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With a Debut Album Called Bonk, a Ton of Drums and One Harmonica, Big Pig Goes Rocking to Market

updated 07/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/18/1988 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Used to be that just being from Australia was a novelty. Now that's been Dundee'd to death. But never mind, Down Under's latest rock-and-roll sensation has a few other attention-getting tricks. "Our name is Big Pig, cur album is called Bonk. We wear aprons onstage, and we've got three drummers and no guitars. That's pretty confrontational," says Sherine, 27, the band's lithe Sri Lankan lead singer.

U.S. critics and a growing number of fans are happy to face the music. The raw, sensual gospel sound of Big Pig's debut LP—which is already high on the college charts—has been compared with that of the early Talking Heads, while Sherine's clear vocal intensity on the dance-club hit "Breakaway" is reminiscent of Annie Lennox on a g'day.

But what's the connection with porkers? "They're really basic," says drummer Oleh Witer, 30, who put the band together, "and I kind of like them."

And the blacksmith aprons?

"Definitely a gimmick," says Witer, a native of Melbourne. "But there's depth to it. Blacksmiths bash out a horseshoe or something. We're sort of bashing out music."

Indeed. As first constituted by Witer in London in 1984, the Pig was almost pure percussion—with nine drummers deployed on an array of congas, snares, cymbals and skins to back up a single vocalist. That turned out to be a bit too intense, though Sherine, who was already a veteran of three bands, liked the group the first time she saw it.

"They were in this really rough pub," she says. "The audience was all sort of convicts. But I loved the energy behind Big Pig. I thought, 'Wow. Imagine singing in front of all those drummers going wild.' "

Says Witer, who signed her up in 1985 when the Pig regrouped: "I needed Sherine to cut through the drums and everything else." He also made two other concessions to melody: Tim Rosewarne's electric keyboard and Tony Antoniades' bluesy harmonica. But guitars? Too predictable. When the Pig opened for INXS on a recent European tour, they were still playing with no strings attached.

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