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Steve Albini: 1962–2024

Super-sad news today out of Chicago, where word came down that musician, recording engineer, writer, designer, professional poker player, and all-around iconoclast Steve Albini died of a heart attack yesterday. He was just 61.

I didn’t know Albini well, but we had some good interactions over the years. He was a big fan of my 1990s zine, Beer Frame: The Journal of Inconspicuous Consumption. When the first six issues of that zine were compiled into a book, Inconspicuous Consumption: An Obsessive Look at the Stuff We Take for Granted, I asked Albini to write the foreword, and he graciously agreed.

More recently, a little over a year ago, I did a really fun, freewheeling interview with Albini. We talked about the visual aesthetics of bands and records, the uniforms worn by the staff at his recording studio, the virtues of DIY design, and lots of other uni-adjacent topics. (That interview, which was published on my Substack, is available without a paywall here.) I’m proud to say that he owned a Uni Watch seam ripper and even prouder that he referred to it as “an incredible merchandise option. I mean, I can’t honestly can’t think of a merchandise item more specifically arcane than that.”

Like a lot of indie-rock fans of my generation, I was a huge fan of Albini’s first Chicago band, Big Black. But his writing always interested me more than his music. His mid-1980s articles in Forced ExposureMatter, and other zines were hugely influential on me when I was in college, and I was always interested in reading pretty much anything he had to write, because he had such a fertile, interesting mind and such a palpable intelligence. Even when I didn’t agree with him, I felt like I always learned things from him.

Albini was fiercely loyal to people he liked, but he didn’t suffer fools gladly, had zero patience for bullshit, and could sometimes be acerbic, confrontational, and offensive, especially when he was younger. More recently, he recanted some of the more inflammatory and morally questionable positions from his youth while maintaining his uncompromising advocacy for the better, smarter world he wanted to see. I have nothing but respect for how he handled all of that.

Now that I’m about to leave Uni Watch and am getting ready to transition back to Inconspicuous Consumption, I was hoping to interview Albini again at some point in the near future. My idea was that I’d get together with him during my next visit to Chicago and have him take me on a tour of his favorite inconspicuous architectural details and design flourishes around the city. I know it would have been great, and it sucks to know that we’ll never get the chance to do that. R.I.P., buddy — you’ll be missed.


Comments (25)

    This is huge loss. Glad I got to see both Big Black and Shellac. RIP to a legend.

    Absolute legend.
    Met him once. For only a minute. A very awkward minute.

    Shocker. I remember your interview with him, and recently heard him on Conan O’Brien’s podcast talking about In Utero with Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic; loved his acerbic perspective on that time period.

    Saw him playing pinball at a bar close to the venue he was playing that night. I approached him and we talked while he played his games. Very nice guy.

    I didn’t really know him, but I encountered Steve once or twice in my college radio days–Big Black was huge on our station (which was in Chicagoland) and appeared on a couple of albums we put out, and he even dated one of our DJs at one point. He certainly was everything you describe. My condolences to his loved ones.

    This is less than a year after the passing of John Kezdy, leader of the Effigies, who were another huge band on the local scene at the time.

    Well said, Paul. As soon as I heard the news, I came here figuring you’d have something to say.

    Beautiful tribute, Paul. Thank you.

    Albini recorded some of the music that is most important to me. Hell, if he’d done nothing more than record Mono and Jason Molina he’d be a legend, never mind all the rest of the great stuff.

    Terrible loss.

    Condolences to his friends and family. I encourage everyone to check out his Wikipedia page…the amount of incredible music he touched as an engineer is truly astounding.

    Got a NY Times alert about his passing and thought the name sounded familiar. Then I realized, “Paul knows him!” So sorry for your — for everyone’s — loss.

    I went to college with Steve. Fascinating guy, can’t believe he’s gone, feeling old here . . .

    We are all the same age as we once were,
    inside our Soul…
    And always will be…

    Condolences, Paul. I enjoyed your interview with him and have fond memories of his musical endeavors (admittedly mostly on the production side, as I didn’t come across his own bands until much later). His passing is a loss to some many communities.

    I just saw the news and immediately thought of you. What a huge loss. Your tribute makes me sad both because you won’t have the chance for that follow-up interview and we won’t have the chance to read it.

    Looked up his band and it looks like their new album is set to be released this month.

    The silver lining is that it looks like they were able to solve the injected vinyl label issue

    “The LPs are being manufactured by Green Vinyl Records using an injection molding process. This new process uses 100% recyclable PET (like soda bottles) and is environmentally friendly, containing no PVC or Phthalates”


    Very sad. For those of you who have never had a physical and checked your cholesterol levels, or ignored them when you found out they weren’t good, use this as a wake up call. You can appear to be in great shape and still be a ticking time bomb. RIP

    Rest in peace to a legend with a legendary band with a legendary album cover. And if you Google the band name, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

    Albini served as the engineer for my favorite band -Jawbreaker – during the making of their album 24 Hour Revenge Therapy.
    He also appeared in the (relatively) recent Jawbreaker documentary, basically saying he “didn’t remember Jawbreaker”, lol.

    Anyways, RIP, and condolences.


    But the non-Albini tracks on that album sound better. It’s all better than “Dear You”, though.

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