Remembering Steve Albini, rock musician and engineer, who died at 61 (2024)

One of the most important figures in shaping the sounds the '80s and '90s has died. Steve Albini fronted the bands Big Black and Shellac and engineered albums for Nirvana, the Pixies and PJ Harvey.


An important figure in shaping the sounds of the 1980s and '90s has died. Steve Albini helped to create albums by Nirvana, PJ Harvey, the Pixies and others.


NIRVANA: (Singing) She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak.

INSKEEP: Albini was also a respected musician in his own right. He died earlier this week at 61 of a heart attack, and NPR's Neda Ulaby has our remembrance.


NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Steve Albini founded the band Big Black in 1981. He was an undergrad at Northwestern University. Soon, seeing a show by Big Black became something of a defining experience for young musicians entranced by the power of hardcore experimental rock.


ANNIE CLARK: It's kind of physically painful in a really wonderful way.

ULABY: That's Annie Clark of the band St. Vincent on NPR in 2011, remembering when she saw Big Black in the late 1990s.


CLARK: It's just, like, lacerating guitar and this noise and this thing that kind of expresses all of your suburban angst and rage.


BIG BLACK: (Singing) Ought to know what a liar I am, ought to know me by now.

LEOR GALIL: Steve Albini was one of the most important figures in the subcultural international punk scene since the early '80s.

ULABY: Music critic Leor Galil works at the Chicago Reader, a few miles from Steve Albini's recording studio. Albini founded Electrical Audio in the mid-1990s.

GALIL: His work as an engineer is what he's best known for. He produced - he hates the word - he hated the word produced, but he recorded Nirvana's "In Utero" album. That was their big punk album after they broke through nationally.


ULABY: True to his punk rock ethos, Albini was known for rejecting royalties on principle for albums he'd recorded.

GALIL: That money was made for the musicians who recorded it. He saw himself as kind of another tool in the studio for bands to take advantage of to capture their best sound.

ULABY: A sound raw and real.


PJ HARVEY: (Singing) 'Til you say don't you wish you never, never met her? Don't you, don't you wish you...

GALIL: It was about capturing the noise in the room.


PJ HARVEY: (Singing) Never met her. Don't you, don't you...

ULABY: Steve Albini, by his own estimate, recorded more than 1,000 albums, including PJ Harvey's "Rid Of Me." He talked to NPR in 2011 about the lessons he wanted to pass along.


STEVE ALBINI: You don't get anywhere by mimicking the people who did it poorly in the mainstream. You accomplish things by working within your means and by keeping as much control of your own existence as possible.

ULABY: Albini's austerity meant no publicists, no hairstylists and no managers.


ALBINI: Those people are unnecessary. They're frivolous. They're an insult to the efficiency of the underground.

ULABY: That's Steve Albini being restrained. For a long time, he was known for epically tearing into his foes in the music industry. His insults were sometimes racist and sexist. But over the years, Albini apologized for things he'd said. The Chicago Reader's Leor Galil says he mellowed into something close to a mensch.

GALIL: He has done a tremendous amount of work with people who have no name, everyone from the Foo Fighters to my friends' bands recorded over the weekend.

ULABY: Steve Albini, he said, worked with anyone who shared his ferocious commitment to discipline, independence and old-fashioned integrity. Neda Ulaby, NPR News.


THE BREEDERS: (Singing) He's an ape, he's an angel. Only in threes, oh, oh, oh, oh. Only in threes, oh yeah. Only in threes, oh, oh, oh, oh.

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Remembering Steve Albini, rock musician and engineer, who died at 61 (2024)


Remembering Steve Albini, rock musician and engineer, who died at 61? ›

Steve Albini, the influential recording engineer behind Chicago's Electrical Audio studios and a member of bands like Big Black and Shellac, died Tuesday. He was 61. Brian Fox, an engineer at Albini's studio, said Wednesday that Albini died after a heart attack Tuesday night. His death was first reported by Pitchfork.

How old is Steve Albini? ›

Death. Albini died from a heart attack at his home in Chicago, on May 7, 2024, at the age of 61. Dave Grohl dedicated a performance of the Foo Fighters song "My Hero" in his memory, and Joanna Newsom did likewise with a performance of her song "Cosmia".

Did Steve Albini work with Nirvana? ›

Albini was a mastermind when it came to gritty production. From Nirvana's grunge-y pessimism, to the Pixies' fluttering art punk, to PJ Harvey's aggressive alt-rock, if an artist wanted to sound raw, Albini was the go-to man.

How much does Steve Albini make? ›

Amongst the many different projects he had, Steve Albini amassed an important wealth from the different albums he produced over the decades. On the list of richest music producers of all time, he ranks at No. 7 with $10 million earned from his multiple projects during his entire career.

Did Kurt Cobain like Steve Albini? ›

In past interviews, Cobain had regularly expressed his admiration for the unfiltered, live-off-the-floor sound Albini captured on Pixies' 1988 album Surfer Rosa, and The Breeders' 1990 album Pod, and he now desired that Nirvana's next recordings be brought into the world in a similarly unvarnished, undiluted form.

Which guitarist was kicked out of Nirvana? ›

Nirvana fired Everman after the tour ended due to his moodiness.

When was Steve Albini born? ›

Steve Albini was born on 22 July 1962 in Pasadena, California, USA.

What age is Joe Strummer? ›

On 22 December 2002, aged 50, Strummer was found dead by his wife at his home in Broomfield, Somerset. An autopsy showed that he died from a heart attack caused by an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.

What age is Lou Reed? ›

Death. In April 2013, Reed had a liver transplant. He died from a liver disease on October 27, 2013 in his home in Long Island, New York. He was 71 years old.

What guitar does Steve Albini play? ›

Steve Albini's 'Black Sled'

This was Steve's main guitar during the later days of Big Black/Early Rapeman, before switching to Travis Bean. Little is known about the origins of this guitar, other than it was made (probably) custom for him in an Evanston guitar store (Flynn Guitars).

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