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Superchunk Pay Tribute to ‘No Pocky for Kitty’ Producer

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Superchunk Pay Tribute to ‘No Pocky for Kitty’ Producer

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Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance shared tributes to Steve Albini, remembering the musician/producer/engineer as a “unique and outstanding individual,” who helped the burgeoning indie rock band sound “bigger than we were in real life.” 

Albini, who died Tuesday night from a heart attack at the age of 61, produced Superchunk’s excellent 1991 sophomore effort, No Pocky for Kitty. McCaughan remembered cutting the album over three nights — working literally sundown to sun-up, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. — at Chicago Recording Company.

It was an experience that “changed our band and our lives,” McCaughan said. “Musically, Steve showed us how to cut fat (i.e. harmonies and guitar solos) and work fast, but he also made us sound huge, much bigger than we were in real life.”

McCaughan went on to recall the way Albini could be at once lovable and cantankerous, like when he compared McCaughan’s playing to Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon. “I assume he meant [it] as an insult, but I was flattered as I loved REO Speedwagon,” McCaughan quipped.

He added: “After we made the record he wrote to say he was riding around in his car listening to a cassette of the mixes and something along the lines of ‘he actually liked it’ though i knew he’d rather be listening to something heavier.” (Read McCaughan’s full tribute below.)

Ballance, meanwhile, remembered Albini’s intractable “ethics and opinions, which he never hesitated to make known.” She also noted his “many interests,” his “amazing handwriting” and the letters he sent her “where he wrote out some of his favorite recipes for me.”

“He was dead serious, but also hilarious. He wrote amazing songs that inspired a lot of us, and had an amazing ear that helped make independent music what it is today.”

Mac McCaughan’s Steve Albini Tribute

Making our 2nd album No Pocky for Kitty with Steve in 3 nights at Chicago Recording Company — recording and mixing from 6 pm-6 am — changed our band and our lives.

Musically, Steve showed us how to cut fat (ie harmonies and guitar solos) and work fast, but he also made us sound huge, much bigger than we were in real life.

Personally he was welcoming and funny and friendly and probably knew that a young band coming in as fans of his bands and records he had made would be nervous about working with a guy whose public persona (via record reviews and other writings in places like Matter and Forced Exposure) was cranky and acerbic and intimidating.

While we were recording he likened my guitar playing to Gary Richrath, which i assume he meant as an insult but i was flattered as i loved REO Speedwagon. After we made the record he wrote to say he was riding around in his car listening to a cassette of the mixes and something along the lines of “he actually liked it” though i knew he’d rather be listening to something heavier.

Importantly, he introduced us to Corey Rusk which led to Merge’s long-running relationship with Touch and Go Records & allowed us to grow immeasurably as a label & a band.

We mixed Foolish at his house. We recorded Come Pick Me Up at Electrical & stayed at the studio. I made a live Portastatic EP on short notice in the B-room there with Steve engineering.

In all of our working with him, Steve was not particularly interested in 2 things the music industry as a whole is obsessed with — credit and money. He recommended we not put his name on our record because he said it would turn off as many people as it would interest.

What he was interested in was helping people document their art and make it sound real. He was generous with his time and knowledge and humor and a real mentor to lots of bands and engineers.

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I was lucky enough to see all of Steve’s bands and they were always crushing and exciting and irritating and powerful. He made countless records that influenced us and so many people. What’s amazing is that even with his body of work, the music may not even be the most important thing Albini will be remembered for. Huge loss for the music community.

RIP to a true punk. 🖤

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