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]

Comments (25)
  1. Calliwell  |   Posted on Jul 6th, 2007 0

    Not related but, those crazy White Stripes did it again:

    http://www.thestar.com/entertainment/article/233135

    And their concert was also top notch, if I may add.

  2. RE: In Utero

    “The version of the album in the stores is the version the band wanted people to hear…”

    Isn’t it the version the LABEL wanted people to hear?

  3. Scott, RE: In Utero…

    I think initially the idea to remix some of the songs was the label’s idea. But, in later interviews Kurt admitted he was unhappy with the mix on at least one song (Pennyroyal Tea) and supported the idea of remixing it.

    I’ve never seen what the big deal was though, they only remixed a couple of songs. I know “Heart Shaped Box” and “Pennyroyal Tea” were remixed. Possibly “Rape Me?” Everything else is heard as recorded by Albini.

  4. here’s what i could find for instant gratification on the overlooked bands he names…where possible, mp3s were preferred. also, i don’t have a ton of time to spend, so this is some lazy first-SERP work. what i really want is a “steve says listen to this” CD with the best track from each of these bands:

    Brickbat
    http://www.myspace.com/brickbattheband

    Cordelia’s Dad
    http://www.myspace.com/cordeliasdad

    Oxbow
    http://www.theoxbow.com/

    the Cape May
    http://thecapemay.com/

    Shannon Wright
    http://www.knowwave.com/shannonwright/

    Tar
    http://www.emusic.com/artist/Tar-MP3-Download/10566688.html
    (closest i could get to something you can hear on the first page of search results)

    Sloy
    http://youtube.com/watch?v=CYtnIg98xxA
    (looks a tiny bit like sarkozy?)

    the Auteurs
    http://home1.swipnet.se/~w-10098/auteurs/index.htm

    Cheer Accident
    http://www.skingraftrecords.com/audio.html

    Uzeda
    http://www.touchandgorecords.com/bands/band.php?id=84#

    Bokomolech
    http://users.uoa.gr/~avel/bokomolech/music.php

    Ballydowse
    http://www.myspace.com/ballydowse

    Distortion Felix
    http://digital.othermusic.com/search/index.php?ARTIST=Distortion+Felix

    Sonna
    http://www.temporaryresidence.com/bands/sonna.php

    Desert Fathers
    http://www.threespheres.com/site/multimedia/multimedia.html

  5. dang. so he wasn’t making ANY of them up? i figured one or two. distortion felix in particular.

  6. TK  |   Posted on Jul 6th, 2007 0

    Thx ‘gum. I didnt want to work this afternoon anyways!

  7. uglyredhonda  |   Posted on Jul 6th, 2007 0

    There was an interview at one point (maybe in Azerrad’s Come As You Are) where the band conceded that the album sounded amazing in the studio and horrible when they got home. Among other issues, they thought that the bass levels were too low. (That was one problem that they fixed during the mastering process rather than remixing.)

    Scott Litt remixed “Heart Shaped Box” and “All Apologies”. He also remixed “Pennyroyal Tea”, but Albini’s mix was used on the album. (Litt’s “Pennyroyal” mix did appear on the clean version of the album, and eventually on Nirvana. It was supposed to be released as a single had Kurt not died.)

    I believe DeRogatis was the one who spread the story about the label forcing the changes. But the reality is that ten of the twelve songs were Albini’s mixes unaltered (save for the mastering), so, even if they forced the changes, they weren’t able to force much.

  8. BlackCloud  |   Posted on Jul 6th, 2007 0

    Oxbow SLAYS. Insano lead singer.

  9. joe $  |   Posted on Jul 6th, 2007 0

    the jesus lizard = respect

  10. Adam Heathcott  |   Posted on Jul 6th, 2007 0

    Cheer Accident is AWESOME.
    Go pick up “Introducing Lemon” on Skin Graft. It’s probably the most immediately easy to get into. Maybe skip the second song.

    It’s almost as if someone mixed Drag City Jim O’Rourke stuff with King Crimson (all configurations) and maybe a pinch of early Chicago (25 or 6 to 4).

  11. Title TK is one of the few CDs that never leaves my car, that’s a great record. And yay for a plethora of bands to check out!

  12. Reid Davis  |   Posted on Jul 6th, 2007 0

    The fact that Steve has recorded so many Christian bands always tickles me, for some reason. But Ballydowse is one of them, and yes, if you’re into that whole Pogues/Black 47 Celtic punk thing, they absolutely slay, particularly live. (Of course, they’re from Chicago.)

  13. The Auteurs are reasonably famous aren’t they? Me and a friend were going to get an album of theirs for our media studies/film teacher when we left school (four years ago) because of the appropriateness of the name.
    Ordered a Uzeda album last week from amazon, was hoping it’d be good, and now that Albini has recommended I’m really looking forward to that.

    Excellent article here though Stereogum. Big thumbs up from me.

  14. Sonna is an amazing band. Of course, they’re broken up, so you have to settle for their catalogue and the equally amazing Tarentel, who stole Sonna’s drummer.

  15. You forgot this gem:

    “‘Also, should I ever fold KK preflop?’

    ‘Folded Queens to a big four-bet when 200+BB deep (but covered by a guy who could squeeze) full ring the other day and got into a beef with Pavaveda about it. He was all “how do you magically put him on KK+” and I was all “dude shut up you play limit HE shorthanded” and he was all “you have 34 percent equity against their ranges” and I was all “dude shut up I have two outs that aren’t the nuts and I’m not playing for my stack with two outs and you’re wrong about those ranges” and he was all “I disagree” and I was all “dude shut up.” ‘

  16. Alex  |   Posted on Jul 7th, 2007 0

    That’s my new band name, Fold KK Preflop. We’re gonna play Christian metal.

  17. Sarah  |   Posted on Jul 7th, 2007 0

    Jim, your nice. Thnx.

  18. creeesco  |   Posted on Jul 7th, 2007 0

    c’mon. the albini postings are fake.

  19. heatherwhinna  |   Posted on Aug 16th, 2007 0

    i found this article on the interweb quite late after you put it up, subsequently i apologize for commenting a month and a half later especially because i would be really grateful if the writer of this piece would answer a question i have. unless i misunderstood this bit– which is totally possible– my question is in regards to the comment that reads “and not a very impressive bluff by some authoritative historian on Steve’s every musical project and personally held opinion”– i am DYING to know who this authoritative historian is! i have a hundred dollar bet on the answer. also, i have lots of questions about what he knows about steve’s personally held opinions. i am, myself, still surprised by what he ends up saying and god knows that steve doesn’t know every musical project he has participated in. i would love that list of musical projects and be willing to pay for it. maybe you were being facetious and i missed it. it is all so very funny. of course those postings are real. it is almost depressing to think that there must be “enough” musicians/recording engineers that take themselves so seriously that it would make a person honestly believe you can’t call them up with a question or that they wouldn’t answer questions on a poker forum. our number is listed- just call when you are not high at 4am- he’ll answer most any question you have if it doesn’t interfere with a session. music is one of the most important and influential aspects of my life. i would be pissed, as a music fan, if a person was passing themselves off as someone i respected and had a few questions that they could quickly answer. i should stop. i was just excited to find out who this bullshit “historian” is and bummed out to think that some independent musicians are so far removed from the world that they wouldn’t answer some questions by people who are genuinely interested. ugh, i should watch larry king and go to sleep.

  20. I have visited your site 564-times

  21. alvareo  |   Posted on Jul 31st, 2009 0

    Universal accidentally released the Albini mixes on a 2003 vinyl reissue.

    So either Steve doesn’t know that or he’s lying.

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