I have been in bands since 1979 and making records since 1981. I own the recording studio Electrical Audio. I also play poker and write an occasional cooking blog. I'll be answering questions from about 3pm - 6pm EDT.

-edit- Knocking off at 7.20 EDT, will try to resume and catch up later.


Comments: 1251 • Responses: 70  • Date: 

steve_albini202 karma

Man I feel bad I didn't get to everything, but I've got shit to do tonight so I have to cut it off for the moment. I can come back to this later tonight or tomorrow to continue. I'm humbled at all the attention, honestly.

lear190 karma

First off, hello Steve Albini. How are you?

I am probably not the first person to ask you this question, but have you ever considered seeking a collaboration with the TY Beanie Babies company in creating your own little Steve Albini Baby?

edit: I am not a great artist and I'm sorry I made you look like George Washington wearing Harry Potter glasses.

steve_albini144 karma

You're on your own there. Get rich.

crentiist125 karma

In a pretty recent interview, Dylan Baldi from Cloud Nothings said:

"Steve Albini played Scrabble on Facebook almost the entire time [we were recording]. I don't even know if he remembers what our album sounds like."

Is that true? Did you not enjoy the recording process or is that just part of your "hands off" approach?

He also said,

"A lot of people seem to think he will change a band's sound, that he's some weird domineering producer... It's just made in the same room, so it's got a similar feel."

Is there any truth to that? Is it you that makes your records sound the way they do or is it just the room?

Thanks a lot for doing this AMA,

We really appreciate it

steve_albini391 karma

When I first started making records I would sit in front of the console concentrating on the music every second. I found out the hard way that I tended to fiddle with things unnecessarily and records ended up sounding tweaked and weird. I developed a couple of techniques to avoid this, to keep me from messing with things while still paying attention enough to catch problems. For a long time I would read, but it had to be really dry un-interesting stuff. The magazine the Economist was perfect, as were things like technical manuals and parts catalogs. I had a stack of them by the console. It can't be anything interesting or with a story line like fiction because then you can get engrossed and stop paying attention to the session. It has to be really dull, basically so you are looking for an excuse to put it down and do something else. This has proven to be a really good threshold, so that if anything sounds weird or someone says something you immediately give it your full attention and your concentration hasn't been ruined by staring at the speakers and straining all day.

Lately I play Scrabble, and it serves the same purpose.

raffaellog98 karma

What is your opinion about music Piracy? Does it hurt you economically? Thanks for your music!

steve_albini575 karma

I reject the term "piracy." It's people listening to music and sharing it with other people, and it's good for musicians because it widens the audience for music. The record industry doesn't like trading music because they see it as lost sales, but that's nonsense. Sales have declined because physical discs are no longer the distribution medium for mass-appeal pop music, and expecting people to treat files as physical objects to be inventoried and bought individually is absurd.

The downtrend in sales has hurt the recording business, obviously, but not us specifically because we never relied on the mainstream record industry for our clientele. Bands are always going to want to record themselves, and there will always be a market among serious music fans for well-made record albums. I'll point to the success of the Chicago label Numero Group as an example.

There won't ever be a mass-market record industry again, and that's fine with me because that industry didn't operate for the benefit of the musicians or the audience, the only classes of people I care about.

Free distribution of music has created a huge growth in the audience for live music performance, where most bands spend most of their time and energy anyway. Ticket prices have risen to the point that even club-level touring bands can earn a middle-class income if they keep their shit together, and every band now has access to a world-wide audience at no cost of acquisition. That's fantastic.

Additionally, places poorly-served by the old-school record business (small or isolate towns, third-world and non-english-speaking countries) now have access to everything instead of a small sampling of music controlled by a hidebound local industry. When my band toured Eastern Europe a couple of years ago we had full houses despite having sold literally no records in most of those countries. Thank you internets.

MultipleMiggs97 karma

What happened when you were helping to produce Nirvana's In Utero? Didn't they decide to go with someone else on the singles?

steve_albini522 karma

Long story, but basically the standard protocol for a big record company at the time was for players in the industry to try to claim authorship of a successful record somehow -- this guy did the A&R, this guy did the legal, this guy was the producer, this guy remixed it -- so credit for success stayed within the industry and players could use it as professional capital. Nirvana made a record by themselves, outside all that influence, and it made everybody inside uncomfortable enough to try to derail it and get them to do it over. Additionally, it's normal for any band to have some slight misgivings about their record once it's in the can, everybody does. The label put pressure on the band, partially using me as a publicity scapegoat, to get them to do the record over, and that coupled with their natural uncertainty eventually created enough doubt that they re-mixed a couple of songs.

I know the label was directly involved with blaming me because I got more than one call from music journalists who said, "I just got off the phone with Gary Gersh and he says the Nirvana album is un-releasable and it's your fault."

The record that made it into the stores is the one Nirvana wanted you to hear, and I'm content with that. I have no beef with Nirvana, they were a normal bunch of guys under extraordinary stress and they behaved normally. All the motherfuckers around them, all their functionaries and managers and label parasites, those petty little people who fucked with them to preserve their positions within the industry, fuck every last one of them.

melonmanchan80 karma

How in the world did you end up producing Peter Sotos' album Buyer's Market? What was Peter like?

steve_albini87 karma

Peter's an old friend. I've known him for 30 years or so. I'll help him do whatever he wants to do, from wash his car to edit his album.

newfaceinhell70 karma

Hey Steve, Adam from Manchester, U.K. Love your work etc blah blah...so...the pixies. what five words would you use to sum up your time/work with them?

P.S love 'Rid of Me'. Again, thank you.

steve_albini426 karma

Five words? That's going to

cryopyre69 karma

Why don't you like jazz?

steve_albini215 karma

Because it sucks and I'm tired of hearing about it. Believe me I've tried. I just hate the parts I hate about it more than I like the little things there are to like. The batting average is just so low I can't bear the dead time between highlights being filled with all that noodling. It's vain music.

Frajer66 karma

What's the craziest thing a band has done in the studio?

Is Dave Grohl really the nicest guy ever?

steve_albini231 karma

1: I saw a guy turn down a beer once. 2: Dave is an underrated drummer. He's a good musician generally, but he's a monster drummer.

Tsarbomba12561 karma

What where your thoughts on St Vincent's Big Black set at least years "Our Band Could Be Your Life" concert? Is she someone you would ever want to work with?

Did you like the way you were portrayed in "Our Band?"and the books portrayal of the 80s independent scene as a whole?

steve_albini108 karma

I thought the St Vincent cover was pretty good. They got some details right about the sound and the drumming especially. I was impressed.

That book is always going to be weird for me. I lived through everything Azerrad describes in the book, and his descriptions generally sound at least a little off. That's to be expected of course, since I was there and he wasn't, but it seemed like he had an agenda or a thematic arc he wanted to follow that was only glancingly associated with the reality of the times. It's basically impossible for an outsider to write a book about a bunch of my closest friends and comrades having their formative experiences without it seeming stupid or ignorant sometimes. That said, I devoured the Minutemen chapter.

Basically the 80s underground was an array of distinct local scenes of incredible fertility, and there was nothing unifying about them other than outsider status and that some of the principals knew about each other. Trying to tie it all together in a conceptual framework is a fools errand, much like the cuisines of India, Japan and Russia are not similar despite all being "Asian."

bat_guano53 karma

Thanks for doing this!

  1. Do you have any albums that you recorded/engineered that you will listen to, just for pleasure?

  2. Would you agree to "House Full of Garbage" being used on an episode of Hoarders? What inspired you to write this song? Do you, yourself, have a hoarding problem? Even if it's only with microphones?

  3. Do you use a digital voicemail system or an analog answering machine?

  4. Is there a new Shellac album in the works?

  5. Now, an anecdote. Right when 1000 Hurts came out, I was playing jazz piano every week in a Brooklyn club. I'm a fan, and I started covering "A Prayer to God." Not in an ironic, "I’m doing a silly jazz version of this rock song" sort of way, but in a faithful, "I love this song and I am shouting until my throat hurts" way. It always brought down the house. One night, a lady got so into it, she let out a primal scream and shattered a beer bottle by throwing it against the wall. I just thought you should know that.

steve_albini95 karma

1: Sure, too many to mention. 2: No, we're generally not into our music being used in context other than the records we made, but we make exceptions for student films and the like. Song obviously inspired by hoarders. I have no hoarding problem. 3: I detest voice mail. Answer your goddamn phone or don't have a phone. We have an answering machine at the studio for when everybody's gone, but otherwise I answer the phone and I expect other people to. I detest the whole system of using the phone to manage/frustrate callers with menus and voice mail and all that. It's a copout and it sucks and if you do that to people you're an asshole. Answer your phone. 4: Yes. 5: You're welcome.

DryLuteNerd47 karma

  • If you could work with any band/artist (past or present) who would you choose?

  • Have you ever regretted not taking royalties on the albums you've produced?

  • Of the the thousands of albums you've worked on, do you have a favourite?

steve_albini195 karma

1: Patsy Cline, Neil Young or AC/DC 2: No. I don't take royalties because I am ethically opposed to them as a means of compensation. I think they unfairly siphon money from a band who has earned it. It is patently ridiculous to work on a record for a couple of weeks in a secondary capacity and get paid for it in perpetuity. I prefer to set a price for my time and get paid like anybody else who works for a living. My wife on the other hand, she regrets my position on royalties. 3: No, not one favorite.

spidersquasher46 karma

First off, huge fan. A huge portion of my favorite albums have been recorded by you, there’s something about hearing a band and feeling like you’re in the room with them that’s just amazing. I have a few questions.

  • First off, what do you feel your biggest contribution to music has been thus far? Big Black, Rapemen, and Shellac have been listed as influences by a variety of bands and your style of organic hands off production has been incredibly important to some of the best albums ever created.
  • Second, I’ve got a laptop and an acoustic guitar but no recording equipment at all. What are some cheap tools I should acquire to start hammering out some demos?
  • Third, any bands I should be looking out for?
  • And lastly, I made the mistake of listening to Atomizer for the first time while very high at the age of sixteen. My response to it was very visceral….I threw up from the sheer abrasiveness. To this day, drum machines haunt my nightmares. Was this the point of Atomizer? I mean, it’s amazing that you created something that could make such a big impact. I’m sure even if I was sober, it would have thrown me off.

Thanks for doing this and a big thanks for the production of the Blackened Air, I'm completely entranced every time I hear it.

steve_albini68 karma

  • I cannot possibly evaluate my own contribution from my perspective. I've tried to behave honorably and be genuine with expression. I like to think I'm good at my job and Electrical Audio is a quality studio, and we're available to everyone, not just a beknighted few superstars. I'd like the music scene to be a little less predatory and a little less driven by sensations and hype, so if the way my bands and I have conducted ourselves have helped in that fight I'd be proud.
  • get a decent mic interface and a couple of decent mics. Audio Technica makes some good acoustic instrument mics that don't cost much (4051, Pro37), but when you're just getting started quality isn't as important as ease of use. Get simple stuff you can comprehend and start experimenting.
  • You're welcome. I think the kind of music Big Black made was a reaction against a move we saw afoot to make punk music prettier and more normal so the squares could like it. We reacted against that by making music that reflected the opposite impulse, the sensation of being outside rather than wanting to be included.

chriska43 karma

What equipment did you use to record The Breeders "Off You?" It is the best recording of Kim Deal's voice I've ever heard.

steve_albini156 karma

I love that song. There's something real and broken about her singing there that reminds me of some people I know who've done a bunch of shit they regret. Vocal was probably the same mic we'd been using for the rest of the record, probably a Shure SM7 through a John Hardy mic amp. Recorded to GP9 on a Studer A820. Kim was really fond of the sound of a slightly-overloaded cassette dub of the rough mix, so for the final mix we aligned a 1/4-inch 2-track machine for a slight overload (+6>500nWb/m on Agfa PEM408 for technical readers) then copied that to the 1/2-inch master.

NorONor42 karma

Do you have a viewpoint on the streaming vs. physical media debate?

steve_albini177 karma

Sure. For anything that matters and I'll want to have around forever, I want a record. For casual listening I think streams are great. Super convenient both for listeners and bands trying to get their music out. If you're talking about money, then I side with the listeners. I don't think you should have to pay to listen to something. That just seems like a normal, decent position.

raidraidraid41 karma

Hi Steve. Love your music and your work. Big Black has been an inspiration. Since everyone else is going to ask you about music....I know you are a foodie so here's a simple food question.

What's your favourite pizza topping?

steve_albini70 karma

Not really into pizza in the US. I'll make an exception for quality Italian-style wood oven places like Punch in Minneapolis. I'll have a margherita at places like that or something simple like cheese, arugula and prosciutto. For regular American pizza I'll eat whatever somebody else orders and offers me. Not picky.

farewelltransmission40 karma

It is evident from reading your cooking blog that you are a fantastic writer. Have you ever thought about writing a book (about cooking, your life, whatever)? I’d read it.

And thank you for recording mclusky do dallas, and the song my username is named after.

steve_albini77 karma

I'm suspicious of people in the arts who presume that they can jump disciplines. I used to call it the David Bowie effect -- I sing, therefore I am a painter, therefore I am also an actor... I resist this impulse on my own behalf. I write (like this thing here) mainly to satisfy my own impulses as a pastime, but also to answer other people and get involved in conversation that can be enlightening. That's plenty enough writing for me.

Kommodore39 karma

As a recent aspiring engineer, I just wanted to say that I'm a huge fan and I think you're work is amazing.

My question is, what was it like working with Al Cisneros and his Om project? He must've been a hell of a guy to work with. The sound on his 'Pilgrimage' and 'God is Good' records is absolutely unreal, any insight into the recording of these albums? Also, did he record his newest record, the one coming out in July, with you?

P.S., if you need anyone to scrub the toilets at Electrical Audio let me know, I would give anything to work there haha....(I literally live right down the street from you guys).

steve_albini53 karma

I didn't work on the new OM record. Al has an intensely personal relationship with his music, and it revolves around his emotional response to it rather than anything technical. He can describe what he's looking for, but he wants it to click into place inside his head and fit his internal image of it, and he won't give up until it does. I enjoyed working with OM because I like working with people who have a kind of mania about their thing. I think that makes for the most interesting music.

electrobaboon37 karma

What was working with Cloud Nothings like? I loved Attack on Memory.

steve_albini309 karma

I was playing Scrabble the whole time so I don't remember.

yipjumpmusic36 karma

i want to fuck people with my guitar, do you swear by any specific amp?

steve_albini147 karma

Probably this one for you then.

thesmall31 karma

Steve, I'm 25 years old, I'm thinking about a career in journalism.. Thoughts, tips? Thanks for all the wonderful sounds! Drink kerosene!

steve_albini86 karma

There's very little left of the newspaper industry, and that's what my journalism background was in, so I have no advice. Reporting is the lost art, so you could distinguish yourself by actually doing legwork and digging out primary sources rather than reposting crap you see on twitter. If you don't want to work hard, find something you can do from your iphone probably. Or a blog.

treetment31 karma

Hey Steve. Silkworm is one of my favorite bands.

  1. How was it working with them? Your favorite thing about the band as a whole?

  2. Any ideas as to when that documentary is coming out?

steve_albini41 karma

I know nothing about the documentary's timing. There's a thread about it on the Electrical forums that you can follow. I loved the organic way the members of Silkworm played together like a conversation, where each member knew how to open up space or step up and take charge. Beautifully weird songs, singing that was genuine and unafraid to be odd. Amazing guitar playing. Heroic drumming. Great great band.

yakmanthegreat29 karma

Hey Steve, few questions

  1. I remember hearing you talk about a band who wanted their bass drum to sound like " a ham being hit by a catchers mitt" what band was this?

  2. What was the inspiration behind songs about fucking?

  3. Roland is probably my favorite drummer ever, what was it like working with him?

  4. What exactly happened with that Il Duce 7"? I have a copy and it's amazing, but I've heard theres a story behind it or something.

Also your version of in utero is simply better then the released version.

steve_albini84 karma

  1. That was Britt from Slint.
  2. Fucking and songs.
  3. Brutal pussy hound.
  4. No idea what you're talking about.

wolphin25 karma

Steve, I have huge respect for your contribution in modern music. What new bands should we look out for later this year?


steve_albini76 karma

Still really digging the Dead Rider (D Rider) records. My band has played a bunch with Helen Money, who plays really interesting music on unaccompanied electric cello, and she's doing a new album this year. Just finished work on a new Neurosis album that is unholy good and has more of the stomach-churning heavy chaos they do better than anybody. Robbie Fulks is doing a real great new record of acoustic music, a lot of it straight bluegrass but some of it real weird.

whhaaaat25 karma

You're known for having a distinctive drum sound on your recordings. What do you do to prepare your drums, and how do you typically go about micing them?

A friend with more experience than me once told me about an elaborate technique where instead of tuning to a note (or just a general "yeah, that sounds good" spot), you tune to the most resonant frequency of the drum.

steve_albini66 karma

I use whatever drum kit the drummer brings, but I prefer older, thinner-shelled drums for rock music. I prefer single-ply heads for most uses. If the drummer needs help tuning his drums I can help, but usually I stay out of it, though there are some methods to get specific sounds. It's a little more involved than I can explain quickly, but generally tighter heads have less sustain, except for really loose heads, which have even less. Generally I tune toms in relation to the resonant frequency of the shell, the top head tuned to that note, the bottom head higher or lower depending on how much sustain and resonance is required.

A lot of the time I find myself using the room sound around the drums quite a bit, and there are some tricks to doing that convincingly that I've posted about on Prosoundweb and the Electrical forums if you have time to search there. Also there's a video of a thing from a TapeOp conference somewhere on youtube where I blab on and on forever about how I approach drums. hth

dmcnelly23 karma

Two things really, number one:

How the hell do you play the intro to Kerosene?

Two, what brand of open reel tape do you recommend for a 1" Ampex machine?

Thank you for everything you've done, specifically your stuff with Big Black and Shellac. You redefined music for me.

steve_albini39 karma

  • Open harmonics on the top three strings, alternating between the 7th and 5th fret.

  • I recommend ATR Magnetics tape for everything.

yipjumpmusic23 karma

Hello Steve, when producing bigger bands, do you find a different attitude in the musicians?

what one thing do you think is the most destructive thing inhibiting modern music?

do you have any crazy big black gig stories that stick out?

steve_albini83 karma

Bands with more money behind them tend to waste more time on minor decisions and tend to backtrack and re-visit solved issues a bit more, but otherwise pretty much everybody just wants to make a record they're proud of.

The most destructive thing a musician can do is start worrying about whether or not other people will like the music. Fuck other people. They're not in the band. Just make music that stimulates you and don't second-guess yourself.

Sorry, I don't have any Big Black stories. It was all pretty normal. Our final gig was in a disused power plant on Boeing Field in Seattle. Try doing that now.

Saediien22 karma

Hello Steve Albini. Was this Big Black Final Tour Diary actually written by you? http://petdance.com/actionpark/bigblack/tourdiary/ I saw it passed around as a text file on BBSs about 20 or 15 years ago and recently came across it again. It's pretty dark, and back when I read it the first time it was supposed to apocryphal.

steve_albini35 karma

Yep. I was pretty full of myself back then.

frenchclub7121 karma

Just wanted to say that your description of baseball v. other sports (ie baseball v. trying to get an object into/through/across a line) on episode 37 of the Baseball Prospectus podcast almost kind of changed the way I look at sports.

steve_albini43 karma

Yeah, once you get into baseball other team sports just look like variations on a theme. Dogs fighting over a rag doll.

frenchclub7121 karma

If a band's appearance doesn't matter then what say you about a band's smell? Are smellier bands more interesting than non-smelly bands?

steve_albini70 karma

Man that band Leftover Crack had a mean pong on em. Like being spritzed with vinegar and ammonia. Actually made my eyes water.

snakepatin21 karma

Hi Steve, you may have answered this many times previously, but I was wondering why do you prefer analog over digital?

Also who was your favourite band to act as recording engineer for?

steve_albini64 karma

Digital recording systems engender a kind of production that is overly concerned with editing and manipulating the sound after recording, rather than concentrating on recording music in a flattering manner to begin with. I don't like the way this perspective tends to flatten out performance nuance. That's the aesthetic problem I have with it.

From a professional perspective I don't like the way digital recordings don't leave a permanent archival master, just a bunch of files. The recordings are at risk of disappearing as computer and storage standards change, and I think music is too important to the people who made it to put it on a system that guarantees its eventual disappearance. I'm glad that some old music survived long enough for me to hear it, and I'd like to give my clients the prospect of having their music physically survive long enough to find an audience.

RaichuLover19 karma


steve_albini88 karma

Lame derivative bullshit in all its incarnations. Precisely what he was imitating changed over the years, but whether it was Depeche Mode, Killing Joke or Slayer it was pretty much always bullshit.

ieshido19 karma

Dude, incredible.

Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac are three of the all-time best bands.

I've never a read an interview where you address how Shellac's songs get written. Do you each come up with things separately, get together and collaborate, or some other way? And am I right in assuming you write the majority of the lyrics?

steve_albini30 karma

We work on little bits of music on our own, but the songs come together through rehearsal and performance, and we like it when they evolve over time. Songs we've played for years are now often quite different from the way they were when we first wrote them or recorded them. The lyrics are generally the responsibility of whoever sings them, me or Bob or occasionally Todd, and they too are subject to revision if we come up with better ideas. A significant portion of the lyrics and music are improvised or extemporaneous.

InfernalWedgie18 karma

Can you describe the worst experience you had producing/engineering/anything-but-actually-performing on an album? What was the most frustrating or maddening part of that experience?

Are there any bands that would like to work with you again, but you refuse to work with again?

steve_albini43 karma

I love my job, even when it sucks. I've had some real shit shows, but they're all the sort of thing you can imagine, like recording a song and then re-writing it after it's recorded so everything has to change, but that's not the most frustrating thing. The most frustrating thing is making a good record and finishing it, but one of the principals can't let go of it so you get stuck in a cycle of making a million minor quibbling changes to it to satisfy some ridiculous trivia. Usually this is done at the last minute, where it's the most destructive and time consuming and also everybody is freaked out and in a panic. That's the worst.

If somebody wants to work with me I'll usually try to do it. I don't have the luxury of turning down work for petty reasons.

RespectableChap18 karma

Imagine, if you will, it is a perfect day. The sun is shining, music is being made and you are holding an ice cream.

What flavour is that ice cream?

steve_albini32 karma

A cup with cinnamon, pepe nero and zabaglione gelati.

thencomesdudley18 karma

For a budding young chef, what advice do you have for coming up with recipes? (Also, when can I see Shellac in Chicago again?)

steve_albini40 karma

I don't use recipes so my advice is to learn how to prepare a bunch of different ingredients (one at a time is fine), then you can make dinner out of whatever is available at the time. It works for me. Just remember things you like and how you did it. General techniques are much more important than precise measurements for most foods. There's a real good Ruhlman book called Ratio for this kind of cooking.

Shellac will play in Chicago in August.

jaded8817 karma

Checked the blog, those recipes are insane. To add on, where/how did you learn to cook? Also, when can I see Shellac in South Korea? A couple of months time frame is sufficient.

steve_albini43 karma

I learned to cook by watching my mom and later by experimenting on myself and my friends. If you can set up a show, feel free to contact us about Korea. We're all ears.

awhitesuit18 karma

Steve, can we get a run down of your guitar setup? What do you play / pedals / amps / etc?

steve_albini47 karma

This is basically correct.

aallzz17 karma

Before I ask a question I just wanted to say that I was at the Jason Noble benefit shellac played in Louisville a few years back, and it was a great show to be sure but it was also great to just see people showing support for a local scene, and though I never met him, a seemingly solid guy. Kudos.

Based on what I've read bands say about recording with you, it seems like you have a very hands off approach to recording an album. I'm thinking of how you're not gonna go in there and say "Well this would sound a lot better with a trombone solo" as well as your general style of getting the band just in a room and playing rather than dissecting all the parts and piecing it back together.

Since it's my impression that this isn't generally how albums are recorded, did you get a lot of flack (flak?) if you suggested this method early on in your recording career? Or did you not really let this style loose until your got your own studio/were running the show?

steve_albini28 karma

Jason is a good friend and we were proud to be involved in such a beautiful project.

I learned to make records by being in punk rock bands, and those bands weren't interested in anybody else's opinion on their music, and actively resisted anybody trying to press the point. I started out making records that way and just carried on.

jaded8817 karma

Tell us the secret to create and produce badass music; thanks in advance. Also what are you listening to these days?

steve_albini60 karma

No secret. Pursue things you genuinely like rather than things you think other people might like. These days I'm not listening.

NJlo16 karma

How do you feel about your Nirvana mixes vs the Scott Litt stuff these days?

steve_albini37 karma

I haven't listened to that record in a long time, but I remember thinking the mastering was overcooked on the stuff I recorded. Probably a defensive move on Kurt's part. I know he spent a couple of days on the mastering. I don't have an opinion on the mixes in comparison because I've never compared them.

DoctorStatic16 karma

Of all the albums you've produced, what are some personal favorites?

steve_albini49 karma

Bunch of records by Nina Nastasia, the Breeders, the Jesus Lizard, Silkworm, Will Oldham... I don't really rank the records I work on. I tend to remember the experiences making them more than the records themselves.

titan88c15 karma

I've got two for you.

Touring with Shellac and your other bands has taken you all over the world. Where were some memorable destinations, and are there any places you have yet to visit or would like to revisit? Any favorite venues, cities, etc.

Can you tell us more about the time Britt Walford house sat for you that inspired this song?

steve_albini40 karma

We want to go back to Japan and probably will. Iceland was awesome and weird and cool. Istanbul is a magical city and I could spend a month just walking around there.

Britt was house-sitting while I was out of town and locked himself out of the house somehow. He came home drunk and kicked the door in, then repaired it by nailing a 2x4 across it, and thereafter came and went by the kitchen window. He blocked the toilet and flooded the bathroom. I don't know where he shat after that. I don't hold any of this against him, he was just a kid.

NorONor15 karma

What is your opinion on doing productions fully inside the box?

steve_albini38 karma

Records made that way tend to sound weird and tweaked and over-wrought to me. Every little thing has some special shit done to it and none of it sounds like a person. I say that from some ignorance, since I've never made a record that way, but I'm pretty sure most of the weird and tweaked and over-wrought records I hear now are made that way.

seablue14 karma

Favorite Wipers album and why? Also, what is your assessment of Greg Sage as a producer/engineer (as he recorded many of his own records)?

steve_albini28 karma

Love the first three Wipers albums to death and played the stripes off them. Is this Real, Youth of America and Over the Edge are perfect records. The Sage-produced records are a little murky but the guitar always sounds amazing and the aesthetic totally suits the band. I can't imagine them any other way.

imgonnagetdownvoted14 karma

Alright. Here's a question thats been bugging me. I don't know if you will answer it.....

So you worked with all the 90s 'indie'/noise giants (Superchunk, GBV, Silkworm, Jesus Lizard, Jon Spencer, Low etc etc). What's up with you and Malkmus? Do you think you are going to work with him in the future?


steve_albini22 karma

I've only met him a few times but he seems like a nice enough guy. I don't have an opinion on his music really, not that familiar with it after the first couple of Pavement records.

stratford14 karma


steve_albini21 karma

You're probably referring to the Josephson e22s, and you can read the story of its development here.

Can_it_Plapton13 karma

Steve, thank you, I am a huge fan of your work. I know it's been a while and this is very specific, but what was it like working with the Jesus Lizard? Especially on Goat, I really love that record.

steve_albini27 karma

It was great, they were operating at full steam then. It seemed like they were coming up with new ways to do everything in rock music rather than relying on conventional solutions. Invigorating times, not just for them but the whole scene seemed really electric then.

nillox13 karma

What are your opinions on the Tonnmeister equivalent recording engineering degree programs? I'm weighing applying to UMass Lowell's program and I'd appreciate your thoughts. I read something a while ago where you addressed them and compared them to degree mills like Fullsail, has anything changed recently? Is the degree worth it, or should I try an autodidactic approach?

steve_albini36 karma

You misunderstood me. I think the Tonmeister programs are great. They're solid college education with a concentration in acoustics and recording. I don't have a lot of respect for the diploma mills like Full Sail and the like. These for-profit places are basically tools of the debt-creation industry, saddling kids with debt based on the false hope of getting into an industry that isn't actively looking for new recruits.

An auto-didactic approach is fine, but you need to have resources for research and experienced professionals to talk to to fill-in the gaps of knowledge.

mwppinsidejokes13 karma

I'm a huge fan of Cloud Nothings, who recorded their new album with you. So, what is it like hanging out with the band and what was the recording process like for Attack On Memory?

steve_albini70 karma

I was playing Scrabble the whole time, so I don't remember.

PARPS13 karma

Hey, Steve, thanks so much for doing this! You're the reason I actually started caring about how records sound, so I wanted to thank you for that first of all.

A few questions:

  1. Is there much of a story behind Fugazi working with you for In on the Kill Taker, or were they just simply not happy with their performances?

  2. Is there one record you wish you had recorded?

  3. Is there a recording you've done that, in retrospect, you regret doing?

  4. What has your relationship with Touch & Go been like?

Thanks again!

steve_albini37 karma

  1. Not happy with the state of the songs, which were quite fresh. Also, the recording wasn't my finest hour. I'm glad they took another stab at it on their own, they're did their best work on their own the last few records.

  2. Nope. I love the sound on some records (Fun House, Back in Black, Ramones, Hey Judester, Modern Lovers) and probably tried to emulate them, but they're perfect and there's no reason to think I'd do as good a job myself.

  3. I was mean writing about the Pixies in a Forced Exposure article. I was being rude in an effort to be genuine and it comes off petulant. I regret that. The band didn't deserve that, regardless what I thought of them.

  4. Touch and Go are a beacon, showing everybody how to run a record label and treat everybody decently. T&G created the template, moved mountains and essentially defined the independent record scene for me. Nobody ever did it better.

TheNapkinOfTruth12 karma

With the exception of Sloy and Les Thugs, why do you think there is so much shit music coming out of France, what is the problem with their music?

steve_albini53 karma

France has a ridiculous 95dB sound limit in performance spaces. Of course the music sucks. You can talk over it. Metal Urbain were a pretty big influence on me as a teenager.

rickyimmy12 karma

Steve, as someone who finds the antics of batshit crazy people entertaining and the role of the producer in commercial music loathsome, what are your thoughts on Phil Spector?

For example, did you find The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector (if you saw it) to be a piece of dark absurdest humor or simply rage inducing?

On the one hand he's a massive douchebag, while on the other his insanity is eminently entertaining.

steve_albini42 karma

I don't think being in the studio gives you license to act like an asshole to people. That's all I have to say about that.

[deleted]11 karma

Big fan, but also a big 'Mats fan. So, I'm obligated to ask about the Paul Westerberg tiff. You guys cool?

steve_albini37 karma

I don't know him. The Replacements Stink is a great record and their first couple of years they were an energetic and exciting band. Once they started getting serious about it it turned to cute lovey-dovey shit for sorority girls and Tom Petty fans and I stopped paying attention.

littlefromtheworld10 karma

Hi Steve, I have only one question. What is your favorite cereal?

steve_albini34 karma

Used to love Quisp. In the Quisp/Quake war I remember all my friends voting for Quisp but they kept Quake and got rid of Quisp. Lame.

megapaw10 karma

So Steve, who do like in MLB this year?

steve_albini30 karma

Fuck me the Nationals are an exciting team right now. A young team full of promise with some genuine studs. I envy DC now and for the next 5 years.

Iamnotkevinspacey9 karma

Hey Steve. Just a couple of questions:

1.) What was it like to work/hang out with Wesley Willis? 2.) Any chance of another Big Black reunion?

Thanks for doing this.

steve_albini24 karma

1.) I only knew Wesley casually and I found him as charming and open as everybody else did. 2.) Nope.

chrisrazor9 karma

I have a thousand things to be thankful to you for, but the one nobody's mentioned yet is your legendary review of Spiderland, which caused me and doubtless tons of others to buy it, have our conceptions of what rock music can be blasted to smithereens and spend the next decade or two trying and failing to copy it. Thanks. Also Two Nuns And A Packmule. Thanks again. Did Rapeman really break up because of adverse reactions to the name? That doesn't sound like your style at all.

steve_albini16 karma

Rapeman broke up for all the regular reasons bands break up, we weren't getting along and we were all headstrong.

ManofManic9 karma


steve_albini19 karma

I like to think of myself as enlightened regarding gender issues, but that's easy for me to say since I'm not a woman. I just read my wife (a feminist) this question and she busted out laughing at the phrase, "overly enthusiastic feminist." I also asked my feminist wife if she thinks I'm sexist. She said, "what a retarded question to ask the person you married." Sowley overheard and told her not to use that word.

TheManWhoNeverWas9 karma

Have you spent much time with Brian Eno? Do you have any opinion on his music, personality, and/or production style?

steve_albini10 karma

His records were inspirational when I was a teenager. I loved the way he abandoned the notion of a song in favor of interesting moments. I've never met him.

[deleted]8 karma

After recording Tweez with Slint, did it bum you not to do Spiderland? Did you feel uncomfortable with the strong Big Black vibe on Tweez?

steve_albini8 karma

I was a little disappointed not to have worked on Spiderland but you can't argue with the results. Brian Paulson did an incredible job on that record. Couldn't possibly have been better.

itswillneill7 karma

So is there ANY chance of a Big Black reunion?

steve_albini15 karma


cyclops87 karma

Hi Steve, my people know your people in Mpls.

Do you agree with Todd Trainer's assertion in the Touch and Go 2008 Youtube video that Arcwelder is the only band in history to never record a bad song?

steve_albini9 karma

Arcwelder never recorded a bad song, this is a real true fact.

Redsnork6 karma

My dad used to go to Northwestern with you. Do you remember him? His name is Larry Bleiberg.

Proof: You were once playing a concert and you refused to start until a certain guy left.

steve_albini11 karma

True fact, that guy was the guy my girlfriend was cheating with at the time. I wasn't in a mood to have him around. I can't place your dad but maybe if I saw him.

franchiseSMASH6 karma

What was it like working with Leftover Crack on "Fuck World Trade"? Any qualms with their personal politics?

steve_albini9 karma

I don't really understand their politics, so I have no beef with them. The only thing weird about working with Leftover Crack was the smell. Otherwise they were a normal band of dudes who wanted to make a record they liked.

Jyffeh5 karma

What are your political views? Are you an anarchist?

steve_albini24 karma

As a realist, I tend to vote against the most destructive candidate, which generally means the Republican, in any election. I refuse to vote for a candidate with no chance of winning unless the election is a cinch. For judicial retention elections my wife compiles a cheat sheet of recommendations from various groups with whom we sympathize on womens' issues, prison reform, GLBT issues and corruption.

My political perspective is progressive. I believe a society with a conscience should actively try to incorporate, liberate and support as many of its people as possible, and the story of our country is a lurching, faltering progress toward that ideal. Gradually, eventually, our side always wins. Slavery ended, women are no longer property and can vote, children no longer work in mines (although we still send them to prison), institutionalized racism is dying, we got out of Vietnam, being Queer is no longer criminal... It can take decades, and there are obviously still fish to fry, but the moral, generous and forgiving nature of mankind expresses itself piecemeal as the stones in the right-wing reactionary wall, sexism, racism, class identity, greed, exclusivity, violence and revenge all erode over time.

The progressive positions are all eventually adopted not because we've overpowered our opposition, but because the positions themselves resonate with the American identity; we want everybody to have a fighting chance at happiness and to live a fulfilling life of his own choosing. Whenever the right wing scores a victory on an issue, it is (in the words of the poet John Houlihan) a small, temporary victory won by small, temporary men. The right wing seizes territory during its season of power, which is ceded back to civilization and then some when its season ends.

Basically I think selfishness and revenge are the ugliest human impulses and I root for anyone who helps quiet them.

Anarchism is interesting intellectually and engenders some interesting discussion but that's about it. Libertarianism, pfft. Me-me-me bullshit for selfish little pricks who have a child's conception of property and liberty. Communism has a humane underpinning but basically can't be implemented in groups larger than maybe a hundred.

Whenever I hear somebody bitching about taxes I want to punch him in the mouth. "It's MY money!" Shut up, no it isn't. It's money, and it's a fluid resource (or should be) just like air. It isn't YOUR air just because you're breathing it some of the time. Fucking children.

I find the notion and reality of a for-profit corporate prison system absolutely horrifying.

sorrowerthe5 karma

Just wanted to say I still love what you did for Mono...

steve_albini8 karma

I loved working on those Mono records. Taka is a visionary and their music is beautiful.

flac_id5 karma

  1. What's your favorite mineral?
  2. What's the best question you've been asked at a q&a session during a shellac show.

steve_albini7 karma

From a young girl in Ireland, "Do you have any tapes? Any tapes of your band? Well you should."

burhanistan4 karma

Have you ever met Mark E. Smith? Is there some sort of feud or bad blood there or is he just kind of a ranting old dude?

steve_albini10 karma

Never met him but I think he's a genius. Top rants.

lieutenant_cthulhu3 karma

Are there any records you produced that you later regreted? Also, is a Big Black reunion remotely plausible? And one last thing, what is your opinion on the conflict arising from file sharing and internet piracy?

steve_albini11 karma

I don't tend to regret much. Usually I learn from bad experiences and move on.