Dave: Your answering machine said that tonights show will probably be Big Black’s only Chicago show this year. Why?

Albini: There's really no place for us to play. This gig (May 25 Big Black - Scratch Acid - Killdozer) is just a one time thing where I'm renting Crosscurrents. Basically, the way l look at it is that we won't play any of the established clubs in Chicago, cuz they're all hellholes. Most of the clubs won't let us play on weekends. 950 and Exit won't do shows on weekends, and the Metro is just criminal. The people who run the Metro are evil. The door prices are ridiculous. Just the whole pay-off scam they’ve got is really repulsive. Other places like Gaspars and West End won't do all age shows. Most of the time, bands that play Chicago wind up playing to tiny crowds or grody old drunk people.

Dave: Hasn't Metro been sold yet?

Albini: I think the building was for sale, but not the club. The Metro could be a classic. That place has been around for a million years. My boss was in a sixties soul band called Chubby and the Twilights, and they played the Metro when it was a bingo parlor. They rented it out and threw gigs there in the sixties. It could be a great place. The people running it now are the grossest. Anytime a local band plays, the door is like eight, ten, or twelve dollars. Thats just ridiculous. I know how they treat the bands. They aren't getting that money.

Dave: They get beer.

JORDAN

you can’t think about it really, because if you do you go crazy, stark gibbering, spitting and pissing in you pats crazy. so you don’t think about it. but once in a while you do think about it, and there’s all this weird shit going on and you can’t believe it can all really be like this. you think of all the bad, bad things you do to yourself out of some weird need. you go places, bad places, to fulfill some gnawing need, and you do ugly things to yourself and other people not because of the ugliness-well, sometimes because of the ugliness, i guess but usually because there’s something else there and you’d do it no matter what. they fuck their children, for shit’s sake. a whole town. bus drivers , school teachers, cops, store keepers, housewives. little boys, little girls, very little. they play games with it, like very special hide and seek
— Big Black

Albini: I’ve dealt with them for booking other bands shows, and for Big Black shows. Everything from little tiny bands to Butthole Surfers gigs. Not once would I have considered them to be reputable. Even when there is no reason to lie to the bands they lie to the bands. when a band plays they're only expecting to get a couple hundred bucks, so what;'s the point of screwing' 'em out of another $25? What's the point? They're making enough as it is. They cut crooked deals, lie about the headcount. I don't have much respect for the people who work there. They've got Chicago locked as far as big shows go. Its, the only place that can have big shows. Just recently I tried renting out a couple of places to have bigger shows, and the cost of renting these big halls is just unbelievable. There really isn't an option for a band that can draw at least a couple hundred people. They pretty much have to play the Metro if’ at all. when that happens, they end up supporting the people that are screwing the city in the first place. The fact that they can have these all age shows where they sell liquor is indicative that they have the money to pay off enough people to keep doing it. Its illegal.

Dave: I’ve been asked many a time if I wanted a beer. Hell, I'm only seventeen.

Albini: Yeah, they're obviously paying somebody off in a big way, because no other bar in town can do it without getting shut down. Basically, they're part of the whole city corruption thing, which I think is pretty evil. And they're screwing the bands left, right, and center. they’ve got this killer PA which they don’t use anymore, because they’re afraid of offending their neighbors, So you go see a band like Die Kreuzen, and its incredibly quiet. You can have a conversation in front of the speakers, its an insult to the band.

Dave: So yer gonna be Hiittin' the road?

Albini: Yeah, we play all the time, just not in Chicago. We probably played sixty or seventy shows this year.

Dave: Do you ever think you'll go west?

Albini: We haven't had much interest in that. we can go to the east coast and make a ton of money and get treated like kings. We haven't really gotten that much response from the west coast.

Dave: I was just wondering, cuz I can't really picture you guys playing L.A. or something like that.

Albini: There are specific isolated areas where people have been asking about us, like Denver, Portland, and San Francisco. We could probably do okay, but to get out there would be impossible.

Dave: Why do you think you have a bigger following in the East rather than at home?

Albini: I think there are just more people interested in music per capita. A city like Boston where the population is really young, college age. There are also a lot of good radio stations. New York has got a ton of everything so almost any band that has got records out will do okay on the East coast. Rights of the Accused were able to go out and play New York. That says a lot for… I don't want to say gullibility (chuckle), but it says a lot for the people that are supporting music out there. This is one of the largest cities in the country and the only band that can draw more than flies is Naked Raygun.

Dave: Have you ever thought of leaving for good? Albini: Well, I like Chicago as a place to live. Our jobs are here. Our lives are here. I don't ever see us moving as a band.

Dave: Could you ever see yourselves at the point where you didn't have to work a job?

Albini: (laughter) He's this real spaced out DJ in Detroit. A real flipped out black guy who gets on the radio at midnight, and… "Alright! Its time for the Midnight Funk Association! If your in your house, blink your porch lights! If your in your car, honk your horn! If your in the bathtub, make bubbles!" So Dave sent him a letter, and he got his membership card. It says that he is acquiescent to the prerequisites of the Electrifying Mojo of the Midnight Funk Association. Its a total in joke that only people from Detroit will get.

Dave: So does Dave still have a lot of contacts in Detroit? You know, besides the Electrifying Mojo?

Albini: Some people. The people we deal with in Deroit are basically the people who run Touch and Go Records. Cory and his wife, and the people that hang with them. Dave moved out of there around the time when punk rock was happening. He was in one real old punk rock band called Static. They later became Negative Approach.

Dave: How would compare Atomizer to your other releases?

Albini: We tried to make this one even more louder. I think its pretty loud. We picked up the tempo. I think we were in danger of almost being danceable.

Dave: I read a review of it with the word disco in it.

Albini: I don't think this record is really what could be considered danceable. It is a definite improvement. we wanted to get a little less polished, and a little bit nastier. The songs on this one are a bit less like little ideas, and more like big stories. We really have no direction. Its not like we know what we're going to be doing next. We're just sort of fucking around in the dark. when something is cool we all sort of recognize it and keep going at it. And when something sucks We just pitch it. We don't really have a style, its not like, “Okay, we gotta write some more funky tunes, or, some all out headbangers”. We don't do things that way. ble take little things and build on 'em. In a lot of our songs we've got these real stupid parts where like right in the middle of a song there's a part where everybody does something really dumb, or no reason. "Okay, why don't we stop this song here and like make typewriter noises on my guitar...oh okay." Theres a lot of stuff like that really isn't musical. It just breaks things up a bit.

Dave: How do you come up with a program for the drum machine?

Albini: I can show ya, its really easy. Just twiddle away at some buttons until, "Hey! That sounds cool!" Then program it in, play with the tempo and add some more stuff until it sounds even better.

Dave: Do you think you'll ever have a drummer?

Albini: Dave plays drums. We're working on another EP, and Dave is probably going to play drums on at least one song. See, a lot of the stuff’ we do us just couldn't have a drummer, cuz its like really fast. The drum beats are real intricate and quick. A drummer just physically can't play that fast. I really like the sound of drums as opposed to a drum machine. I think drum machines sound pretty shitty most of’ the time. Ours included. It’s no where near what a powerful drummer would sound like. Initially, we couldn't find someone to play drums, that is, someone that was any good. The idea is…

Dave: What sort of reaction do you get when people see three guys, and a drum machine?

Albini: three guys and an empty stage.

Bill: It separates you from a lot of bands. when someone talks about punk rock… This might sound stupid, but you might not be included because you have a drum machine.

Dave: At least in Chicago.

Albini: I think what we're doing is closer to punk rock than anything. I'd feel more comfortable calling it punk rock than anything else. When I think of punk rock I think of everything from the Minutemen to Black Flag. I think of a lot broader range than most people.

Bill: Hardcore isn't punk rock anymore.

Albini: I listen to hardcore records I will hear one every now and again that's doing something different, but they're all obviously hardcore. The bands that I'm most interested in aren't obviously anything. Bands like the Butthole Surfers, Sonic Youth, or ,Scratch Acid. its like, “What the Fuck are these guys up to?" You can't really say, "This is what they're trying to do." with 99% of all hardcore bands you can say, "well, they're obviously trying to be like 7 Seconds, or like Minor Threat. Thats a big mistake.

Dave: Hardcore bands are also writing about all of these broad problems. Your writing about the I scummy side of life, but on a smaller scale.

Albini: Yeah. The subject matter of most hardcore stuff is either about nothing, like, "UOHHH my head is achingi I'm all fucked up! My life is terrible", or about these really easy things to take pot shots at.

Dave: Nuclear war.

Albini: Nuclear war, racism, government control. Yes, of coarse all that stuff is bad, I knew that when I was nine years old. I don't really feel the need to sing about it now. The stuff that we write about tends to be the ugly truth about what people are really like. The stuff that people really do to each other. Its not necessarily more valid. I can see how It could become, just as cliche. like, "Ewww, whats the next grody thing we can write about that someone did”. It’s stuff that you don't hear about, and people…

Dave: …don't want to hear about.

Albini: Like, you find out that your next door neighbor has been running a dog prostitution I ring (tee hee hee). Just something like that. Its like, "Uh, my next door neighbor? wow! He gave me a glass of chocolate milk once." That of has a lot more weight to it than, "Racism is wrong!” Yeah, sure it is. So what?

Bill: You guys deal with the small stuff that can't be stopped, which is more disturbing.

Albini: I think the real important thing is that its on a more personal level. Its like this specifically happened to this guy, as opposed to generally thinking about some broad problem. I think a lot of that hardcore stuff, unfortunately, is real reminiscent of the 60's hippy optimism. Its like, "well, if we smoke enough pot, and if we all groove together on the same medium then we can end all this imperialism." It didn't work then, and its not working now. Its a bunch of people deluding themselves. They don't recognize how futile they are. MDC do not realize how little the government gives a shit about them. They think they're the enemy. The government is really happy to have MDC and the Dead Kennedys around because it keeps all these kids occupied with this futile little shouting match that doesn't effect any change. Its not threatening at all.

Dave: What drove you to write Cables? Have you ever been in a slaughterhouse?

Albini: I have friends in Montana that used to go to the slaughterhouse for fun. They would go watch the cows killed. It was like their television every now and then they would help out..."Eww!!! Can I swing the hammer? Can I drag 'em!!!" The way they described it was really fuckin' cool! They would get get excited about it like they were talking about pro wrestling. "Uh and the thing comes down and clamps around his head, man, its really cool! And then they drive this bolt right through its nose. Right!’?! and there's this bolt hanging out of his nose, man, its soooo cool. Then they clip this cable on to the bolt an they haul 'em into this thing and the hammer hits 'em on the head. UUHHH! Its so cooool!” when you think about it, there's so much of this Rambo, heavy metal, skull, corpse… so much violence that is like so sugar coated by being blown into a character. All of’ that stuff; the gnarly skulls with big (nasty pointyy) teeth; the Iron Maiden grim-reaper crap. Thats supposed to be like really fuckin' creepy. Right? But you take one of these guys and stick 'em in a slaughterhouse and make 'em watch a cow get a bolt driven through his nose, and then get whacked on the head with an electric hammer, shit, they couldn't take that for five (5) minutes. Like Dave was saying yesterday. These guys think they're real tough with all these decaying corpses storming around on the backs of their leather jackets. There's so much more weight to something that is real than something that has been turned into some gross…

Dave: What about snuff films?

Albini: I have a friend who has claimed to have seen a real snuff film, not the movie Snuff, but a real snuff film. He said because it was a movie it wasn't that effective. It was just as easy to look at it as special effects. I don't think I'd be able to see it in the same way. To see something In full-color graphic description makes you think a lot more than thinking of the abstract. Thats one of the reasons I have respect for a band like Crass. A lot of their politics I think are really wet, and some ol’ their music is rather boring, but the images in their packaging are really hard to look at. Thats their point, and they're much more successful at it than most bands are. This EP that we're doing through Touch and Go (out in the fall) is called Headache, and the cover photo is gonna be of this guy (oh yeah). They're morgue photos of an axe murder victim. His whole is literally SPLAYED OPEN LIKE A BANANA SPLIT. His head is just FLOPPED OPEN IN CHUNKS! When you look at it you know its real. There's something about it. This guy is really Fucking dead. His head is really whacked open. Its so much harder to take than these Friday the 13th type movies. You can imagine some argument, who's better, the Cubs or the Sox? There are these two drunk bastards, and one of them breaks out the hatchet, and that's it. This guy is really fucking dead. Look at this really dead guy and think, "Somebody actually did this to this guy".

Dave: So where did you get the pictures?

Albini: UUUHHHHHH… Ha, ha, ha… I'm really not supposed to have them, technically. If they were, and, and they're not stolen mind you, I could get in trouble.

Dave: That stuff is really nasty. I can remember looking at these pamphlets on child abuse. The stuff that these kids go through is unbelievable.

Albini: I saw one on sexually transmitted diseases. This guy had a fist sized wart on the end of his dick!That stuff is really out there. It makes you think, "I don't ever want to have sex again”, its not worth the risk of getting a fist size wart on the end of your dick. It just isn't worth it.

Dave: No. I think I’d be heading for the guillotine.

Bill: One does not need a penis that badly.

Dave: Not at all, but… your music is really tough, are you guys as tough as your music?

Albini: Ha, Ha. Ohhh, I don't know, we've never really gotten into fights. I’ve been in one fight my entire life. when I was fourteen years old I got into a fight with a guy on a school bus. He was licking his thumb and reaching around and like sticking it in my eye. Which is like a real hillbilly thing to do apparently. I mean I had never heard of it before. Its like the equivalent to a wet willy, but in your eye. So anyway, this guy is sticking his licked on thumb in my eye. so I turned around and screamed at him to stop it. I was sitting next to this girl, and it would have been really embarrassing if I started to cry. I saw the thumb coming around again, so I turned around a popped him as hard as I could, right in the face. I got this big scar on my knuckles. I embedded his glasses in his forehead. He had to have plastic surgery. but I had big pieces of glass stuck in my hand. Thats the only fight l've ever been in.

Dave: At least it was a good fight.

Albini: used to get beat on periodically, but I never fought back. I would just cower and run away.

Dave: When your a kid you should be doing that sort of stuff.

Albini: What, fighting or running away?

Dave: Both. Now its just plain silly. I mean whats the sense? Because you feel really stupid afterwards.

Albini: Thats why people have to get drunk to fight now because they have to be stupid. You either have to be stupid, or get stupid to fight. Because you feel like a real ‘tard standing there with your dukes up.

Dave: The name Big Black, does It just describe your sound?

Albini: I came up with the name when I was a dopey college student. I wanted to have a really scary name for my scary band. All the big scary things in all the books are all Big Black things. You know, like the devil, and monsters are all big black things. Now I sort of think of it as your dog. You know, like Ol’ Blue, or Big Yella.

Dave: So you think yer getting’ old?

Albini: Don't know. I'm gonna sit on my porch and do some whittlin’…

Dave: Do you ever want to go back to Montana?

Albini: We thought about going back to play, there’s a guy there who puts on shows. He put on a DOA show. I'd like to back if my folks were not around. I really didn't get along with my Dad I think it would put things into a kind of weird perspective having to answer to my parents again.

Dave: Do they know what your doing?

Albini: we played in DC when they lived there before moving back to Montana. we stopped by at about four in the morning knocking on my Dad's door. "Hi, want to feed us some chicken!"

Its kind of strange when you come from a small town, no matter how gross they thought you were. once you move away they kind of idealize you. The big newspaper there writes up Big Black reviews, and all the record stores carry Big Black records. which is alright, but you know the people you hated when you were there are some of the people that are like, "This guy is cool, he's from Missoula”.

(talk moves to Evanston, La Grange, yuppies, cafes, various individuals, Foreign TV, and now high school…)

Bill: Our prom theme is This Is It by Kenny Loggins. It was chosen by kids.

Albini: Uh, God! When I was in high school they had a vote to what the theme of our graduation dance was to be. I was really pushing for Schools Out. I was really pushing. There was no way I was going to get anything really cool in there, so I'm thinking, okay lets at least get some Alice going. It