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Steve Albini (1962 - )

Related: rock music - music production

Songs About Fucking (1988) - Big Black [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]


Steve Albini (born July 22, 1962) is an influential guitarist, audio engineer and music journalist, former member of Big Black, Rapeman and current member of Shellac.

He is currently most active as what is mostly known in the music industry as a record producer, but he dislikes the term and prefers recording engineer, saying that putting producers in charge destroys records, while the role of the recording engineer is to solve problems in capturing the sound of the musicians, and does not threaten the artists control over their product. He is founder and owner of the company Electrical Audio, which operates two recording studios in Chicago.

His guitar playing has been just as influential on the sound of rock music as his sound engineering. With Shellac, Albini showcases his abrasive vocabulary of clanging, scraping metallic sounds. As a lyricist, Albini demonstrates an interest in the seamier side of life.

Additionally, he is famous (or notorious) in the indie world as a pundit on the music industry and trends in indie music, starting from his earliest writing for 'zines such as Matter and Forced Exposure, to his commentary on the poor ethics of big record labels, and how their practices filter through to the independent labels. He has been a strong supporter of labels who have tried to break the mold, especially Touch and Go Records, with whom all of his bands have released recordings.

His playing style in the 1980's was often compared to that of Henry Rollins and Black Flag. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Albini [Mar 2005]

the problem with music

> by steve albini
excerpted from Baffler No. 5

Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end, holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed.

Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says, "Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim it again, please. Backstroke."

--Steve Albini via http://www.arancidamoeba.com/mrr/problemwithmusic.html Steve Albini is a much sought-after producer and founding member of eighties punk band Big Black. http://www.dangpow.com/~landed/bigblack/

Big Black

Big Black was one of the most influential noise rock bands of the 1980s. They were formed in 1982 by Steve Albini, they broke up in 1987.

Albini make a name for himself for his controversial "Tired of Ugly Fat?" column in the Chicago 'zine Matter, as well as irregular contributions to Forced Exposure. At the time, the band consisted of Albini and his drum machine, Roland. The Lungs EP, the first effort to appear under the Big Black name, was used primarily to recruit members to fill out the band, and was released by Ruthless Records. The record is famous for the variety of inserts, which included a lyric sheet in most copies, plus extras like condoms, dollar bills, stickers, concert tickets, photographs, silverware, razor blades and squirtguns.

In 1983 Jeff Pezzati and Santiago Durango, both of Naked Raygun, joined the band on bass and guitar, respectively. They recorded two EPs together, switching to Homestead Records, and soon after Pezzati left the band. He was replaced by Dave Riley.

The band made a name for themselves nationally with their Gang of Four influenced music and controversial lyrics. Some didn't understand that their songs were either social commentary or sarcastic jokes (often both), and assumed that the band was sexist and racist. Albini responded to these accusations by making his lyrics even more offensive than before. Albini has stated that irritating "squares" was no challenge, but he took specific glee in offending "hipsters".

The band had been unhappy with their share of the profits from the successful Atomizer release, and switched label again in 1987, this time to the cult Chicago-based indie label Touch and Go Records, and released the generally regarded as not-so-successful Headache EP, a latter release of which had the label on it "Not as good as Atomizer". Shortly after, Durango announced that he was leaving the band to attend law school. The band realized this would be a good time to stop, not wanting to turn into the Rolling Stones. They released one final album, Songs About Fucking, and broke up.

Steve Albini went on to become a successful producer for bands like Nirvana, Jesus Lizard, Slint, P.J. Harvey and the Pixies, as well as playing in Rapeman and Shellac. Dave Riley had a stroke and fell in (and out of) a coma in 1993. Santiago Durango is still a lawyer. Touch and Go Records acquired the rights to the 'Big Black back cataologue, and released these by this time hard to acquire classics.

Big Black's career is chronicled in Our Band Could Be Your Life, a study of several important American underground rock groups. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Black [Mar 2005]

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