Remembering Steve Albini: Legendary musician produced final Nirvana album in MN

He worked on countless classic albums, with everyone from The Pixies and PJ Harvey to Nirvana. Influential musician and studio engineer Steve Albini has died from a heart attack at the age of 61. Albini became a sought-after producer for an album made in Minnesota.

Extreme Noise Records in Uptown specializes in punk, metal, and indie rock. But volunteers at the record store say the music world is mourning the loss of an icon of the alternative rock scene.

"I really couldn't believe it at first. It's devastating really. It's really sad to see," said volunteer Grant Mussman.

As the frontman for bands like Shellac and Big Black, Albini became a pioneer of aggressive guitar-based music in the 80s. But he also engineered some of the greatest alternative rock albums of all time, like Nirvana's "In Utero", which he recorded here in Minnesota at Pachyderm Recording Studios in Cannon Falls in the early 90s.

Music producer Steve Albini in his Chicago studio in 2014. Albini, who produced albums by Nirvana, the Pixies and PJ Harvey, died Tuesday, May 7, 2024, at age 61. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service)

"Stylistically, Nirvana was very much inspired by the Shellac stuff and the Big Black stuff, and a lot of the artists that he recorded were influenced by him," said Mussman.

Albini was also known for sticking to his principles and challenging standard practices in the music industry.

He refused to take a percentage of sales from the recordings he worked on, choosing a flat fee instead, in a show of support for the indie artists he worked with.

"He really just provided a lot of resources for musicians to have a decent sounding recording and to be presentable and to expand their ideas," said Mussman.

In addition to the work that made him famous, Albini also engineered hundreds of albums by lesser-known bands.

But he'll be forever remembered for playing a unique role in shaping the sound of alternative music.

"He had just such a big impact on multiple different levels of music. We just lost a very valuable person in the world of punk alternative music in general," said Mussman.