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nothing in here is true

  1. Monday, October 31, 2016

    A letter to Nirvana from Albini 

    albiniAfter Nevermind lots of producers probably lobbied to produce Nirvana’s followup.

    The winner was Chicago native Steve Albini, the no nonsense punk rock purist who refused to even call himself a producer, preferring to be deemed simply Engineer.

    One day I hope to be as principled and wonderful as he is in this letter.

    Yes he got the job and yes Geffen remastered it because it was too punk rock.

    I am still looking for a copy of the Albini original.

    Here’s how he got the gig

    Kurt, Dave and Chris:

    First let me apologize for taking a couple of days to put this outline together. When I spoke to Kurt I was in the middle of making a Fugazi album, but I thought I would have a day or so between records to sort everything out. My schedule changed unexpectedly, and this is the first moment I’ve had to go through it all. Apology apology.

    I think the very best thing you could do at this point is exactly what you are talking about doing: bang a record out in a couple of days, with high quality but minimal “production” and no interference from the front office bulletheads. If that is indeed what you want to do, I would love to be involved.

    If, instead, you might find yourselves in the position of being temporarily indulged by the record company, only to have them yank the chain at some point (hassling you to rework songs/sequences/production, calling-in hired guns to “sweeten” your record, turning the whole thing over to some remix jockey, whatever…) then you’re in for a bummer and I want no part of it.

    I’m only interested in working on records that legitimately reflect the band’s own perception of their music and existance. If you will commit yourselves to that as a tenet of the recording methodology, then I will bust my ass for you. I’ll work circles around you. I’ll rap your head with a ratchet…

    I have worked on hundreds of records (some great, some good, some horrible, a lot in the courtyard), and I have seen a direct correlation between the quality of the end result and the mood of the band throughout the process. If the record takes a long time, and everyone gets bummed and scrutinizes every step, then the recordings bear little resemblance to the live band, and the end result is seldom flattering. Making punk records is definitely a case where more “work” does notimply a better end result. Clearly you have learned this yourselves and appreciate the logic.

    About my methodology and philosophy:

    #1: Most contemporary engineers and producers see a record as a “project,” and the band as only one element of the project. Further, they consider the recordings to be a controlled layering of specific sounds, each of which is under complete control from the moment the note is conceived through the final six. If the band gets pushed around in the process of making a record, so be it; as long as the “project” meets with the approval of the fellow in control.

    My approach is exactly the opposite.

    I consider the band the most important thing, as the creative entity that spawned both the band’s personality and style and as the social entity that exists 24 hours out of each day. I do not consider it my place to tell you what to do or how to play. I’m quite willing to let my opinions be heard (if I think the band is making beautiful progress or a heaving mistake, I consider it part of my job to tell them) but if the band decides to pursue something, I’ll see that it gets done.

    I like to leave room for accidents or chaos. Making a seamless record, where every note and syllable is in place and every bass drum is identical, is no trick. Any idiot with the patience and the budget to allow such foolishness can do it. I prefer to work on records that aspire to greater things, like originality, personality and enthusiasm. If every element of the music and dynamics of a band is controlled by click tracks, computers, automated mixes, gates, samplers and sequencers, then the record may not be incompetent, but it certainly won’t be exceptional. It will also bear very little relationship to the live band, which is what all this hooey is supposed to be about.

    #2: I do not consider recording and mixing to be unrelated tasks which can be performed by specialists with no continuous involvement. 99 percent of the sound of a record should be established while the basic take is recorded. Your experiences are specific to your records; but in my experience, remixing has never solved any problems that actually existed, only imaginary ones. I do not like remixing other engineer’s recordings, and I do not like recording things for somebody else to remix. I have never been satisfied with either version of that methodology. Remixing is for talentless pussies who don’t know how to tune a drum or point a microphone.

    #3: I do not have a fixed gospel of stock sounds and recording techniques that I apply blindly to every band in every situation. You are a different band from any other band and deserve at least the respect of having your own tastes and concerns addressed. For example, I love the sound of a boomy drum kit (say a Gretach or Camco) wide open in a big room, especially with a Bonhammy double-headed bass drum and a really painful snare drum. I also love the puke-inducing low end that comes off an old Fender Bassman or Ampeg guitar amp and the totally blown sound of an SVT with broken-in tubes. I also know that those sounds are inappropriate for some songs, and trying to force them is a waste of time. Predicating the recordings on my tastes is as stupid as designing a car around the upholstery. 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.

    #4: Where we record the record is not as important as how it is recorded. If you have a studio you’d like to use, no hag. Otherwise, I can make suggestions. I have a nice 24-track studio in my house (Fugazi were just there, you can ask them how they rate it), and I’m familiar with most of the studios in the Midwest, the East coast and a dozen or so in the UK.

    I would be a little concerned about having you at my house for the duration of the whole recording and mixing process if only because you’re celebrities, and I wouldn’t want word getting out in the neighborhood and you guys having to put up with a lot of fan-style bullshit; it would be a fine place to mix the record though, and you can’t beat the vitties.

    If you want to leave the details of studio selection, lodgings, etc. up to me, I’m quite happy to sort all that stuff out. If you guys want to sort it out, just lay down the law.

    My first choice for an outside recording studio would be a place called Pachyderm in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. It’s a great facility with outstanding acoustics and a totally comfy architect’s wet dream mansion where the band lives during the recordings. This makes everything more efficient. Since everybody is there, things get done and decisions get made a lot faster than if people are out and about in a city someplace. There’s also all the posh shit like a sauna and swimming pool and fireplaces and trout stream and 50 acres and like that. I’ve made a bunch of records there and I’ve always enjoyed the place. It’s also quite inexpensive, considering how great a facility it is.

    The only bummer about Pachyderm is that the owners and manager are not technicians, and they don’t have a tech on call. I’ve worked there enough that I can fix just about anything that can go wrong, short of a serious electronic collapse, but I’ve got a guy that I work with a lot (Bob Weston) who’s real good with electronics (circuit design, trouble shooting and building shit on the spot), so if we choose to do it there, he’ll probably come along in my payroll, since he’d be cheap insurance if a power supply blows up or a serious failure occurs in the dead of winter 50 miles from the closest tech. He’s a recording engineer also, so he can be doing some of the more mundane stuff (cataloging tapes, packing stuff up, fetching supplies) while we’re chopping away at the record proper.

    Some day I’m going to talk the Jesus Lizard into going up there and we’ll have us a real time. Oh yeah, and it’s the same Neve console the AC/DC album Back in Black was recorded and mixed on, so you know its just got to have the rock.

    #5: Dough. I explained this to Kurt but I thought I’d better reiterate it here. I do not want and will not take a royalty on any record I record. No points. Period. I think paying a royalty to a producer or engineer is ethically indefensible. The band write the songs. The band play the music. It’s the band’s fans who buy the records. The band is responsible for whether it’s a great record or a horrible record. Royalties belong to the band.

    I would like to be paid like a plumber: I do the job and you pay me what it’s worth. The record company will expect me to ask for a point or a point and a half. If we assume three million sales, that works out to 400,000 dollars or so. There’s no fucking way I would ever take that much money. I wouldn’t be able to sleep.

    I have to be comfortable with the amount of money you pay me, but it’s your money, and I insist that you be comfortable with it as well. Kurt suggested paying me a chunk which I would consider full payment, and then if you really thought I deserved more, paying me another chunk after you’d had a chance to live with the album for a while. That would be fine, but probably more organizational trouble than it’s worth.

    Whatever. I trust you guys to be fair to me and I know you must be familiar with what a regular industry goon would want. I will let you make the final decision about what I’m going to be paid. How much you choose to pay me will not affect my enthusiasm for the record.

    Some people in my position would expect an increase in business after being associated with your band. I, however, already have more work than I can handle, and frankly, the kind of people such superficialities will attract are not people I want to work with. Please don’t consider that an issue.

    That’s it.

    Please call me to go over any of this if it’s unclear.

    (Signed)

    If a record takes more than a week to make, somebody’s fucking up. Oi!

  2. Tuesday, July 14, 2015
  3. Sunday, April 26, 2015

    about a girl 

    kurt and courtney

    cobain: montage of heck
    hbo films
    directed by Brett Morgen

    i went to the movies this afternoon for a few reasons.

    i saw on twitter that someone had retweeted Montage of Heck’s director Brett Morgen who said that he was gonna be at the 12:30p arclight screening and he would be giving away a few posters

    even though the nirvana movie was going to be on hbo in two weeks, who doesn’t want a poster?

    so i postponed my bible reading and got an uber ride to the show.

    hardly anyone was there. its a beautiful sunday. anyone who would be into nirvana would be at brunch or their kids’ little league game. or dead.

    so those very few of us who are unclassified thusly were there and i gotta say the cinerama dome irritates me because the rounded screen really doesnt add much, and distracts often. however the sound was great, so i sat close to the screen and

    cobainthat music.

    that beautiful music.

    theres some new interviews with courtney, krist, kurts mom, his dad, his step mom, and one of his old girlfriends. theres some beautiful home movie footage of the happy little family of courtney kurdt and baby frances bean.

    but at the root of it is the tragic story that we all know too well: child of divorce lashes out against society and his family, gets in a band, sees the light, but terrible stomach pains leads him to heroin and later… suicide.

    one doesnt need to see this in a movie theatre but the sound of it all is wonderful and probably better than the typical home speakers. and it’s nice to see certain things super large: like how courtney is never glamorous, how kurts blue eyes are magical and his notebooks are endless and intuitive and they’re nothing but a screaming S-O-S to the world.

    just like his life it ends abruptly and sort of, wait, is that all there is.

    but yes. 20 some years later. yes.

    thats all there is.

    the film gives us a great look at kurt as a kid, some of his dark tales, and shows us what a rock star lives like when he’s on top of the world with his pregnant wife while they’re both junkies. it’s not one bit like the myth of rock. if anything it’s more like Teen Mom.

    i had two takeaways from the film:

    1. never discount anyone. the troubled young lad you are giving up on and kicking out of your house might be angry because he can see the future and it has a bad bad ending.

    2. nirvana was the last really great rock band in the world, and like the other greats, there will never be another like them.

  4. Thursday, September 11, 2014

    smells like teen spirit turned 23 years old yesterday 

    teen spirit

    which is pretty much the age that i was when i first heard it.

    i was not blown away by it even though i played it on the college radio station

    three days before it officially came out.

    i was all, well it’s ok, but i really cant wait for the new Soundgarden.

    lesson: im old. and i was old even then.

  5. Saturday, November 9, 2013

    today is aj’s birthday, shes 24 

    me and aj

    aj and i met in college a long long long long long time ago at the world famous daily nexus college newspaper

    it was so long ago that she had pink hair and i had hair.

    she looked like a pretty princess and had the most amazing voice and loved hard rock, metal and this new thing called grunge

    i wore suits all the time, so she naturally fell in love with me & because she was so smart and fun, i did the same

    so she wrote for me in the arts section of the paper and together we cohosted a rock show on KCSB called

    The Speed of Sound, which of course was amazing, mostly because she reigned me in and kept us focused

    me and aj

    we stayed friends after college and of all the memorable things we did together, the most bittersweet was

    we were together when we heard on the car radio that a dead body was found in kurt cobains house

    so we turned off the radio and kept driving pretending that we didnt hear what we probably heard.

    of all the people i knew in college she was pretty much the best person i could have been with at that moment

    because we had played hours and hours of music together on the radio that was either Nirvana-esque or Nirvana

    before during and after they hit it big.

    aj

    today AJ is living the good life in Napa California doing it exactly right: she has her own company

    where she teaches people about sex, sexual health, and what it takes to have a better sex life

    apparently that is important to some people.

    for years she lived in NYC but California is so much better off that she has moved back here.

    happy birthday AJ! sorry about your boring job and life!

  6. Tuesday, October 22, 2013
  7. Sunday, April 28, 2013

    today is Kim Gordon’s birthday, she’s 60 

    tumblr_lywcpjmwbq1qffv5do1_500after my face melted in a hallucinatory bad trip in the bathroom mirror of a del playa apartment when i was 22 i was never afraid to talk with anyone ever again

    because i realized that everything is perspective and context: we all fool ourselves into believing that this is beautiful, that is ugly, she is hot, he is scary, that is dangerous, this is perfect

    but after someone accidentally puts one drop of a liquid chemical into your Natty Ice, what was ugly turns beautiful and whats hot is not.

    after that i never got nervous to approach a “pretty” girl, interview a powerful leader, or stare down a tweaked out gangster

    until i met kim gordon in santa barbara.

    even in 1990, a year before “punk broke”, backstage of ucsb’s Campbell Hall, it was frightingly obvious

    that Grunge had grown up from the midwestern Twin Tone yawp of The Replacements Husker Dü, and Soul Asylum.

    and sprouted horns and filled out to the global beast that would be Nirvana.

    and it wouldn’t have happened if not for Sonic Youth, whose 1990 Geffen debut “Goo” showed the record industry that

    the Bon Jovi 80s were over and rock n roll was back to save yr soul in a way that would make your parents not just tell you to turn that shit down but maybe we should have a family discussion because we’re really worried about you.

    and at the heart of Sonic Youth was Kim Gordon and she was scary as fuck because who else would dare go after LL Cool J who had just released Mama Said Knock You Out

    Kim Gordon“Are you going to liberate us girls from male, white, corporate oppression?” she taunts with the aid of Chuck D playing the role of Flava

    “Let every body know.” he demands.

    But it’s Kim’s “C’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon c’mon” that summons the dual guitar squeals from Thurston Moore and Lee Rinaldo that sounds more of a woman who knows what she wants as opposed to the cheerleader you would have seen (and not heard) a few years before in a Warrant video.

    Even though it was painfully obvious that Kool Thing was a street corner diss of Cool James

    (LL released “Walking With A Panther” in ’89 which featured hits like “Goin Back to Cali” – from which “Kool Thing” appropriates the line “I don’t think so”. Panther also featured singles “I’m The Type of Guy”, “Big Ole Butt” and “Jinglin’ Baby” that did fine in hip hop circles and the pop charts, but whose misogyny was hard to support among the Riot Grrrls)

    while chatting with Rinaldi and drummer Steve Shelley I asked, “so is Kool Thing about LL?”

    Shelley said, “that’s Kim’s song, ask her.”

    And I couldn’t even look in her direction, let alone approach her, so I just sipped from my can of Coke and changed the subject.

    She was the edge in a band whose tone was so gnarled that if barbed wire had a theme song it’d have been Sonic Youth.

    They say most scenarios benefit from the woman’s touch. Kim was the woman’s punch.

    Without whom neither Nirvana nor Hole would have spanked thru as quickly and painlessly as they did.

    Which is why I heartily celebrate Kim’s 60th today

    from a safe distance.

    meanwhile if you haven’t seen the doc of the Sonic Youth tour where they brought along Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr., and Babes in Toyland, and Gumball, and The Ramones

    well maybe on Kim Gordon’s 60th birthday maybe it’d be kool thing to do

  8. Thursday, March 21, 2013

    i need to learn how to make rice properly 

    grohl lisa

    love rice.

    i dont care if it makes me fat.

    one day im gonna be flying up to heaven and sitting next to me will be some dude from another galaxy and he’ll say oh so where are you from

    and i’ll say Earth

    and he’ll be all, omg the planet that had rice!?

    and i’ll go, yep.

    and he’ll be all so how do you make it?

    and right now i’ll say i go to Zankou and pay FIVE DOLLARS for a large box to go.

    when i make myself healthy dishes i open a can of peas, put it in a paper bowl and nuke it on high for two minutes.

    then i nuke the zankou rice for one minute and combine bowls.

    ive been pretty healthy this last month cuz its cheaper.

    my favorite taco joint sells chicken. bbq’ed but not “barbecued”

    they dont put bbq sauce on it.

    they’re from mexico.

    sometimes they give me extra rice and i tip them a dollar.

    the other day a pretty girl who hadnt said she loved me in maybe a year, accidentally said it and i laughed to myself inside.

    and popped open a coke, which isn’t healthy, but on that flight up to heaven you gotta be ready

    if Earth is the only place that has pop.

  9. Thursday, February 21, 2013
  10. Wednesday, February 20, 2013