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Legendary producer/recorder/engineer (and champion poker player) Steve Albini has died at 61

Earlier today (May 8), The Guardian posted this story: “Post your questions for Steve Albini.” The publication was going to host an ask-me-anything with Steve. And then Steve died.

It was a heart attack, apparently–and it happened at his Electrical Audio studio in Chicago. He was 61.

Steve was legendary in the rock world, for a couple of reasons. First, he produced big and classic albums for bands like Nirvana (In Utero), The Pixies (Surfer Rosa), The Breeders (Pod), PJ Harvey (Rid of Me) and dozens and dozes of others. Second, he had his own bands including Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac. And third, he didn’t take himself seriously as a “producer.”

In fact, he hated that word. He believed that his job was to engineer and record an act and not to impose his ideas and will on the band (well, not too much beyond basic guidance, anyway). Nor did he take points on the sale of any album he worked on, which is the standard industry practice. Instead, he charged a flat fee and once the project was done, he was done making money. I remember reading somewhere that Nirvana paid him just $100,000 for his work on In Utero. Given that the album would go on to sell 15 million copies, Albini knew he was leaving a TON of money on the table. But that didn’t bother him.

Steve was born in California, raised in Montana, and then moved to Chicago to study journalism. But then he discovered punk rock and from that point, all bets were off. Steve’s bands were uncompromisingly heavy and intense. Some of his song titles got him in trouble, too, something that he later regretted and apologized for.

He also raged against the music industrial complex. His manifesto is worth reading. Steve called the music industry a “parasite” and had his own vision of the way artists needed to be treated. Check out this letter he wrote to Nirvana.

In addition to being a respected studio whiz, he was also great at poker. In 2018, he won $105,629 at the World Series of Poker. That was followed by another win in 2022 when he took home $196,089.

His current band, Shellac, has a new album coming in a couple of weeks.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38296 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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