When Nirvana showed up at Pachyderm Recording Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota on February 12, 1993 to begin work upon In Utero, their much-anticipated follow-up to 1991's phenomenally-successful Nevermind album, Kurt Cobain had something special to show the man he'd handpicked to produce the album.
Nirvana's frontman had long spoken of his admiration for the sound of Pixies' 1988 album Surfer Rosa, and The Breeders' 1990 album Pod, both of which had been produced (or 'engineered', as he preferred to say) by Steve Albini, the former frontman of Big Black. In his private journals, Cobain had also listed Big Black's 1986 debut album Atomizer as one of his [many] personal favourite records, and had, in fact, been in attendance when Big Black played their last ever show, at the Georgetown Steamplant in Seattle on August 11, 1987. As he would prove to Albini when the pair met for the first time ahead of the studio sessions for In Utero.
In a new interview with NME, Albini picks up the story...
“When my band Big Black did a farewell tour years before the ‘In Utero’ sessions, the final show was in some industrial space in Seattle,” he tells NME. “It was in a weird building with a makeshift stage. It was a cool gig and at end we smashed up all of our gear. I distinctively recall some kid asking me if he could take a piece of my guitar off the stage and me saying ‘go ahead its garbage now’.
“Many years later when we were working on ‘In Utero’ at the studio in Minnesota, Kurt showed me this little piece of this guitar that he had saved. He had brought it with him after all those years. He had been that kid.”
In 2021, Albini was asked by Kerrang! whether he regarded Cobain as a "special talent" when the pair worked together.
“Well, I didn’t try to become a bosom buddy of his, because I knew that everyone around him was trying to weasel their way into his world parasitically, and I wanted him to know that he didn’t have to worry about that with me,” Albini responded. “So I never pressed him for any personal intimacy. But I got to see him at work, and I saw that he was extremely serious about his music, and his passion was genuine. I think that’s what people responded to, because he had a distinctive voice. I grew to respect him as an artist and as a person.”