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Big Black

Big Black was started by Steve Albini in 1982 while he was living in Evanston, Illinois and attending Northwestern University. Contrary to popular belief, Big Black was not Steve’s first band. Prior to forming Big Black, Steve was in a band called Just Ducky, in Montana, a band called Small Irregular Pieces of Aluminum, in Chicago, and another band he is paying us not to mention.

Lungs, the first Big Black release, was recorded by Steve in 1982 on a borrowed four track. He played everything on the EP himself except the sax bleating courtesy of pal John Bohnen, and the drums courtesy of Roland. Lungs, was originally issued on the Chicago label Ruthless Records.

Soon after, Steve recruited Jeff Pezzati (Naked Raygun) to help him out on bass. Santiago Durango, another founding member of Naked Raygun, joined them on guitar. In 1983, together with live drummer Pat Byrne, they recorded the Bulldozer EP. It was initially released in a limited edition galvanized metal album jacket on Fever Records.

By 1984, the band did some touring and signed a deal with Homestead Records. They recorded one more time with Jeff Pezzati on bass, which resulted in their Homestead debut, the Racer X EP, and the start of the Il Duce 7". After that, Jeff returned full time to Naked Raygun, and he was replaced with Dave Riley.

In 1985, the new trio recorded Big Black’s first full length, Atomizer as well as finishing and releasing the Il Duce. 1986 saw the release of Atomizer, as well as the release the Hammer Party album which was a compilation of the Lungs EP and the Bulldozer EP.

Shortly after those releases, freed from their Homestead deal, Big Black came to Touch and Go and recorded the
Headache EP and Heartbeat 7” in the summer of 1986. The first limited edition pressing of the Headache EP (released in 1987) boasted artwork that would make any of today’s black metal bands foam gleefully at the mouth.

1987 was a very full year for Big Black. The Headache EP and Heartbeat 7” were released. They recorded and released the 7” of The Model/He’s A Whore, as well as their second full length album, Songs About Fucking. They toured extensively (for Big Black). And they broke up. To quote the album insert in Songs About Fucking: “Hey, breaking up is an idea that has occurred to far too few groups. Sometimes to the wrong ones.”

When they broke up, Santiago Durango decided to go to law school and is now a lawyer. While in law school, he released two EP’s on Touch and Go as Arsenal. Steve Albini went on to form Rapeman, and then Shellac. He also owns and operates Electrical Audio recording studio in Chicago. Over the past 20 years, both Steve and Santiago have been very kind to Touch and Go. We thank them for that.

In 1992, Touch and Go released a Big Black live album and video, titled Pig Pile, that were recorded (mostly) in 1987 during Big Black’s final tour. Someday, we might release the video on DVD. Until then, please don’t ask us about it.