With the 20th-anniversary reissue of Nirvana’s In Utero currently burning up the thinkpiece-osphere, an interesting bit of scripture from the box set’s liner notes has been posted online (as reported by Spin): the four-page letter Steve Albini of Big Black and Shellac fame wrote to convince Nirvana to let him produce the band's final studio album. Chock full of curmudgeonly idealistic Albini-isms, the letter lays out the blueprint of Albini’s suspicious approach toward the music industry at the time—and by extension, the way Nirvana was perceived in the wake of the success of Nevermind. It also namedrops Kurt Cobain’s beloved DIY heroes in Fugazi—who had recently recorded with Albini—and outlines Albini’s recording philosophy, which includes refusing producer royalties (which he sees as “ethically indefensible”) and leaving room for “accidents and chaos.” Also, he’s a firm exponent of “puke-inducing low end.”
The courtship-via-fax worked, as Albini did end up producing the notoriously abrasive and challenging In Utero (which, as it turns out, is actually quite popular and catchy). It’s worth noting that the recording session with Fugazi that Albini cites in his letter—and that he leans on as a selling point—was ultimately scrapped by Fugazi, who used those tapes as mere demos for its 1993 album In On The Kill Taker. The letter to Nirvana also makes for an interesting comparison to Albini's recent podcast chat on the topic with A.V. Club contributor Vish Khanna, not to mention “The Problem With Music,” Albini’s legendary article for The Baffler in 1993 (reprinted to wider attention in Maximum Rocknroll in ’94) that details his view of how major labels squeeze the life out of underground bands—a piece that ends with the oft-quoted, haunting-in-retrospect line, “Some of your friends are probably already this fucked.”
Submit your Great Job, Internet tips here.