How I met Mr. Steve Albini

Steve Albini and Martin Yam Moller in Electrical Audio Studio A

Ok, so here’s a wild thing that happened. I got to meet Steve Albini at his studio Electrical Audio in Chicago.… and embarrassingly I got so star-struck meeting him, that I completely forgot to ask all the questions that I would normally do for this blog!

So that’s why this post is a little bit different than the usual ‘9 Odd Questions for Music Gear Junkies’ Interview.

First of all, if you don’t know about Mr. Steve Albini. He’s a producer/engineer who famously recorded Nirvana’s In Utero, but also hundreds of other records that I and millions of others, have listened to since the ‘80’s.

He has got to have one of the heftiest discographies ever!

But more interestingly, he has a particular kind of attitude to recording and music in general. He records all analogue, not just because of the sound and workflow, but because of its importance as an archival medium. He also keeps his rates as low as possible in order to keep working with independent bands/musicians. This attitude is very much reflected in the way that he constructed Electrical Audio, the studio that he built and opened in the late ‘90’s.

Outside Electrical Audio

So I was in Chicago this summer playing a couple of concerts for the release of my debut solo album, and I was talking to my bassist, who mentioned that he’s recorded at Electrical Audio with other bands. He said “Give’em a call and ask if you could come by and take a look at the studio and talk to Steve”. For him, having lived in Chicago for many years, Electrical was simply the local studio that everybody used. For me, it was the holy ground on which Sunn 0))) conjured Pyroclasts, their excellent 9th album from 2019.

It simply didn’t seem possible to just call up the studio… and so for the 14 days that I was in Chicago, I procrastinated and did a whole bunch of other stuff.

Then on the last day before I had to fly back to Denmark. My buddy Anthony, the bassist, reminded me “Just call and go out there”. So I called up Electrical and there was a nice person who answered “Yeah, come on by… There is a session today at noon, but there should be some engineers here to show you around”.

So of course I took a cab out there at 9am! Jumped out and rang on the door.

Electrical Audio Studio Door and Bell

And… the same person on the phone says “Oh, there are no engineers here right now to show you around. Can you come back in an hour?”

“Sure” I say. An hour goes by. Me, loitering outside in the general area.

Ring that bell again. Same thing. So I come back 30 min later.

Receptionist says “Hey, what about if you give me your tlf number and I get someone to call you back when they get here?”

“Perfect” I say, and think ‘Damn, they’ll be busy with that session today and I’m leaving tomorrow’. So a bit disappointed, I walked down the road from the studio that I didn’t even get into, to find lunch somewhere.

I’m just about to order a sandwich at a cafe … and my cellphone rings.

“Hey, this is Steve… you wanted to take a look around the studio?”

“YES! I’ll be there in 2 min”… and I run out of the cafe.

The following is a loose, badly-remembered re-paraphrasing of the hour long tour that Mr. Steve Albini gave me of his wonderful studio and gear. Mainly just photos with whatever I could remember that Steve said.

At Electrical Audio, walking from one live room to the next, seems just like any other studio, but what is not visible, is the fact that each room has it’s own separate foundation, for near total acoustic isolation between rooms.

Walking from Studio A to B

You know how you always hear of studio owners tearing the roof off their house in order to get their massive consoles into the mixing suite? This is the upside down version of this! Buying a building and re-digging it’s foundation, with the building still in place. A pretty intense approach to acoustic control.

The mic collection at EA is a sight to behold. While I was a little too busy salivating over the mics, I barely managed to register that Mr. Albini said something like… ‘Every sound is different and every mic responds to that sound in a different way… so for every recording, you have to try out a lot of mics.’

Headphone tree
Guitars and Pedals

Analog recorders and effects racks play a huge role in the daily recording life at Electrical Audio. These aren’t there for show or the occasional ‘retro band’ that books a session once a year.
They are constantly serviced and maintained by the in-house tech.
Mr. Albini even showed me their service log books, and described the administrative system they use to keep everything up and running. Which means that anything that’s not working, gets pulled out and fixed off-site. Anything you see in the mixing rooms is plugged in and ready to go.

Studer A 820 MCH 24 Tape Recorder
Studer A 820 MCH 24 Tracking Recorder
Ampex ATR-102 2-Track
Ampex ATR-102 2-Track Master Tape Recorder

Electrical Audio even make their own brand of equipment. Their in-house studio tech has plenty of work to do, in order to maintain all that juicy analog equipment. But somehow they make time to produce a lovely EA preamp and shelving EQ (the bi-colored LED lit logo is a signature).

EA’s preamp and EQ

EA also make a passive direct box, which Mr. Albini say is a workhorse and gets used a lot, both for re-amping and sending mic level signals to guitar pedals. Since it’s a passive design, it is bi-directional.

Check out the super high ceilings in Studio B. There’s lots of natural light, which is very lovely, but quite unusual for a live room, there’s also tons of diffusion in the ceilings.
It was really funny to clap in this room, coz I could easily recognize the distinctive reverb, from countless albums with recordings of snare drums in this room. Strange to experience such familiar early reflections, in real life.

Studio B with very high ceilings and natural light

Steve took particular pride in describing the non-parallel walls made from Adobe mudbricks that were used inside the studio live rooms. They are unfired and have the odd properties of both reflecting sound in a diffuse way, but also absorbing it over a ‘pleasant’ spectrum.

Lastly… yes, I did remember to ask him what his favorite knob/fader or switch was….

Penny & Giles Motorised Faders on the Neotek Console

Thanks Mr. Albini for graciously taking me through your awesome studio!

[Editor: Wanna support the blog? Then here are some affiliate links to patch cables [US, EU] or guitar strings [US, EU].
Clicking one of these links and buying any product that you need, will help support this blog… doesn’t even have to be the ones in the link. Thx]

Hissquiet – Blissed Moods

1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?

Chase Bliss Mood

I’m always fascinated by the range of knobs that there are, but I think my favorite knobs are the ones on the Chase Bliss stuff, I currently have the Mood. They are just so smooth with the ideal amount of tension. They just feel sturdy a well made, like I’ll fade into an effect perfectly every time.

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

Bastl midi looper

I think probably my latest bit of kit, the Bastl midi looper, does almost exactly what I wanted it for, which is to more organically make sequences with midi and overdub CC parameters. It perfectly pairs with my hydrasynth which doesn’t have a sequencer, but I wish it recorded the polyphonic aftertouch of the hydrasynth pads on the initial record. Idk maybe it does and I just haven’t spent enough time tweaking the settings, but that would be really really nice. But other than that it’s brilliant.

3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?

Elektron Digitakt and iPad

I think my favorite things to bring, are my digitakt and/or my ipad. With a myvolts power cable, a portable charger and some samples, I could really make a whole album on the digitakt. Ipad also is very powerful and has so many music apps that I use in my recordings all the time. Some of my favorites are Spacecraft, Tardigrain and Fugue Machine.

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

Spacecraft app

I wish the Spacecraft app was a pedal or a feature of some groovebox. It’s this granular synth that you can record anything into and make beautifully textured ambient or noise soundscapes. You can get a wide range of sounds out of it. I seriously oftentimes don’t even bother with hi-fi samples and just use the ipad mic, because it just adds extra texture.

VCV rack

This one is kinda silly, but I wish VCV rack was hardware, like, it is hardware right? But the part of it that I want to bring into hardware is the low cost (haha) and also the ability to save patches and arrangements. Which I guess is the point of a modular synth, but still. I haven’t gone down the hardware modular synth rabbit hole yet, but I’ve been using VCV Rack as a way to learn exactly what I want from a system some day.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I regret selling my Digitone. It was a really great groovebox synth. I made a whole album on it, Sublunar Reverie, so I decided it was time to sell it and try something else out. Selling stuff is how I justify getting something new and making sure I actually really want the new thing. It went towards the Hydrasynth which I definitely don’t regret buying, but I just wish I had them both haha.

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

Hologram Electronics Microcosm

Hologram Microcosm for sure. I almost don’t want to bring it out when I’m working on something because I’ll spend hours tweaking the modes wondering if the next tweak might be even better than the last, but it all just sounds really great! I have a bit of a thing for granular gear can you tell?

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

I think learning a dynamic instrument like the clarinet was super important to the way I do music, even if I rarely bring it out now. Some folks have said that I have a sort of classical music dynamic going on with the kind of music I make and I probably agree with that. Second though, I’d probably get into synths rather than a guitar, maybe a groovebox like the Digitone or Digitakt if something like that had come out then.


8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

Any piece of gear with cat hair on it, haha, no but for real though any connectivity stuff, cables, midi, bluetooth. I think I spend 1/3 my time reserved for making music just making sure things are connected correctly. My studio is not only used for music, but I do my freelance graphic design work there as well, so I can’t really have it all out and connected. In an ideal world things would just work ya know!? 

Cables of all colors

9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

The random button on the Hydrasynth is wonderful. It will create a patch for you or you can tell it to scramble up a patch that you already have based on percentages. Sometimes the patches are too wild and I have a blast reeling them into something more palatable to use, but you can end up creating something that you wouldn’t have easily come up with any other way.

ASM Hydrasynth

Artist or Band name?



Hmm… maybe ambient music that isn’t really background music? More dark ambient, drone or sometimes I like to get noisy and cinematic.


Ash Farrand aka. Hissquiet

Where are you from?

I grew up and live on the East Coast of the States currently, but I’ve been all over the States. The East Coast feels like home though.

How did you get into music?

I did the whole orchestra/marching band thing when I was younger, but more recently (5ish years ago) I got into music, because I found folks like Hainbach, Anne Annie, and Amulets back in the day when they were doing more “no talking” hardware jams and quickly got a DAW and a midi keyboard and the rest is history.

What still drives you to make music?

Music is my therapy, it allows me to express myself. I really enjoy getting lost in a moment while I’m improvising sound and everything else in the world kind of goes to the wayside for a few minutes. I do it for me first and if others happen to like it that’s a definite bonus.

How do you most often start a new track?

I can start with a sound that’s interesting to me which can kind of evolve into a certain mood all on its own or sometimes I already have a mood that I want to try to capture with a sound. From there I think about how adding effects or layers could elevate or evolve or contrast with what that mood. That’s usually how a track emerges; it’s very emotion-based.

How do you know when a track is finished?

There are 2 criteria for this. When it sounds perfect and there’s nothing I want to change about it or if it’s nearly perfect and I’m simply done working on it. Some might call that laziness, but I can be a bit of a perfectionist on some things so sometimes it’s just best to let go, nobody will notice.

Show us your current studio

Hissquiet studio
Hissquiet studio 2
Hissquiet studio 3

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

I had a rad guitar teacher that really introduced me to the idea that everything can be music. I remember he started riffing off of a fan that was making a rhythmic sound and it really opened my eyes to the possibilities of music.

Slot Drum

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

I’ve got some tapes available of my latest album Solastalgia with Mystery Circles:

All the links are here on my website:

Joel Negus – Synthing Classics

1. Favourite knob or fader or switch on a piece of gear and why?

Cutoff on the Moog Sub25. Nothing like the ladder filter!

Moog Subsequent 25

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

The Vermona DRM-1 mkiii is amazing, but maaaan I wish the trigger inputs were on the front panel!

Vermona DRM-1 mkiii and Lyra-8

3. What setup do you bring on holiday or tour or commute etc.?

OP1 basically lives in my backpack if it’s not out in the studio. I’ll often develop ideas on it that end up staying on a track.

Teenage Engineering OP-1

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

Couldn’t come up with a direct answer to this question 😂 so decided to answer it by saying that the Arturia Polybrute beautifully blends software / hardware as a complete instrument.

A Strymon Zuma trying to hide an Arturia Polybrute

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I used to own a Korg SV-1 until my dad passed his 1977 Rhodes down to me. I always enjoyed playing the sv-1 and realize I shouldn’t have sold it whenever I see one.

On the Rhodes again… I cain’t wait to get on the Rhodes again!

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

The Moog Subharmonicon!!! More ideas have started on that thing than any other instrument for me (except maybe the piano).

Moog Subharmonicon and friends

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

If I had known just how magical tape echo was, I probably would’ve wanted it sooner… but it probably wouldn’t have been first 😂

Echo Fix EF-X2

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

The helping hand for soldering!!!

A helping hand for soldering

9. Most surprising tip or trick or technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

I recently learned about the tails mode on the Earthquakes Avalanche Run – haven’t used it yet, but I couldn’t believe I didn’t know about that before I bought it!

An avalanche of eurorack! Run!!!

Artist or Band name?

Joel Negus


Various, often in classical / jazz / electro-acoustic worlds


Joel Negus

Where are you from?

Born and raised in Chicago IL, but I’ve been in Cleveland OH for 15 years.

How did you get into music?

Both of my parents are professional musicians. Growing up, I was a boy soprano 🤵 and my dad had me sing on a number of commercials on the jingle scene. Eventually I fell hard into the punk rock scene, which turned to metal – I was a part of starting the band Born of Osiris. Changed directions in high school and focused on classical / jazz upright bass.

What still drives you to make music?

Creativity cannot be severed from relationships. The very act of making itself is collaborative – this connection to others is a constant source of inspiration.

How do you most often start a new track?

Playing an instrument and a spark hits. Recently though, trying to think more in silence before jumping in – starting more in my head. Always looking for different ways to compose!

Korg MS-20

How do you know when a track is finished?

I rarely “feel” that it’s finished, but I suppose it’s when I’m at the height of my excitement over it. I’ve found it best to wrap it up somewhat quickly when I’m really excited about how things are sounding.

Show us your current studio

A solemn of guitars
Bass-synth, bass-ukulele, contra-bass

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

We can’t just think about what we’re making, but the social context in which we’re making.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

I just released a score I did for a modern dance company in town called Inlet Dance Theater. The piece was called Red Tape and was a total joy to collaborate on. Cheers!