"It always offended me when I was in the studio and the engineer or the assumed producer for the session would start bossing the band around. That always seemed like a horrible insult to me."
Steve Albini is a famous Alternative Rock
musician and producer from Chicago
by way of Montana. Some of the bands he's worked with include: Nirvana
, The Pixies
and The Breeders
, Godspeed You! Black Emperor
, Robert Plant
, Fred Schneider
, The Stooges
, Mogwai, The Jesus Lizard
, PJ Harvey
, Manic Street Preachers
, Screaming Females
, Joanna Newsom
, Cheap Trick
If you'd look up Invisible Producer
in the dictionary, Steve Albini would probably be the first guy to come to mind. His style has such hallmarks as recording live with minimal overdubbing, using microphone placement to get some harsh guitar and drum sounds, keeping the vocals low in the mix, and completely averting Executive Meddling
: he prefers to not be credited (if the company insists, he prefers the term "recording engineer"), doesn't collect royalties and lets the artist/band make all the creative decisions. Due to his stereotypical association with producing critically acclaimed harsh albums, there's a degree of surprise whenever he works with more "mellow" artists like Joanna Newsom
and Nina Nastasia.
Albini is also famous for having a big mouth, being very liberal with throwing insults and nastiness around (ask The Pixies
, Liz Phair
, Urge Overkill and The Smashing Pumpkins
about it sometime), harsh criticism of the music industry's practices
, and being something of a Luddite
: he refuses to record in anything but analog and back in The Eighties
he disparaged the CD as being "the rich man's eight-track tape". On the other hand, for several years he and his wife (along with others) have also functioned as something of a secret Santa
to cash-strapped families in Chicago, distributing money, clothes and toys at Christmas. He also has a food blog
. YMMV page here, indeed.
As a musician, Albini plays guitar, bass, sings and programs drum machines. He was a member of the following bands:
- Big Black (1982-1987), with guitarist Santiago Durango and bassists Jeff Pezzati and his replacement Dave Riley. Technically a Post-Hardcore/Noise Rock band, their use of a drum machine, distinctive "clanky" guitars and shouty, controversial lyrics made them a big influence on the Industrial Metal scene.
- Rapeman (1987-1989), another Post-Hardcore/Noise Rock band, with David Wm. Sims and Rey Washam of Scratch Acid on bass and drums. Named after a manga called The Rapeman, predictably attracted more attention and controversy for their name than their music.
- Shellac (1992-present), a Noise Rock/Math Rock band with bassist Bob Weston and drummer Todd Trainer.
Steve Albini provides examples of:
- Brutal Honesty
- Caustic Critic
- Celebrity Resemblance: Harry Potter looks like a younger version of him, right down to the glasses.
- Credits Gag: He had a habit of occasionally crediting his engineering to his cat, Fluss. The practice was retired after Fluss died in 2003.
- Slint's Tweez has him credited under the name "Some Fuckin Derd Niffer".
- Doing It for the Art: He works for a flat fee and accepts no royalties, believing it to be an insult to the artist. In addition, he exclusively records in analog, does work for a lot of unknown/underground bands, charges artists on major labels more than those on indie labels, called the CD "The rich man's 8-track." and doesn't like to be credited on albums, only agreeing if the label insists and even then as "engineered/recorded by" instead of "produced by"
- Genre Adultery: What happens when he departs from his stereotypical production style and works with people like Joanna Newsom.
- Insistent Terminology: He dislikes being called a "record producer" and prefers being credited as a "recording engineer." This is because he wants bands to have as much creative control over their own music as possible, so he offers minimal input, which is different from most music producers.
- Invisible Producer: Trope Codifier. Best exemplified by the stories of recording Cloud Nothings' album Attack on Memory where the band sates that Albini was hands off during the four days it took to record it, him either blogging or playing Scrabble, interrupting only when he hears something wrong.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The man is known for his vitriolic attacks on performers and the industry, but he means the best for his artists and even donates money, toys and clothes to poor Chicago families for Christmas.
- New Technology Is Evil: Albini records exclusively in analog, and derided the CD as "the rich man's 8-track."
- Perishing Alt Rock Voice: As part of his signature style and in his bands.
- Signature Style: Live recording to analog, microphone placement, vocals low in the mix.