Steve Albini Dead: Legendary Rock Producer for Nirvana, Pixies, & More Dies at 61

The producer was a rock icon, who worked on classic records including 'In Utero' by Nirvana and many more. He had a heart attack.

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Steve Albini has died at 61 years old of a heart attack. The news of his passing was confirmed by employees at his recording studio Electric Audio to Pitchfork on Wednesday, May 8. Steve was a legendary producer, known for his work in the indie rock world. He produced countless classics by some of the biggest bands to crossover from the indie scene to mainstream success. He also performed in bands like Big Black and Shellac, and he was outspoken about the music industry.

Steve’s passing comes just weeks before his band Shellac was anticipated to release their new album To All Trains on May 17. The record is their first since 2014’s Dude Incredible. Steve and the band were preparing to set out on a tour to support the album.

Born in Pasadena, California in 1962, Steve began his music career by playing bass in high school. He was influenced by the Ramones very early on, and he began playing in punk bands. In college, he was an avid writer for various zines.

Steve Albini
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Steve formed the band Big Black in 1981 while he was a student at Northwestern University. The band’s debut record Atomizer was released in 1986. The band’s sophomore and final album Songs About F**king was released the following year. After touring it, the band broke up.

Steve has been best-known as a record producer throughout his career. He began recording bands in the late 80s. While much of his most famous work has been associated with the indie world, he’s covered a bunch of ground with various artists. Some of his most famous albums have been Nirvana’s final album In Utero, Pixies’ Surfa Rosa, Jawbreaker’s 24 Hour Revenge TherapyJimmy Page and Robert Plant’s Walking Into Clarksdale, The Breeders’ All Nerve, Mikey Erg’s Love at Leeds, and Code Orange’s The Above.

Despite being critically-acclaimed and well-known as a producer, he has spoken out against the term. He typically  requests not to be credited and asks to be referred to as a “recording engineer” in album credits. “I think that my name appearing on people’s records is a little bit of a distraction,” he told Sound on Sound in 2005. “I don’t think it’s important, and in some ways it causes public relations problems for the band, who then have to defend me or defend their choice of working with me. I understand that people want to give credit, and that’s fine. I’m not offended by it. But once I’m paid, I don’t really need anything more.”

When it came to explaining the distinction between what he does versus a “producer,” the Shellac frontman explained why he’s opposed to the term. “I don’t really do anything that a producer does. A producer is someone who is completely responsible for a session, but in my case those decisions are made by the band, so I don’t qualify as a producer in that sense. Ultimately what I’m trying to do is satisfy the band. Most of the time what they want is for me to record their organic sound, so that’s what I’m trying to provide. If I’m asked to do something fantastic, then I will try to do something fantastic, but I don’t start from a position that everything needs to be changed from what it was,” he told Sound on Sound. 

Steve formed the band Shellac in 1992, and they released five albums during his lifetime. Besides recording and playing in bands himself, Steve was also a vocal member of the music industry, often criticizing the financial exploitation of artists and the corporatization of festivals.

Steve is survived by his wife Heather Whinna.