Steve Albini : biography
Steven Frank "Steve" Albini (pronounced ; born July 22, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, audio engineer, and music journalist. He was a member of Big Black, Rapeman, and Flour, and is currently a member of Shellac. He is the founder, owner, and engineer of Electrical Audio, a recording studio complex located in Chicago, and has worked with musical acts such as Sparklehorse, Nirvana, The Stooges, Slint, Pixies, Failure, Jawbreaker, Manic Street Preachers, Cheap Trick, Neurosis, PJ Harvey, The Jesus Lizard, Om, Whitehouse, Bush, mclusky, Electrelane, Thom Bowden and Scrawl, among others.
- See List of Steve Albini's recording projects for a chronological list of Albini's recording work
Steve Albini on right, with [[Ani DiFranco and RZA at The New Yorker festival in September 2005]]
As of 2008, Albini is most active as a record producer. However, he dislikes the term and prefers to receive no credit on album sleeves or notes,see The Penguin Book of Rock and Roll Writing, Penguin Books, 1996. or to be credited as a recording engineer if the record company insists on any credit at all.
A key influence on Albini was producer John Loder, who came to prominence in the late 1970s with a reputation for recording albums quickly and inexpensively, but nonetheless with distinctive qualities and a sensitivity towards a band's sound and aesthetic.
Unlike any other engineer/record producer with his experience and prominence, Albini does not receive royalties for anything he records or mixes; rather he charges a flat daily fee when recording at his own facility, described by Michael Azerrad (Azerrad, 2001) as among the most affordable for a world-class recording studio. In fact, Albini initially charged only for his time, allowing free use of his studio to friends or musicians he respected who were willing to engineer their own recording sessions and purchase their own magnetic tape (Azerrad, 2001). When recording elsewhere, Albini uses an admittedly arbitrary sliding scale:
Albini estimates that he has engineered the recording of 1,500 to 2,000 albums, mostly by rather obscure musicians. More prominent artists that Albini has worked with include Nirvana, The Breeders, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Helmet, Chevelle,View , starring Albini, Chevelle and Fred Armisen. 1999. Squint Entertainment. Robert Plant, Fred Schneider, The Stooges, Mogwai, The Jesus Lizard, Owls, Pixies, Don Caballero, PJ Harvey, Manic Street Preachers, Jarvis Cocker, The Cribs, The Fleshtones, The Wedding Present, Bush, Joanna Newsom, Nina Nastasia, The Frames, Jawbreaker, The Membranes, Superchunk, Low, Dirty Three, Cheap Trick, Motorpsycho, Slint, Labradford, Veruca Salt, Zao, Neurosis and Cloud Nothings. He has also shown interest in recording modern hardcore bands such as California's Trash Talk and Amsterdam's Vitamin X.
In Albini's opinion, putting producers in charge of recording sessions often destroys records, while the role of the recording engineer is to solve problems in capturing the sound of the musicians, not to threaten the artists' control over their product. In 2004, Albini summarized his opinions about record producers: "It always offended me when I was in the studio and the engineer or the assumed producer for the session would start bossing the band around. That always seemed like a horrible insult to me. The band was paying money for the privilege of being in a recording studio, and normally when you pay for something, you get to say how it's done. So, I made up my mind when I started engineering professionally that I wasn't going to behave like that." (Young, 2004).
Nevertheless, albums recorded by Albini bear a distinctive sonic signature. In Our Band Could Be Your Life, Michael Azerrad describes Albini's work on Pixies' Surfer Rosa, but the description applies to many of Albini's efforts: "The recordings were both very basic and very exacting: Albini used few special effects; got an aggressive, often violent guitar sound; and made sure the rhythm section slammed as one." (Azerrad, 344) Another Albini trademark is his habit of generally keeping vocals "low in the mix," or much less prominent than is usual in rock music. This is said to have been a point of contention by the label during the recording of Nirvana's In Utero (Cameron, 2001).
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