%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%% This is a portion of an interview done with Steve Albini of Big Black. The (I)nterviewers were Rachel Brickman, Scott Sendra and Matt Kelly, and the interview was done at the Big Black/Beefeater show on July 5th, 1988 at the Graystone. We pretty much set the tape recorder in front of him and let him go... Steve Albini- Guitar and Vocals Santiago Durango- Guitar Dave Riley- Bass Roland- Roland I: I want to get into this child abuse thing- because in the song "Jordan, Minnesota," you take a strong stance on it. Steve: It's not like we're trying to make any great statement or anything... I think it's just pretty obvious - people shouldn't be fucking their kids. I mean that's a pretty manifestive world. That's just a subject for a song like any other. We're all pretty interested in ridiculous extremes that people go to for no real reason, just because they have nothing better to do. That's a pretty extreme situation, where you have a whole town of people who are actively involved in kid fucking. I: Is that fictitious, or is it... Steve: Oh no. You ought to look it up. Jordan, Minnesota, 2 years ago, there were 26 indictments handed down by a district attorney for this group of people, which is literally about a third of the adult population of this town, Jordan, Minnesota, who were involved in this elaborate kid fucking ring. They would play these weird games, they'd play spin the bottle, they'd get to fuck each other's kids, and they'd take each other's kids home and things like that. It was really absolutely staggering, right? All these parents got big-ass lawyers, and the district attorney was afraid that these kids would collapse under cross-examination, like have nervous breakdowns. With domineering adults screaming at them that they're lying, of course these kids are going to flip out. So, they dropped all the charges. Which means all these kids are going back to their houses, and the exact same shit has got to be going on. Nothing has changed, basically. I mean, you guys hadn't even known it had happened - that shows you how much publicity there is about stuff like this. And now all these kids are back in their houses. I: And it's all the kids know, because the parents are the people they're supposed to respect. Steve: A four year old kid, he has no cognizance of his own personality yet, he doesn't even know he's a distinct person from everybody else in the world, and here he is being taught, basically, that the way people interact is by fucking each other's kids. I: The song "Cables" - was there any specific incident that inspired that? Steve: There are these guys that I used to know in high school, in Montana; they just really got off on going to the slaughterhouse for entertainment. Just go to the slaughterhouse and watch the cows get killed. That was like TV for them. It was that or go home in the trailer park and get drunk. Sniff glue. There was nothing else to do. One time I remember specifically this guy telling me about this guy who let him drag a cow into the stall. The way they do it is pretty cruel. They take a pressurized gun and drive a bolt through the snout of a cow, and they clip a cable to either side of the bolt. And then there's this winch that hauls the cow into the stall, and then there's a compression hammer that crushes the cow's skull. This guy thought this was just about the coolest process - all this machinery and technology. It's just another example of what people do for fun. I: What does the "Bitch Magnet" by Dave Riley's name on the back cover of Atomizer mean? Steve: Bitch magnet! That just means bitch magnet. Whenever we go anywhere, Dave like has all these women just follow him. I:(Rachel) But are they all bitches? Steve: Well, no. Bitch is just a generic term. I:(Matt) You're a feminist, eh? Steve: Well, I don't believe you have to be completely dogmatic in your language to think reasonably. Certainly none of us are sexist in the traditional sexist notions, or have sexist leanings, right? But because that's understood, we don't have to keep haranguing on it, to keep reaffirming to ourselves that we believe what we believe. So once that's given, once you know what you think, there's no reason to be ginger about what you say, as long as you know what you mean. I think that's a really important thing. A lot of people, they're very careful not to say things that might offend certain people or do anything that might be misinterpreted. But what they don't realize is that the point of all this is to change the way you live your life, not the way you speak. I have less respect for the man who bullies his girlfriend and calls her "Ms." than a guy who treats women reasonable and respectfully and calls them "Yo! Bitch!" The substance is what matters. People who get the point are going to agree with us philosophically, and we don't have to explain ourselves to them. People who miss the point, no matter how much we explain ourselves, aren't going to understand anyway. I: You play Detroit a lot. Is there a reason? Steve: Oh yeah! Tonight we're playing this show because we want to finish the video we started a year ago. This video has been the most doomed video - everything that's possible to go wrong has gone wrong. The last time we played here the lights went out for the second half of the set, but that was OK because as it turned out, at the end of the night when we looked at the tape, one of the cameras had blown a tube so it was just producing this incredible snowy, shitting looking image the entire time. The time we came to Detroit before that and were video taped, some baboon lost the master tape of the video shoot. There were all these high school jamokes doing the video taping. One of them like took the tape home to put a porno movie on it or something- I don't know. I: Is the tape going to be released? Steve: It should be released on Touch and Go, assuming we get something salvaged from the three tapes. I: We are wondering exactly what the song "Passing Complexion" is about. Steve: I couldn't tell you exactly... I could tell you what specific things in it are...There's the line "She would take his children black and white, to her own breasts"- there was an Amelia Jackson interview on the radio that I listened to once, and she was talking about how her mother would nurse these white parents' children, literally wet nurse them. So here's this woman who is good enough to take their babies and raise them and feed them off her breast, but she wasn't good enough to sit in their living room. There was basically a whole third class of citizens who were black people who were pale enough to be accepted into gentile company if they were entertainers, if they were businessmen in town or something like that. They had passing complexion - they weren't so dark that people had to think of them as black people, they could sort of construe in their mind that they were white people IF it were convenient. If there was some reason to, they could think of them as white people. There were only two divisions in society- the rich, upper-crust white class or just another darky, and the divisions were so obvious, so they all tried to fit into white, gentile society. That's where the whole industry developed for hair straightening and skin lightening. Like Porcelana Fading cream was originally developed to lighten Negro skin. I: That's so warped. Steve: It's bizarre, but it's real. I think that's the main thing we're all interested in, for the subject matter for our songs goes. It's sorta like a Ripley's Believe It or Not. If you have an interest in things sort of out of the ordinary, and you stumble across something like this, you think "this can't be!" But it turns out to be true, and that makes it even wilder. Like today - we're driving down the highway and we counted thirty mufflers by the side of the road. Thirty fucking mufflers! In a span of about four miles. (laughter) Detroit is Muffler Hell. I've never seen that many mufflers by the side of the road in my life. And where in the world would you go except Detroit to see that many mufflers? Steve: (following discussion of band economics and such) So, in short, we are perfectly satisfied with the number of people who like the band. It wouldn't bother us at all if half that many did. I don't think it would change anything if ten times as many came to see us. It wouldn't change the way we do anything, it wouldn't change the number of people that give a shit, it wouldn't change the effect of the band - it would just be more bodies. The additional bodies wouldn't care any more, they'd just be warm. I: So you don't think you get through to anyone, there isn't anyone who can get something from it? Steve: Well, somebody walking in cold, knowing nothing about the band might be turned on by it, but I think that anybody walking in cold and knowing nothing about it is kind of suspect, because this kind of music has been around long enough so that people should be aware of what's happening. Which is not to say everyone should know who we are; what I'm saying is that only three thousand people should be enough for us. We have no interest in expanding our audience beyond the number of people that really give a shit... If there are ten people in the audience, or a thousand people in our audience, there are probably only three or four that catch on. Three or four that have some idea of what we're doing. Most of them, they may appreciate some of it, they may like some of it, some of it may affect them physically, some of it may affect them intellectually, but as far as people grooving on the same mania, there aren't more than two or three sockets that any plug can fit into, and we're a very specific taste.