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Steve Albini: In Utero Remaster Inspires New Appreciation

Every poker player has a life outside of poker but Steve Albini’s is a hell of a lot more interesting than most.

Albini is a musician, singer, songwriter, audio engineer, music producer, and journalist. He also plays poker when he gets the chance.

Albini has played with popular underground bands Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac but he's most widely known as the original producer on Nirvana’s In Utero: The band’s last studio album before Kurt Cobain’s death.

The album's production stirred up controversy between the band, record company and producers over Albini's techniques and sounds.

Albini refused to remix the album and it was ultimately released with some tracks remixed by R.E.M. producer Scott Litt.

Last year, two decades after the album's original release, Albini had the chance to remaster the tracks and says he gained a new appreciation for the material after not hearing it in 20 years.

The Poker Side of Steve Albini

The poker side of Albini’s life gets much less attention but the Chicago native is a regular in cash games and live tournaments.

Nirvana InUtero Frontal

Albini didn't dwell on the controversy surrounding In Utero's release.

He came just a few spots shy of making the 2013 WSOP Seniors Championship final table and when he spoke to PokerListings.com in Las Vegas a few days ago he was playing the WSOP's $1,500 H.O.R.S.E. event.

PokerListings: It’s been 20 years since the release of Nirvana’s “In Utero”. Has your perception of the controversy surrounding the recording changed?

Steve Albini: It’s interesting, 20 years is a long time. Whatever emotional attachment I had to my work on that record and whatever my irritation at the politics around the release of that record, all that stuff has dissipated and it was never on my mind.

And then I had an excuse last year to get involved in it again when they did reissues and sort of rekindled my relationship with the members of the band.

I got to listen to all that material again, listen to the original masters again, and do a very careful, a very hi-fi mastering job on it.

I ended up developing an appreciation for that record that I would not have had, had it been on my mind the whole time. I feel like I was able to appreciate that record as music much more having not listened to it in 20 years.

PL: Of all the albums you’ve worked or played on, do you have a favorite?

I get asked that question a lot. The thing that is weird is that I don’t really rank the albums I work on into terms of me liking them. I tend to remember more the experience of making the record.

And I also have personal relationships with the people involved in making the record and those end up being more important to me than the ultimate ‘hit-maker’ quality of the record.

There are bands that I’ve worked with many times where the personal relationship is really strong and those are the records I end up feeling the fondest about.

PL: You’ve been very vocal about big company influence on music. Are there any new bands out there getting your attention?

Dead Rider

Albini likes new Chicago band Dead Rider (Photo credit: APTfestival.com)

There’s a band from Chicago, and it’s odd to call them a new band because they’ve been around for a half dozen years or so and the people in the bands have been in other bands so they’re sort of veteran players, called Dead Rider.

Everybody in the band has been in other bands and established themselves as regular members of the music scene in Chicago.

Everybody involved stepped up and is really playing outside the norm, just not stylistically but the way they present the music, the band personality. I’m a big fan.

PL: You’ve been playing poker for years, why do you favor mix and stud over other games?

Stud games are by far my favorite form of poker but it’s weird. My absolute favorite is single draw No-Limit 2-7 but the game I’m probably best at is 7-Card Stud and then of the games I get to play, the games that I get to enjoy the most are the stud format games. Razz, 8-or-Better, Stud Hi.

But if I know how to play the game and there’s a bad player in the game, I want to know.

PL: You were stuck at the same HORSE table with Allen Kessler. How do you handle the constant chatter?

He and one of the other players kept up a running commentary on the whole game; I prefer not to get involved in that sort of stuff.

There’s some people where that’s just part of their normal mode of play, to be conversational about everything. I feel like if you participate in that you’re basically playing their game. I tend to stay to myself when I’m playing.

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