Origin: New York, New York
Genre: Noise rock
Years active: 1988–2000, 2003–present
Unsane (Matador) – 1991
Total Destruction (Matador/Atlantic) – 1993
Scattered, Smothered & Covered (Amphetamine Reptile) – 1995
Occupational Hazard (Relapse) – 1998
Blood Run (Relapse) – 2005
Visqueen (Ipecac) – 2007
Wreck (Alternative Tentacles) – 2012
Singles 89–92, LP/CD (Matador) – 1993
Lambhouse: The Collection 1991–1998 (Relapse) – 2003
Peel Sessions (Matador) – 1994
Attack in Japan (Rebel) – 1995
Amrep Xmas (Man’s Ruin) – 1997
Split with Cows, “Pagans, Bastards” (Unsane – “Burn”) (Treehouse) – 1989
“This Town” single (Treehouse) – 1989
“Concrete Bed” single (Glitterhouse) – 1990
“Vandal-X”/”Streetsweeper” single (Sub Pop) – 1990
“Jungle Music” single (PCP) – 1991
Split 7″ with Slug (cover of Slug’s “Breathe the Thing Out”) (Matador) – 1992
“Body Bomb” 7″ red vinyl single (Matador) – 1994
“Sick”/”No Soul” single (Man’s Ruin) – 1996
“Committed”/”Over Me” single (Galaxia) – 1998
“This Plan”/”Ha, Ha, Ha” single (DC Records) – 2001
Unsane is an influential noise rock trio that formed in New York City in 1988. Their music also touches on elements of hardcore punk and metal. Writer Patrick Kennedy writes that “while developing the blueprint for noise-metal bands to follow, Unsane cut a remarkable swath through underground music, inspiring a devoted, cult-like following around the globe.”
In 1988, singer/guitarist Chris Spencer, bass guitarist Pete Shore and drummer Charlie Ondras were students at Sarah Lawrence College when they formed as Lawn-Chair-Blisters before changing their name to Unsane. The band signed to Circuit Records and recorded tracks with Wharton Tiers for what was supposed to be their first album Improvised Munitions, but the label ended up never releasing it.
Unsane then became a part of a scene of loud, noisy, like-minded rock groups in New York City’s East Village in the early 1990s. They often played gigs with bands like Pussy Galore, Cop Shoot Cop, Surgery, Helmet and the Reverb Motherfuckers. Members of Unsane concurrently played in other bands such as Boss Hog and the Action Swingers.
The band’s self-titled debut album was released in 1991 and was known for its harsh music and gruesome cover art which was a photo of a decapitated man on a New York city subway track wearing a Members Only jacket.
In 1992, drummer Ondras died of a heroin overdose, and was replaced temporarily by Anthony DeLuca and then permanently by Vinnie Signorelli (formerly of Foetus and Swans). In 1994, Shore departed from the band for unknown reasons and was replaced by Dave Curran.
The band toured heavily, and released Total Destruction in 1993 on Matador Records/Atlantic Records. Their third album, Scattered, Smothered & Covered was issued by Amphetamine Reptile. The music video for the single “Scrape”, made for a mere $200, got significant play on MTV. The video alternates between lo-fi rehearsal footage of Unsane, and a series of serious skateboarding wipeouts.
The band continued touring heavily (including a stint opening for Slayer). Their next album Occupational Hazard was released by Relapse Records in 1998. Later that same year – in seeming fulfillment of the album’s title – Spencer was attacked by four people after playing a concert in Vienna, Austria. He ended up in hospital suffering internal bleeding and underwent major surgery. As a result of Spencer’s injury, and touring over ten months of the year, the band decided to take a break in 2000.
Unsane regrouped in 2003, and released a greatest hits record, Lambhouse, followed by Blood Run in 2005. Ipecac released the band’s sixth studio album Visqueen in 2007.
Their song “Committed” was featured in the Activision/Neversoft video game Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. Another Activision title, True Crime: New York City, features the song “D Train”.
Unsane released Wreck on March 20, 2012, and toured with The Melvins through April and May.
Activities outside the band
During the band’s break between 2000 and 2003, Spencer moved to California where he formed a new band with Dave Curran called The Cutthroats 9 and released an album on Man’s Ruin Records. Curran formed J.J. Paradise Players Club and Signorelli opened a tattoo shop in Middle Village Queens.
Signorelli later formed A Storm of Light with Josh Graham (Neurosis, ex-Red Sparowes, Battle of Mice, Blood and Time) on guitar and vocals, Domenic Seita (ex-Tombs and Asea) on bass, and Pete Angevine (Satanized) on additional drums and percussion. A Storm of Light spent most of the spring touring with Neurosis and they released their debut album in 2008.
In 2008 Spencer formed the band Celan with Ari Benjamin Meyers (Redux Orchestra), Niko Wenner (Oxbow), Roeder (flu-ID), and Xavi (flu-ID), and in 2009 they released the well-reviewed album Halo on the Berlin label Exile on Mainstream Records and toured Europe.