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Steve Albini Interview

What are the differences (physical and spiritual) between kielbasa and Italian sausage?

Spice (Paprika vs. Oregano) and collective guilt about the holocaust. Unless you're speaking metaphorically about my dick.

What is your reaction to the following quote?

"I'm at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table."

- Rodney Dangerfield,1980

Caddyshack was my favorite American comedy until Shakes the Clown. Mr.. Dangerfield's comments notwithstanding, my life is at the stage where work has replaced everything else, including sex. For this reason, I feel like quitting the racket and opening a snotty little cafe with my buddy David Yow where we can cook what we like and serve it to a handful of discriminating guests.

Can you think of a way to utilize the top of a pineapple?

In Associated Press style, "utilize" means "to press into service in a manner not usual or intended." Since pineapple tops' only usual or intended uses are to top off pineapples and Latin showgirls, anything done with one would satisfy your question. Let's try poking one up a Spin Doctor's ass...Neat. Now let's try sticking it in the eye of one of those tiresome "love rockers" on the "K" label or down the throat of some dreadful New Zealander pop whiner...Ohh, splendid! Now let's pulverize it as a source of cellulose fiber for making paper and textiles...Not as much fun as wholesale deforestation of old-growth timberlands. Can we force it on \the gullible music scenesters as a fashion accessory by saying it represents the rebirth of the feminist aesthetic?...Yes! Grrrl Styllle.

Please tell us about a memorable experience you have had in a restraunt.

If by "restraunt" you mean "restaurant," then I can relay the following two anecdotes.

A: Bob Weston, his squeeze Carter Nicole Launt, their friend Tara and I were eating at one of Chicago's many Greek bistros. One specific busboy/water glass filler/greasy little man-of-perplexing ethnicity made it a point of brushing Nicole's boob or shoulder when he refilled her water glass (which he did about every 22 seconds). She noticed and we all watched him do it. Then I noticed that he was turning his body in such a way that his actual pecker was what was rubbing her as he leaned over. I didn't say anything, so they're reading about it for the first time.

B: Julia Child visited the kitchen of an overly snobby expensive restaurant where a friend of mine worked. The chef there was an old acquaintance of hers, and he was a little drunk. He was showing off to the staff, trying to impress everyone by being chummy with The J. In the 1970's, after a bout with breast cancer, one of Julia's boobs had been cut off, and this guy knew which one. There, in full view of the patrons and staff, he poked a fork at her prosthetic boob and bit at it, making mock gobbling and biting sounds.

Of all the bands you have worked with in the studio, which one had the most interesting or unusual eating habits while they recorded? Please describe.

The band Ut, three strange women and a hired-gun drummer, drank a ridiculous number of medicinal herbal teas (including a sage infusion that stank like old socks), depending on the mood that each song required and the state of their individual hormones and menstrual cycles.

Mike Greenless, drummer of the band Tar, vomits often. He does not enjoy it, but his stomach seems to reject any food with either color or flavor.

Polly Harvey (PJ Harvey) ate nothing but potatoes, with occasional sauces, during the entire recording of her Rid of Me album.

KK Null of the ferocious Japanese band Zeni Geva had, over the course of a two hour celebratory dinner, the following: whole tiny fish (raw), slimy transparent algae strands, raw horse meat, fish sperm sacs, soup with spherical croutons made from tofu scum ("Fu") and "Natto," a pile of uncooked rotten moldy soybeans mixed with raw egg.

Many rock musicians are excellent cooks, I've found, and those that are prefer to eat their own cooking in the studio. I encourage this behavior as I also enjoy the benefits of fresh food. The best rock music chefs follow,in descending order of excellence: Laura Fuckin' Carter (Jack o Nutz, also Bar b que Killers) is a head chef at a gourmet restaurant in Athens, Georgia. Her best dish is Trout Wellington, which she invented and perfected. It is a whole brook or large rainbow trout baked in a puff pastry and served with light sauces. David Yow (The Jesus Lizard, Scratch Acid) who has been a chef at several restaurants in Austin, Texas and Chicago. His best dishes are Whiskey Chicken and Large Number of Vegetables Soup, both of which he invented. Pete Conway (Flour, Rifle Sport) can make palatable food out of anything. He wins the frugality and versatility badge. I have seen him cook a week's worth of meals, catering to three different diets (one vegan, one fish-sensitive and one carnivore) with nothing but a stone and two twigs in the kitchen.

Describe your last two relationships with women in terms of food.

I will assume you mean sexual relationships.

The woman I am currently crazy about was a vegetarian for a year until I started dating her. As is the case with most vegetarians, she had never eaten properly prepared meat, only commercially packaged or otherwise abused flesh. Since I really only enjoy food ripped off the carcasses of dumber, weaker species, she got to see a wide variety of meats prepared in many ghoulish fashions. Eventually, her curiosity overwhelmed her, she tried some and now eats all manner of dead things.

The relationship immediately prior to that one was very short lived, and pretty much devoid of any interaction other than a range of sexual activities, including several that might fall under the "gourmet" or "glutton" mastheads. Let's just say I was probably her most significant source of protein.

Albini playing guitar

If you could ask any animal a question about their eating experiences and get a subjective answer, what would this question be?

It really bothers me when people misuse the pronouns "they" and "their". The non-specific third-person pronouns are "he" and "his". If you wish to avoid offending the dogmatic imbeciles who claim such pronouns imply cultural sexism, then change all your sentences to the plural and you may use "they" and "their" to your coddling, timid, bleeding heart's content.

It amazes me sometime the length people will go in order to take offense at something, jettisoning perfectly understandable plain English for coquettishly popular and faddish political reasons.

The answer to the question you thought you had posed is this: Of a dung beetle I would ask, "Why bother?" Of a tapeworm, "Do you ever wish you could dine in a more formal setting?"

Pose a food related question to any dead person. We will do our best to come up with an answer.

H.L. Mencken loved hearty, simple food. He often wrote of his fondness for the shellfish and other seafood from the Baltimore and Chesapeake bays. He fondly recounted many memorable meals of beef and game, and wrote of his appreciation for beer and strong liquor. He also detested snobbery and pretense. I would like to hear his thoughts on the nouvelle cuisine, that silly cul-de-sac of bad taste which substituted tiny food on small plates painted with sauces in place of a meal. I would also like to hear his thoughts on the dreadful trend away from using even moderate amounts of oil or butter in cooking. In my opinion, this sort of dry, dismal non-cuisine is for people whose fear of their own mortality has trumped their common sense and common senses.

[H.L. Mencken Responds]

Describe the most enjoyable meal you have ever had.

Two memories spring to mind.

A: When I was 19, I worked as a T-shirt screen printer. One payday, when I could no longer hack the horrible working conditions and minuscule pay, I quit. It took me a week or two to find another job. The new job had a delayed pay period ­ that is I got paid for two weeks work after an additional two weeks passed ­ and I realized that I would have no vittles money for a month. I bought a huge bag of rice and a huge bag of pinto beans, and I lived on them for a month. Four weeks later, on the evening of my first payday, I spent about an hour in the grocery store, picking out the most fantastic sirloin steak and vegetables, and cooked the best meal anyone in the world had ever eaten. Then I ritualistically threw the remainder of the rice and beans out the window and composed this song:

"The Anti-Rice and Beans League Theme"
I don't like rice (da-da da da)
I don't like beans (da-da da da)
I won't eat them together.

(I haven't knowingly eaten rice and beans at the same time since.)

B: In 1989, in Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, I ordered Steak Tartare. The Chef rolled up a cart to our table, allowed me to select a cut of beautifully aged beef, lifted a pair of cleavers, and with a musician's fluidity, chopped it into a puree as smooth as butter. He then did the same with some garlic cloves, black peppercorns and a bouquet of herbs. He then blended the ingredients with the cleavers, adding a raw egg, a lemon segment and a bit of salt. He spiced the meat with some paprika and spread a dab on a crouton for my approval. I don't think I have ever been fed so graciously or eaten as well.

Do you have any dietary advice for young bands trying to establish themselves?

Avoid any food that comes packaged in a sauce.

Buy groceries and feed yourself, even on the road. Road food is terrible because the roadside eateries know the feeders will be hundreds of miles away before heartburn or diarrhea set in. For less than the cost of a Big Mac, fries and a Coke, you can buy a loaf of fresh bread and some good cheese or roast beef, which you will enjoy much more.

Compare the advent of digital recording to an event in the history of food or agriculture.

Mayonnaise is as it is now known a bastardization of the Sauce Mayonnaise every saucier learns to make his first season as an apprentice. Pre-packaged mayonnaise sold in jars is almost nothing but tasteless vegetable oil and water, emulsified by gum and gelatin. I think this product is analogous in many ways to the CD, and it's introduction has degraded the standard of eating in much the same way digital recording has degraded the standard of music.

Here is a recipe anyone can use to make a wonderful Sauce Mayonnaise:

Into a stationary blender, crack one egg. Add an extra egg yolk, one garlic clove, a strong quarter teaspoon of cayenne (or a teaspoon of white pepper ground very fine) and either a slight teaspoon of salt or a tablespoon of Tamari soy sauce. Blend at high speed until the garlic is finely divided and the egg begins to froth. With the blender still running, trickle in good olive oil until the mayonnaise thickens and will accept no more oil. (this will vary, but will usually be about a cup.) Stop the blender and add a tablespoon of good vinegar OR the juice of half a lemon. Fold the mayonnaise once or twice with a spatula, which will loosen it considerably. Pulse the blender until the thick consistency returns. Taste If the mayonnaise tastes oily, add more acid (vinegar or lemon juice only. Never combine the two, as this makes for a weird bilious aftertaste). Chill covered for at least 15 minutes. I often add a tablespoon of fresh or dried dill or thyme at the beginning of the process. Don't add the acid at the beginning, as this can prevent the eggs from emulsifying.

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