Secret Chiefs 3 (or SC3) is an instrumental rock group led by guitarist/composer Trey Spruance (formerly of Mr. Bungle and Faith No More). Their studio recordings and tours have featured different line-ups, as the group performs a wide range of musical styles including surf rock, Persian, Arab, Indian, death metal, film music, electronic music, and various others.
The band's name was inspired by the "Secret Chiefs" said to inspire and guide various esoteric and mystical groups, and is a reflection of Spruance's interest in such philosophies.
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 The Electromagnetic Azoth, UR, Ishraqiyun, Traditionalists, Holy Vehm, FORMS, and NT Fan.
The albums Book of Horizons (2004) and Satellite Supersonic Vol. 1 (2010) were conceived as compilation albums featuring the satellite bands under their own names. All bands have appeared on at least one of these albums. Some satellite bands have also released records on their own. So far, five of the satellite bands have had tracks featured across a series of six 7" singles and Traditionalists have delivered a full-length album.
The Electromagnetic Azoth specialize in electroacoustic music. Spruance has referred to them as the center of the Secret Chiefs 3 because they often employ sound collages to combine motifs associated with the other satellite bands. Material released under their name can be found on the albums Book of Horizons and Satellite Supersonic Vol. 1.
UR has released two EPs -- Kulturvultur / Drive and Circumambulation / Labyrinth of Light -- and a split EP with The Electromagnetic Azoth titled The Left Hand of Nothingness / Personnae: Halloween. Spruance describes the band's music as "suprasensory surf"; the band's musical style combines surf rock with Persian, Arabic and Indian musical elements. UR has also covered movie themes such as "Halloween" and "Exodus".
Fans have speculated that all songs by Secret Chiefs 3 bearing the "Book T" prefix (for instance, on Second Grand Constitution and Bylaws) are the work of UR, "Book T: The Exodus" being the only title confirmed so far. All of the Book T songs contain elements of surf rock, thus fitting Spruance's description of the band.
Ishraqiyun are a seven-piece band with an instrumentation including dhol, saz, rabab, esraj and drums. Their music has been described as an "acultural, neo-Pythagorean enterprise into heavy electro-folk" borrowing heavily from Turkish and Central Asian music. The band stands out due to their frequent use of complex time signatures. So far, Ishraqiyun have released material the Book of Horizons and Satellite Supersonic albums, as well as a split 7" single with Electromagnetic Azoth, Balance of the 19 / Ubik.
According to Mimicry Records the Traditionalists are "decidedly walking in the footprints of the Great Masters of cinema music". So far, material by the Traditionalists can be found on Book of Horizons as well as on the album Le Mani Destre Recise Degli Ultimi Uomini (2009) and the 7" single La Chanson de Jacky / The Western Exile (2012), which have both been released under their name. Le Mani Destre is a score to an imaginary giallo horror film, inspired by the work of several Italian film composers, such as Ennio Morricone or Goblin. "La Chanson de Jacky" was originally composed by Jacques Brel in 1965 and, in its Traditionalists version, features vocals by Mike Patton. "The Western Exile" finally is a rearrangement of the song "The Exile" found on Book of Horizons.
Mimicry describes Holy Vehm as an "ultra-death metal grind band". The band features John Merryman of Cephalic Carnage on drums, Jesse Quattro, Jessica Kinney, and Unhuman on vocals, and Trey Spruance (credited as "The Enemy") on bass, guitar and sampling. According to Spruance, the band's music "employs Boulez-ish atonal serialism, played in dastgah tunings". So far Holy Vehm have only released two songs on Book of Horizons but Spruance announced in a 2008 interview that he plans to release a full-length Holy Vehm album for The End Records.
The music of FORMS has been likened to funeral marches and ballads. Apart from their material on Book of Horizons, FORMS have released the song "Radar" on a split EP with Ishraqiyun. The song reinterprets a theme from the 1951 film The Day the Earth Stood Still, originally composed by Bernard Herrmann.
SC3's music, album artwork, liner notes, and lyrics feature theological and philosophical themes influenced by Henry Corbin, Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi, Aryeh Kaplan, Julius Evola, René Guénon, Hakim Bey/Peter Lamborn Wilson, Seraphim Rose, and many others.
Spruance formed the band in the mid-1990s with fellow Mr. Bungle members Trevor Dunn on bass and Danny Heifetz on drums. Some of the many musicians who have since recorded or toured with SC3 include violinist Eyvind Kang, percussionist William Winant, drummer Ches Smith, bassist Shahzad Ismaily, former Mr. Bungle member Clinton "Bär" McKinnon, and Estradasphere members Timb Harris, Jason Schimmel, and Tim Smolens. Musicians tend to float in and out of SC3, so the concept of "current" and "former" members isn't entirely applicable.
Below is a list of past and present members, guests and collaborators:
Trey Spruance -- guitars (electric guitar, bass guitar, baritone guitar, microtonal guitar, 12-string guitar, sympitar, Pythagorean guitar), keyboards (keyboard, electric piano, acoustic piano, tack piano, clavinet, organ, celesta), percussion (dumbek, shaker, tambourine, glockenspiel, daf, etc.), santur, rabab, banjo, mandolin, zither, tar, cümbüş, saz, carillon, dulcimer, autoharp, trumpet, sheng, synthesizer, sampler, programming, Foley sound effects, electroacoustic treatment, vocals,
Lucas Abela -- power drill,
Dave Abramson -- drums,
Laura Allen -- vocals,
Anonymous 13 -- viola, vocals,
Jennifer Cass -- harp,
April Centrone - drums, percussion,
Matt Chamberlain -- drums,
Paul Dal Porto -- sitar,
Mike Dillon -- vibraphone, tabla,
Rich Doucette - sarangi,
Toby Driver - bass guitar,
Trevor Dunn -- bass guitar, vocals,
Phil Franklin - drums, percussion,
Laurie Goldstein -- cello,
Jesse Greere -- vocals,
Kenny Grohowski - drums,
Timb Harris -- violin, viola, trumpet,
Danny Heifetz -- drums, percussion (riq, zil, tambourine, shaker, dumbek), trombone,
Kris Hendrickson -- autoharp, vocals,
Bill Horist -- prepared guitar,
Shahzad Ismaily -- bass guitar, percussion (dhol, mridangam, ghatam, zil, etc.),
Eyvind Kang -- violin, viola, cello, erhu,
Fatima Khanoam - santur,
Jai Young Kim -- keyboards, B3 organ,
Jessica Kinney - vocals,
Kevin Kmetz - shamisen,
Ursula Knudson - bowed saw,
Peijman Kouretchian - drums,
John Wayne Law - bass guitar,
Matt Lebofsky - keyboards,
Clinton "Bär" McKinnon -- saxophone, flute, keyboards, percussion,
John Merryman - drums,
Mike Patton - vocals,
KT Pierce - vocals,
Jesse Quattro - vocals,
Jason Schimmel -- acoustic guitar, fuzz guitar, cümbüş mandolin, vocals,
Monica Schley - harp,
Shamou -- percussion (darbuka, riq),
Ches Smith - drums, congas,
Tim Smolens -- bass guitar, upright bass, cello, contrabass, cello,
Adam Stacey - clavinet,
Hans Teuber -- flute,
Gregg Turkington - vocals,
Unhuman - vocals,
William Winant -- drums, percussion (frame drum, tabla, marimba, vibraphone, shaker, glockenspiel, gong, tubular bell, kanjira, timpani, cymbal, bell, zil, hammered dulcimer, etc.)