‘They were a threat to label control’: Steve Albini on how Nirvana broke the music making model

Iconic alternative rock producer Steve Albini has told AMI about how Nirvana’s classic 1993 album In Utero broke the major label model of music production and how there was “an incentive from the labels to see that model fail”.

During an in-depth interview with AMI, Albini offers a unique insight into what he described as “an active effort” by the band’s label (Geffen Records) to dissuade Nirvana from working with him on the follow-up to their 1991 breakthrough Nevermind. 

After working with producer Butch Vig on the hugely successful Nevermind, Nirvana were reportedly under intense pressure from the label to deliver another multi-million selling commercial smash – something which the label didn’t believe was possible with the notoriously anti-establishment Albini at the helm.

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“The band had created a paradigm where if other bands were allowed to follow that paradigm it would be a threat to the control systems the record labels had,” Albini explained. “If Nirvana went off and made a record, delivered to the record label and it was successful, then that would be a model other bands would try. There was an incentive for the big record labels to see that model fail.

“As weird as it seems now, it was weirder then,” he continued. “To see a quiet publicity campaign almost to try to scuttle a record that was going to be a huge record no matter what. So it was really strange to see an active effort to undermine that record before it had even been released, by the people who would benefit from it being successful. It was really strange and being stuck in the middle of it was a pretty unpleasant period for me. I can’t get past the fact that all these people felt that their careers were tied to the success of the next Nirvana record, and they though the very best thing they could do was to shit-talk the record behind the scenes. It blew my mind.”

You can watch the interview in full below, in which Albini also discusses his formative years as a producer and the state of today’s recording industry.