Steve Albini: I don't ever have goals and I don't have ambitions | INTERVIEW



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In August of this year, my band Alpha Strategy and I recorded new music with Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio studios in Chicago, Illinois. This was my third time at Electrical, and on each occasion, Steve was very personable and open about discussing whichever topics my bandmates and I wanted to put his way. I figured it could be worthwhile to do a proper interview with him during this trip, and Steve seemed happy to oblige. Below is the transcription of our discussion and if you prefer to listen to this interview go to the end of this page, hit play and enjoy.

Steve Albini and Rory Hinchey; photo: Martin Doležal

RORY: How is and was this year from a personal productivity standpoint?

STEVE:
This was the first year since the start of the pandemic where there's been anything even approximating significant work. Yeah, it still hasn't recovered, and the pandemic is obviously still the thing that dominates every aspect of my life. My work life, my behavior in public, me being in a band, being able to tour, or not being able to tour. I make part of my living playing cards, and playing cards necessitates being in a room with other people, so you have to be aware of what the Covid protocols are at various places. And some places are not safe, or just not safe to go to for those reasons, like none of the casinos in the South for example have any masking. So, I just wouldn't. If I happen to find myself in the South I wouldn't go to a public cardroom for example or casino. The World Series of Poker did not have stringent mask compliance, but pretty good mask compliance and they still had outbreaks both this year and last year, so yeah, the pandemic still dominates basically every aspect of life.

RORY: So, you think Electrical probably took a pretty big hit as a result of that?

STEVE:
Yeah, our income, the studio income cratered the first year of the pandemic just because no one was traveling, there were no vaccines, it wasn't safe to do sessions. We actually had the doors shut and the power off in the building for a few months. When we started doing sessions again, we had like we had a long conversation internally with the staff like, how do we want to even do this, do we even want to have - be the reason that people congregate and get into a room together where they could potentially catch a disease that kills them? Do we want to even do that? And we've talked to ourselves through a protocol for doing sessions and that has proven to be safe and so we do conduct sessions, not anything like normal behavior, we still have - everybody has to be vaccinated and everybody has to be masked and we do have fairly rigorous disinfection protocols in between sessions. So, it's a lot of extra work that doesn't generate any income, but we are able to do sessions on that basis.

RORY: So what did you do in the down time when all that was going on?

STEVE:
When the studio was shut, I'd just puttered around at home, I have a wood shop in my basement, so I made some furniture for the house, did a lot of gardening, shit like that. And then a lot of that behavior sort of carried on now, like I've spent - we eat out of the garden all summer, we have a very productive garden, so like a lot of my time is not - I don't tend the garden as much as my wife Heather does, but when I leave here today I'm going to walk through the garden and see what looks good and that's what we'll have for dinner.

RORY: How big is it?

STEVE:
I mean it's most of our backyard. So, it's - we have raised beds, we have eight raised beds that have everything from salad greens, and herbs, to potatoes and squash, and a lot of tomatoes, like cucumbers, root vegetables. We had a lot of turnips this year, I'm not that big on turnips, I don't really know why we fucking planted turnips as I don't particularly like turnips, and we ended up having a lot of fucking turnips.

RORY: That's a fair amount of food to be yielded from a relatively small area by the sounds it.

STEVE:
I mean it's like anything else, you try to maximize, like there is some things that we have - asparagus beds right, and asparagus is productive in the very beginning of this spring and you get a whole bunch of asparagus, and you eat asparagus like crazy for a while and then there's nothing you can eat, you just have to let the fronds grow and so that the plant survives through the through the next year right? But it takes up space in the garden so there's like this big part of the garden that's not productive for half of the season. We also have fruit trees up front so when there are peaches you have a shit load of peaches all at once right and we have serviceberries, our juneberry tree, and the juneberries they're nothing until the last week of June and then they're all ready, all at once and you have to eat them right away or the birds get them and you get nothing. We have a we have a pear tree and right now the pears, we have a shit million pears not yet ripe so it's gonna be awhile before the pears are ripe, but once the pears are ripe they're all gonna be ripe at the same time, so yeah like you're gonna have a bushel or two bushels of pears. So it's like what you're eating depends on what your garden has decided is ready. Yeah, we were eating a lot of peaches, a lot of fucking peaches for a while. Which is fine yeah, I mean peaches are the best thing, but it is weird that when you're when you're eating out of the garden you don't eat what you want to eat you eat with the garden has decided you're gonna eat.

RORY: Do you guys do like preserves and stuff?

STEVE:
Yeah, some. We pickle some vegetables and a lot of stuff, we'll just keep it, but things like greens once you cut them, you have to eat immediately, but potatoes and storage onions and stuff like that - we had when I emptied the potato boxes last year, we had I'm gonna guess 40 pounds of potato or something like that? And fresh potatoes are unbelievably delicious, just like beyond, beyond surreal how great, how delicious a fucking potato is straight out of the ground. But then we have potatoes through the whole winter. I love that shit, it's like I go to the store once a week to get like bottles of stuff, like bottled juice or milk or whatever we need, eggs, butter that kind of stuff. Although Holly who works with my wife Heather at the charity that she runs has chickens. They live up north out in the boonies and they have chickens now, and so she brings us fresh eggs so we're not even having to buy eggs anymore.

RORY: Do you guys have a trade or barter thing going on?

STEVE:
No, she just has like - apparently if you have chickens, you have way too many eggs. I don't know how this chicken husbandry works, but apparently chickens are extremely productive, when they're laying you just get eggs all the time.

RORY: From a time perspective or how you use your time? Do you consider yourself to be busy, or do you feel like you waste a lot of time in the run of a day?

STEVE:
I know that I'm busy because I am often panicked trying to get from one thing to another. So, I know that I am busy, my time is in demand. I don't feel like I'm as productive as I would like to be, but I think that that's probably true for most people. When I have a session in the studio I come to the studio in the morning and I can't, I can do a little bit of correspondence and office bullshit, but I can't really do anything but studio stuff when I'm in the studio. The same for when I'm on tour with a band, I can't really do anything other than whatever I can get done on my laptop in the margins of being on tour. It's like whatever is in front of me is the thing that I'm spending all of my attention on and then when I move on to something else that gets 100% of my attention and I ignore the whole rest of my life. Depending on whatever I'm doing at the moment that's getting 100% of my attention, so that inevitably means that there's a lot of things that I don't get too.

RORY: I think that's a better approach than the myth of multitasking where you're just doing a bunch of things shittily.

STEVE:
Yeah, I think that's fucking tragic. Yeah, I can't imagine doing that. When I'm in the studio, the studio tasks are typically pretty engrossing. There are certain aspects of the studio that require no active attention on my part, and I find that if I try to force myself to pay active attention to those tasks then I find myself fiddling with things unnecessarily and causing problems in the session.

I'll give you an example, when you set up the initial setup for a band full band recording there are hundreds of little tasks that you have to get right to get it ready before a band is ready to do a take of a song right. Once you get those tasks done, once you've sound checked all the instruments and everything then there are a bunch of things that you need to keep tabs on over time. So once you get that set up then the take is underway. You have to monitor all the metering; you have to make sure there's no distortion, you have to make sure that none of the microphones move out of place, there's a bunch of things that you need to do that keep your attention during the course of basic studio practice. When you are doing a playback for listening purposes there's essentially nothing for you to worry about, people are just listening to their music and making decisions about it. You need to be aware of if somebody is trying to be heard to make a point that sort of thing, but I found that if I try to pay close active attention during something like a simple playback, then I find myself fucking with a mix balance non-stop or playing around with the panning, to basically to busy myself with the music while I'm listening to it. I've found that like the best practice for me is to have some small distraction, play some stupid game on my phone, or have something to read, or just be doodling like something so that my hands and my mind are minimally occupied so that I'm not fucking with the thing that we're listening to all the time, like things like that.

I've also found that if your mind is minimally occupied that way with something trivial, then if there is a problem with something you're not invested in, this thing that you're doing. So, it's easy to divert your attention to the problem that's occurring. Or it kind of sets a threshold for your attention, where if there's something out of the ordinary, you'll pay attention to it and address it, but if things are just cruising along as normal then you don't. I don't get involved in actively fucking things up, so that's yeah, that's it.

I used to just have a stack of really dry reading material like parts catalogs. There's a magazine called The Economist, which is this long-standing international trade and politics publication. The driest fucking writing, just especially when they're if they're trying to be engaging in some way where they're trying to be funny or they're trying to talk in, like trying to be human about it. They're just awful and so like reading that stuff is just torture. That's the perfect thing to read while you're in this studio.

I used to play Scrabble and during sessions like I would just have a Scrabble game open. The problem with that is that like some people that you play Scrabble with are playing in this sort of like - they're impatient, they want you to make your moves right away and so it's rude to sign up for a Scrabble game with somebody and then not make a move for like an hour or whatever so I, to be a good Scrabble citizen, I've stopped playing Scrabble. 

Steve Albini in the studio; photo: Martin Doležal
RORY: Somebody asked me to ask you, do you have any unrealized dreams, and further to that point, other items that you've not been able to get to like as long-term projects that you have?

STEVE:
That gets into a larger philosophical question. It's the sort of the notion of goals versus the notion of a process. So, I've never had goals in my life, there's never been anything that I've wanted to do or wanted to accomplish. I've essentially always operated on the basis of having a practice or having a process, and whatever the results of that are I'm content with because the practice and the process are sound in my mind.

When my band is working on songs, we're not trying to write a hit, we're not trying to make a million selling smash. We're trying to make music that's interesting to us and that's engaging to play and that when we play at live, we're invigorated by it. I honestly, I genuinely don't give a fiddler's fuck if anybody else likes it, it's nice when other people like it and get involved with your band and engage you in this way like you're communicating with them. That's great, it's rewarding, and I like it right, but we're not doing it for them.

It's exactly the same with running the studio. I have an idea in my mind about how a studio and or any business should operate in a sort of an equitable way, where the people that work here and our clients that come here feel like they're getting treated decently. The people that work here are working under good conditions, I'm paying everybody as much as I can, I make sure that life is as easy on everybody that works here as I can, make sure that everybody feels empowered to make decisions about their work environment and their work life so that they're not being bossed around by somebody else. I try to do all of those things because I think that that's an ethically sound practice. If the company survives that's great, if we make a profit that's great, but we're not doing it to make a profit. We're not doing it as just an enterprise that's generating money. It's lovely when we make money, don't get me wrong, I love it when we don't have to worry about making payroll or anything, but that's not why we're doing it. And it's exactly the same with anything else that I do.

I'm involved in a process, or I execute a practice that I think is sound and that I think is honorable and that is engaging to me and keeps me in the moment of whatever it is that I'm doing. The results of that are out of my hands and I don't really evaluate my success or failure based on the results.

Another obvious example is I'm a poker player, and I compete in tournaments every year at the World Series of poker. I've won two events at the World Series of poker; I have two World Series of poker bracelets. Now those are those are considered pretty big accomplishments but it's it never crossed my mind that I would ever win a bracelet, like it would never even occur to me that I would be a bracelet-winning-World Series of Poker-champion. I'm just trying to play correctly; I'm just trying to make good decisions on every street, I'm trying to make as much money as I can, and I'm trying to get better over time. That's the role of poker in my life that the game is that it engages me it engages part of my brain that I don't use otherwise and I'm trying to get better at it, and I want to make as much money as I can in the process. Poker might be the only thing in my life that I do primarily for the money. I find poker an engaging game, it's really endlessly fascinating to me the way the game works. Not so much the culture of poker players but the evolution of the game, the way different games different forms of poker have prominence over time, different styles of play are successful over time like that sort of thing. The that sort of stuff is fascinating to me and just the mechanics of each individual game require you to recalibrate your behavior and do things in a different way. Every time there's a new game introduced you have to break it down and figure out how to attack it and so I find it fascinating and stimulating and rewarding and the money has been good, so all of that stuff is great. I don't think of it in terms of what I would like to accomplish in poker. I don't give a fuck what I accomplish in poker. I'm doing it in a way that I think will earn me the most money and also keep me engaged in a productive way.

So, having said that I don't ever have goals and I don't have ambitions or anything, that plays into a larger part of my psychology which is that I don't fantasize about things that I might like to do someday. I can plot out an aspect of my life that I might try to execute but it's not with the sense that that's an ambition really of mine it's just like, "well it could go that way."

I'm getting old now. I just turned 60 years old, so that's pretty fucking old to be getting up and going to work every day. I see my retirement looming at some point in the future, who knows when. Either there's a possibility the work will dry up and people will stop calling me to make their records - that's a perfectly reasonable possibility and I have to be prepared for that. The economics of running a studio may just become overwhelmingly unfavorable to the point where we can't operate the studio anymore and so we'll have to shut down just because of the economics of running a studio aren't viable anymore, I mean that's perfectly reasonable that could happen.

My dad started to go deaf when he was about my age, now I haven't noticed any problem with my hearing and I feel like I'm still capable of making good records, but my hearing, just on a technical basis, my hearing cannot be as good as it was when I was in my 20s. It's just everyone's hearing deteriorates somewhat as they age. There may come a point when my hearing deteriorates to the point where I can't make records anymore and then that would be irresponsible of me to try to keep making records if I can't hear them right? All of these things are looming, all of these things are potential futures and I have to prepare myself to manage the transition into a post-working life on the basis of any of those, but I don't have in my mind, I don't have like a picture of a perfect end of my career. I don't have a picture of it, what is my idyllic retirement going to be like.

In short terms, Heather and I are going to fuck off someplace and we'll play out the string in a little house in Hawaii or something. I mean I think that's perfectly reasonable way that it could transpire, but God knows when or how. It could be 10 years; it could be 15 years, I hope it's not 20 years, that means I'd be making fucking punk rock records at 80. That seems, that seems really unreasonable but you know.

RORY: Who do you think is or was the oldest functional studio engineer?

STEVE:
Well, Al Schmitt was cranking it out into his 90s. He was 90 years old when he kicked off, when he died, and he died in the saddle. He was still working you know. Al Schmitt, he's a fucking - he's the iron horse. There's nobody that has cranked it out more than Al Schmitt ever did in his lifetime. He won engineering Grammys in the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the double zeros, the teens, and I think he won one in 2020. It's fucking unbelievable how that dude just kept at it. If you listen to his records, okay granted he worked on a lot of terrible records, he worked on a lot of real schlock, but that's not his department. He just answered the phone and then whatever they told him what to do, he went and did it. The records he make are impeccable.

I was at an engineering conference with him. It was a bunch of engineers of all ages at this long table talking about their careers, and I felt really out of my place with these legends. They asked everybody to bring a sample recording to play something that you had recorded that you would want other people to listen to, and Al Schmitt brought a live recording of a Doctor John concert. Not my cup of tea musically, whatever. You could hear every voice in the choir, you could hear every key on the piano, you could hear every horn in the group. It was unreal just a pristine clarity of this live recording like made under the worst circumstances. Yeah, I'm just I'm in awe of Al Schmitt's career. Both on the basis that he did not give a fuck what he was working on, it could be the most schlock trash like jazz-pop-fucking Manhattan Transfer, whatever the fuck it is, doesn't matter, he showed up and he humped the load, and he did it impeccably and he did it forever. I'm just in awe of that guy, that dude's career.

Yeah, I think it's possible to stay in the saddle and keep doing it, but also, I don't know how rewarding that would be. Most of my tenure as an engineer I've been working with bands and people that I consider peers, people that are not necessarily like-minded in all ways, but people that I can root for, the people where I'm sympathetic to the way they're operating, I want them to succeed. Whether the music is my cup of tea or not there's something genuine about it. I can imagine being just a dollars-an-hour engineer having to grind out instructional video soundtracks or whatever and working on schlock pop music. That just doesn't engage me on any level. I think that would be torture for me, but that's all in contrast with the sort of luxury that I've had the whole time I've been making records since the 80s where I feel like I can root for everybody that I've made a record with, on one basis on one level or another we're peers. I see eye to eye with them and I want all good things to happen for all of these people. But I can see that there is - there's a stratum of the music industry that isn't like that, or they're conniving people and people who have no emotional relationship to their music. It's just a product. I wouldn't be satisfied if I had to play out the string working for that kind of stuff. But then again, I guess there's an age bracket for people that are active musicians performing in front of an audience and as I get older, I'm going to age out of that bracket. There might, there will still be bands and musicians operating on that basis, but I'm gonna be older than all of them and socially separated from them and sort of intellectually different from them. And our socializing will have been different and maybe difficult to communicate with people that are that much younger than me and sort of more current in their thinking when I'm geriatric. I might only be able to relate to Willie Nelson and Neil Young. Yep, Willie Nelson another incredible one like the fact that he's still fucking pumping it out, it's just amazing.

RORY: Are there other countries where Shellac has not yet played live where you guys would like to eventually go?

STEVE:
That's a question that presupposes the ambition of going places, which we've never entertained. We got to go to Japan and South America and Australia fairly early on in our tenure as a band so those have never been unrequited ambitions. We're going back to South America in the fall, and we've been to Australia a few times, been to Japan a few times, never been to China, I don't really know if I want to go to China or not. I've recorded a few Chinese bands and their band culture seems quite different. There are aspects of it that are parallel but their underground band culture seems quite different from ours and I don't know that our methods would translate that well. Also, I don't know enough about China to know whether I wanna go there or not.

Yeah, I kind of envy bands that fucking go all over the world. There was this punk band in the 80s or the 90s. What the fuck were they called? All Day Breakfast? Or All You Can Eat or something like that. They lived on tour, like they didn't have a permanent residence, they were just constantly traveling from place to place. They went everywhere, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia, all over South America, Africa. They went everywhere. Whenever they could find anything, they correspond with people and whenever somebody offered to put him up and put it together a show, they would show up, wearing their one suit of clothes, carrying their one guitar and they would fucking do it. I kind of envy that sort of lifestyle, just being able to travel the world in itinerant fashions like tramp steamer-music. Yeah, I'm certainly not capable of it.

Yeah, I mean there are plenty of places we haven't been, there even European countries that we haven't been to. We had a show, trying to think, no, not Albania. We had a show set up where - (Was it Macedonia?) Yeah, we played Macedonia, we played Bulgaria, played Poland, we played Serbia, we played Croatia, where the fuck? What am I thinking of (Montenegro? No, not Montenegro, Moldova?) Ah I think we did play in Moldova, yeah. Oh well, I'm drawing a blank right now. Yeah, there's one there was one central European Eastern European country that fell through, and I can't remember anyway.

RORY: Is there a part of your life that you look back on as being your favorite part of it, or do you even evaluate stuff that way?

STEVE:
I'm not a nostalgic person at all, not the tiniest bit. If I scroll through the fucking slideshow of my life there is stuff that sticks out from every era that is kind of, "Oh yeah that was a very hectic period" or "That was a really terrific bowl of soup" or whatever but there isn't. Yeah, I know some people do think of a certain stretch as their heyday and they could relive that year forever or whatever but I've never thought like that at all. I feel like any time that I spend on nostalgia is just, it's just wasted energy. I feel there will be a time when my active productive life is over and I have the residual of my life, like the remains. When I get to the remains then I'll have plenty to reflect on at that point, but until I get there, I'd much rather just keep pumping stuff out if I can.

RORY: I think it's pretty bleak for somebody to be still in the potentially productive state and then reflect upon whatever the hell was going on, but not trying to look to doing stuff at the moment instead.

STEVE:
Yeah, I guess part of it is there was a cultural thing for nostalgia that started with - I think it started with the band Sha Na Na. Sha Na Na now played at Woodstock, so like 1969? Is that when Woodstock was, 1969? So, the 50s weren't even ten years ago when Sha Na Na formed, but they were actively, obviously harkening back to a previous era of music. Everyone around them is tripping balls in tie dye psychedelic, setting their guitars on fire, and they're like doing this doo-wop nonsense and doo-wop has its charms, don't get me wrong, but what they were doing was they were setting a stage for this notion of nostalgia as a cultural element. That nostalgia then became, it sort of started to grow and grow and overwhelm things. Shortly after that you had things like American graffiti and Happy Days and all of these other things, things that were just retrograde cultural impulses. And those offended me, they bothered me. I didn't like any of that stuff. I didn't just dislike it artistically but it seemed awful to say that things were better back when all these other - back before we had as much progress, things were better? That just seemed like a terrible notion. So, I've always rejected that sort of cultural nostalgia. On a personal level I'm just not rewarded by dwelling on the past. It doesn't feel good to me. I can't, I couldn't articulate why but something about it feels like an incorrect use of my time and attention and energy to dwell on old things for some reason.

Whenever I do have to every now and again, I feel obliged to review something, or something will come up, we have to do a remaster of an old record and circumstances put me in a spot where I'm reliving a past moment or something like that and I can engage with it on the on that basis and that's fine. But I don't look for opportunities to dwell on the past it doesn't seem very rewarding to me at all.

RORY: It's also like, I don't know, it's almost a personal weakness if you can't muster up the strength to try and do something at the time instead of just thinking about it.

STEVE:
Yeah, but I also think it's certainly possible that you could have a lot of care for the past in a sort of historical sense and still be in the present and still be engaged with everything around you. I think that's possible; I just don't have that capacity. I'm not a broad enough person to be able to come to grips with everything that I've done and everything I still have to do. There's shit that I'm supposed to be doing right now that I'm not doing. And I already feel bad about that. 

Alpha Stragegy with Steve; photo: Jon San Paolo
RORY: Is there anything in terms of modern technology that you find exciting? I heard the other day that they have this thing that can theoretically be the equivalent of laser eye surgery but for your ears that's kind of moving along.

STEVE:
Woah, yeah, I mean that sounds pretty spicy. I'm unfamiliar with the thing that you're describing. I did just have a cataract removed in one of my eyes, which is another indication that I'm a very old person. I had a cataract growing in my left eye, the vision in my left eye was really bad, it was like 2200 or something like that. So, they remove the lens, and they replaced it with synthetic lens, which was shocking.

Over the course of the 59 years that I had been alive my lenses, the lenses in my eyes, had been sort of gradually browning, so that the world had been getting slightly more amber. When they replace this lens with a perfectly clear lens suddenly the color blue just was absolutely electric and vivid to me, I felt like I was on shrooms. I was just running around, looking, finding anything blue and staring at it. I had the fire on the stove and I just stared at it for a while. Yeah, and instantly I wanted him to do the other, I'm like, "Can you fucking do the other, just go ahead and just pop it out, who cares, you know?" "No you don't have a cataract in that eye." Like, "Fuck off yes I do!". That kind of thing, that was amazing to me that they could do that in less than an hour. You go from being barely able to see to seeing in this incredible vividness. It was just shocking to me; it was really that was great.

I love like all the like simple modern convenience electronic stuff like cell phones and laptops. I don't have a tablet, my wife uses a tablet a lot, I don't have a tablet. But just the fact that I can on my phone, I can communicate with all of my friends at any time. Yeah, I can take pictures of things if I need to show somebody something, I can make actual phone calls. I'm come from an older generation so the telephone to me is still a very useful tool, a lot of younger people literally never speak on the telephone, they decline to ever answer the phone. Then the whole idea of it seems absurd to other people, you'd let somebody call you and interrupt you like that? I remember when I was a child there would be one telephone in the house and it would be on a table in the middle of the hallway, like a special telephone table, it was built just for the telephone. And there'd be a little notepad and there'd be a drawer with a telephone directory in it and you have this part of your house dedicated to the telephone. It was so exciting when you answered the phone and it was long distance, it's so exciting. But yeah, so I still answer the phone. When the phone rings in the studio I answer the phone because it's way faster to answer the fucking question while they're on the phone than it is to have him send you an e-mail and fight your way through whatever they're trying to tell you in order to discern the question and then send them another. All that stuff is just - I'm convinced that if the telephone had never been invented, if we had texts and fax and e-mail and all that sort of stuff but no telephone and then somebody invented the telephone right now it would be the biggest fucking thing. What, you mean like I can just ask him the question in my regular voice and get an answer instantly? That would just be the most amazing thing to people. No one ever makes takes advantage of it anymore, it's shocking to me.

Yeah, I think the telephone is great. I love all the things like using an e-mail chain to organize a tour, for example where you can send out group emails to all the promoters and let them know your availability instead of having to mail fucking 8 by 10 photograph to somebody to put in a fucking newspaper ad. You just send an e-mail and everybody gets a band picture, or like all of those little convenience things. It seems trivial, but so much wasted time is just avoided by all these little conveniences. I'm very into all of that stuff. I don't get involved in like real time gaming or anything like, I'm not into any of that sort of stuff. The fact that I can communicate with somebody anywhere in the world fairly instantly is amazing to me. I know that there are some people who feel overwhelmed by all the technological advances and stuff and there are things about it that are kind of inexpertly rendered, like the compensation thing for streaming and all that sort of stuff. There are problems with technology, but on the whole just the way life - like how much of your life is not wasted on trivial shit now is incredible. And still I managed to not get all of my shit done even with all that extra time it's like "Wow". I wear slip on shoes so I don't have to spend that those precious seconds tying my fucking shoelaces and still I find myself with things that I haven't gotten around to.

RORY: Do you think that you'd always just be busy, for example, if you had a bunch of free time would you just fill up with something else not while not really meaning to?

STEVE:
Well, it is kind of tragic like when I find myself with a day off, like I'll give you an example, a band comes into the studio and they have four or five days booked in the studio they finish early. They finish a couple of days early, so I unexpectedly I have a couple of days off on my schedule. I'm fairly certain I'm gonna waste most of the that time off. I'm fairly certain I'm gonna sleep in and then get up and be lazy for a while and enjoy the fact that I don't have anybody yelling at me. If I had time on my schedule that I knew was going to be off I might be able to program it in a way that, "Oh well I'm gonna use those two days to fix the roof I'm gonna use those two days to like clean the garage" or whatever, but when it happened suddenly and it's just, "Oh I don't have to go to work today fucking awesome, I'm gonna sleep in." I think the competing interests of my laziness and my sense of obligation to the other things in my life, laziness is like world champion. Laziness is like 10 and 1 by a knockout.

RORY: I guess I'll make this the last one. Do you think it's worthwhile to still live in the US over the long term?

STEVE:
Yeah, I mean it's weird, a friend of mine is a dual national Canadian Australian and said the whole time it was growing up used to fantasize having a place in New York or a place in LA or whatever. Now he lives in Montreal and he's like, "I cannot fucking imagine going to the US." I'm right there with them. The whole time I was growing up America was like, we were the fucking man. We did everything, we killed everybody, we want everything, we did everything, we had all the money, we're the top dog on every category, we're the biggest assholes, also the biggest geniuses. We're the most philanthropic country in the world but also we were the most brutal country in the world. We were the number one in everything, and lately it seems like the stuff that we're still number one in is not the stuff that I'm really proud of. Yeah, it's when Trump was in power everybody who thinks like me started imagining an exit strategy. We all started saying, "Well if it's gonna be like this I just don't fucking deal with it." Even within this building, everybody in the studio, there there's half a dozen of us here in the in the building, but everybody had a plan. Greg is a dual national Canadian US, and he was like, "Oh yeah I could fuck off to Canada." JSP went through all the paperwork to get himself his Italian citizenship so now he's an Italian dual national. Taylor's wife has family in Mexico so he could fuck off to Mexico if he wanted to. I'm stuck, I got bupkis, so I would have to figure something out. Everybody, yeah and it could still happen, we could still, it's very tenuous right now that we're going to be a representative democracy. If that falls apart then there's no reason for me to stay here, there are other nice places in the world. There are places where certain aspects of life are way better and I just don't have any real attachment to this place. 

interview done by Rory Hinchey and transcribed by Jennifer Schmid



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