Steve Albini Drops Anonymity, Answers Questions In Poker Forum

Stereogum | July 6, 2007 - 9:58 am

So here’s what we know: By all accounts, indie icon Steve Albini is a bit of a poker freak (just ask Mike Watt). And now Metafilter points us to a poker forum thread begun by a user named “Electrical” (as in Electrical Audio, Albini trivia buffs), which gets going like so:

Ask a music scene micro celebrity
I have traveled in the music scene as a musician and recording engineer for better than 25 years. I have worked on a couple thousand records, some of them with famous rockstars, though most of them you’re probably never heard of. I know a lot about making records, recording technology, touring, being in a rock band and the like. I own Electrical Audio, a 2-studio recording complex in Chicago, Illinois, where I make records every day.

I will answer any questions related to being in a touring/recording rock band, working in the studio with musicians both great and famous, making records, brushes with actual rock star celebrities, etc.

In NLHE, I am a prolific donator. I can hold my own in 7stud.

Any questions?

Yeah “Electrical,” the indie-rock loving poker players have some questions for ya, and assuming we’re hearing from the real Albini (and not a very impressive bluff by some authoritative historian on Steve’s every musical project and personally held opinion), the “music scene micro celebrity” is ready to talk about everything from the genius of Kurt Cobain to Urge Overkill’s inability to play their instruments…


BEST MUSICIANS “ELECTRICAL” ALBINI’S WORKED WITH:
“Pattdown, the Jesus Lizard was easily the best group of musicians I’ve ever worked with in terms of aggregate talent and ability, but I’ve worked with a bunch of incredible musicians on individual instruments. I have been most impressed by great drummers and great singers, because drumming and singing are the two most difficult things to do well.

Drummers:
Jim White (Dirty Three, Nina Nastasia)
Rey Washam (Scratch Acid, Big Boys, Rapeman, Ministry)
Britt Walford (Slint, Breeders)
Martin Atkins (Public Image Ltd, Ministry, Pigface)
Glenn Kotche (Wilco, Edith Frost)
Bun E. Carlos (Cheap Trick)
Dave Grohl (Nirvana)

Singers:
Nina Nastasia
Robin Zander (Cheap Trick)
Kim Deal (Pixies, Breeders)

Most recently, I had my mind blown by Joanna Newsom’s playing on the harp. She is a wonder on that thing.”

ON THE SUCCESS OF KURT COBAIN AND NIRVANA:
“Genius is a weird and inappropriate word, and hard work is underrated, but Kurt Cobain had a distinct and personal take on the world, and generally, when someone strikes a chord with his audience, that’s what people respond to.

There were a lot of bands the “sounded like Nirvana” at the time Nirvana made it big, but none of them have had the same long-lasting influence. I have to admit that I wasn’t particularly a fan of Nirvana when I was asked to work on In Utero, but during the course of making the record I came to appreciate that they were genuine about their band and their music, that Kurt was capable of sophisticated thinking, and that they and their music were unique.”

ON WHETHER THERE IS A FULL ALBINI-MIXED VERSION OF IN UTERO IN EXISTENCE:
“The version of the album in the stores is the version the band wanted people to hear, and I respect that. Any ‘alternate version’ floating around out there is either totally bogus or a generations-removed copy of a cassette dub, and not worth your attention.”

ON WHAT IT TAKES TO BOOK STUDIO TIME WITH STEVE:
“Honestly, I’m not too selective. If a band wants to work with me, and I think I can do a good job, I’ll put them on the schedule. The only time I’m ever suspicious is when a manager or label person contacts me rather than the band. In those instances, the band may not have even expressed an interest in me, and the whole thing may be being cooked-up by somebody else. In those cases, I always suggest that the band contact me directly so I can have a conversation with them and gauge their interest. If the band are consistently kept at arms length, then that’s a tell that the whole thing is not going to happen.”

ON WHICH TRACK OR ALBUM HE’D DO OVER, AND WHY:
“Man, good question. There are only a few records I’ve worked on where I felt like I dropped the ball, and those records really bum me out, because I know that the band is only getting one shot at making their record, and they have to carry it around forever … About 10 years ago, I did an album with an amazing German band called Wuhling, and despite working my ass off, I felt like it never sounded as good as the band were. Their previous album had been recorded by a friend of mine, and it was terrific. The record isn’t bad, but the band were amazing, and they deserved an amazing record. I still wonder what I could have done differently.”

A SELECTION OF STEVE’S PROUDEST MOMENTS:
The Jesus Lizard – Goat
PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me
The Breeders – Pod and Title TK
Nina Nastasia – The Blackened Air
Silkworm – Lifestyle or Italian Platinum
Palace/Will Oldham – Viva Last Blues or Arise Therefore

“DO YOU THINK BANDS THAT ARE SEVERELY DERIVATIVE, LIKE MOST GARAGE ROCK BANDS, ARE INFERIOR TO BANDS LIKE JESUS LIZARD WHO SOUND TOTALLY UNIQUE?”
“Yes. In other news, I think Ice is cold, fire is hot and the sun will probably come up tomorrow.” Zing!

ARE THERE UPCOMING BANDS CARRYING “THE TORCH OF ROCK AND ROLL”?
“Dude, I hear them all the time. Just did a record for a band from Denton, Texas called Record Hop, and they were terrific.”

BANDS STEVE HAS WORKED WITH THAT DESERVE TO BE HEARD BUT HAVE BEEN OVERLOOKED:
“Great question. Off the top of my head: Brickbat, Cordelia’s Dad, Oxbow, the Cape May, Shannon Wright, Tar, Sloy, the Auteurs, Cheer Accident, Uzeda, Bokomolech, Ballydowse, Distortion Felix, Sonna, Desert Fathers… Jesus there’s a bajillion of them.”

“DO YOU HATE HIPPIES AND HIPPY MUSIC AS MUCH AS EVERYONE ELSE?”
“Hippies themselves are pretty harmless. Hippy music, I think I hate that even more than I hate everyone else. “

“WHO WERE THE WORST MUSICIANS? ANY GUYS THAT COULD BARELY PLAY THEIR INSTRUMENTS?”
Forgot to answer your actual question. Urge Overkill.

“HOW IS YOUR HEARING?”
“Good enough, apparently.”

Whew. We know, got carried away with the old cut-and-paste … but there’s no good place to stop. For more off-the-cuff Albini confessions and pot-shots at Urge Overkill, head to 2+2. Make sure you have an hour or two.


[Pic from Big Black @ Touch & Go’s 25th Anniversary Block Party, 9/10/06]