Steve Albini, Influential Producer of ’90s Rock and Beyond, Dies at 61

Steve Albini, a rock musician and revered audio engineer who played a singular role in the development of the sound of alternative rock music in the 1980s, the ’90s and beyond — recording acclaimed albums by Nirvana, PJ Harvey, Pixies and hundreds of others — while becoming an outspoken critic of the music industry, died on Tuesday at his home in Chicago. He was 61.

The cause was a heart attack, according to Taylor Hales of Electrical Audio, the studio in Chicago that Mr. Albini founded in 1997.

With a sharp vision for how a band should be recorded, and an even sharper tongue for anything he deemed mediocre or compromised, Mr. Albini was one of rock’s most acerbic wits. He was also a withering critic of the exploitive extremes of the major-label music business, describing in a widely-quoted 1993 article, “The Problem With Music,” the ways that naïve bands are lured into major deals with labels that, in most cases, leave them broke and in debt.

In the 1990s, when his work as a recording engineer — he scoffed at being called a “producer” — was in highest demand, however, Mr. Albini made no apology for accepting big checks for recording major-label bands. But those bands did so at their own risk; in those days Mr. Albini was also known for ridiculing the bands he recorded after the fact.

“Never have I seen four cows more anxious to be led around by their nose rings,” he wrote after recording “Surfer Rosa,” the seminal 1988 album by the Boston-based band Pixies, which became one the classics of 1980s alt-rock. (Even so, Mr. Albini remained a close friend of Kim Deal, the bassist in that band, and recorded her solo project, the Breeders.)

As a musician, Mr. Albini led the bands Big Black in the 1980s and, since 1992, Shellac, both of which venerated loud, raw guitars and angry, screaming vocals. Neither came to wide commercial success but were widely influential, with Mr. Albini seen as a prophet of both aggressive rock and a defiant, do-it-yourself work ethic.

A full obituary will follow.

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