CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW? (obvious title apologies)



it's been an amazing and humbling year for me as a writer both of and about music and i've had the privilege of speaking to or meeting with a good few of my musical heroes along the way. obviously albini was a big deal for me - he personifies everything that i love about approaching music and business with integrity, and also most things about how i love music to sound. he has a fierce reputation but in fact the most fierce thing about him is his intellect - he's a funny, eloquent and well-informed man who just happens to be the best in the world at what he does.

so, here, for those who have an interest, is a little christmassy treat - a complete transcript of a near-hour long conversation with the man i casually refer to as 'our glorious leader' at any given opportunity. have a great xmas and thanks for reading my work. xm 

(obviously this was previously published in massively abbreviated form on Q Magazine online and took place a few weeks before the shellac curated atp festival)

Q:How the devil are you?
S:I’m good. What’s up?

Q: I’m good. I’ve just been killing time watching a really depressing documentary about serial killers. What are you working on today?
S: Today is my weekly day off and so mostly what I do is interviews for people and/or office work and/or try to deal with shit in my personal life. My wife and I bought a house so the house is currently under renovation so there’s a lot of bullshit involved with trying to raise money to pay for that and try to figure out what parts of the house we can live without them being fixed.

Q: That doesn’t sound like the most fun in the world admittedly…
S: Well any time you can see something developing into something more awesome it’s really cool. So we bought this house that was obviously a cool house a hundred years ago but it had slid into disrepair and so now we’re trying to resurrect what was cool about it. It’s a long and expensive process.

Q: But sounds like it will be really satisfying…
S: When it’s all over with I’ll be living in a really cool house and that makes me happy and excited.

Q:As it should. What’s the next thing that you’re recording at work there?
S: There’s a band from China coming in today but they don’t start until tomorrow. I’ll be working on them for a week and then I leave for Australia at the beginning of next week.

Q: So is it from Australia back to the States?
S: We’re in Australia for two weeks. Is it two weeks or ten days? Something like that. Then back to the US, then I work for a while then we’re playing the atp show in the uk then I don’t think the band has anything else booked in terms of shows. We’re planning on doing some recording this fall but that’s all.

Q: So 20 years of Shellac. Are you feeling proud and filled with joy?
S: Well it’s kind of cool. As a band we’ve never really ever had any goals as a band. We just wanted to pursue a process and when you see things that way you’re not as aware of milestones. You’re not as aware that you’ve done anything for a certain period of time or…like I don’t know how many shows we’ve played. We might have played our 3000th show and not had any champagne moment. It’s not really that big of a deal to us. It’s nice to realize you had a core group of ideas that you committed yourself to when you started the band and that those ideas are still valid, still seem valid and that it still seems like it’s worth pursuing you know? And the way we operate within the band has proven to be very sustainable. Like the band doesn’t make demands of any of us. We basically pursue the band when we have time and when opportunities present themselves so that means we’re never frustrated by the band or we never feel like the band is obliging us to do anything . I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve lasted as long as we have is that we have no cause to resent the band. A lot of people get into a band and the band by default becomes their career and in that sense it’s a job and everybody resents his job you know? I mean I have a great job. I run this recording studio and I make records every day, it’s a totally great job. I get to see and do really satisfying, really exciting things every day but still I relish my days off and I resent the intrusion of my job into my life you know?

Q: Yeah, that makes sense. So it’s like the band serves you as members rather than you serving some kind of Shellac machine?
S: Yeah, I mean a lot of bands feel like their band is their means to an end you know? ‘The band is how we’re going to get famous’, ‘The band is how we’re going to get rich’, ‘The band is how we’re going to see the world’ and for us the band is it’s own very satisfying enterprise. It’s not a tool for anything else and the satisfaction we get out of playing in Shellac is unique for r all of us. There’s nothing else in my life that I get to do that’s as satisfying to my creative impulse as being in Shellac so it’s the difference between doing something for it’s own sake and doing something as a means to an end. For us, Shellac is really all it needs to be.

Q: Being part of something where the process is it’s own end is a really rare thing. It sounds like you enjoy it. Is the Shellac experience still an ongoing process?
S: Yeah, I love every minute with Bob and Todd. Every minute, every second that we’re playing, every minute on tour. I occasionally hear pity stories from bands that say they’re tired of being on tour or ‘making this record has been such a drag and it’s been so challenging and so difficult’ and that just sounds like nonsense to me. That sounds like pure bullshit. Being on tour is awesome. You go from town to town where you’re treated like a fucking hero; somebody makes a nice meal for you; you go to a place that’s set up for you to play your music in and then you play your music in front of people who want to see it? What an amazing experience!

Q: Who could ask for more?
S: Yeah, I’m just trying to picture how that could be a drag. The only thing that I can come up with is that if you do it too much, like if your diet consists of cotton candy then eventually you’re going to hate cotton candy. It’s like they say ya know, picture the most beautiful, sexy woman on earth and there’s some guy that’s totally fed up with her bullshit.

Q; it’s a cliché for a reason?
S: Yeah, it is.

Q: It seems to work the same way for the fans. You don’t play or release too regularly but when I’ve spoken to fans before for instance at the Jersey show at the bowling alley people treated it like a special event. It’s a special treat. I think that appeal is almost unique to Shellac because it feels like a rarity to see the band…
S: I guess on an individual often do we play in New Jersey? I guess it’s pretty rare. We’re not monks though, we do play 5 or so weeks a year. That’s not a lot of touring or a lot of shows from a “pro band” standpoint but if you take into consideration that it’s a hobby for us it’s quite a bit of indulgence for a hobby ya know? And we don’t necessarily play in one place often but over time we eventually have gotten to see a lot of the world. We have played in a lot of different places.

Q: You get to most places in the end…
S: Yeah it’s like anything else. You don’t need to fuck all the women in one night.

Q: Words of wisdom, thank you. With those early morning shows – like the New Year’s Day show in London it felt like a little endurance test. Does it put a smile on your face to see all the hungover fuck-ups crawling through the door?
S: We’ve done several New Year’s Day shows. We’ve done one in Chicago, one in London and there’s something awesome about seeing people who got the bright idea whilst steaming drunk that they were gonna stay up all night and go see another show in the morning. You see them in the morning and fatigure has set in and if they hadn’t already bought the tickets they wouldn’t have bothered ya know? You see these people and they’re just completely fried and then the contrast between them and the bright and chipper early risers who are there saying ‘I’m so pleased we’re getting to see you guys ‘cos I work nights and I wouldn’t have ever gotten to see you otherwise’…the contrast between them is really great, it’s a really nice dynamic. To see people who are dressed up for a party but obviously totally through with partying for the evening? And they’re the ones like ‘Ah, could you just turn it down a little?’, like ‘Do you have to be exhuberant right here? I’m just gonna go in the back’…It’s a nice pairing for an audience.

Another thing we’ve discovered – we play morning shows whenever it’s convenient to because there’s a really nice sensation about playing this show and you have this whole really satisfying experience and then you pack up your stuff and you load the van and you realize it’s fucking noon and you have the whole day ahead of you and that’s awesome ya know? There’s something really nice about that so we do that when we can. But the other thing that’s cool about it is you get little kids at a daytime show. 7, 8, 9 year old kids come to shows that are in the middle of the day. I guess it’s because they can get dropped off and then picked up afterward? The typical suburban experience of dropping the kids off at a movie or whatever except it happens to be a rock show ya know? I think that’s such a great segment of an audience to have ‘cos young kids have completely unvarnished responses to things. Like if you say something stupid they’ll laugh at it and they’ll tell you you’re stupid and if they get involved in the show it’s a really genuine unfiltered response. I really like that.

Q: Moving to ATP – how did Shellac become involved with ATP? You’ve played a LOT of shows for them now. Can you tell me a little bit about how that came about?
S: Yeah. All of us had been in bands for some time by the time Shellac started and all of us had experience with festivals. When I was in Big Black, Big Black had played a couple of festivals and my perspective on festivals was that they just sucked. They were no fun as a patron because you are not being treated well.  The acoustics were bad. As a band you felt the whole thing was being done pro forma like ‘well I guess we have to let these bands play’ and the conventional festival atmosphere was a pretty rotten one. It wasn’t a celebration of music it was kind of a means of extracting ticket money from an audience and with as minimal effort on behalf of their comfort or the experience of seeing music or the dignityof the people in the bands ya know…it was an unpleasant experience to play at a festival. It was an unpleasant experience to be a t a festival  and when we started the band we decided we just weren’t going to play festivals. We were approached about playing All Tomorrow’s Parties – at the time it was called the Bowlie Weekender – we were approached and we said ‘no, we don’t do festivals. Then we were approached again by Barry Hogan and he said ‘this is really different, this is  not like a regular festival. There’s someone curating the bands so the bands are all good; the bands and the audience live together in the same holidy camp environment so everybody has a roof over their head, everybody has priovacy but everybody can still mingle with everybody; it’s not a bunch of tents in a field and it’s not disparate venues where people never rub elbows – it’s actually like a nice ???’commons’???? (16 MINS). We were like ‘that’s nice but no, we don’t do festivals.  Then we got talked into it. I forget but I think the first time we played we were asked to play by Mogwai and I think Bob had an extended conversation with dudes in Mogwai about ATP  and they convinced him that it really was gonna be a different kind of experience and so we said ‘well, ya know, if this is somebody really trying to change the game then it’s worth supporting so maybe we should give it a shot and just try it once and if it sucks it sucks and we don’t do festivals. But if it’s good ya know it could be a bellweather ofg things getting better. So we tried. We played one ATP. WE HAD A GOOD TIME EVERYTHING  everybody was saying about it was true – that is that the cohabitation between the bands and the audience was really nice, the fact that it’s a very convivial atmosphere…we felt like the patrons were being treated much better than they were at a conventional off-site festival and then the curated aspect of it…all the bands a re being vouched for by somebody? YA KNOW LIKE THERE’S someone whose taste you could have an opinion about saying ‘I RECOMMEND YOUS EE these bands, they’re good, I’ve picked them all for you’ you it’s like it’s a very, if you think about it, a totally intuitive way of structuring a festival and it’s kind of incredible that no-one had done that as standard practice ya know?
Q; Yeah
S: We tried it, played one of the ATPs, had a great time. Barry asked us to curate, we did, it was a lot of work in that we were bringing bands to England that for the most part no-one in England had ever heard of. So people were essentially having to trust our judgment about all these bands. So there wasn’t a lot of star power for the ATP that we curated. There wasn’t a lot of ya know headliner type attraction. PEOPLE WERE REALLY HAVING TO GO OUT ON A LIMB IN TERMS OF TRUSTING Our judgment and the fact that the responses were so uniformly goomade us feel a lot better not just about the idea of the festival but about the readiness of an audience to participate in a festival like that.
And since then we’ve just basically every time ATP has proposed something we’ve tried to do it. Both because we now have a very longstanding very like healthy relationship with everybody that works in the Atp herarchy but also because ATP just has a really good batting average of delivering whjat they say they’re going to deliver more often than not. There are things that fall through, shit that they propose that doesn’t happen ‘cos either sales don’t warrant it or they lose a bunch of money and they have to cut something out a know but I would much rather have people try ambitious stuff and blow it now and again than just to do something that’s ya know completely bankable, never-fail kind of no risk involved thing. It’s like they say there has to be like  a degree of pretension, arrogance and ambition in order for anything awesome to happen. If those things aren’t there then the chances are the experience is gonna be pretty mundane. And ive had really fantastic experiences at ATP. I’ve seen amazing stuff and just the fact that I’ve been in the company of people who were just as enthusiastic about something as I was or I’ve gotten to see people’s eyes opened to stuff. Like, we brought a, the first time we curated ATP we brought a performer called Philip Roebuck, no it was the second time.  He’s a one man band. He pl;ays the banjo and sings and has a bass drum strapped to his back and I mean he’s a street performer and he’s made his living as a street performer for years. And there’s no reason to think that anyone in England would ever have heard of him or been interested in seeing something like that if you described it to them as I’m describing it to you now it sounds stupid ya know? He’s a guy that plays banjo and has a bass drum and a tambourine strapped to his back. That sounds dumb  when I say that to you. But he is totally captivating performer and he set up outside the pub one night at ATP and just did busking for an hour or whatever and having an environment set up where that was even possible validated the whole experience to me. Seeing a guy who would not have been able to get to Englan don his own steam getting in front of an audience that was open minded enough to totally appreciate him and that they directly supported him like ‘here, you are awesome right now, let me throw ten pounds in your cup’ you know that kind of thing. That was really satisfying.

Q: So how come it’s taken ten years between this curation and the last one? Is it the workload?
S: Well it’s a lot of work if you’re trying to do it diligently.  We probably wouldn’t have done it but ATP said that they would do a lot of the infrastructure work that we took on ourselves the first time. The first time we did it we contacted all of the bands , we interfaced with all the bands, we worked out all the money deals with all the bands like we triedto make it so that the whole thing was essentially us doing a festival with ATP organizing, well, providing the resources for it. This time we said we’re all way too busy in our lives to do something like that again so we wi;l suggest the bands and we will do whatever we can to interface with the bands but by and large you’re going to have to do all the grunt work. And they said ‘fine, that’s what we did for everybody else’ so…
Q: Result, that’ll do…
S: Yeah

Q: I see a tremendous amount of value in ATP personally, for instance being exposed to one of the bands you’ve booked this year Mono, that was like some fucking insane spiritual experience or something…
S: Well Mono’s one of those bands who have the capability, the potential to do a really transcendent show.  Even when they’re just playing their regular set it’s awesome and then every now and again they’ll do something really special and just uncork a complete mind-melter of a show and I would like to have as many trials as possible in the hopes of having that happen for as many people as possible..

Q: Absolutely. What I was gonna say was that one thing ATP gets accused of is with the ‘Don’t Look Back’ shows, or shows where bands play the whole album in order, is retro-fetishism and maybe they’re feeding into that culturally. You’ve resisted any temptation or offers for Big Black or Rapeman to reform…will you continue to resist? Do you see a problem with retroism?
S: Now that…well there are two things at play there. There are certain bands that had a classic line-up that delivered an album that was life-changing for people and getting to see that band play that record is I think a totally understandable desire on the part of people whose lives were changed by a single record and I don’t think that that’s overstating it at all. When I got to see The Stooges play Fun House it was quite legitimately one of the best musical experiences of my life and I can’t argue…if I had some sort of a philosophical objection to it at some point prior to that I cant maintain that objection with a straight face now having been through that experience and having seen it happen. When it clicks and when it is awesome it is so awesome it’s worth any carrying on, you know whatever inertia to the development of culture or whatever – it’s worth it on a personal level for me to have seen that ya know? So ..or seeing Television play Marquee Moon? Those were great experiences for me as a listener and as a fan so..Granted they are kind of gimmicky, graned that you’re kind of denying whatever achievements those people have made in the interim, all those things are true and all those reservations people have about those things are totally true but last year I saw John Cale perform the Paris 1919 album with a rock band and a chamber orchestra and it was fuckin’ awesome ya know? Like I understand the critical resistance to that as a concept and my bands are not into doing it just…Shellac isn’t into doing it because we’re still an active band ya know? We’re not one of those bands that needs to pull their shit back together after a hiatus in order to do this one great thing. We’re still grinding it out so it doesn’t make sense for Shellac to do it. The other bands that I have been in it doesn’t make sense to do it because all those people are involved in other contemporary, current things and also I think it might be kind of overstating the case that my bands were as significant as those other bands that I’ve been talking about you know? So I feel like that might be stretching the concept a bit farther than it warrants.
Q: Really?
S: Yes. But, regardless, the times that I have seen something like that it has been fucking awesome and that’s because as a listener I was removed from those people when they were doing it as contemporary like when they were in the middle of doing that I wasn’t part of their audience. I wasn’t old enough or I wasn’t where they were so I didn’t get to see it, right? But I have seen a couple of those that were like that that were fantastic, amazing experiences. I had a different experience watching Slint play.
Slint was a band that I had seen during their active period quite a few times I mean I’m friends with those guys, im aware of their progression as a band and I saw it  happening in real time. So while it was sonically satisfying to see them play that record in front of an audience that was there to see it it was a different experience for me than I had with that band in their heyday and it was an uncomfortable experience.  I’ll go as far as to say that I didn’t like it.
Q: Is that related to motivation in some way?
S: No, not at all. I understand that that’s an argument a lot of people make, they say ‘oh this band is doing it for the money’ and I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I don’t think people would bother doing all the things that are necessary to resurrect a band purely for money. I don’t think anyone would do that. It’s just too much work, and it’s emotionally taxing and it requires people to reorganize their lives and basically they don’t print money big enough to get people to do that, ok? So I think that argument is kind of fallacious. Im sure the money is a motivating factor on some lvel but that’s not the reason  that they’re doing it, right? So there’s that.
But I saw Slint play that music when it was boiling out of them organically as a real time event ya know and to see them do it as a kind of a revue or as a stage show where they actually had to involve additional members and where things that were originally spontaneous had to be rehearsed and scripted and things that were ya know, music that was never intended to be performed live was now having to be performed live in a way that mimics the experience of someone listening to a record in a basement ya know. It just seemed like an alien representation of something that I was already familiar with ya know? It’s like one of those, like when you see those giant fibre glass Jeff Koontz sculpture of a cartoon character or Marilyn Monroe or something and it’s made into an alienthing, this representation of something that may already mean something to you on a personal level .
Having said all of that if my relationship with that record, with the Slint ‘Spiderland’ record was the same as my relationship with Television’s Marquee Moon or with TheStooges Fun House, if I had had a different relationship with that record I would have fuckin’ loved that show. I know I would have. So I encouraged everybody who never got a chance to see that band to go to those shows and to see that band do that set because I knew for them it would be an awesome experience and that…owing to the specifics of my experience with that band and my experience with those people, owing to those unique specifics I didn’t get very much out of it. But I recognize absolutely that that is not a failing on the part of Slint and not a filing on the part of that endeavour – it is purely 100% to do with the circumstances of my exposure to that band back in the day.

Q: So it’s all circumstantial?
S: Yeah
Q: ‘Cos I never got to see Slint the first time around and when they reformed I couldn’t resist going and it was amazing – I guess because I have a totally different relationship…
S: Yeah, yeah

Q: Let me ask you about a new Shellac record…
S: Sure
Q: Is that something that’s likely to happen sooner rather than later?
S: We’ve been basically prepared to record another record for a couple of years now. We just don’t get our shit together to finish stuff off and finish recording. We’ve finished recording half a dozen songs. We have another half dozen that we’re prepared to record when the opportunity comes up. We just haven’t done it yet. I suspect that all of our time is pretty well spoken for through the end of the year so we probably won’t be able to put time aside to record until the early part of 2013 and then once we’ve finished the record then it’ll come out in however long it takes for records to come out so…I don’t know how long that is…
It could’s like a week right?
Q: Yeah I think it’s a week.
S: Or it’s a year? I don’t know. Somewhwere between a week and a year then.
Q: You just put it on Bandcamp and that’s it I think – it’s out then…
S: (Laughs) Yeah, that’s right. We’re almost certainly just gonna release the record through Touvch and Go just like we’ve done with all our other records, Touch and Go has already said they will do it
Q: That was gonna be my next question…
S: That’s a satisfying thing so…

Q: The tunes you’ve been playing live over the last few years like ‘You Came In Me’ – will they be on the record?
S: Unless we can’t pull ‘em off then yeah. I mean ‘You Came In Me’ we already recorded that one and that one came out fine so that one’s almost certainly going to make it onto the record. There’s a song called ‘Dude Incredible’. We recorded tat, that one came out fine. That’s [probably gonna make it to the record. There’s a song called ‘Compliant’…a lot of them are working titles that I don’t’ ..we may or may not stabilize with. I mean we’ve got a the sets we’ve been playing lately we’ve played I think 8 or so of the songs that have yet to be released on records.

Q: ‘Compliant’ sounded huge at Primavera last year..a great song…
S: Oh, thank you.
Q: You’ve played the ATP stage at Primavera a few times?
S: Uh-huh. That’s another scenario. The Primaverasound festival is a good example of a festival that couldn’t have been possible without the way that ATP changed the landscape for festivals. It’s a curated festivsl, it’s done with much more resources behind it than ATP so it has some corporate involvement which particularly, personally I’m not that comfortable with but I understand that doing something on that scale people can talk themselves into doing all kinds of things and we have a lot of time for ????FRAR?????(36 MINS) the guy that organizes the festival. We have a lot of time for him again because he’s been very over the years, very forthcoming with us about how thoings go and like the experience that Primaverasound provides to the patrons is just so much better than the usual standard of what people had grown to expect from festivals. The atmosphere is so nice and convivial
Q: It is something special isn’t it? Compared to UK festivals…not to blanket badmouth them but in comparison to Reading or something like that it’s a whole different world isn’t it?
S: Yeah and like I said I think you can directly thank ATP for changing the landscape and proving you can do something was co-operative and collaborative and treated people decently, you could do that sustainably over an extended period of time. Year after year you could do it and that it would be successful on business terms as well as cultural terms. I think that you can thank ATP for demonstrating that to people and making it so that the whole landscape of the touring business has changed.
Q: It slipped my mind – I was meaning to ask about you curating ATP – there was a rumour you were trying to book Fugazi. Is that bullshit?
S: Yeah. We would have loved to have something like that happen but it’s not going to happen. Fugazi has their own thing. When Fugazi was an active band we invited them to play an ATP and they had a very similar ‘we don’t do festivals’ policy within their band that we had. And we were unsuccessful in convincing them to play the ATP that we curated. But the fact that they were willing to consider it? I think made us feel really good. Like we hadn’t missed the mark by that much ya know?

Q: Do you think that your status as a public figure…wow that sounds silly now…
S: Why would you…Doesn’t it sound ridiculous when  you say that?
Q: It looked fine written down..
S: (Laughs)
Q: Do you think it overshadows sometimes? Does it overshadow your work? Does it make you uncomfortable to be in the spotlight like that?
S: What makes me uncomfortable is you saying the words ‘public figure’. That made me uncomfortable.
Q: Yeah, me too.
S: I mean I interact with other people, I interact with everybody in my studio, in my life and my business. I interact with all these people immediately and directly every day. And those are the relationships that matter to me. The ones where im actually doing something directly with someone else. I’m in their presence, I’m talking to them, they have a perspective on me that I think is 100% valid ‘cos I’m interacting with them directly. If I disappoint one of those people I feel terrible. If I do something for one of those people that helps them out and makes things go smoothly I feel great, right? What some person I’ve never met, who has no interaction with me types up about me and posts on his blog or twitter or email or magazine or ya know television? I could not give a shit what those people say. They have nothing to do with me or my life. To the degree that they impose themselves on my life by calling me up and needling me about stuff or making a public spectacle out of some trivial aspect of my relationship with somebody else…like when to the degree that they try to impose themselves on my life I try to deal with that as succinctly as I can. If there’s trouble brewing, if there’s some kind of a beef developing I try to explain myself so that I don’t end up inadvertently fanning flames, right? If somebody says something in the media where someone is portraying a position of mine as a rationale for arguing with me or for calling me an ashole or whatever…if someone is portraying a position of mine and that position is nonsense – that is if it’s made up and doesn’t reflect my actual position on something then if I’m aware of it and if it’s gonna cause me trouble then I try to straighten ‘em out.
If I’m not aware of it then obviously it doesn’t matter and if it doesn’t cause me any trouble obviously it doesn’t matter. But when someone makes it their business to tell the rest of the world what I think about something then it becomes incumbent on me to straighten that person out if they’re wrong or misc-characterising it or providing information that’s going to interfere with my life or somebody else’s life…so, I’ll assume that you’re making reference to this Amanda Palmer business?

Q; I wasn’t specifically
S; Yeah, you fucking were. Come on…
Q: Genuinely.
S: Oh, alright.
Q: I had a couple of questions that are about Amanda Palmer that I was going to ask next though…
S: Yeah sure ok. What it all boils down to is this – I was unaware of the existence of an Amanda Palmer until something came up on the forum of the studio messageboards, so I briefly acquainted myself with the controversy and then I spouted off about it. And then that became a topic of discussion in the greater music media which kind of blows my mind but it did. So I flet obliged to deal with that. And dealing with that took up waaaay too much of my energy.
Q: It got out of hand really quickly.
S: Yeah, so I mean I tired to explain myself to the point where people won’t misunderstand why im saying what im saying  or, in fact, what I’ve said in the first place but if someone is determined to misunderstand something then there’s not much you can do to straighten ‘em out.
Q: Why do you think it is that some sections of the media want to portray you in this very negative light? What have you done to piss these people off?
S: I don’t know. I guess the simplest way to look at it is that a lot of people who are trying to make a name for themselves or trying to get their stuff read, they want to have some kind of controversy to draw people into it. And if they can manufacture a controversy out of something that’s not controversial then that’s like a win for them. They’ve done something. And so in a couple of instances I’ve said things off the cuff or with less consideration than I probably should have that created an opportunity to paint something as a controversy. Or, if there’s…it’s like they say there’s no drama without conflict so…

Q: If you end up having a legacy that says ‘this was the guy that make records for Nirvana or Pixies’ – is that something you are comfortable with?
S: Sure, it doesn’t particularly concern me who remembers me. Again, those are people that I haven’t met, those are people that I’m not dealing with right now. I just want to do a good job for the people I’m working with today and make sure their experience is a rewarding one and do that often enough? The rest will take care of itself. You know, if you do a good job for people again and again you’ll get repeat business and you’ll leave a good memory for people so that’s from a professional standpoint that’s what I’m trying to do for people. Trying to make sure they get their money’s worth and if they have bad experiences in the music scene then I’m not one of them you know?
Q: So it’s just a case of help not harm?
S: Yeah – I wanna make sure they got their money’s worth, that they got the job done that they needed to get done and along the way nobody took advantage of them, ya know?
Q: And that’s regardless of what you might think of a band? You use the John Peel quote about him thinking if he didn’t like a record it didn’t mean it was bad just that he didn’t get it – that a band wouldn’t bother unless they thought it was worth it?
S: Yeah, nobody’s gonna save up their money and come into the studio in order to record something that they don’t think is worthwhile. Doesn’t make any sense. So everything everybody brings into the studio to record – of course they think it’s worthwhile, of course they think it’s ‘grade a material’ and I have to respect that and make sure they understand that I’m taking them seriously and doing my best. So I think forming an opinion about the music I’m recording in that moment is counter-productive. Whether it was a positive or negative opinion it’s counter-productive like if I’m just sitting there with my tongue lolling out rapt at the beauty of this thing that’s happening in the studio then I’m not going to be paying proper attention to everything else. I’m not going to be making sure that we don’t run out of tape or that the vocal microphone isn’t distorting or the headphone feeds aren’t cutting out or…there’s a million things to pay attention to in the studio that if you don’t keep your p’s and q’s in order you can totally blow it and ruin a session. My first obligation id to not blow it, ya know? So it literally does not matter what kind of music someone wants to make in the studio, it will affect some of the specifics of my job but I thinks it’s an enormous mistake for someone who works on a technical level to try to validate the music that he works on in an aesthetic way. I think that’s an enormous mistake.  That’s one  of the ways people end up getting saddled with these transitory studio gimmicks that you hear a lot like the…you’ll hear production gimmicks or um…recording techniques or like musical inventions that become clichés of a certain era, ya know? And one of the reasons that happens is because someone in the studio thinks he’s helping out by saying ‘Hey why don’t we do that autotune Akon vocal thing on this? That’ll be cool’ and then for the rest of their career the band has to carry that bullshit around with them because of something somebody stuck on their record. So I feel like there’s a big  impulse on the part of people in the studio to help out and improve things and make stuff better but I think that’s a super-dangerous impulse. I think it’s way easier to knock somebody off a trajectory that was uniquely theirs and that was going to be perfectly valid than it is to straighten them out so they now fly directly into the sun ya know?

Q: Last question; As a famous son of Chicago how come you don’t have a pizza or a sandwich named after you when CM Punk has a pizza named after him? Isn’t it time for The Albini?
S: Who has that?
Q: CM Punk, the wrestling champion.
S: Ah! I did not know that.  Well, no, although there was a really great music bar in Chicago called The Lounge Acts. It closed like 10-12 years ago but they used to do a thing where they would invite people to come and play records from their record collection and ..not really a DJ night but they would invite people to play records from their record collection. And they did it for a bunch of local musicians and sometimes even faous bands would do it and just as a way of showing off what cool records they had you know?
For example Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick had a bunch of Todd Rundgren bootlegs and really obscure 60s and 70s prog rock records he was really proud of so he was playing those …Bunny Carlos, who was the drummer for Cheap Trick, played a night where he played almost exclusively old Stax and Volt and Motown and old soul records like really obscure, interesting old soul and funk records that he was fond of. Various different people in town did it and they asked me to do it and one of the gimmicks of the night was that for the night you were  there playing records you had a signature drink. And the signature drink was printed up on a menu and you could order it at the bar. My friend Cory Rusk who is the owner of Touch & Go Records, he did a DJ night where he played a bunch of really cool punk and hardcore singles from the later 70s and early 80s. his DJ night was fantastic and his signature drink was my favourite of all of the signature drinks. The Cory Rusk was a black coffee, a glass of tap water and a cinnamon candy.
(Much laughter)
The particular cinnamon candy that he liked was called The Atomic Fireball so you’d get an atomic fireball, a glass of tap water and a black coffee. I thought that was pretty good.
My signature drink was a pint glass full of ice with ginger ale and a splash of angostura bitters. Which was the drink that I would drink in the absence of booze. That’s what I would always drink in a bar. Ginger ale and bitters – it’s delicious. Yeah, I haven’t…I stopped drinking a long, long time ago but I still go to bars now and again and it’s nice to have something to drink.

Q: Steve, it’s been an honour to speak to you.
S: That’s very flattering, thank you. Bye.