'My band means too much to me for me to allow anyone to put me in a position of resenting my band. I insist that it remain a hobby for that reason. If it becomes anymore than a hobby then it becomes something that I rely on, and my frame of mind and my livelihood are all tied in with the success of the band, whereas at the moment there’s no reason for me to be concerned if my band is unpopular – its not going to make my life any worse.’
Steve Albini has been branded many things in his time: antagonist, provocateur, even misogynist – but never hobbyist. In truth, the analogue audiophile, guitarist and recording engineer is as sincere and scholarly a man as you could speak to. His band, Shellac, are, for those not in the know, as singular a live rock experience as you’ll find anywhere. He (and they) survive quietly and with dignity, outside the established rock business game. Albini doesn’t take percentage points on the albums he records and isn’t billed as ‘producer’, while Shellac don’t bother with the likes of road crew, merchandising, promotional material or binding contracts to anyone. This saintly stance doesn’t mean much if the music isn’t up to scratch, but thankfully Shellac have the chops to back up that stance. They throw in flashes of Killing Joke, Wire and ZZ Top to songs that lyrically embrace the odd: subject matter can include everything from Canada and aspirant European pornographic film stars to semi-precious metals and squirrels.
Shellac’s work-rate however is positively tortoisian – with a measly four albums, a clutch of iridescent singles and relatively few gigs to their name in almost 20 years – but the intention is for quality, not quantity. Their commitment to the music remains strictly for the visceral thrills of it.
‘I’m happy with it to continue indefinitely,’ Albini concludes. ‘At one point I told Bob I would put an outside limit of 100 years on it, I said I couldn’t commit to anything beyond 100 years.’
ABC, Glasgow, Sun 2 Nov.