Iconic Producer Steve Albini (Nirvana, Pixies, PJ Harvey) Dies at 61

producer Steve Albini dies
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producer Steve Albini dies
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Steve Albini, iconic producer and audio engineer known for his work with ‘90s bands like Nirvana and The Pixies, has died of a heart attack, aged 61.

The iconic rock producer and sound engineer Steve Albini, best known for helping define the sounds of ‘90s legends like Nirvana, The Pixies, and PJ Harvey, has died of a heart attack. The news of his passing was confirmed by staff at his Electrical Audio studio. He was 61.

Steve Albini was born in Pasadena, California, on July 22, 1962. His passion for music began when he started playing bass guitar while recovering from a broken leg as a teenager.

Albini then became involved in the punk rock scene in Chicago during his time as a student at nearby Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. There, he started his first group, Big Black, before creating two other bands during the ‘80s and early ‘90s: Rapeman (whose name he would later come to regret) and the better known Shellac.

“It was an extremely active, very fertile scene where everybody was participating on every level,” said Albini. “The community that I joined when I came to Chicago enabled me to continue on with a life in music. I didn’t do this by myself.”

But it was his expertise as a recording engineer that would really see him come to be revered for his work producing other artists’ music. Albini preferred the term “engineer” rather than “producer,” since the title of producer does not necessarily denote technical acumen.

He founded his own recording studio, Electrical Audio, in 1995. Among the most notable acts with whom he worked include Nirvana, the Pixies, PJ Harvey, and Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame. His work on Nirvana’s In Utero, despite distinguishing it from the band’s earlier work and other grunge music of the time, ultimately made him persona non grata with major labels for many years afterward, Albini said in 2021.

Still, Steve Albini might have steered clear of the major music labels, regardless. As an outspoken critic of the corporate music industry, he described in his 1993 essay “The Problem With Music” the many hoops and red tape facing new musicians — many of which have only continued to today, albeit with the added nuances of the streaming age.

“[Steve] spent the last 40 years helping people make art,” wrote Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings, whose 2012 album Attack On Memory was engineered by Albini. “There’s no reason for him to be gone, and the world is less interesting without him. Just a really sad day.”