How many albums did Steve Albini produce?

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Steve Albini is rightly recognised as a singular figure in the history of modern music. A titan of punk rock, Albini was a record producer who embodied punk’s spirit more than any other, and as much as any of the genre’s great artists, by refusing to conform to models set by a record company.

Albums he was involved with were usually artist-led, insistently authentic to a given sound, and recorded in the space of a few days or weeks. Albini even resisted the title “producer” because he was at pains to leave the direction of a record up to the artist he was recording, preferring to call himself a sound engineer.

As is evident from the tributes that poured in from all corners of the music world following his death earlier this year, his way of working earned him the unequivocal respect and admiration of almost everyone who worked with him. And he worked with a lot of people.

There are the big hitters, like Pixies, Nirvana and PJ Harvey, as well as the curveballs, such as folkster Joanna Newson’s second album Ys. But there are many hundreds and possibly thousands of unsung artists whose work received the same care, attention and dedication to Albini’s musical principle from his inimitable production style as their better-known counterparts.

Steve Albini wasn’t affected by fame and fortune. He was only ever about the music, no matter who was involved in making it with him. This is one reason why it’s difficult to put a figure on the number of albums he’s produced. Many of his production contributions have gone completely unnoticed by the music media because they’re for albums still buried underground. Another reason is that Albini often refused to accept any published credit for his production on album liner notes.

The man himself estimated in an interview with Free Press Houston back in 2018 that he’d produced or co-produced “a couple thousand” albums. This estimation isn’t self-aggrandisation. It’s a reflection of his addiction to working in the studio with music he loved. Since that interview, he’s produced at least 70 more albums, including seven this year.

However, no one has access to a full list of Albini’s production contributions, not least for albums which don’t give him written credit for his work. And so, the only figure we can go on is the one we have, for all of the records on which Albini is listed as a producer or lead engineer. These records include those of Big Black, Rapeman and Shellac, Albini’s own bands in which he sang and played guitar as well as produced.

The sum total of these records is a whopping 814 albums. That means Albini produced around 20 albums a year during a 40-year period. During his period of peak productivity between the 1990s and the 2010s, he produced 721 albums in 30 years. Or 24 records a year, roughly one every two weeks. And these are just the ones we know of.

Albini certainly didn’t have much time for messing about when it came to music. If the punk aesthetic hadn’t been so ingrained in him, likely he couldn’t have been such a prolific producer. This aesthetic also left an indelible imprint on every work he produced. There simply wasn’t time to spoil it. Only to spoil us with the riches he coaxed out of his countless collaborators..

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