleep — that was my Sunday night,” Dunn tells GunShyAssassin.

“I have never really given two shits about the Grammys. It’s nice to look at pretty girls in dresses no one can afford, but in terms of the categories, all that stuff is pretty meaningless to me,” Dunn continues. “It’s a popularity contest, and it’s flavor of the week. It’s all that sort of thing. It’s never had any bearing on what I do creatively or what I choose to listen to.”

That said, ”I wouldn’t complain if I got a Grammy myself. It would just mean more records sales and then maybe I could afford to get my car fixed.”

Dunn is a busy bassist. He is almost always traveling from one project to the next — a hired gun who never finds himself working with the same people. We’re talking because Tomahawk — his band with former Mr. Bungle bandmate Mike Patton — has a new album out called Oddfellows which I have heard, and it rules.

It is in stores now, and you should get it.

Seeing as he ripped Billie Joe Armstrong a new one not too long ago, I figured I’d ask Trevor to weigh in on this Halestorm controversy.

“Is Halestorm actually a band?,” he asks me. I love this dude; I tell him they are. “OK, I’ve never heard of them. I didn’t even know the Grammys happened until I woke up in my hotel room and saw the copy of USA Today under my door with it all over the cover.”

Dunn and I discuss the upcoming touring plans for Tomahawk, which will include a run of East Coast shows in late summer.

What is it like working with Tomahawk? “Well, it’s a pretty specific process with this band, because Duane [Denison] does the bulk of the writing, and then hands it off to [Mike] Patton, who comes up with vocal melodies and lyrics and stuff. So, me and John [Stanier], our role in this band is to do our job as a rhythm section.”

He pauses for a second.

“I have been playing with Patton in a band for 25 years, so for me, it’s a no brainer. The other guys are easy to work with. They are professional and really good musicians so when it gets down to the music, we don’t waste a lot of time. We all have a general idea of where the music’s going and what it needs.”

Speaking of Mike and that other band he was in with Patton, I have to ask Trevor if Mr. Bungle’s really been buried.

“Yeah, it’s almost guaranteed it’s not going to happen,” Trevor says, of a new Bungle LP. “That band I think said what we needed to say in the 1990s, and we’ve moved on to other things.”

Like Melvins Lite, which is the Melvins with Trevor on upright bass. While the Melvins are now working on promoting a covers release, Dunn says Melvins Lite is not done yet.

“We did 51 shows in 51 days and so the Melvins Lite is a band that basically I will always be part of,” Dunn explains. “I think we’re going to Europe in April for a short tour there, and yeah…there will be more from us on the horizon for sure. Those guys are workaholics, and I think I will be on one of those seven inches they are doing.”

What seven inches? This is when Dunn goes mum. Maybe no one was supposed to know.

Dunn’s got quite the life. He works with countless musicians of renown on projects as diverse as they are gifted.

“It’s totally weird. It is. I’m constantly traveling, constantly playing in a different band, hanging out with a different set of guys or gals or whatever. It’s a very sort of amorphous life.”

Dunn says his project Leverage Models (“I’m surprised you know about that”) has been touring, but he’s been too busy to join them. More music will be forthcoming form that band, too.

“I just recorded with the Nels Cline Singers,” Dunn says. “I was doing that in California, and I am not sure when the record will be out. Probably by the end of the year.”

He also works with a jazz quartets called Endangered Blood. “It’s just a bunch of Brooklyn-based guys, and we have a new record coming out,” he says.

The band boasts two saxophonists, Dunn on bass, and a drummer.

“I am also doing stuff with John Zorn this year,” Dunn said. “There’s pretty much something scheduled every month. We’re going to paris and up to Canada. Then there;s this band of Zorn’s called Moonchild that Patton’s also in is.”

Which brings me to the end, and I have to ask Trevor: You’re in so many bands — can you really not pay to get your car fixed?

“I am dong alright, man — I survive,” Dunn says. “As a musician, I am very fortunate. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I am a bass player and I play different types of music. I haven’t had a real job since I was 18 and worked at a pizza place. I can’t complain. I am eating. I can afford to get my car fixed — I’m just too lazy.”

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About Chris Harris

Chris Harris is an internationally-published music journalist and writer whose work has appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone, IFC, Revolver, Alternative Press, and Radar. The former news editor for Noisecreep, Harris also served as co-host for the site’s weekly podcast, “Creep Show." Before that, he spent four years writing for MTV News.