B.I.G. – UNDERTOW

FACT FILE
Genre
Experimental Metal / Dub / Post-Hardcore
Members
Andy Hawkins – Guitar (1982-present)
Tim Wyskida – Drums (2001-present)
Will Dahl – Bass (2012-present)
Gabriel Katz – Bass (1982-2012)
Ted Epstein – Drums (1982-1992)
Hometown
Brooklyn, NY
Record label
Indivisible Records

Undertow, the re-issued second LP from Blind Idiot God (BIG) and the first produced by Bill Laswell, is a sonic realization of the unique, genre defying instrumental music of the band. Working with such diverse artists as Motörhead and Sly and Robbie, Laswell was uniquely positioned to bring the force and clarity necessary to deliver BIG’s sound to the uninitiated. The reissue of this album recorded in 1988, newly remastered and including bonus tracks from the same era, is further evidence of just how far ahead of their time Blind Idiot God was.

The bonus 45 RPM disc of the vinyl reissue includes their hard driving collaboration with Henry Rollins for the title track of the movie “Freaked,” remixed and including the original longer, never released version, as well as their collaboration with John Zorn, “Purged Specimen.” Tracks that expand further the tremendous width and breadth of their musical achievements, running straight through boundaries that hold others back.

Blind Idiot God have a long history as forbearers of modern varieties of tech/prog music. The band explores, innovates, and defies convention and expectations. Formed in St. Louis, Missouri in 1982 by guitarist Andy Hawkins, bassist Gabe Katz, and drummer Ted Epstein, the band’s first forays were distilled versions of punk, dub, and funk. The music discovered commonalities within the diverse formats, pioneering new possibilities while searching within the subterranean passages that exist between all great music. Musical inspirations among members included Black Flag, Black Uhuru, Led Zeppelin, 1970’s electric Miles Davis, Public Image Limited, Igor Stravinsky, The Tony Williams Lifetime and Gyorgy Ligeti.

In 1986 the band moved to New York City and recorded their self-titled debut with producer Martin Bisi (Sonic Youth, Swans, John Zorn). The album was released by SST Records in 1987. Blind Idiot God went on to make two more LPs with the original lineup. “Undertow,” released by Enemy Records in 1989, began a long relationship with visionary bassist/producer Bill Laswell. Richard Cook of the London Sunday Times described the record as of “full of melody as it is with bloody, battering noise.”

During the thirteen years Ted Epstein was a member, Blind Idiot God toured the US and Europe, performing with Black Flag, Helmet, The Minutemen, Jesus Lizard, and Sun Ra, among others. Live BIG was an unbridled, kinetic experience, described by The Wire’s Mark Sinker as “loud senssurround, violently static,” and prompting Ann Marlowe of The Village Voice to write: “Blind Idiot God’s sound checks are better than most bands’ entire shows.”

BIG also collaborated on recordings and festival performances with musicians such as Buddy Miles, Tim Berne, Joey Baron. In 1996, guitarist Andy Hawkins released two solo guitar records under the name Azonic on the Strata and Sub Rosa labels, as well as working with academy award winning composer Elliot Goldenthal on soundtracks for the movies Heat and In Dreams.

In 2001, Hawkins and Katz joined forces with Khanate drummer Tim Wyskida. In 2012, bassist Gabe Katz departed BIG and was replaced by talented New York veteran Will Dahl, whose resume includes everything from electric jazz improv to recording/touring with NYC metal core act Harley’s War.

In 2015 BIG released a long-anticipated new 74-minute double LP titled, Before Ever After, co-produced by Bill Laswell and Andy Hawkins. The new material featured looser structures to maximize Wyskida’s exceptional improvisational skills. The Obelisk hailed the release as “a dangerous kind of offering, able to turn on a dime between precision mathematics, reggae, crunching heavy riffage, surf rock and jazz in a wordless sprawl that makes a joke of most bands’ ideas of sonic diversity.” King Crimson bassist Trey Gunn angrily proclaimed “Heavy music that isn’t stupid and doesn’t think I am stupid. This stuff demands deep listening. Which means most music doesn’t.” Three tracks from album (“Barrage,” “High And Mighty,” and “Shutdown”) are featured in Alex Winters’ HBO documentary about the rise and fall of Napster titled, Downloaded. BIG followed the release with a month long tour of Europe, including a special Roadburn appearance which prompted The Sleeping Shaman to say “The set is really one big trip, going in all sorts of directions. Jagged hooks, jazzy interplay and the most incomprehensive set of drums (and the guy playing them) you’ll ever see. Carnivalesque at one moment and a reggae jam on the other, its one hell of a ride with the band that just released their first album in 23 years.”

Invisible Music plans to re-issue the remaining two out of print Blind Idiot God records in the near future. The band is currently rehearsing the material for the fifth Blind Idiot God record, to be released in 2018. While the format of three stylistically different approaches remains in place, the lines are further blurred, and the music has a new urgency as the band explores a more improvisational approach to the compositional ideas.