Q Magazine

Read the Letter Steve Albini Sent to Nirvana Before Recording 'In Utero'

A four-page letter Steve Albini sent to Nirvana before recording 'In Utero' has gone viral following the legendary producer's death.

Steve Albini

Legendary music producer Steve Albini died on May 7.

Link to FacebookShare to XShare to Email

A letter Steve Albini sent to Nirvana before working on their 1994 record In Utero has gone viral following the legendary producer's death. He suffered a fatal heart attack at age 61 on Tuesday, May 7.

Part of the four-page note was posted to the band's X (formerly Twitter) account on Wednesday, May 8. This came as a wide array of fans, celebrities and musicians mourned the legend on social media.

Albini was not a big fan of Nirvana. He was once called them "R.E.M. with a fuzzbox." But the producer agreed to work with the band because he thought they were being taken advantage of by the music industry and felt bad.

Article continues below advertisement
Kurt Cobain
Source: MEGA

Albini didn't like Nirvana's music, but agreed to work with them because he felt bad for the band.

"If a record takes more than a week to make, somebody’s f--king up," Albini said.

"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."

"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."

Article continues below advertisement

Albini also spoke about how he picked his projects.

"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," he said.

"I consider the band the most important thing, as the creative entity that spawned both the band’s personality and style and as the social entity that exists 24 hours out of each day. I do not consider it my place to tell you what to do or how to play. I’m quite willing to let my opinions be heard (if I think the band is making beautiful progress or a heaving mistake, I consider it part of my job to tell them) but if the band decides to pursue something, I’ll see that it gets done."

Article continues below advertisement

Never miss a story — sign up for the Q newsletter for the latest music news on all your favorite artists, all in one place.

Article continues below advertisement

Albini explained his old school, analog mentality, as well.

"If every element of the music and dynamics of a band is controlled by click tracks, computers, automated mixes, gates, samplers and sequencers, then the record may not be incompetent, but it certainly won’t be exceptional," he said.

Article continues below advertisement

The producer was also opposed to the concept of royalties.

"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," he said.

"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. The record company will expect me to ask for a point or a point and a half. If we assume three million sales, that works out to 400,00 dollars or so. There’s no fucking way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn’t be able to sleep."

Albini was born in California and spent many of his formative years in Montana. His music career didn't take off until he moved to Evanston, Illinois to attend Northwestern University. That's where the journalism student got involved with Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac.


Subscribe to our newsletter

your info will be used in accordance with our privacy policy

Read More