Electrical Audio is a fantastic recording studio located in Chicago, IL. It is owned / operated by legendary engineer (notice how I didn’t say producer) Steve Albini and has pumped out some of my all time favorite albums. But let’s go back a few steps and make it a bit more personal for me.
Around the mid-to-late 80s I started exploring different styles of bands and music. I was getting into the freestyle and skating movement, and branching out from my ‘metal’ days and wanting to explore punk rock, post-punk and new wave, industrial, etc. So many bands during that time doing crazy and uncategorized styles of music. If was just fun to listen and discover.. and to trade music with my circle of friends. This was before owning a guitar, but the initial point of discovering the power of music, and how it became an important piece of my life.. and my future.
I was in Helena, MT for the Schwinn Freestyle Bike team with a couple of friends and went to the local record store there. Back then, if it wasn’t standard pop/rock/metal.. everything was in the ‘imports’ section. I picked up “This Is the Voice” by Agent Orange (never heard of the band) and my friend picked up “Headache” by Big Black. It was fun to check out these ‘new’ recordings… but… that Big Black album sort of changed a lot of things. We were super into that band, and was on a quest to find more, eventually owning the entire discography. Of course, Steve Albini was the frontman of that band.
Now, to understand, at that time, I was living in Kalispell, MT, which in essence is like living anywhere else in Montana. You were isolated – in a bubble. The whole state back then had a population of around 800,000. To get anything, to hear anything, to learn anything.. you had to work, and had to work hard. You had to mine friend that went out of the state for new tunes. You had to go out of state and pick up magazines, etc. Everything had to be special ordered and shipped in. Not like how it is today with the kids and their YouTubes and their Facebooks (insert grumpy old man voice). One day, I was reading a Maximum Rock’n’Roll that a friend picked up at a recent trip to Seattle, and there was a piece in there about Big Black, and I was utterly blown away that Steve Albini was from Montana? I didn’t think that was possible. Someone escaped the bubble to create crazy sounds… and to “make it” in the music scene. My definition of “making it” is a little different than others (still is today).
From that time on, I’ve followed what Steve has been doing – from Rapeman, to Shellac, and keeping tabs on his recording career. Just like with his music, he’s treated the studio with that same punk rock ethos of getting shit done… and on his own terms. A couple of things that I admire is how he treats the recording process. In the beginning.. I said “engineer” and not “producer”. I appreciate that his goal is to capture the music and not direct or shape the band. His role is clearly defined as to capture the source as best as he can from the band.. and put it to tape. I love that.
Let’s talk about some of the bands he’s recorded. As for me, so many of these were major influences – Pixies, Silkworm, Mogwai, The Jesus Lizard, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, The Breeders. Godspeed, etc. I can keep going on and on, but you get it. Amazing bands, amazing sounding records. I love the purity of his recordings. Bass, Guitars, Drums, Vocals.. sound amazing.
A few years ago, I had the chance to visit Electrical Audio, and it was one of the biggest highlights of my Chicago visit. So I was especially psyched to see Reverb.com do a tour of Electrical Audio featuring Greg Norman talking about the gear and building.
Let me know what you think by commenting below!