Steve Albini, producer for Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey, dies at 61

Steve Albini, producer for Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey, dies at 61
Steve Albini, producer for Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey, dies at 61

“If a record takes more than a week to record, someone screwed up. » This sentence from Steve Albini sums up the producer’s way of working well. He died of a heart attack at Electrical Audio, his recording studio in Chicago, at the age of 61, on Tuesday May 7, announced the American site Pitchfork.

Of the sound engineer we should even rather say as Steve Albini presented himself as an “anti-producer”. He sought to grasp as closely as possible the music of the groups that recorded it. This is why after the box of NevermindKurt Cobain insisted on working with Albini on In utero.

Uncompromising hardcore punk

Born in California, Steve Albini saw his life change the day he discovered the music of the Ramones, one of the first American punk groups. A journalism student, he decided, while living in Chicago, to pursue music.

At the start of the 1980s, he founded Big Black, an uncompromising hardcore punk group which disbanded in 1987 after Songs About Fucking, an album that has become cult. He then founded Rapeman, a group with a dubious name inspired by a Japanese manga, a choice “casual” which he later said he regretted.

In the early 1990s, he played in Shellac, with five albums under his belt, a group with which he was to tour again these days. Don’t look for their songs on streaming sites. Albini has always refused to allow his music to be broadcast in this way.

An alternative rock legend

But it is above all as a producer and sound engineer that Steve Albini became a legend of alternative rock. To his credit, In utero of Nirvana, Surfer Rosa of Pixies and Rid of Me by PJ Harvey for the most famous.

The Albini sound was also sought after by seasoned musicians like Robert Plant and Jimmy Page and Jarvis Cocker. By folk musicians, from Jason Molina with Songs Ohia to Joanna Newson and Elysian Fields to Palace. He also had his hand on the records of French groups, such as the Thugs, Dionysos, H-Burns and Sloy.

Hostile to any starification

Hostile to any starification, Steve Albini assured that he would work with any musician who paid his fees. He also refused to receive royalties from recordings he produced for other artists. “I try to help small groups and collaborate with those who have the same mindset as me, he explained in the 1990s. It has to sound like the band is playing live. »

For this, Albini had always preferred analog techniques to digital. An iron hand in an iron glove, Steve Albini had another passion: poker. There had been a lucky hand, recently winning World Series of Poker tournaments. He had to go back on stage with Shellac to defend a new album To All Trains, scheduled for release next week. Bad deal, the heart gave out.

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