Big Lessons Learned from Steve Albini's Letter to Nirvana
Albini has Fugazi-esque ethics and distrust of the music industry, and they come out loud and clear in his four page letter. Besides the historical value of this letter, it also provides a few good lessons. Here's a few:
The Quote: "Making a seamless record, where every note and syllable is in place and every drum beat is identical, is no trick. Any idiot with the patience and the budget to allow such foolishness can do it." He wanted the band's sound on the album to be like their live sound, and that was certainly not neat.
The Lesson: Perfection and uniformity isn't everything. In fact, it may not be very important at all.
It's a good thing he didn't join the military (although he probably would have the discipline for it), but he'd be a great teacher, coach or parent, who would encourage individual growth (while expecting excellence).
The Quote: "In my experience, remixing has never solved any problems that actually existed, only imaginary ones… Remixing is for talentless pies who don't know how to tune a drum or point a microphone." Unfortunately, Albini didn't get his way here: Scott Litt (who had worked with R.E.M. and the Replacements) ended up remixing some of the tracks. Albini's original mixes are included on the box set, allowing fans to decide if the record label made the right call in ordering remixes.
The Lesson: If something's wrong, fix it now; don't procrastinate or avoid dealing with it.
So, yeah, he doesn't demand perfection, but also don't wait to fix something later. Get it how you want it now.
The Quote: "You guys need to decide and then articulate to me what you want to sound like, so we don't come at the record from different directions." Certain producers have a signature sound that turns up on all their records (Phil Spector and Daniel Lanois are two examples of this).
The Lesson: I'm here for you.
Even though Albini was (and is) a producer that has worked with some of the most credible and prestigious artists (including the Pixies, the Breeders, PJ Harvey and Jimmy Page & Robert Plant), his job is to encourage your creativity. More.
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