Legendary Nirvana and Pixies ‘engineer’ Steve Albini dies aged 61

Legendary Nirvana and Pixies ‘engineer’ Steve Albini dies aged 61
Legendary Nirvana and Pixies ‘engineer’ Steve Albini dies aged 61 Copyright X - Rough Trade
Copyright X - Rough Trade
By David Mouriquand
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Albini was best known for engineering albums for Pixies, Nirvana and PJ Harvey. He did not take royalties from records he worked on. The rock world says goodbye to a true legend.


Indie rock icon and record producer Steve Albini has died at the age of 61.

Albini died of a heart attack at his recording studio, the Electronic Audio, in Chicago.

He was a larger-than-life character in the independent rock music scene, known for his forward-thinking productions, unapologetic irreverence, and sense of humour. He was most well known for being the producer of major albums such as Nirvana’s final studio record ‘In Utero‘, Pixies’ debut ‘Surfer Rosa’, and PJ Harvey’s ‘Rid of Me’.

Born in Pasadena, California in 1962, Albini was part of various bands throughout his teenage years. He played in punk bands, and in college, wrote about music for the prescient indie zine “Forced Exposure.”

He received a degree in journalism at Northwestern University in Illinois, and engineered his first album in 1981 (Albini disliked the term “producer”, preferring the title “engineer”).

Albini frequently criticised the music industry’s exploitative practices - as detailed in his landmark 1993 essay “The Problem with Music”. He did not take royalties from records he worked on, and he kept his day rates low.

Speaking in 2018, Albini said he had worked on more than 2,000 albums, mostly for underground or indie bands.

He also performed in his own bands including Big Black and his most recent project, Shellac.

Shellac had just finished recording a new album, 'To All Trains', due for release next week (17 May), and the group were set to tour the record prior to Albini's death, according to the music website Pitchfork.

Among the tributes, Pixies posted a photo of him on X, with the caption RIP Steve Albini, while The Lord Of The Rings star Elijah Wood wrote: "Ugh man, a heartbreaking loss of a legend. Love to his family and innumerable colleagues. Farewell, Steve Albini."

Retail chain of record shops in the UK and US Rough Trade wrote on X: "Musician, studio engineer and the mastermind behind some of rock's greatest albums. A hero to us all. Thank you for setting the standard so high. RIP Steve Albini. Deeply missed, forever loved."

Fans also started resharing his proposal for producing Nirvana‘s ‘In Utero‘ following the news of his death.

Albini wrote a four-page proposal to the grunge trio when he agreed to work on ‘In Utero’ with them in which he explained his philosophies around recording music. Most notably, he declared that “if a record takes more than a week to make, somebody’s fucking up”.

“I think the very best thing you could do at this point is exactly what you are talking about doing: bang a record out in a couple of days, with high quality but minimal ‘production’ and no interference from the front office bulletheads,” he wrote. “If that is indeed what you want to do, I would love to be involved."

“If, instead, you might find yourselves in the position of being temporarily indulged by the record company, only to have them yank the chain at some point (hassling you to rework songs/sequences/production, calling-in hired guns to ‘sweeten’ your record, turning the whole thing over to some remix jockey, whatever…) then you’re in for a bummer and I want no part of it.”

He continued: “I’m only interested in working on records that legitimately reflect the band’s own perception of their music and existence. If you will commit yourselves to that as a tenet of the recording methodology, then I will bust my ass for you. I’ll work circles around you. I’ll rap your head with a ratchet…"

He also spoke about money, writing: “I do not want and will not take a royalty on any record I record. No points. Period. I think paying a royalty to a producer or engineer is ethically indefensible. The band write the songs. The band play the music. It’s the band’s fans who buy the records. The band is responsible for whether it’s a great record or a horrible record. Royalties belong to the band."

“I would like to be paid like a plumber: I do the job and you pay me what it’s worth.”


Albini is survived by his wife, filmmaker Heather Whinna.

Additional sources • Pitchfork

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