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Steve Albini reflects on the making of Nirvana’s In Utero 25 years on

Engineer and producer Steve Albini reveals his favourite mix of Nirvana’s 1993 masterpiece

Steve Albini told PSNEurope that “from a technical standpoint, you can’t really get a much better record” than the 2013 reissue of Nirvana’s 1993 masterpiece In Utero, for our latest cover feature on the revered engineer and producer. 

Albini, commenting on the band’s third and final album, said: “I had a chance to do a deep dive on that record in 2013 when they did the deluxe reissue, and Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear and Dave Grohl came here and we opened up all the multi-tracks and did alternate mixes for all the songs on the album. We also did a comprehensive remaster of the original edition of the album from the original half-inch tapes. Everybody was really pleased with how the original session sounded. 

“I felt like the band were playing well and everything sounded good. This is a rare thing for me to say, but I have to give their record label credit in that when they decided to do the deluxe reissue they pulled out all the stops for quality. There is a super deluxe edition of the record and from a technical standpoint I don’t know how to make a better record than that. You really cannot get a better, more sympathetic master than going from the original master tapes – direct to metal, very high quality pressings. If anybody is interested hearing what I think is the best representation of that session it’s the original version of the album from that double 12” 45 super deluxe vinyl edition.

“In a lot of cases, even when that record was new, Nirvana were one of hundreds of bands that had to put out a record that year, so they weren’t granted that degree of quality control. The mastering was done using a reputable mastering engineer but it wasn’t done with the kind of attention to detail that was possible 20 years later.

“The first song we recorded was Serve The Servants. We did a sound check before getting started and just before that first take Kurt added a booster pedal into his amp set up – he was using a Fender Quad Reverb that was missing a tube so it had an asymmetrical distortion. It’s a very characteristic sound of that record, this gnarly overdrive. 

“At the beginning of that take, I noticed the first couple of chords were pinning the meters, so during the take I adjusted the levels so the rest of it was at nominal levels, but the beginning was slightly overdriven. I remembered that moment when he kicked on the booster and the guitar jumped up, and I pointed that out to them and said, We may want to redo that bar to make it consistent, but they all said, No, it’s fine. That was emblematic of the way they proceeded on the session. If there were some accidental sounds or things that were unexpected, as long as they didn’t interfere with the flow or the end result, they were fine with it. That attitude allowed us to proceed at a very productive pace.”

Read the full interview with Steve Albini here

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