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Nirvana Pay Tribute to Steve Albini by Sharing In Utero Proposal Letter

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Nirvana have paid tribute to Steve Albini by sharing the four-page letter he sent the band before agreeing to record their beloved final studio album, In Utero. Albini passed away yesterday (May 8th) at the age of 61.

The letter was posted on Nirvana’s official Twitter account, accompanied simply by the caption, “Steve Albini.” In the document, Albini outlines his steadfast philosophies, both regarding his approach to recording and his approach to business. Effectively, it’s Albini responding to Kurt Cobain’s request to produce the album by saying, “Only if we do it right.”

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

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He goes on to write that he’s “only interested in working on records that legitimately reflect the band’s own perception of their music and existence” and that “if a record takes more than a week to make, somebody’s fucking up.”

Though Nirvana agreed to his stipulations prior to recording, Albini’s prediction of the studio pressuring the band to rework the subsequent recordings eventually came to fruition. Nirvana’s label, Geffen, remixed the singles “Heart-Shaped Box” and “All Apologies” and gave the rest of the record a remaster that Albini was less than fond of.

Elsewhere in the letter, Albini touches on his famous business practice of refusing royalties, instead only accepting a one-time upfront fee for his services. “I would like to be paid like a plumber,” he wrote.

“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.”

In October 2023, Albini reconnected with Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic on the Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend podcast to celebrate the 30th anniversary of In Utero. Notably, Albini expands on the letter and his intentions behind it.

Read the full letter below. You can also see how artists like Pixies, Cloud Nothings, Jarvis Cocker, and more paid tribute to Albini here.

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