Unsane (band)

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Unsane playing live on October 16, 2007
Background information
OriginNew York City, United States
Years active1988–2000, 2003–2019
LabelsMatador, Amphetamine Reptile, Relapse, Ipecac, Alternative Tentacles, Southern Lord
Associated actsA Storm of Light, The Cutthroats 9, J.J. Paradise Players Club
MembersChris Spencer
Dave Curran
Vincent Signorelli
Past membersPete Shore
Charlie Ondras

Unsane was an influential noise rock trio that was formed in New York City in 1988. Its music touches on elements of hardcore punk and metal. The writer Patrick Kennedy wrote, "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 world."[3]


In 1988, the singer/guitarist Chris Spencer, bass guitarist Pete Shore and drummer Charlie Ondras were students at Sarah Lawrence College when they formed Lawn-Chair-Blisters[4] before changing the 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 did release it.[4][5]

Unsane became part of the 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 also played in other bands such as Boss Hog and the Action Swingers.

The band's first album, Unsane, was released in 1991 and was known for its harsh music and gruesome cover art with a photo of a decapitated man on a New York subway track wearing a Members Only jacket. The band obtained this photograph from a friend who was working at the time with the police department, which was investigating the scene of the accident.[6]

In 1992, Ondras died of a heroin overdose and was replaced by Vincent Signorelli (formerly of Foetus and Swans). In 1994, Shore left 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 in 1995. The music video for the song "Scrape", made for a mere $200, had 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 spell opening for Slayer). Their next album, Occupational Hazard, was released by Relapse Records in 1998. Later that same year, seemingly fulfilling of the album's title, Spencer was attacked by four people after playing a concert in Vienna, Austria.[7] He was hospitalized with internal bleeding and underwent major surgery. As a result of his injury, and having toured over ten months of the year, the band decided to take a long break in 2000.

Unsane regrouped in 2003 and released the CD/DVD compilation Lambhouse: The Collection 1991-1998 the same year. This was followed by their fifth album, Blood Run, in 2005. Ipecac released the band's sixth studio album, Visqueen, in 2007.

Their song "Committed" was used in the Activision/Neversoft video game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. Another Activision title, True Crime: New York City, uses the song "D Train".

Unsane released their seventh album Wreck on March 20, 2012, and toured with Melvins in April and May that year.

Unsane released their eighth studio album Sterilize on September 29, 2017.

In 2019, Spencer announced the formation of a new band, Human Impact, with ex-Swans members Phil Pulel and Chris Pravdica. Spencer subsequently announced his departure from Unsane in August 2019, first in an interview about Human Impact with the Italian-language music zine Equilibrio Precario, and then in English in a comment on a Facebook post of the same article.

Activities outside the band[edit]

During the band's break between 2000 and 2003, Spencer moved to California where he formed a new band with 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 guitar, 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 first 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.


Final line-up[edit]

  • Chris Spencer - vocals, guitar (1988–2000, 2003–2019)
  • Dave Curran - bass guitar (1994–2000, 2003–2019)
  • Vincent Signorelli - drums (1992–2000, 2003–2019)

Former members[edit]


Studio albums[edit]

Compilation albums[edit]

Live albums[edit]


  • "Scumbait #1" 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
  • "Fix It"/"Wrung" single for Bash 17 (Amphetamine Reptile Records) - July 2017

The Peel Sessions[edit]

The band recorded three sessions. The first two were released as an EP in 1994,[4] while the third session remains unreleased.

  • May 21, 1991[8]
  • November 26, 1992[9]
  • June 7, 1994[10]


  1. ^ "Explore: Noise-Rock (Top Artists)". Allmusic. Retrieved May 9, 2012.
  2. ^ "Explore: Post-Hardcore (Top Artists)". Allmusic. Retrieved April 4, 2011.
  3. ^ Unsane's Biography on Allmusic.com
  4. ^ a b c Unsane Biography on Matador Records website Archived 2011-03-05 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ http://www.spacecityrock.com/features/unsane1.shtml
  6. ^ Jagernauth, Kevin (2015-10-29). "Exclusive: Have A Religious Experience With Unsane In Clip From Amphetamine Reptile Doc 'The Color Of Noise'". Indie Wire. Retrieved 2017-03-12.
  7. ^ ::: LOWCUT No. 28 - Interviews :::
  8. ^ BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping It Peel - 21/05/1991 Unsane
  9. ^ BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping It Peel - 26/11/1992 Unsane
  10. ^ BBC - Radio 1 - Keeping It Peel - 07/06/1994 Unsane

External links[edit]