Steve Albini Auctions 3 Microphones Used on Nirvana’s In Utero | Reverb.com


[Music] I’m Steve Albini I am the owner of electrical audio and part of my collection microphones are these microphones here these microphones were brought with me and used on the Nirvana in utero record and they were immortalized in a photograph that appeared in a reissue anniversary edition of the album in utero since that photograph came out these microphones have become historical artifacts as soon as I was aware that these things have become important and significant and valuable I had to take them out of circulation in the studio so I contacted the surviving members of Nirvana Dave Grohl who was with Pat smear when I contacted him and Krist Novoselic and I said hey I have these microphones now they are now significant and important and I can’t use them as microphones do you have a repository for things like this for memorabilia or artifacts associated with Nirvana and both of them instantly said well you should sell them so I feel like I should sell them and get them into the hands of somebody who would take care of them and not put them at risk in the hectic environment of a recording store set up the three close mics so that Kurt could hear the difference between the microphones when he was singing on certain songs we used to simultaneously and those were typically panned in stereo so and he heard that effect in his headphones and he was toying with it slightly like moving his head around while he was singing as a way to sort of animate the vocal in stereo it’s a very subtle effect it’s not something that I think is you know that’s not part of what makes the record good or anything these are Lomo 1989 they’re tube condenser microphone fairly standard applications like they didn’t get used on acoustic instruments a lot but in on the Nirvana session these mics were used as overheads on Dave Grohl’s drum kit and then one of them was used on Kurt Cobain’s vocals and this is the one that’s immortalized in the photograph next to this guy the PL 20 was one of the first professional quality microphones that I bought I bought it from a place called Gary Gann music which is a music dealership north of Chicago in like Northbrook or whatever it was part of the original package of microphones that I bought when I started making 8-track recordings in the basement of my house I used to have a house about a mile from here there’s a third microphone in that photograph a sennheiser 421 I couldn’t identify that microphone out of the group of them that we have so I’m going to pretend that it wasn’t mine and I don’t have an important historical Sennheiser 421 I probably do I just don’t know which one it is [Music] in the photograph you can see like certain distinguishing characteristics of the microphones and so I was able very very quickly to discern which of these two microphones was used in the vocal session they were both used in the drum recording session but the vocals were recorded as overdubs afterward we have two sets of these microphones the number of bars in the grille differ from one set to another so we knew which set I had used because we could count the number of bars and the grille then between the two I could tell which one was used in the vocal session this one is still bright and shiny and this one has some very mild spots of oxidation and you could see very faintly you could see the spots on the photograph so I knew that this microphone was the one that was used in the local session there are two little arrows drawn on the tops of the microphone that show the directionality of the microphone those little arrows were drawn post to the Nirvana session because when electrical audio opened we had visiting engineers come in here and they were sometimes confused about which side of this microphone was the business side the PL 20 there’s a the wire basket under this frame is shaped to a very mild cone right there’s a flat surface on the front and then there’s a very subtle conical contour here all of our other ones this conical shape is flatter than this and you could you could see the geometry of it from the sort of raking light and the photograph you can there’s also the switch on the back the little lever on the switch there are some that have a round cross-section and some that have a square cross-section and I was able to tell from the photograph this one had a square cross-section so that eliminated one of the microphones by a process of elimination I am satisfied that this is the microphone in that picture they were just part of the normal working arsenal of the studio we have another large collection of microphones which is necessary to accommodate all of the different things that happen in a studio and they’re irreplaceable like you can’t get another nineteen nine that Kurt Cobain sang into and is historically important you just there there’s no there isn’t there irreplaceable in that sense they just they stop being microphones and they’re now artifacts and I feel like I should respect them in as part of the historical record and get them into the hands of somebody who would treat them like that [Music]

48 comments

I understand the "mojo" factor. I own a rare pair of SG Brown Super Type K headphones that were only used at EMI Studios, London, from 66-69. They sound awful, but there's a real chance Lennon, McCartney, Barrett, or whoever used 'em at some point. I can't say I use them that much, but they're cool to have.

He is still a punk. As Grohl and Co. is. They‘re not friendly they’re just became more cynic with age. Nothing bad about that imho. And why not selling some shitty mics to a bunch of idiots who are willing to pay top dollars just because Kurt Cobain drooled onto them? Pecunia non olet. I think it is a brilliant idea and Cobain would have laughed his ass off about it for sure. Does anyone in YT-Land know what those mics made in the auction?

i think there's nothing wrong with just using them. selling them is stupid. an artist would want to use the same mic

Ok, this is getting a bit ridiculous. Famous, very wealthy rock stars are auctioning off their personal amps and guitars (at 10X markup from what it would cost new, because rock star) now, and I don't know, call me old school, but I think that is just a bit over the top and greedy. Sure, if you sell it to someone who is also wealthy and just a collector of rare studio stuff, fine, and maybe donate the proceeds to a charity. I don't know, there is nothing essentially different about a transducer once a person who shouted into it is dead. I actually own a set of pickups from a strat style Jackson that was owned by Chris Hannah (Propagandhi). I use them in a "fat strat" of my own. They are great pickups. He is a great guy, and he just gave them to me. I would have willingly paid 100 bucks for them, but he was just like "nah, you can just have them." Now they are one of my favorite bands, Hannah is probably my favorite songwriter.But I would NOT have bid multiple hundreds or even thousands of dollars on those pickups, or even the entire guitar. This star-worship is supposed to be beneath us as musicians (reverb is a site targeted toward musicians).

wtf, why would you not still use them? If I didn't used the gear in my studio that was used on a classic record more than half my recording equipment would be out of commission. The records some of my gear helped make make in utero look like a high schoolers demo. What a shame!

In a way, I think he should use them. Maybe they would inspire those who do to make their best music? Just thinking.

This is up there with Home Shopping Network.
Steve should include a shovel with all the b.s.
he is dropping.The hype cloud surrounding him
is thick.

cashing in on kurts name. mics are mics. oh he's dead so they're so theyre historical artifacts. give me a break. . are those mics steve always had? i bet.

I once saved a pen that Steve Albini used to sign an autograph (true story). I thought at the time, Steve Albini would think this is so stupid.
But back to the video, why did the mics became “historically significant” after the album was reissued?

Thet 421 APPEARS to have identify-able damage to the screen…? He didnt even talk about the Sennheiser, except "I dont have it" which he DOES and probably knows which one if, that damage is actually there…? The windscreen closest to the corner appears to be smushed in and the screen itself, the paint is scratched off…I have two of them and its pretty obvious thats damage similar the pattern of a well used 421. They sound great BTW…He has it on his wall, or sold it for big bucks maybe…didnt want to disclose how much. It gets sticky and cash is king.

The cynicism on this thread is bizarre. The two themes "he's selling them because he's greedy" and "Albini's loaded and doesn't need more money" are both stupid and contradictory … and irrelevant. He's right, they're artifacts, no argument, and he's also right that they belong with someone who will treat them as such. Pretty simple, not a huge scandal worthy of all of the gossipy bitching on here.

One of my biggest regrets was selling one of my tape machines to a collector. A great, classic piece of machinery sits deteriorating in a case now instead of being used.

Steve, you should have fished a few of Kurt's floaters out of the toilet and hung on to those artifacts as well. Coprophiles like Pierre Omidyar would have paid you good money for such historically important turds.

"As soon as I had heard these had become significant and valuable, I had to take them out of circulatin."
…why?

If those mic's are truly "historical artifacts" (which they are), then should they not be donated to a music museum such as MIM, or one of the many, many other facilities around the country? OTOH, why NOT just continue to use them yourself, as opposed to putting them into the hands of someone you don't know, who may in turn just sell them off to make a "quick buck" ?

Steve, I think YOU are the perfect person to archive these microphones, and perhaps display them under glass at Electrical Audio, never to be used again. If I could afford them, I would certainly do that along side of a microphone that my Grandfather may have used while recording "The Ink Spots", or maybe "The Andrews Sisters", or maybe even "Bing Crosby", while employed at Decca Records. Wow, an amazing piece of history you have!!

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