Steve Albini, legendary recording engineer and Shellac guitarist, has died at 61

Albini owned and operated Chicago’s Electrical Audio, and worked on countless underground and mainstream albums.

Steve Albini

Image: Jordi Vidal / Getty

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Legendary recording engineer Steve Albini, who worked on albums such as In Utero, Surfa Rosa, Rid Of Me and countless others, has died aged 61.

He suffered a heart attack at his Chicago studio, Electrical Audio, staff employed there have confirmed to Pitchfork.

Albini’s band Shellac were due to go on tour in 2024 in support of their upcoming record To All Trains, which is due to be released next week.

One of the legends of recording engineering, Albini worked with the likes of Nirvana, Pixies, Bush, The Breeders, Melt Banana, PJ Harvey, Jarvis Cocker, the Jesus Lizard, Gogol Bordello, Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant and so many more.

His most famous work, though, was Nirvana’s third and final studio album, 1993’s In Utero. As the story goes, Albini had dismissed the grunge titans as “an unremarkable version of the Seattle sound” – a bold claim considering this was the band which previously put out the chart-topping Nevermind. He later accepted the job at the mercy of their record label, however, because he felt sorry for them. Frontman Kurt Cobain chose Albini as he had produced two of his favourite albums: The Pixies’ Surfer Rosa (1988) and The Breeder’s Pod (1990).

Contention arose surrounding the final sound of the record; Nirvana’s management were unimpressed, and Cobain reportedly said he “got no emotion from it”. Albini, meanwhile, was adamant no tweaking was required, and refused to remix the album at the request of the band, label and management. Tweaks were ultimately made in the mastering process by Bob Ludwig – and Scott Litt, who was brought in to remix some songs – and while In Utero found commercial and critical success, Albini “doesn’t sound all that much like the record that was made”.

Albini was also a vocal critic of the music industry. He even refused to accept royalties on his recordings, as he said it was unethical non-artist entities to make money off an artist’s work indefinitely.

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