Steve Albini Addresses Edgelord Past In New Interview
About a month ago, the acclaimed Chicago recording engineer and Big Black/Shellac member Steve Albini posted a Twitter thread reckoning with his history of transgressive “edgelord” behavior, including (but not limited to) playing in bands called Rapeman and Run N***** Run in the ’80s, touting his friend’s child pornography magazine in the zine Forced Exposure in 1978, and using a racial slur in a post on the Odd Future message board about the time he shared a shuttle with Tyler, The Creator in 2011. Today MEL Magazine published an interview with Albini expanding on the subject.
“I certainly have some ‘splainin to do, and am not shy about any of it,” Albini wrote in the initial thread. “A lot of things I said and did from an ignorant position of comfort and privilege are clearly awful and I regret them. It’s nobody’s obligation to overlook that, and I do feel an obligation to redeem myself… A project I’ve undertaken piecemeal as I’ve matured, evolved and learned over time. I expect no grace, and honestly feel like I and others of my generation have not been held to task enough for words and behavior that ultimately contributed to a coarsening society.” He continued, “For myself and many of my peers, we miscalculated. We thought the major battles over equality and inclusiveness had been won, and society would eventually express that, so we were not harming anything with contrarianism, shock, sarcasm or irony.”
In the MEL interview, Albini shared these reflections on naming his band Rapeman after pornographic Japanese manga comics:
I admit that I was deaf to a lot of women’s issues at the time, and that’s on me. Within our circles, within the music scene, within the musical underground, a lot of cultural problems were deemed already solved — meaning, you didn’t care if your friends were queer. Of course women had an equal place, an equal role to play in our circles. The music scene was broadly inclusive. So for us, we felt like those problems had been solved. And that was an ignorant perception.
That’s the way a lot of straight white guys think of the world — they think that it requires an active hatred on your part to be prejudiced, bigoted or to be a participant in white supremacy. The notion is that if you’re not actively doing something to oppress somebody, then you’re not part of the problem. As opposed to quietly enjoying all of the privilege that’s been bestowed on you by generations of this dominance.
That was the fundamental failure of my perception. It’s been a process of enlightenment for me to realize and accept that my very status as a white guy in America is the product of institutional prejudices, that I’ve enjoyed the benefits of them, passively and actively. And I’m responsible for accepting my role in the patriarchy, and in white supremacy, and in the subjugation and abuse of minorities of all kinds.
There was also this about his transgressive posture in general:
In our circles, nothing was off limits. So, it took a while for me to appreciate that using abusive language in a joking fashion was still using abusive language. And it was genuinely shocking when I realized that there were people in the music underground who weren’t playing when they were using language like that and who weren’t kindred spirits. They were, in fact, awful, and only masquerading as intellectuals. That was one of many wake-up moments.
As for the Odd Future thing:
I’ll be honest. That [shuttle experience] was a single and extreme scenario where young kids who were really full of themselves were behaving like assholes. My articulation of that whole experience was inexpertly rendered. That’s probably the best way that I can put it. I wrote my account of the afternoon up quickly, without much consideration, and I can appreciate how somebody who’s unfamiliar with me, with Odd Future and with the ideas being brought out in the subtext would be responding to seeing that word in print. And I appreciate that. That was incorrect.
It was basically me not appreciating the distinction between the casual usage and the hard R usage. And that’s my fault. That’s just cultural ignorance on my part. They were behaving atrociously, and I was simply describing their behavior and language, but I did it in a way that portrayed my own cultural ignorance.
Here are Albini’s original tweets: