Steve Albini, legendary indie rock producer for Nirvana, Pixies, Bush, The Stooges, dead at 61

Steve Albini has died.
Steve Albini has died. Photo credit: CNN

Steve Albini, an audio engineer who influenced the sound of legendary indie and alternative rock musicians like Nirvana and Pixies, died Tuesday night in Chicago of a heart attack at age 61, according to his recording studio, Electrical Audio.

The studio said they had no further comment but plan to post more details on their website later this week.

In addition to being the founder and owner of Electrical Audio, Albini was the audio engineer behind releases from musical acts such as the Breeders, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Mogwai, the Jesus Lizard, PJ Harvey, Joanna Newsom, Superchunk, Low, Jawbreaker, Neurosis, Cloud Nothings, Bush, The Stooges, Jarvis Cocker, Cheap Trick, Slint, Veruca Salt and even Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, among many more.

A biography about Albini on his recording studio website says he was "known for his naturalistic recording philosophy and meticulous analog working methods."

Albini was outspoken about the music industry, famously writing in 1993 for The Baffler that he believed major labels take advantage of young bands.

"Once a band has signed a letter of intent, they will either eventually sign a contract that suits the label or they will be destroyed," Albini wrote.

Albini also eschewed the title producer.

"Now, all that's required to be a full-fledged ‘producer' is the gall it takes to claim to be one," Albini wrote. "That's why few self-respecting engineers will allow themselves to be called ‘producers.'"

He favoured the title recording engineer.

Rough Trade Records, which released several of the records on which he worked, wrote in a post on X that he "always brought an intangible brilliance to the studio, as the records he made for us with Jarvis, Low and black midi attest."

In a 1993 interview with Tracking Angle, reupped by the publication following Albini's death, Albini expanded on his views about his job.

"Most recording engineers aren't fans of recorded music, first and foremost. They are fans of engineering first and foremost," he told the publication.

He added later: "When I'm making a record with a band, the band is in charge. I am there as a technician, essentially, to make what they do every day as part of their normal life, to make that come across the speakers to someone listening at home."

A gifted musician himself, Albini was also the front man of seminal noise rock band Shellac and punk rock outfit Big Black.

Shellac had recently announced a new album, the band's sixth studio LP, out May 17.