Steve Albini begins his rise to indie ubiquity

January 1986: Number 30 in our series of the 50 key events in the history of indie music

Rants in US fanzines had already earned Steve Albini the enmity of the Chicago music community, and his group Big Black were as uncompromising as their frontman: a martial assault of painfully trebly guitar riffs, bleak barked vocals and the inhuman pulse of their drum machine, a Roland TR-606. The sleeve to Atomizer, their 1986 debut LP, presented the pending destruction of Earth with the lunatic wit of a Chuck Jones cartoon. The album itself spun deadpan tales of a world that deserved atomizing. It was disturbing and thrilling in equal measure.

Big Black broke up the following year, on the eve of releasing their second album – "to prevent us from overstaying our welcome", as Albini explained. He went on become better known as a producer, bringing his characteristically sparse, arid sound to albums that became landmarks – by Pixies and Nirvana, among 2,000 or so others. He retains his indie ethics: he says he records bands, rather than produces them, and he works for a flat fee, believing a percentage of profits would encourage him to make a hit record rather than a good record.

Contributor

Stevie Chick

The GuardianTramp

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