Steve Albini
Remembered by Larry Crane

On Jan 19, 1987, I clambered aboard a yacht in Emeryville, CA, to interview Steve Albini and the band Big Black for BravEar Magazine, a conversation that unfortunately was never published due to the mag folding soon after. Even though it didn’t make it to the page, that conversation began a connection between us that lasted decades.

Big Black was Steve Albini's band, beginning with an EP (Lungs) he recorded on his own. I followed his career as he began tracking bands in his home and at other studios, many of which Iwas a fan of (The Pixies, Scrawl, Nirvana, Jesus Lizard). When Tape Op Magazine began, Steve was a likely choice for an article. My pal, John Chandler, had interviewed him for an online bookseller that was just starting to sell CDs, and we used some of that conversation for issue #10, even though Steve later complained to me that he had no idea it'd be for Tape Op. Oops, neither did I! Along the way, Steve popped up as a part of interviews with The Ex (#19) and Neurosis (#24), with some interesting thoughts about the bands he was recording.

We invited Steve to be the keynote speaker at the first TapeOpCon in 2002, and he graciously agreed, bringing with him some overall-clad staff and a hilarious "I thought I was at a Star Trek convention" meets Laffer Curve career/economics speech. Steve and his crew became regulars at our conventions through 2007, and in 2005, I remember his band Shellac blowing the doors off the Howlin' Wolf in New Orleans. It was an honor to have him there, and his support of Tape Op always made me feel validated in a very special way.

In 2011, I went to visit Steve's amazing Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, and we conducted the first proper, full-on interview with him for the magazine. It was inspiring to see the depths in which he and his friends, such as Bob Weston (#18, #86) and Greg Norman (#87), had gone to in order to build one of the best recording palaces in the country.

As I watched Steve over the decades, I saw an incredibly hard-working guy with a well-defined set of ethics. Artists should be treated fairly in studio settings, and Steve would make sure of that every time. He knew what it was like to be on both sides of the glass. I witnessed a person who dove into recording technology headfirst, learning how all the best analog gear and mics worked and deciding what he wanted to use. Underneath an exterior that may have seemed sarcastic and confrontational to the uninformed, was a person who cared immensely about humanity and art. He also had one of the best senses of humor I've ever come across. (And he could cook a mean dinner!) And his compassion and volunteerism is well known in his hometown of Chicago – actions over just words.

Words like legendary and iconic are tossed around like cheap candy these days, but Steve Albini truly earned and deserves to be described in those terms. When he wrote the foreword to our second Tape Op book in 2007, he honestly stated, "We all know that another take is seldom the answer, but sure, it might be, so what the heck?" I wish there were more takes. I'll miss you, Steve.

Tape Op Interview with Steve Albini
Listen to Steve Albini on the Tape Op Podcast
Rover R-121 Review by Steve Albini

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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