Big Black

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Big Black
Background information
Origin Chicago
Years active 19811987
Label(s) Touch and Go Records, Homestead Records, Ruthless Records

Big Black was one of the most important Chicago punk bands of the 1980s. They are one of the Big Four and released a bevy of albums and EPs before breaking up in 1987. Fronted by Steve Albini and lead on guitar by Naked Raygun founder Santiago Durango with Naked Raygun's Jeff Pezzati on bass, and later Dave Riley on bass after Pezzati left the band due to the pressures of touring and recording with Raygun.

Big Black was very often hard bass driven and heavy, aggressive, with an industrial edge and used a drum-machine, and Albini along with Naked Raygun were very much responsible not only for Chicago's founding punk sound, but also for influencing the early industrial music genre born in the Midwest primarily in Chicago and Detroit around the same time. While they are recognized for the dawn of punk music in Chicago and its original, unconventional sound - contributing nothing like what came out of New York, London or the West but instead an entirely unique unconventional approach to punk - they are less mentioned for in part influencing/creating a whole new genre of music simultaneously that became popular later on during the 1990s with the likes of producers such as Trent Reznor and also influenced bands like The Cure, Killing Joke, and many other New Wave groups, and even the Seattle alternative grunge explosion. Among a slew of other genres including punk, noise-rock, post-hardcore, etc., Big Black could also be labeled as pre-industrial. With the use of a drum machine and a commanding sound that left audiences numb, they were a crucial predecessor to the burgeoning industrial music genre, producing music and results that was far beyond the groups that would go on to adopt industrial like Ministry, Nine Inch Nails and Erasure.

After disbanding in 1987, Albini went on to start Rapeman and later Shellac, as well as becoming a mega engineer, producing the likes of Nirvana, Sonic Youth, The Pixies, and many others.


Short Term Members


  • Lungs EP - (Ruthless, December 1982)
  • Bulldozer EP - (Ruthless, December 1983)
  • Racer-X EP - (Homestead, 1984)
    • Engineered by Iain Burgess
  • Rema Rema 7" - (Forced Exposure magazine giveaway, 1985)
  • Il Duce 7" - (Homestead, 1986)
  • Atomizer LP - (Homestead, 1986)
    • Engineered by Iain Burgess
  • The Hammer Party (compilation album) - (Homestead, 1986)
  • Headache 12" - (Touch and Go, 1987)
  • Heartbeat 7" - (Touch and Go, 1987)
  • He's a Whore/The Model 7" - (Touch and Go, 1987)
  • Songs About Fucking LP - (Touch and Go, 1987)
  • Sound of Impact Live LP - (Walls Have Ears, 1987)
  • The Rich Man's Eight Track (compilation album) - (Touch and Go, 1987)
  • Pigpile (live) - (Touch and Go, 1992)

Video Albums

  • Pigpile - (VHS - Touch and Go, 1992)



Steve Albini was briefly involved with the band Stations, during which David Stowell would often use a Roland PR-808 drum machine for sequencing. Though he did not spend much time with Stations, Albini got his first real exposure with the drum machine and bought one on his own. He spent extensive time after that getting acclimated with the drum machine and recorded his first demo (which would go on to be the Lungs EP) mostly by himself in his apartment in Uptown. While attending local shows in the 80/81 timeframe, Steve got to know the manager of The Effigies, Jon Babbin. He gave Babin a copy of the demo and mentioned to him that he was looking for other people to join his project. Babin gave the demo to Jeff Pezzati who liked what he heard and joined up with Albini.

The Coach House and Bulldozer

In 1983 Jeff and Steve began practicing at a coach house at 1129 W. Drummond, where Pezzati lived with Santiago Durango and others. The basement of the coach house had a rehearsal area where Naked Raygun and other bands practiced during that time. One Sunday while Pezzati and Albini were practicing, the two of them were making such a racket that Santiago couldn't hear what was on the TV. Giving up on trying to watch TV, he went down to the basement and decided to join in on the practice session. The rest as they say is history. Though Durango was part of the Bulldozer EP his role was more of an ancillary one, as most of the songs had already taken shape before he became a regular member of the band.

Racer X

With Racer-X, Big Black moved from local collaborative/label Ruthless Records to New York based Homestead Records. Albini had reservations about moving to a label outside of Chicago and as a result signed a deal that licensed their records to Homestead for a set period of time instead of giving them outright ownership. This turned out to be a shrewd move as after Homestead imploded from mismanagement Big Black was able to get the Homestead catalog re-released on Touch and Go Records. After the release of Racer-X (and East coast tour) Pezzati left the band. It wound up being too tough to juggle both Naked Raygun and Big Black, as Raygun was well on their way to being one of the biggest bands in Chicago. Dave Riley agreed to join the band at the end of 1984 and began working with Big Black in February 1985.

2006 "Reunion"

On September 9, 2006 Big Black played at short set at the Touch and Go Records 25th Anniversary festival, their first show in nearly 20 years. With the original lineup of Albini, Durango and Pezzati, Big Black played Cables, Pigeon Kill, Dead Billy and Racer X. Albini stated at the show that he was doing it strictly as a "thank you" to Touch and Go and Corey Rusk, so don't expect another Big Black show in the near future.

YouTube clips

External links