Ten Things Steve Albini Hates Besides Amanda Palmer's New Tour Musician Hiring Scheme
Illustration by Adam Vieyra
Chicago-based musician and producer Steve Albini is certainly legendary for his creative output -- besides his playing in Big Black and Shellac, for instance, he's also pretty much the guy who gave acts like Nirvana their sound. The list of artists who got the Albini studio touch read like a who's-who of alt-rock titans from the '80s to today -- Slint, the Pixies, the Breeders, Helmet, and PJ Harvey, to name a few vintage favorites, along with more recent acts like Trash Talk.
But equally legendary are Albini's quasi-curmudgeon outbursts on the recording and songwriting process, the state of the music industry, and almost everything else. He's not a guy who minces words -- rather, he has a salty, memorable way with them. With age, Albini's memorable missives have even improved. Not only is he crankier and even less afraid of offending, but the Internet makes sure his best nuggets get re-posted and shared within minutes.
The latest Albini classic came yesterday, in the wake of what some are referring to as Amanda Palmergate. In short, Palmer, who raised over $1.2 million via Kickstarter to record her last album, is touring again with an orchestra concept. But instead of paying for a full orchestra to travel with her from show to show, she's asking fans in each city to volunteer for the string and horn sections.
Naturally, Albini let loose in a post on his own Electric Audio forum, lambasting Palmer.
I have no fundamental problem with either asking your fans to pay you to make your record or go on tour or play for free in your band or gather at a mud pit downstate and sell meth and blowjobs to each other. I wouldn't stoop to doing any of them myself, but horses for courses. The reason I don't appeal to other people in this manner is that all those things can easily pay for themselves, and I value self-sufficiency and independence, even (or especially) from an audience.
If your position is that you aren't able to figure out how to do that, that you are forced by your ignorance into pleading for donations and charity work, you are then publicly admitting you are an idiot, and demonstrably not as good at your profession as Jandek, Moondog, GG Allin, every band ever to go on tour without a slush fund or the kids who play on buckets downtown.
Pretty much everybody on earth has a threshold for how much to indulge an idiot who doesn't know how to conduct herself, and I think Ms Palmer has found her audience's threshold.
Classic. But Kickstarter and Amanda Palmer's latest touring scheme aren't the only recent things Albini says he hates! Here are 10 more from recent years.
Context: Albini, like so many other aging music types, is now a devoted cook, writing an entire blog, Mariobatalivoice, about things he's made his wife for dinner. Back in April of this year, he made fancy toast points.
Choice quotes: "Toast is bread made delicious and useful. Un-toasted bread is okay for children's sandwiches and sopping up barbecue sauce, but for pretty much all other uses, toast is better than bread. An exception is when the bread is fresh from the oven, piping hot, with butter melting all over it. Then it's fantastic, but I would argue that bread fresh out of the oven is a kind of toast. Because I'm an asshole and I refuse to be wrong about something."
Odd Future in general
Context: Albini shared an airport shuttle with the group after a gig in Barcelona, and that 40-minute trip in 2011 sealed his impression of the young rap agitators. The subject, again, came up on his forum.
Choice quotes: "I spent about 40 minutes with these little pricks at the end of May and I haven't wanted to strangle anybody that much in a real long time," he wrote again on his message board. "They go out of their way to make it clear that this is not a case of regular people making music about assholes, but assholes making music about being assholes."
Sonic Youth's decision to release music in the -- gasp -- mainstream system
Context: In 2010, GQ asked Albini about bands like Chumbawamba, who started as D.I.Y. acts who became mainstream. Albini wrote off the entire mainstream music industry completely, and the interviewer brought up Sonic Youth.
Choice quotes: "I think what they did was take a lot of people who didn't have aspirations or ambitions and encouraged them to be part of the mainstream music industry. They validated the fleeting notions that these kids had that they might one day be rock stars. And then they participated in inducing a lot of them to make very stupid career moves," he said. "I think it cheapened music quite a bit. It made music culture kind of empty and ugly and was generally a kind of bad influence."
Context: Albini gamely participated in a Reddit AMA earlier this year, and most of it was enlightening and not at all cranky. But one fan asked Albini if he would consider writing professionally himself, and, well...
Choice quotes: "I'm suspicious of people in the arts who presume that they can jump disciplines. I used to call it the David Bowie effect -- I sing, therefore I am a painter, therefore I am also an actor... I resist this impulse on my own behalf."
People who don't like fennel or certain other vegetables
Context: Albini's food blog
Choice quotes: "If there are fennel-haters out there, they and the brussels sprouts guys should start an asshole club. Call it England. Or the aged rotten asshole haters of the delicious club."
Context: During the same Reddit AMA, someone asked him about the genre...
Choice quotes: "It sucks and I'm tired of hearing about it. Believe me I've tried. I just hate the parts I hate about it more than I like the little things there are to like. The batting average is just so low I can't bear the dead time between highlights being filled with all that noodling. It's vain music."
Political extremism of the conservative variety
Context: Again, that AMA goldmine of Albini opinions.
Choice quotes: "Me-me-me bullshit for selfish little pricks who have a child's conception of property and liberty," he said, dismissing libertarianism, before moving on to conservatives who protest taxes. "Whenever I hear somebody bitching about taxes I want to punch him in the mouth. 'It's MY money!' Shut up, no it isn't. It's money, and it's a fluid resource (or should be) just like air. It isn't YOUR air just because you're breathing it some of the time. Fucking children."
Context: The same GQ interview in which he criticized Sonic Youth's commercial influence
Choice quotes: "I don't really like movies. I don't rate movies as an art form."
Context: GQ, again.
Choice quotes: "I think fashion is repulsive. The whole idea that someone else can make clothing that is supposed to be in style and make other people look good is ridiculous. It sickens me to think that there is an industry that plays to the low self-esteem of the general public. I would like the fashion industry to collapse. I think it plays to the most superficial, most insecure parts of human nature. I hope GQ as a magazine fails. I hope that all of these people who make a living by looking pretty are eventually made destitute or forced to do something of substance. At least pornography has a function."
Commercial "toppings" on food
Context: On Albini's food blog, he discussed creating his own various vegan alternatives.
Choice quotes: "I hate that word 'topping.' It's a food industry word for something fake and gross to use instead of something normal like butter. Worse, it's an all-purpose word, used equivalently for synthetic versions of mayonnaise, whipped cream, bacon crumbles or ice cream sprinkles. Fuck 'topping' and 'spread' and 'chocolaty' [sic] and 'creamer' and the rest of the industrial food replacement dictionary."
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