Steve Albini to Auction “In Utero” Microphones on Reverb
In the world of studio recording, few names command as much reverence and sheer fandom as Steve Albini. The Chicago-based recording engineer has been cutting landmark records for decades, inspiring countless other engineers and bands through his audio craft and philosophy on making records.
While most Albini fans have a favorite album or two that they cite as the true encapsulation of his work, Nirvana’s In Utero easily ranks the most widely heard and far-reaching in its influence. Everything recordists associate with Albini’s style is on full display with this record, from the unbridled guitar tones to the signature attack of the pummeling drums tracks.
This week, Reverb is thrilled to announce the launch of an auction for three of the microphones that Albini used to record In Utero at Pachyderm Studios in 1993. The mics were part of Albini’s own collection and have lived at his studio, Electrical Audio, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
The sale will include two separate auctions: one for a stereo pair of Lomo 19A9 tube condensers and one for an Electro-Voice PL20.
The 19A9s were were used as overheads on Dave Grohl’s drum kit, while the PL20 and one of the 19A9s were used to record Kurt Cobain’s vocals.
As recounted in the video above, Albini first recognized the significance of these microphones after seeing a photo taken by Bob Weston included in the 20th anniversary reissue of In Utero that showed the PL20 and one of the 19A9s along with a Sennheiser 421 next to Kurt’s music stand holding the lyric sheet for “Rape Me.”
His first instinct was to offer the mics to the surviving members of Nirvana — Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear — to see if they had some sort of repository of Nirvana memorabilia. All three musicians declined the offer and told Albini that he should sell them.
Electrical Audio is well known for its robust microphone collection, but from Albini’s perspective, the historical significance of these pieces makes them a liability in a professional studio setting.
“They stopped being microphones and now they’re artifacts,” Albini said. “I feel like I should 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 studio.”
Both auctions will begin on September 21st — the 24th anniversary of In Utero’s original release — and end on September 30th. The starting prices on both auctions will reflect current market prices for these models.
In Utero Album
The third and final studio album by Nirvana, released on September 21st 1993, by DGC Records. Nirvana intended the record to diverge significantly from the polished production of 1991s Nevermind.
To capture a more abrasive and natural sound, the group hired Albini to record the album during a two-week period in February 1993 at Pachyderm Studio in Cannon Falls, Minnesota. The music was recorded quickly with few studio embellishments, and the song lyrics and album packaging incorporated medical imagery that conveyed Kurt Cobain’s outlook on his publicized personal life and his band’s newfound fame.
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