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Steve Albini on Steve Albini

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#1 Dave

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 09:26 PM

Steve Albini posted an Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit yesterday.

Some highlights:
On Nirvana:
Long story, but basically the standard protocol for a big record company at the time was for players in the industry to try to claim authorship of a successful record somehow -- this guy did the A&R, this guy did the legal, this guy was the producer, this guy remixed it -- so credit for success stayed within the industry and players could use it as professional capital. Nirvana made a record by themselves, outside all that influence, and it made everybody inside uncomfortable enough to try to derail it and get them to do it over. Additionally, it's normal for any band to have some slight misgivings about their record once it's in the can, everybody does. The label put pressure on the band, partially using me as a publicity scapegoat, to get them to do the record over, and that coupled with their natural uncertainty eventually created enough doubt that they re-mixed a couple of songs.
I know the label was directly involved with blaming me because I got more than one call from music journalists who said, "I just got off the phone with Gary Gersh and he says the Nirvana album is un-releasable and it's your fault."
The record that made it into the stores is the one Nirvana wanted you to hear, and I'm content with that. I have no beef with Nirvana, they were a normal bunch of guys under extraordinary stress and they behaved normally. All the motherfuckers around them, all their functionaries and managers and label parasites, those petty little people who fucked with them to preserve their positions within the industry, fuck every last one of them.

On piracy:
I reject the term "piracy." It's people listening to music and sharing it with other people, and it's good for musicians because it widens the audience for music. The record industry doesn't like trading music because they see it as lost sales, but that's nonsense. Sales have declined because physical discs are no longer the distribution medium for mass-appeal pop music, and expecting people to treat files as physical objects to be inventoried and bought individually is absurd.
The downtrend in sales has hurt the recording business, obviously, but not us specifically because we never relied on the mainstream record industry for our clientele. Bands are always going to want to record themselves, and there will always be a market among serious music fans for well-made record albums. I'll point to the success of the Chicago label Numero Group as an example.
There won't ever be a mass-market record industry again, and that's fine with me because that industry didn't operate for the benefit of the musicians or the audience, the only classes of people I care about.
Free distribution of music has created a huge growth in the audience for live music performance, where most bands spend most of their time and energy anyway. Ticket prices have risen to the point that even club-level touring bands can earn a middle-class income if they keep their shit together, and every band now has access to a world-wide audience at no cost of acquisition. That's fantastic.
Additionally, places poorly-served by the old-school record business (small or isolate towns, third-world and non-english-speaking countries) now have access to everything instead of a small sampling of music controlled by a hidebound local industry. When my band toured Eastern Europe a couple of years ago we had full houses despite having sold literally no records in most of those countries. Thank you internets.

On jazz:
Because it sucks and I'm tired of hearing about it. Believe me I've tried. I just hate the parts I hate about it more than I like the little things there are to like. The batting average is just so low I can't bear the dead time between highlights being filled with all that noodling. It's vain music.

what five words would you use to sum up your time/work with [the Pixies]?
Five words? That's going to

On Phil Spector:
I don't think being in the studio gives you license to act like an asshole to people. That's all I have to say about that.

More on the Pixies:
I was mean writing about the Pixies in a Forced Exposure article. I was being rude in an effort to be genuine and it comes off petulant. I regret that. The band didn't deserve that, regardless what I thought of them. (His original critique of their Surfer Rosa album, which he engineered, was: "A patchwork pinch loaf from a band who at their top-dollar best are blandly entertaining college rock. Their willingness to be 'guided' by their manager, their record company and their producers is unparalleled. Never have I seen four cows more anxious to be led around by their nose rings.")

On Al Jourgensen (Ministry):
Lame derivative bullshit in all its incarnations. Precisely what he was imitating changed over the years, but whether it was Depeche Mode, Killing Joke or Slayer it was pretty much always bullshit.

On his favorite cereal:
Used to love Quisp. In the Quisp/Quake war I remember all my friends voting for Quisp but they kept Quake and got rid of Quisp. Lame.

On the Flaming Lips:
I've only seen the Flaming Lips once. I'm not into stagecraft, lighting, gimmicks and props, so it was wasted on me. The music wasn't special either and that made it seem like a doube-bummer. It's depressing when there's a big to-doo going on and the music doesn't seem to warrant it. Like a Garth Brooks show or something.

If you had one piece of advice for a young engineer wanting to do this for a living, what would it be?
Ramen.

On producer's royalties:
No. I don't take royalties because I am ethically opposed to them as a means of compensation. I think they unfairly siphon money from a band who has earned it. It is patently ridiculous to work on a record for a couple of weeks in a secondary capacity and get paid for it in perpetuity. I prefer to set a price for my time and get paid like anybody else who works for a living. My wife on the other hand, she regrets my position on royalties.

What was the inspiration behind songs about fucking?
Fucking and songs.
Maximum Awesome
"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend

#2 Dave

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 10:23 PM

On overbetting draws in pot limit omaha:
I am bad at PLO, and I err toward aggression when I'm drawing to the nuts and can make a big bet. It's a swingy style but for a non-specialist I believe it's better than playing more passively because it's difficult to exploit. I'm not going to put in a lot of work on a game I actively dislike, so I've settled on this as a compromise approach.

On cats vs dogs:
Cats.

Given the changing landscape of album sales, do you feel there is more justification for bands to allow their music to be used for commercial purposes (e.g. Advertising, etc...)?
I don't like it when music I like is attached to commercial publicity. It changes the meaning of the music by changing its context and utility. For most music that gets used that way it doesn't matter because I hate it anyway, but when music I like is used commercially it bugs me a little. That said, when people need money, they sometimes do embarrassing things, and I can see a band talking themselves into doing that.

What do you think about trying to get the online sites to adopt a big bet betting structure for stud or other draw games? I.e. 1/2 pot limit stud [Any money stuck in FT?]
I like the conventional structures for stud games. I think big bet formats would destroy the bad players and kill the games. I played regularly, like several times a week prior to BF [Black Friday] and I have a little stuck on FT.

On Jarvis Cocker:
He speaks passable French.

I heard a story once that in order to keep people away from you at shows, you had some sort of blowtorch aparatus hooked on to your belt, or guitar or something like that... is THAT true?
No, but that's a fantastic idea.
Maximum Awesome
"Proceed counterinductively." --Paul Feyerabend