Steve Albini - the man behind the 'seminal' Big Black, then made enemies at Nirvana's record company by making the recordings he did for In Utero 'unreleasable'. He's recorded (not 'produced', mind) just about anyone who's anyone in the indie rock world, including PJ Harvey, the Pixies and the Wedding Present, and has rightly earned the title of 'Hardest Working man in Showbiz'. Now he's back on the tracks with the also-seminal Shellac. We talked to him about, music, Europe and food.
We've not seen you in Scotland lately. Is this really just tour logistics?
Yes. I much prefer the food in Scotland to what they eat in England (can't really call it "food"), and the scenery and history are both fascinating.
What about the rest of Europe? You hate the French (ok, this may be ironic...) but you do produce Uzeda. What else can you say about the European nations, or at least their musical output?
What do you make of the British perception that they have a better sense of humour/irony than everyone else?
They have a better percentage of famous funny people, but a recent visit to a London comedy club (to see Rich Hall, a funny American) demonstrated that in addition to cooking vegetables, the british do not understand comedy.
Virtually every joke was either A) a socially-concious attack on a figmentary "fascist," B) a self-deprecating blather about how out-of-work the comedian is, or C) a dick joke.
Polly Harvey - has she lost it? Do you think she needs to get back to the 3-piece again or is her new direction legitimate progress?
Of course it's progress for her. Personally I preferred the sound of the rock band, but Polly's no dope. She is making these incremental changes in her delivery and methods with open eyes, and she's very aware of how it changes the music. She is a genius, and I'm more than willing to wait for her experiments to pay off.
You're quite against people embelishing their records with samples and stealingother people's ideas, yet in your other capacity you work away at improving people's work i.e. making something sound better than it is. How can you reconcile the two?
My actual work ethic is based on making things sound exactly as they are, with the intention of letting the artist's technique and execution do the work. I never feel guilty about making a record sound as good as it possibly can. I don't really understand your question, in that you are implying that stealing other people's ideas or sampling someone else's actual record is a necessary part of making a good record. That position is ludicrous.
Do you have some sort of quality control on who you accept work with, do you have to like the band already? (Failure come to mind; your recording them was, shall I say, a 'surprise' to me as they're less musically outstanding than anyone else you've been involved with.)
You haven't heard 90 percent of what I record (no-name bands, many of whom are just starting out), who make Failure sound like Stravinsky. I do have criteria for accepting offers, and they are inclusive (e.g. if a session satisfies any of the criteria, I can find reason enough to do the session):
If I really like the band as people
If I really like the music
If I would otherwise enjoy myself (technically or culturally interesting)
If a friend is involved in any capacity (label, whatever)
If the session enables another band to afford a session (doing three bands in one go at a distant locale, for example, where no individual band could afford to bring me out)
If the band, though seemingly unsuited to my techniques, have a genuine
interest in doing things this way, with an open ear for results.
You may notice that how much I get paid is not a criteria.
Courtey Love - widow grieving in unusual manner or Nancy Spungen reincarnate?
I don't have anything to say about this woman.
OK, then, Shellac - do you think you might be better served sometime by an outside
producer/engineer (for new ideas etc?) Not that I'm trying to imply it's needed
(oh goodness me no), just from your perspective as one who spends a lot of time
recording other bands, how might it look from the other side of the fence?
With Bob (Weston) and me in the band, we pretty much have the bases covered. Can you imagine how uncomfortable another engineer would be working on our records? "Production" is rarely needed on any bands' records, and certainly not on ours.
Any other bands working in the same area as you who you rate?
Dis-, Silkworm, Tortoise, the Blues Explosion, Uzeda, 18th Dye, Blumfeld, Sloy, Ruins, TFUL282, Six Finger Satellite <snip>
Today, mossy slate-green, or ochre (brighter than ochre earth though)
You like Tortoise, yet you hate freeform jazz. Aren't there similarities?
There are "similarities" between my mother and Jeffrey Dahmer. Genetically, for example, they are more than 99 percent identical.
My feelings toward the two are quite different, however.
And of course, any UK record/tour news?.
We have no plans to play in the UK at the moment. We are always planning to release another record, but when and what, we won't know until we're done.