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Steve Albini Has Died at 61

Steve Albini
Photo by Tim Bugbee

Legendary engineer and musician Steve Albini has passed away due to a heart attack, according to staff at his Chicago recording studio, Electrical Audio.

Albini was a giant of alternative, independent, and underground rock music for more than three decades. He was celebrated for his abrasive guitar work for the noisy, boundary-pushing Chicago bands Big Black and Shellac, but he was best known for his engineering work on ’80s and ’90s alternative guitar music. He engineered records from Pixies and Nirvana that changed the soundscape of alt-rock, including Surfer Rosa and In Utero, as well as releases by PJ Harvey, Bush, Low, Jawbreaker, Neurosis, Veruca Salt, and countless more.

Albini’s work influenced a new generation of guitarists, who sought him out to build a noisy, raucous 2010s revival of indie-punk and prickly alt-rock. Records from Cloud Nothings, Screaming Females, METZ, Sunn O))), and Chicago’s own Meat Wave bore Albini’s sonic thumbprint: sharp, percussive guitars, pounding rhythm sections, and an aggressive, enormous guitar-forward mix, like a DIY perversion of the polished “Wall of Sound” technique. Last summer, we wrote about the stunning new record from Brooklyn black metal band Liturgy. Albini produced it.

Earlier this year, senior editor Nick Millevoi spoke with Albini for the cover of our April issue, where Albini talked in-depth about his engineering techniques, his gear selection, and how he attains his own guitar sounds. He and Shellac were preparing their first new record in ten years, To All Trains, which is scheduled to release May 17.

In honor of Steve Albini, listen to some loud, weird guitar music today.