The Story Behind Kurt Cobain’s Fascination With Steve Albini and How a Fan Trip Sparked Nirvana Relationship

While a member of bands like Rapeman, Big Black, and Shellac, Steve Albini also founded the recording studio Electrical Audio. And thanks to his knowledge off the stage, he helped record countless songs for bands like The Jesus Lizard, the Breeders, PJ Harvey, and the iconic Nirvana. Sadly, on May 7, news broke that the musician passed away at just 61 years old. Honoring the musician, Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic recalled Kurt Cobain’s fascination with the producer and how he wanted to work with him. 

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Discussing how the collaboration started, Novoselic took fans on a trip back to 1989. “Kurt was a fan of Albini. I remember being in a tour van in 1989 and Kurt was listening to Pixies. He raised his finger and said, ‘This shall be our snare sound!’ He wanted to do it with Steve for a long time.” He continued, “There’s that whole thing where you get famous and you have to transition into it. It was hard for everyone, but Kurt got all the attention, being up front there. I don’t comment on the lyrics as they’re open for interpretation, but you can listen and make up your own mind. ‘Radio Friendly Unit Shifter’ was a smart-ass statement that Kurt made, and really says it all.”

[RELATED: Krist Novoselic Pays Tribute to Kurt Cobain, Nirvana Legacy]

Kurt Cobain And Steve Albini Go Way Back

Before his passing, Albini spoke with NME about his work with Nirvana and how he and Cobain met years before they worked together. “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. 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.’”

While seeing the rubble as nothing more than garbage, that kid saw it as history. And to Albini’s astonishment, that kid was Cobain. “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.”

(Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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