September 22, 2005

Steve Albini quotes

"We have never done anything to pander to anybody's expectations, whether it be somebody in a record company or someone in a peer group or someone who could be classed as a fan. We do things based on what we intuitively know to be the right thing to do. It is a lot easier to do that than to do what people expect of us."
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“Hey, breaking up is an idea that has occurred to far too few groups. Sometimes to the wrong ones.” (from the sleeve notes of Songs about Fucking, Big Black's final album)
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"Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says "Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke". And he does of course." (from "the problem with music", aka "some of your friends are probably already this fucked")
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"The male-female relationship, as a subject for song, is thoroughly bankrupt"
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"yeah, people are fucking idiots"
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"Jazz serves a cultural function in the music scene. It is a signifier for musical "adulthood." To embrace jazz is to don a kind of graduation cap, signifying a broadening of tastes outside "mere" rock music. This ostentatious display of "sophistication" is an insult, and I find the graduation cappers transparent and tedious. Certainly there must be interesting music one could call "jazz." There must be. I've never heard it, but I grant that it is out there somewhere.

Jazz has a non-musical parallel: Christiania, the "free" zone in Copenhagen. In Christiania, like in jazz, there is no law. People are left to their own inventions to create and act as they see fit. In Jazz, the musicians are allowed to improvise over and beside structural elements that may themselves be extemporaneous. Sounds good, doesn't it? Freedom — sounds good.

The reality is much bleaker. Christiania is a squalid, trashy string of alleys with rag-and-bone men selling drugs, tie-dye and wretched food. Granted Total Freedom, and this is what they've chosen to do with it, sell hash and lentil soup? Jazz is similar. The results are so far beneath the conception that there is no English word for the disappointment one feels when forced to confront it. Granted Total Freedom, you've chosen to play II V I and blow a goddamn trill on the saxophone? Only by willfully ignoring its failings can one pretend to appreciate it as an idiom and don the cap". (his views on Jazz)
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"Punk rock, which used to involve taking shit and physical confrontations for granted like one takes for granted a favorite pair of Pro Keds, has come to mean fitting in, not rocking the boat, paying lip service to pop cultural icons and ideas and, above all, maintaining an affected disinterest in the society which props it up from behind."
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"It seems preposterous now, but at the time, people seemed overly concerned about the literal meaning of our lyrics. I know we never discussed it among ourselves. Lyrics seemed a neccessity, so we had them, but the subject matter was an extension of our interests—not part of a political or aesthetic battle plan. They lyrics were subject to change at whim once the subject had been decided on anyway. Anybody who thinks we oeverstepped the playground perimeter of lyrical decency (or that the public has any right to demand "social responsibility" from a goddamn punk rock band) is a pure natural dolt, and should step forward and put his tongue up my ass. What we sing about is none of your business anyway" (from the Pig Pile liner notes)
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(and finally, also from the Pig Pile liner notes)
"Organizationally we were commited to a few basic principles: Treat everyone with as much respect as he deserves (and no more), Avoid people who appeal to our vanity (they always have an angle), Operate as much as possible apart from the "music scene" (which was never our stomping ground), and take no shit from anyone in the process.

It meant nothing to us if we were popular or not, or if we sold a million or no records, so we were invulnerable to ploys by music scene weasels to get us to make mistakes in the name of success. To us, every moment we remained unfettered and in control was a success. We never had a manager. We never had a booking agent. We never had a lawyer. We never took an advance from a record company. We booked our own tours, paid our own bills, made our own mistakes and never had anybody shield us from either the truth or the consequences.

The results of that methodology speak for themselves: Nobody ever told us what to do and nobody took any of our money


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