Mink Funk were initially a supergroup, of sorts. Except none of the band members were particularly famous. Vocalist Pat Dubar had previously been a member of Uniform Choice; Reed St Mark had drummed with Celtic Frost; Louis Svitek and John Monte had both previously been with thrash/punk outfit M.O.D. and Jason Coppola had previously worked with Chemical Waste.
The music on ‘Mind Funk’ doesn’t really fit in with the musicians’ previous careers. It’s largely made up of punchy hard rock with occasional funk metal influences. The album was released with a lot of hype. The band graced the pages of all the metal magazines and even gave an interview on British television (as part of the classic Raw Power programme). However, none of the press hype translated into album sales.
John Monte’s bass playing is the main driving force behind Mind Funk. His style is energetic and often takes the lead, but never at the expense of what are generally melodic metal songs. For ‘Big House Burning’, Mind Funk demonstrate what they’re best at, as Monte’s funky bass collides with a relentless guitar riff, with a slightly old school style edge. The sheer energy here should have made this track an MTV rock favourite. ‘Ride & Drive’ (incidentally the first Mind Funk track I heard, as it was featured on a free cassette with Metal Hammer in May 1991), sounds like a cross between a sleazy 80s band and something a bit funky, though never in a Chili Peppers sense. Dubar’s vocal isn’t great and musically it feels a little muddled. The only redeeming feature is a scorching guitar solo.
‘Sweet Sister Blue’ provides the album with something gentler. It’s essentially acoustic based rock, but with a quirky time signature. Although Mind Funk have moments where they sound great playing their hybrid of metal, funk and 80s style hard rock, here they sound far more at ease. Pat Dubar is in fine voice - occasionally reminiscent of Mike Patton - and the fusion of acoustic and electric guitars provide an excellent backdrop. The bluesy electric guitar leads are great, but it’s the Spanish guitar solo which provides the real element of surprise and shows imagination.
The rest of the album has its moments: ‘Sugar Ain’t So Sweet’ packs a hard punch with Reed St Mark’s drumming driving the band forward; ‘Blood Runs Red’ and ‘Touch You’ turn up the funky elements and although Monte’s bass is still upfront, ‘Innocent’ has a no-nonsense hard rock approach. In fact, the only time the album really misfires is on the slower, slightly dirgy ‘Fire’, where the band sound fine but there’s no real energy.
Following the release of the album, Mind Funk were dropped by Epic Records. Reed St Mark and Jason Coppola left the band. Ex-Nirvana and Soundgarden man Jason Everman became their full-time guitarist. They released a second album (‘Dropped’) which eschewed the main elements which made the debut enjoyable and, as such, was little more than a grungy piece of boredom. A third release, ‘The People Who Fell From The Sky’, was different again: With only Dubar and Svitek remaining from the original line-up (Everman too had since upped and gone), they became a Kyuss style stoner rock band. While more enjoyable than ‘Dropped’, the album had little in common with the original Mind Funk. After their split, Pat Dubar became a core member of Corporate Avenger and Louis Svitek worked on and off as Minstry’s live guitarist (as he had previously, between Mind Funk projects).
Since Mind Funk’s first album had received such great press, I’m still not sure why their future wasn’t wide open. Their relative failure was possibly due to their brand of funk-tinged hard rock coming along a little too late, hence their desperately changing styles to fit in with more popular sub-genres over their next two releases. It doesn’t really matter though: just listen to ‘Big House Burning’ and take yourselves back in time.
[Mind Funk’s debut album was reissued in January 2010 by Cherry Red Records with three bonus tracks.]