The wait’s been more than a decade, but Blind Idiot God is finally releasing their 4th record, ‘Before Ever After’ on the Indivisible Music label, co-produced by Bill Laswell and band guitarist Andy Hawkins, in vinyl, CD and downloadable formats. For 32 years the band has been creating timeless, boundary-defying instrumental music, and now BIG is back.
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 were too numerous to mention.
In 1986 the band moved to New York City and recorded their self-titled first album with producer Martin Bisi, released by SST Records in 1987. It was a critical success, described as “an extraordinary debut” by All Music writer Brian Olewnick, who wrote “the three musicians exhibited startling originality and impressive technique both on their instruments and in the depth and style of their compositions.” Listeners appreciated the range of playing, the meshing of three distinct styles, and the forging of connections between them, both bold and subtle as the band obliterated the limits of the categorical.
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.” A third LP, “Cyclotron,” also produced by Laswell, was released in 1991 on Avant Records, the label curated by iconic saxophonist/composer John Zorn. Zorn also recorded with the band on the track “Purged Specimen” on “Undertow.” Both albums received near unanimous critical acclaim. As Blind Idiot God’s music became more ambitious, Bill Laswell’s masterful sonic translation brought the band’s musical vision into ever sharper focus.
For the 13 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 John Zorn, Buddy Miles, Tim Berne, Joey Baron, and Henry Rollins. The Henry Rollins BIG collaboration was the title track for director Alex Winter’s 20th Century Fox film Freaked. In 1996, drummer Ted Epstein left the band and BIG went on hiatus while searching for a new drummer. During that time guitarist Andy Hawkins released 2 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. The band began work on new material with looser structures to maximize Wyskida’s exceptional improvisational skills. After some setbacks, including Katz sitting out long periods with bad bouts of tendonitis and hearing maladies, the fourth LP began to take shape. BIG returned to the stage in 2006, performing well-received shows in NYC.
Beginning in 2009, the band finally began tracking with inimitable Power Station multi-platinum engineer and Laswell favorite Jason Corsaro. Laswell co-produced with guitarist Andy Hawkins on 2014’s 74-minute double LP “Before Ever After.” 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. Three tracks from the forthcoming Indivisible label LP are featured in Alex Winters’ new HBO documentary about the rise and fall of Napster, Downloaded. The gatefold double-vinyl LP artwork is a stunning example of artist Seldon Hunt’s finest LP designs (Neurosis, Earth, Melvins, Sunn). 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.
One of the most common remarks about Blind Idiot God is astonishment that more people don’t know of their long history as forbearers of the modern varieties of tech/prog music. BIG continues to explore, innovate, and defy convention and expectations. This is music made for its own sake, the band never wavering from their original groundbreaking approach, regardless of any countervailing temporal forces.