Powell Explains His Steve Albini Billboard

As we reported a few days ago, the UK dance producer Powell recently used a sample of legendary producer and noise-rock curmudgeon Steve Albini introducing a song at a Big Black show long ago. Powell emailed Albini and asked for permission to use the sample, and Albini approved it, asking for no money in return. But he also fired off an intense email regarding his feelings about both dance music and the culture that surrounds it: “I detest club culture as deeply as I detest anything on earth. So I am against what you’re into, and an enemy of where you come from.” Powell responded by using the text of Albini’s email and putting it on a billboard in London. There’s been a lot of speculation that this was a diss move from Powell; our story about it said that Powell “mocked” Albini by putting the billboard up. But Powell insists that the sample and billboard were both homages to Albini, that they’re on the same team.

In a new Quietus interview, Powell talks a bit about the billboard, insisting that he holds Albini in the highest regard and that there’s no beef between him and Albini:

I got an email from Steve, and first and foremost thought, “This is just incredible writing.” It made me laugh, and he was saying things that I believe about music, so it was a chance to say something about the state of electronic music and see what people thought about it. Obviously the bands he lists [White Noise, Xenakis, Suicide, Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK, DAF] are some of my favourites, which seems completely lost on people. I liked the tone, the angst, the hatred of so much of what’s going on. Undoubtedly he’s not clued into loads of stuff, but there is a lot of shit electronic music around. It’s become this coffee table, festival-going alternative to rock music. I liked the fact that he was attacking that…

What’s being lost on people is that it’s being positioned as Powell against Steve Albini but it was never like that, it was me and Steve against stuff – without him I wouldn’t be making this kind of music. I emailed him yesterday to say, “Just for the record it wasn’t supposed to go like this, but it’s funny and I’m doing it because I love you.” And he said, “Don’t worry, I totally understand and appreciate the fact that you love my music.” It wasn’t like I’d made this track and wanted someone famous on it, the sample process is totally organic when I’m making music…

I believe finding interesting ways to talk about music, rather than just paying for more space on Spotify, is part of the challenge we face today. What would you rather? A billboard with my face on it? That would be beautiful, sure, but dull.

It’s worth noting that Albini is by no means allergic to electronic music. Big Black famously used a drum machine instead of a human drummer.