Steve Albini Talks of Food

He is the curmudgeonliest.
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.

Current Music: Ruby -- Tiny Meat ♬

38 Responses:

  1. nightrider says:

    Further reinforcing my belief that Steve Albini is the second coming of Christ.

    Well... if I believed in that stuff.

    Which I don't.

    I mean, why would Christ come back? Would YOU wanna come back after being whipped and stabbed and pinned to a block of wood?

    Well, some BDSM folks might be into that stuff, but not me, thankyouverymuch. You keep your railroad spikes to yourself, k?
    "Grrrl Styllle," indeed.

    • fgmr says:

      Would YOU wanna come back after being whipped and stabbed and pinned to a block of wood?

      Damn right. I'd get me some payback.

    • xinit says:

      He neglected to cover books; they were ruined by that Gutenberg asshat with his "moveable type". Moveable type ruined books in the same way Movable Type ruined the internets. If people wanted their words to be respected, they'd write them in their own blood on parchment.

      Modern technology ruins EVERYTHING!

      • diapholom says:

        GW: You created many of your drum loops by recording Porno for Pyros drummer Steve Perkins live in the studio. Is that one way you've retained some humanity?

        REZNOR: Yeah. He just played a bunch of beats. We recorded them and made some loops of his playing. It's a great way to work. I don't really mind that most people shy away from that stuff, because that just gives me an edge over some guy who's too close-minded to accept that technology exists. He'll get a cable-ready television set, but he won't get a DAT machine because "Ooooh, that's digital recording. I heard Neil Young say that doesn't sound good." Like Neil Young would know his ass from a hole in the ground about digital recording. Nothing against Neil Young, but people get these archaic notions.

  2. rstevens says:

    Weird, I just did a comic on almost that same exact topic that won't show up for a couple months!

  3. rapier1 says:

    He is curmudgeonly. He's also mistaken about a couple of things

    Italian sausages *rarely* include oregano. I can think of maybe one or two recipes that do but they aren't common.

    The similarity of commercial mayonaise to sauce mayonaise depends a lot on the producer. His recipe is an interesting variation on the basic Careme recipe but is no more true or legitimate than Hellman's. In fact, Hellman's is closer to the base recipe than his and, as such, could hardly be called a bastardization. I will agree with him if he was mistaking Miracle Whip for mayonaise.

  4. ultranurd says:

    I like his little rant on "they/their", although my native speaker intuition has me using them naturally as the third-person neuter pronouns.

    • fgmr says:

      I also liked that rant. The periods belong inside the quotation marks, though.

      • Depends on which side of the pond you're on (which I don't know where this fellow is from).

        • ultranurd says:

          Yeah, I always thought it was a British vs. American style convention. I personally prefer the (I think it's British?) way of doing it, because I think of the quotes as a containing block.

          If you imagine (grossly simplified) rules like:

          S -> NP VP .
          Q -> "S"
          VP -> said Q

          You can get a sentence like:

          A curmudgeonly chef once said "They/their is stupid.", which I disagree with.

          I think the stylebook way is to have the comma somehow move inside the quotation, which seems weird to me:

          A curmudgeonly chef once said "They/their is stupid," which I disagree with.

          (And yes, I know it's supposed to be "with which".)

    • Wasn't the third-person plural pronoun set in general use as gender-neutral singular pronouns as far back as the Renaissance, though?

      • ultranurd says:

        Wikipedia gives a few quotes from Shakespeare, but it seems like the word police swear against the usage.

        Then again, I use data exclusively as a singular mass noun, which is sure to get me in trouble if I continue to do science.

        • Good thing, then, that there are almost as many schools of word police as there are departments of actual.

        • valacosa says:

          I sometimes read the word-police riot act to my professors, but never over anything so minor. I had this one prof who, on his final, wanted me to do some binary subtraction by first finding the "twos compliment".

          I wanted to draw a giant 2 surrounded by other numbers. "Wow 2, you really look nice today!" "Hot curves 2!" But then I decided I'd rather pass the course.

      • zotz says:

        According to a friend who teaches historical linguistics, using 3rd-person plural like that goes right back to Old English. A lot of grammar prescriptions like that came in in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

        • So in fact, anyone who complains about "their" being a spineless kowtowing to inane political correctness is in fact just trying to push their own agenda of furthering sexist language because it suits them better to be a dick about it?

          • zotz says:

            If you're going to be as hardline as Albini on the subject, then I suppose so.

            And under the circumstances, why not?

  5. gfish says:

    I don't think mayonnaise is bandlimited, so the Shannon sampling theorem doesn't apply anyway.

  6. dojothemouse says:

    Indeed, if Mr. Albini were to fall upon his instrument, blindly knocking it about in its electrified state, I sincerely doubt if the results would differ too greatly from much of his work produced to date.

    • rapier1 says:

      Oh come on. Some of his work has been amazing. Some of it has been self indulgent shit (especially lately) but the man had some stellar moment of near genius. I saw him play with Big Black and Shellac at the T&G 25th Anniversary show in Chicago last year. Unfortunately in someways it paralleled his career. It started out amazing. Hit a couple WTF moments and then devolved into 20 minutes of self important musical masturbation.

  7. buz says:

    Reminds me of his other famous rant (which is more of a "law").
    There's another version somewhere that does a time line comparison of being in a band over X-years -vs.- getting a minimum wage job at 16 and working your way up over the same time.

    Guess who wins?

    • ultranurd says:

      How accurate are his numbers? I know I've read in several places that a band is pretty much forever indebted, unless they are incredibly stingy with their advance - which they can't be, because they have to look like big stars for their first tour, or something to that effect.

      • king_mob says:

        That essay is from, I think, 1993. The numbers have only gotten worse.

        • rapier1 says:

          Dunno. My friend's band seems to do pretty well. They just got signed to a major and they seem to be doing reasonably well. However, the also had like 12 years in the indies, control a good amount of their back catalog, and don't seem to be overly idiotic about money.

  8. jabber says:

    So, if he's advocating vinyl here, I imagine Sauce Mayonnaise must taste much like Hellman's mayo, only with Novocaine and Pop-Rocks mixed in.

  9. ammutbite says:

    whatever else I can say, I would love for Albini and Yow to open a restaurant....

  10. gths says:

    There's HOLES in the MUSIC!

  11. insomnia says:

    I have to admit though... there's a huge difference in taste between fresh mayonaisse and the premade goop. Fresh mayo is lighter, creamier, tastier, and far more melt in your mouthy.

    I know a lot of the Vietnamese sandwich restaurants try to make their mayo fresh on the sly, using raw eggs, though many have caved due to health department concerns. Some of their customers specifically request it that way though, just like many prefer pho beef to be served "properly" -- raw, on the side, to be cooked to taste in the hot broth.

    Salmonella? Who cares... tastes great!

    Still, Albini's comparison is pretty f'ed up. I mean, the guy played in Big Black... is it even scientifically possible for him to have hearing that good anymore? After the damage he's got to have done to his hearing, perhaps records *DO* sound better to him... after all, CDs are obviously missing half of the crackles and pops he's used to hearing, so it's got to be the technology's fault!

    Maybe he should be the spokesman for a new generation of "Is it live, or is it Memorex?" commercials.

    • kdarr says:

      The biggest issue that most analog/vinyl devotees have with the compact disk as a delivery method is the limited bandwidth in the high end. CD's are (still) limited to a 16-bit, 44.1k recording. In order to prevent aliasing problems, all CD masters recording, regardless of the original format, must pass though a high-pass, "brickwall" filter at exactly 20kHz.

      20kHz is the theoretical top limit to human hearing, so (theoretically) we aren't missing anything up there. I myself certainly can't hear much past about 17k, and frankly I doubt Mr. Albini could either. HOWEVER, there has been some limited research in psychoacoustics that suggests that despite the human ear's limitations, some very-high-frequency harmonics may be perceived by humans in other (albeit more mysterious) ways.

      Vinyl (under idealized circumstances), not being subject to a limit on sampling frequency, CAN produce frequencies in excess of 20k, as can analog tape. Basically, you're missing stuff that may effect your experience, despite the fact that you can't HEAR it, per se.

      The ludicrously low bit depth of 16 (most modern digital studios are using 24-bit as a standard) is another issue altogether. What we (we being people who give a shit) need is for a new, hi-fidelity digital delivery system to actually take off in the marketplace (DVD-A, DSD, something!) so we can put this fucking argument to bed already. Instead, we're going in the OPPOSITE direction with the .mp3, which loses major dynamic range in the conversion and has AUDIBLE aliasing problems.

      All that aside, Shellac pretty much rules.

      • valacosa says:

        I don't think all that really matters, given that people around me (university) are usually piping their music through earbuds or cheap computer speakers anyway. Also, their choice of mp3 is somewhat of a result of not having any money.

        In ten years, if those same people invest in a high-fi speaker system and still have their iPod at the centre of it, then I'll point and laugh.

  12. emtel says:

    Wow, he's a music snob, a grammar snob, _and_ a food snob. He must be great at parties.