|Past members||Nick Disbray
Big Pig were a seven-piece Australian pop/rock band that existed from 1985 to 1991.
In 1983 Australian drummer Oleh Witer, frustrated over playing in a string of unsuccessful groups, travelled from Australia to London.
I'd been in four bands and nothing had really come of it. I put loads of effort into each group, and at the end we'd have nothing to show for it, except a lousy demo or something. And I thought, 'Well, right, if I'm gonna do it again, I'm gonna do it on my own terms completely. I'm going to write all the songs, I'm going to create something that's very different and I'm not going to compromise at all on my ideas.' And that's really what sparked it off.—Witer
When I saw them, the key to it was orchestration – that each guy had his own part. There was no improvisation at all. So from that point on, I knew how to do it. It was just a matter of getting the right people.—Witer
This incarnation of Big Pig involved eight or nine drummers, with Witer trying to sing over the poly-rhythmic din. Members of the band came and went. This early version of the band, which included fellow Australian drummer, Nick Disbray, performed a number of shows in London, one of which Sherine Abeyratne (a back-up singer, who had toured and recorded with various bands, including INXS, Jo Jo Zep, and the Rock Party) happened to attend.
Since I started joining bands eight years ago, as long as the music was high-energy, really strong, that was the criterion.—Abeyratne
Witer, Abeyratne and Tim Rosewarne had originally been in the band "Bang", however, Witer wanted an edgier, more experimental sound that also retained Bang's funky rhythms. When Witer's visa ran out he was forced to return to Melbourne. Later that year, he, Disbray and Abeyratne recruited two more drummers, Adrian Scaglione and Neil Baker, and harpist Tony Antoniades, with Tim Rosewarne on keyboards to complete the new line-up.
Big Pig made its concert debut in February 1986, and almost immediately began planning the release of a self-financed, independently-distributed record. In May, following the release of their independent three-track EP, for which Witer won an ARIA Award for Best Cover Art for the Big Pig EP at the first ARIA Awards in 1987. and with only five live shows under its belt, every major record and publishing company in the country offered lucrative contracts to the group. Mushroom Records became the band's label and re-released their debut EP, with bonus dance mixes of "Hungry Town" and "Money God". Their first album "Bonk" was recorded at Metropolis Studios in Melbourne, Rhinoceros Studios in Sydney, and Townhouse Studios in London, in 1987, with producer Nick Launay, and mixed in London later that year.
It took about 3½ months to do, and we used three tracks, "Hungry Town", "Money God" and "Devil's Song", as the basis for the album after we'd reworked them. All the tracks were first recorded in Australia, and then we mixed the album in London. The biggest problem in recording was successfully integrating all the percussion parts so that nothing got lost in the mix. It would be possible to play all the songs live in the studio, like a gig, but the problems of miking make it very difficult, so we built up each track bit by bit by first programming a drum machine, and then replacing those parts with live drums. And by using the drum machine feel as a foundation, it becomes much easier to record complex patterns, and once you get past the high hat, kick drum and snare, it all becomes a lot more fluid and a lot more human. We always fought against the idea of sounding too robotic just because so much of Big Pig`s sound is based on rhythms.—Witer
Bonk went gold, then platinum in Australia with three top-twenty singles ("Hungry Town" #14, "Breakaway" #4 and "Big Hotel" #40).
In the U.S. the album was released by A&M Records in 1988, with "Breakaway" reaching #60 on the Billboard magazine top 100 pop charts and was used in the opening sequence of the movie Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.
The group's song "Money God" was well known in the United Kingdom as the theme tune for the BBC DEF II Rough Guides show with Magenta Devine, whilst many tracks from their first album Bonk were used towards the end of the Miami Vice TV series in the 1980s. The songs "Hungry Town" and "Boy Wonder" both featured in the 1988 Yahoo Serious movie Young Einstein.
Notable for their dominant use of drums, harmonica and vocals, along with the absence of guitars, the band established a unique place in music. Sounding quite unlike anything else, their signature look was black waterproof aprons, similar to those worn by blacksmiths, which gave their stage presence a distinctly industrial feel. Shortly after the release of their second album, You Lucky People, in 1990, Big Pig played for the very last time at Melbourne`s Myer Music Bowl in February 1991.
Their 1988 Australian Top 10 hit "Breakaway" enjoyed a revival in the dance charts with a new 2007 cover version by US House Diva Inaya Day.
Big Pig's "Hungry Town" featured in the first episode of Channel 9's "Underbelly: The Golden Mile" on 12 April 2010.
- Nick Disbray — lead vocals, percussion
- Sherine Abeyratne — lead vocals, percussion
- Oleh Witer — vocals, drums
- Tony Antoniades — vocals, harmonica
- Tim Rosewarne — vocals, keyboard
- Adrian Scaglione — drums
- Neil Baker — drums
- Rosewarne: Scratch Record Scratch, Red=Blue=Yellow, Bang, Big Choir, Flares, Crawling Kingsnakes, Chocolate Starfish, 21/20
- Abeyratne: Grand Wazoo Band of 1000 Dances, The Editions, Bang, Big Choir, Bob Starkie Shape Up, Gospel Truth, Jo Jo Zep Band, Black Coffee, Dianna Boss and The Extremes, The Rock Party, Mercy Mercy, Sherine, Sherine's X Machine
- Witer: Scratch Record Scratch, Bang
- Bonk – White Label (March 1987)
- You Lucky People – White Label (1990)
- Big Pig – White Label (L-19015) (1986)
- "Hungry Town"/"Hungry Town (Dance Remix) – White Label (K-120) (October 1986) AUS #14
- "Boy Wonder"/"Hellbent Heaven" – White Label (K-251) (April 1987) AUS #59
- "Breakaway"/"Hellbent Heaven" – White Label (K-423) (February 1988) AUS #4, US #60
- "Big Hotel"/"Fine Thing" – White Label (K-570) (June 1988) AUS #40
- "Iron Lung" – White Label (X 13349) (December 1988)
- "Justifier"/"Taste" – White Label (K-10223) (August 1990) AUS #73
- "Hanging Tree" (January 1991)
- "King of Nothing"/"Bound" – White Label (K 10223) (April 1991)
- "Inbetween days" (May 1991)
- Bonk: The Videos – A&M Video (VC 60900) (1988): VHS
- Strauss, Duncan (21 May 1988). "Big Pig Beats the Drums for Oleh Witer's Musical Individualism". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- Blair, Iain (29 May 1988). "Going Bonkers – Big Pig is Drumming Up Fans in a Hurry". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- "Big Pig". Australian Rock Database. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- "ARIA Awards – History: Winners by Year: 1st Annual ARIA Awards". Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA). Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- Sutton, Michael. "Big Pig". Allmusic. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure soundtracks
- "Young Einstein soundtrack". IMDb. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- The Big World of Big Pig. Spin Magazine. July 1988. Retrieved 1 July 2010.
- "Oleh Witer". IMDb. Retrieved 1 July 2010.