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Members include Mick Jones, lead vocals and guitar; Mickey Custance, DJ and vocals; Nick Hawkins, guitar and vocals; Chris Kavanagh, drums and vocals; Andre Shapps, keyboards; and Gary Stonadge, bass. Addresses: Record company--Radioactive Records, 8570 Hedges Pl., Los Angeles, CA 90069.
Although Big Audio Dynamite consists of six band members, the media and public generally focus their attention on de facto leader Mick Jones. From 1976 to 1982 Jones was a member of the Clash, an English punk band that was once hailed as "the only band that matters." "In five years," wrote Jon Solomon in Color Red, "Jones and the Clash wrote five albums' worth of songs that helped change the shape of the punk to come." Guitar World's Matthew Caws added, "The Clash delivered much more than punk ever promised--five albums worth of exquisitely written pop songs played with unparalleled fire and spirit." In 1983 Jones was "chucked out of" the Clash, as he often puts it, though animosity didn't seem to be the reason. It was more probably due to his yearning for technology. Just a year later Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite because he felt the time was right to try something completely new.
Big Audio Dynamite has gone through a great many changes since they started in 1984. In 1985 the band in its original incarnation released its first work, This Is Big Audio Dynamite, which Solomon described as "something of a revolutionary album." Music Paper wrote that this release turned Jones's "punk world upside down...[It's] crammed with techno/house beats, reggae, some punk attitude and a whole lot of pop songs." The song "E=MC2," considered the first rock record to use sampling technology, as well as a second track titled "Bed-Rock City," became highly popular in dance clubs and formed the foundation of Big Audio Dynamite's altenative music fan base.
The band went on to record No. 10 Upping Street in 1986. Jones recruited former Clash pal Joe Strummer as the album's producer as well as cowriter. In1988 Tighten Up Volume '88 was released, followed by 1989's Megatop Phoenix. Pulse's Andrew Goodwin called Megatop Phoenix Big Audio Dynamite's finest work so far, commending the combination of acid-house beats and reggae baselines.
No explanation was given for the demise of the band's original line-up, and when Jones' decision to continue under the Big Audio moniker incited a lawsuit from other founding members, Big Audio Dynamite, or B.A.D., started anew as B.A.D. II. Goodwin, who had noted Megatop Phoenix's heavy African-American influences, wrote that the band's 1991 release The Globe "shifted its invocations of blackness from dancehall toasting to straight-out rap." The most prominent track on the album, "Rush," became a Billboard Number One Modern Rock single in 1991. Goodwin commented that "the fractured mix on 'Rush' showed that Jones had not forgotten one golden rule of punk, invoked via hip-hop's heart-stopping breakdowns--be unpredictable."
Following The Globe, B.A.D. II kept up an extensive touring schedule and also changed their name again, this time to Big Audio. Despite conflicts with their label, the band continued to experiment with their music and in 1993 created a soundtrack for the critically lauded Rob Weiss film Amongst Friends. 1993 also saw the release of Lost Treasures of Big Audio Dynamite I & II, a collection of 12-inch singles and remixes released in Japan and Australia that became a highly recommended import in the States.
In 1994 Big Audio released Higher Power. One song from that album-- "Rock with the Caveman"--was included on The Flintstones soundtrack. The album was not particularly well-received by either critics or audiences. Apparently however, the album was made simply to finish up a contract with the band's record label so they could break away as soon as possible. Even before the commercial failure of Higher Power, however, B.A.D.'s U.S. fan base had become scattered. The 1991 single "Rush" got the most airplay of any of their songs in the U.S., although in Europe the band had continually been a top draw.
"We're still around," Jones remarked to Mark Brown in the Orange County Register in 1995, "we're still developing and progressing. We're still learning to make our thing great. At the moment we're having sort of a rejuvenation period." That rejuvenation was developing out of changes in the music industry. As Jones told the Music Paper, "Right after The Globe the grunge [music] thing happened, which, as everyone knows, is punk all over again with more fuzz tones. To me, [that] was fine because punk, as The Clash played it, was [a] kind of warmed-over [version of the rock band The] Who, but with more anger."
After grunge came a new punk movement in the early-to-mid-1990s led by such bands as Green Day, The Offspring, and Rancid. Although Rancid was often perceived to be derivative of the Clash, former Clash members neither objected to the new movement, nor did they jump on the growing bandwagon of old punk bands reforming to take advantage of the resurgence of their music.
The reemergence of Clash-like punk may have inspired yet more changes in Jones's band. First, another new line-up reclaimed the name Big Audio Dynamite, along with a new record label. Secondly, Jones got back to his roots. In Guitar World Jones recalled the beginnings of B.A.D.: "I didn't want to do the same thing, because I knew I wouldn't have a chance....So I tried to do something as far away from the Clash as possible....Over a period of time, I sort of forgot what I was good at--guitar chords and melodies."
The result was 1995's F-Punk. Guitar World's Caws called it the "most cohesive" album since their first, "bridging the gap between rock and underground dance music--this time acid house, ambient and the ultra-fast beats of jungle." BAM's Tom Lanham described it as "leaner, meaner, and more ill-tempered than anything this often- forgettable group has done since its sharply inventive '85 debut."
Although F-Punk received much critical attention, Rancid's album And Out Came the Wolves... ironically "out-clashed the former Clash guitarist," wrote Brown, "with tracks modeled almost note-for-note on classics from The Only Band That Matters." What this says about the future of Big Audio Dynamite is unclear. Big Audio Dynamite has lasted longer than the Clash, and Jones is still matter-of-fact about simply continuing to make music regardless of how "big" the band's popularity becomes. Although Jones and his buddies from the Clash don't seem to have an interest in reuniting, their adolescent children are currently playing in a new band: The Clash Kids.
by Joanna Rubiner
Big Audio Dynamite's Career
Band formed in 1984; released first album, This Is Big Audio Dynamite, 1985; line-up change and new name, Big Audio Dynamite II, 1990; another name change to Big Audio in 1994; complete line-up change and return to original name with Radioactive Records debut F-Punk in 1995.
- Selective Works
- As Big Audio Dynamite This Is Big Audio Dynamite (includes "E=MC2" and "Bed-Rock City"), Columbia, 1985.
- No. 10 Upping Street, Columbia, 1986.
- Tighten Up Volume '88, Columbia, 1988.
- Megatop Phoenix, Columbia, 1989.
- Kool-Aid (released in U.K. only), 1990.
- F-Punk, Radioactive Records, 1995.
- Planet Bad: Big Audio Dynamite's Greatest Hits, Columbia, 1995.
- As B.A.D. II The Globe (includes "Rush"), Columbia, 1991.
- On The Road '92, 1992.
- Amongst Friends (soundtrack recording,) 1993.
- Lost Treasures of Big Audio Dynamite I & II (released in Japan and Australia only), Sony, 1993.
- As Big Audio Higher Power (includes "Rock with the Caveman"), Columbia, 1994.
- (Contributor) The Flintstones (soundtrack recording), 1994.
- BAM, May 19, 1995; July 28, 1995.
- Boston Phoenix, July 7, 1995.
- CMJ, June 26, 1995.
- Color Red, November 1995.
- Guitar World, December 1995.
- Hits, October 9, 1995.
- Music Paper, August 1995.
- Orange County Register, October 28, 1995; November 10, 1995.
- Pulse!, August 1995.
- San Francisco Bay Guardian, July 5, 1995.
- San Jose Mercury News, June 23, 1995.
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from Radioactive Records press materials, 1995.
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