Steve Albini gained success in the punk rock scene as the singer and guitarist for the abrasive band Big Black. It was quite influential in the ’80s alternative scene.
However, he truly became a household name due to his work as a producer and audio engineer, working with artists like Pixies, PJ Harvey, Manic Street Preachers, and more notably, Nirvana, among many others.
Albini helped the grunge legends realize their visions of dissonance and rapture with mainstream conventions on their third album, 1993’s “In Utero”.
Steve Albini talks about Nirvana in their ‘In Utero’ Sessions
In a new interview with NME, the producer recalled how those sessions went:
“There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about the sessions. I mean, apart from them being extremely famous. I had to do everything I could to keep it under wraps to make sure that we didn’t get overrun by fans and the added nonsense. That was the only thing that was weird about it.
“[The studio, outside of Minneapolis] was far enough away from anybody that the band knew socially, and we wouldn’t have a f***ing TV crew out front every day or any drug dealers trying to do business. We had to make sure that word didn’t get out. The studio was an independent studio and there was only a small number of people working there. I didn’t really want to trust them with the secret, so I booked the studio on my account under the pseudonym the ‘Simon Ritchie Band’. which was of course Sid Vicious’ real name.
“Until the flight cases started arriving from the cartage company the day before we started, nobody knew. The cases had Nirvana spray-painted on the side of them, but until that happened, even the people who owned the studio didn’t know that Nirvana was going to be recording there.”
Albini said that, overall the sessions went without major issues, and looked back on an episode with Kurt Cobain, saying:
“When my band Big Black did a farewell tour years before the ‘In Utero’ sessions, the final show was in some industrial space in Seattle. It was in a weird building with a makeshift stage. It was a cool gig and at end we smashed up all of our gear. I distinctly recall some kid asking me if he could take a piece of my guitar off the stage and me saying ‘go ahead it’s garbage now’.
“Many years later when we were working on ‘In Utero’ at the studio in Minnesota, Kurt showed me this little piece of this guitar that he had saved. He had brought it with him after all those years. He had been that kid.”
However, even though he’s responsible for several classic records, Albini is quick to downplay his role:
“I feel weird when somebody says I had a massive influence on anything. It’s like, if you’re in a stadium during a sporting event, you have no influence on the outcome really. It was an experience for me, I was there when it happened, but I wasn’t on the field. I feel like I get a lot of undue attention for records that I worked on where the record was going to be good no matter who was sitting in the chair.
“If I was the secret weapon, the magic fairy dust, then all of those other records I made that year would’ve been huge and influential hits. You know, I probably made 100 records that year (1993)…”