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Banner Pilot

Banner Pilot is a punk band from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Christy Costello 

Minneapolis, MN 

“Mother, guitar & bass player, singer, talent buyer, DJ, yogi.”

Dillinger Four

Dillinger Four is an punk rock band formed in 1994 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

DS Interview: Greg Norton on the legacy of Husker Du, surviving cancer, and his kickass new supergroup, UltraBomb

If ever there was a band that exemplified how the changes in the music business since the dawn of the Covid pandemic both giveth and taketh away, you could reasonably make the argument that that band is UltraBomb. Since the band is still in its relative infancy with a grand total of one live show […]

If ever there was a band that exemplified how the changes in the music business since the dawn of the Covid pandemic both giveth and taketh away, you could reasonably make the argument that that band is UltraBomb. Since the band is still in its relative infancy with a grand total of one live show and one album that is almost officially released in all the current formats of the day, we’ll give you the so-called twenty-five-cent version first.

UltraBomb is a three-piece international supergroup, and I know the term supergroup gets thrown around somewhat liberally from time to time, but this one checks whatever boxes you need it to check for that term to apply. The band consists of Dublin-by-way-of-Canada based Mahones frontman Finny McConnell on vocal and guitar duties, Jamie Oliver (the one from UK Subs and SNFU, not the chef, though they’re both based in the UK so you can’t be 100% sure of that I suppose) on the drums and none other than Minnesota icon Greg Norton of Husker Du fame holding down the low-end.

We were lucky enough to catch up with Norton for a super fun phone call about how the project came together, and the story is an interesting combination of a sign of the 21st century digital times and good, old-fashioned punk rock. After about a decade-and-a-half away from the music world altogether post-Husker Du, Norton dipped his toes in the water and eventually started playing in Minneapolis-based three piece band Porcupine. Eventually, Porcupine’s bandleader decided to change direction, leaving Norton again without an active band. Enter: the magic of Facebook. “Finny and I had been Facebook friends for quite a while. (He) is a huge Husker fan,” Norton explains. Once Finny saw that Norton was bandless, “he sent me a message and he’s like “well, I’ve got this idea. I know the greatest punk rock drummer on the planet, Jamie Oliver. He drums for the UK Subs, and I think we should put a band together.

As it turns out, this may have been news to none other than Jamie Oliver, save for a little behind-the-scenes finagling. “At the same time (he was messaging me,” Norton explains, “Finny messaged Jamie and said “hey, let’s put a band together with Greg Norton!” And Jamie’s like “I’m in!” With step one – the lineup – now set, the band got to work on the other important early band decisions. “We were trying to figure out a name for the band, and a friend of Jamie’s suggested UltraBomb.” Boom, step two: complete. “I had a photo of my daughter Coco with the lollipop and sunglasses, and a friend of mine locally here in Red Wing took that photo and put the atomic bomb in the background, and I’m like “holy crap, I’ve got the album cover!” I slapped “UltraBomb” on that picture and sent it over to Jamie and Finny and they’re like “That’s it!

With a band lineup and name and album cover all squared away in relatively short order in August 2021, there came the came somewhat superfluous next steps of A) actually meeting each other and B) actually working on music. Turns out, Finny had a plan for that too. The following month, the Mahones frontman was playing a series of solo shows in Europe, and just so happened to have some time booked at a studio in Berlin. Jamie, as fate would have it, was also going to be in Berlin. All they needed was Greg. As he tells it, “Finny mentions to me that he’s got four days booked in a studio, and all of a sudden it’s like “well, I should go to Berlin…” I had never met these guys. I book a flight, fly to Berlin, Jamie picks me up at the airport, and that’s the first time we meet face-to-face. The next morning, we’re in the studio getting set up, and Finny shows up, and that’s the first time we had ever met face to face too. It was the first time the three of us had been in a room together. We get set up, Finny had been writing riffs for the band, and that first day we wrote four songs. The second day we wrote the following six.”

The result of that whirlwind, four-day session, is Time To Burn. It’s ten originals plus a Norton-fronted cover of the Dead Boys’ classic “Sonic Reducer,” all banged out in less time than it took me to transcribe our conversation (below). It’s got a raw, throwback vibe, as you might expect from an album that was essentially written on the fly in the studio and grew out of a collection of basic riffs Finny had stored up and a volume of lyrics that Norton just happened to have with him that weren’t initially set to any real music. And while the band essentially got together over Facebook Messenger and the album essentially came together over the course of a long weekend, getting to the point where there was a physical album available for the general public to get its respective grubby little mitts on AND getting to the point where the multi-national trio could play shows together has been a grind of epic proportions.

There were tour dates canceled due to the waxes and wanes of Covid restrictions. There were production hold-ups because, as you might have heard, Adele and Taylor Swift and Beyonce released albums on vinyl and gummed up the works. And then, last summer, there was the most serious hold-up yet, when Norton was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Routine bloodwork revealed a possible diagnosis and a referral to a urologist, and from there, things escalated quickly. “They do an MRI, they do a biopsy, they kind of map out everything that they want to look at, and then you get on the surgery schedule,” says Norton. While the band did have to cancel a run of England tour dates as a result, they were able to squeeze in a one-off show – their first ever – in Minneapolis last July. Four days later, Norton was on the operating table. “I was in the hospital for one night,” Norton explains. “They want you to get up and walk around and be active and get back to your regular normal life as quick as possible.”

Norton is quick to point out that his follow-up appointments and his margins after the operation are all A-OK, so he can finally get back to that “regular normal life” of a touring musician. Not only are physical copies of the record FINALLY just about available (with a little help from DC-Jam Records) tonight, May 11th, UltraBomb will play not only their second-ever show when they hit the stage at the Turf Club in St. Paul, Minnesota, but it’ll mark the beginning of a tour that’ll keep them on the road for the rest of the month. They’re teaming up with Bar Stool Preachers for a run of eighteen shows in twenty days – the longest run Norton will have been on since the last real Husker run decades ago. It’s a run that Norton and the crew are excited to finally be undertaking. “I’m sure nostalgically I look back on those (lengthy van-based Husker Du tour) days and remember them fondly. But the reality is I’m sure we’ll be in the van and going like “how many more hours do we have to go? I have to pee!

The UltraBomb/Bar Stool Preachers “It’s Got Legs Tour” runs from May 11th in St. Paul to May 31st in Denver, making stops in places like Memphis and St. Louis and Phoenix and LA and, of course, Punk Rock Bowling, along the way. Check out the full rundown here! You can stream Time To Burn below on Spotify and, most importantly, scroll down for our full chat, complete with lots of goodies about the Husker Du days, his fourteen-year-absence from even touching a bass, his entries into the free jazz movement, and much more!



Oddly enough, yes, the following Q&A is condensed for clarity and content purposes.

Dying Scene (Jay Stone): Thanks for doing this! I consider this an honor and a privilege, man. As a fan for a long, long time, it’s really cool to be able to get to chat with you, so thanks!

Greg Norton: You bet! So you’re in Massachusetts?

Yeah, I live just north of Boston.

Ok! I loved playing Boston back in the day. Some epic, epic fun times.

So, I’m in my mid-40s and that makes me the right age to have not been old enough to see Husker Du live…where would Husker have played in Boston? I’m trying to think of what was around for venues back in the day…The Channel probably? Or The Rat?

We played The Rat several times, we played The Channel several times. I can’t recall the venue that we played there towards the end, after The Channel (Editor’s note: it was Paradise in 1986 with Soul Asylum opening or it was The Orpheum Theater in 1987 with The Feelies opening. I know, right? Here’s a link to a sweet Husker database I found after we spoke.) Boston was on our very first trip East, and I remember coming into town and we were thinking that we were going to have to rebuild a fanbase and grow it from the ground up like we did out West. And we got to Boston, and the show was packed, and it’s like “oh, there’s this thing called college radio now, and there’s a lot of colleges in Boston!” 

And a lot of music colleges specifically!

Right! For sure! Probably a year and a half after that (editor’s note: 3/22/84), REM called and asked us if we wanted to open for them at the Harvard Fieldhouse. We were like “hell yeah!” So we tacked on a couple extra shows and drove out there. Playing with Mission of Burma out there was great. A lot of really great memories of Boston.

As someone who was born at the very end of the 70…

So you were just a wee lad during the Husker years!

I know! I’ve been in and around the scene in this area for a long time now. I grew up in New Hampshire, but we were close enough to Boston that depending on the conversation, you could call yourself part of the Boston scene. But the scene was so different in the mid-80s than it was in the mid-90s and it’s almost unrecognizable now from either of those times, but that’s a scene that I wish I had been born a little bit earlier into. 

Yup, that was a great one.

So anyway, yeah, thanks for chatting about this new UltraBomb record. It’s super fun, and I have to say that when I first read the press release maybe a year-and-a-half ago now, during that initial announcement that you and Finny and Jamie were putting a band together, I remember thinking “wow, that seems like something born out of Quarantine.” Where you guys are all physically located and the way it came together, that just sounds like it would be a perfect project for a bunch of guys who had nothing to do for nine months or whatever so they put a band together. Is that at all close to accurate?

Well, the getting it together over the internet part is accurate. Finny and I had been Facebook friends for quite a while. Finny is a huge Husker fan. Mahones covered a Husker tune. I had been playing with a band in Minneapolis called Porcupine. That just didn’t ultimately work out. I loved playing with those guys, but the guy that was the band leader – it was his band and he decided he wanted to change directions, so then I was no longer playing with Porcupine. Finny saw that and sent me a message and he’s like “well, I’ve got this idea. I know the greatest punk rock drummer on the planet, Jamie Oliver. He drums for the UK Subs, and I think we should put a band together.” At the same time, he messaged Jamie and said “hey, let’s put a band together with Greg Norton!” (*both laugh*) And Jamie’s like “I’m in!” 

That’s awesome.

That’s really how UltraBomb became a thing. Then we were trying to figure out a name for the band, and a friend of Jamie’s suggested UltraBomb. I had a photo of my daughter Coco with the lollipop and sunglasses, and a friend of mine locally here in Red Wing, when that was first up as a family Facebook post, took that photo and put the atomic bomb in the background, and I’m like “holy crap, I’ve got the album cover!” I slapped “UltraBomb” on that picture and sent it over to Jamie and Finny and they’re like “That’s it!” This is all in August of 2021. Skip forward a month and Finny is in Berlin doing a solo tour and Jamie just happens to be in Berlin. Finny mentions to me that he’s got four days booked in a studio, and all of a sudden it’s like “well, I should go to Berlin…” I had never met these guys. I book a flight, fly to Berlin, Jamie picks me up at the airport, and that’s the first time we meet face-to-face. The next morning, we’re in the studio getting set up, and Finny shows up, and that’s the first time we had ever met face to face too. It was the first time the three of us had been in a room together. We get set up, Finny had been writing riffs for the band, and that first day we wrote four songs. The second day we wrote the following six…

So wait, you guys weren’t trading ideas over Zoom or whatever in this whole process? It was really like “pick the lineup and the name and the cover art and then go write a record in the studio?” That’s fascinating!

Yeah pretty much! We wrote in the studio. Finny would play us a riff and we’d be like “okay, let’s do that” and we’d hammer it into an arrangement. Once we were comfortable with it, we’d tell the engineer “hit record on this one!” Almost everything at that point was recorded either on the first or second take. Jamie had to leave the third day, because he had to play a gig, so that day, Finny and I were in the studio just cleaning up some guitar parts, adding rhythm guitar parts, stuff like that. And I said “well, I’ve got all these lyrics…” so I pulled out like 2000 sets of lyrics. Finny sits down and looks at them and he’s like “well, I’ve got the whole record figured out.” The next morning, Sunday morning, Jamie is back with us. Finny goes in and sings the entire record. We did some on-the-fly pencil edits on the lyrics just to make them flow a little bit better, but I was blown away with how well Finny took my lyrics – which weren’t written to his music – and made them fit perfectly.

That’s really wild. 

We got done and Finny’s like “there it is, bruvs. We created a masterpiece!” At dinner on the second night, we talked about covering something just for fun. We decided on “Sonic Reducer,” so at the end of recording all the vocals on Sunday, the three of us knocked out “Sonic Reducer.” It was the first time Finny and I had ever played “Sonic Reducer” with a band, and I sang it! That’s the one song that I sing on the record. It just turned out so fantastic. Jamie did the mix in London, and it just turned out so awesome. I love it.

I think that “Sonic Reducer” is the first song that I remember hearing as a kid that I identified as being a ‘punk rock’ song. Moreso than The Ramones – I mean, I knew who the Ramones were obviously as a kid, but there’s a different feel obviously about “Sonic Reducer,” there’s a different feel about Dead Boys than there is about the Ramones. That’s the first song I remember hearing and going “THAT’s a punk rock song. I need to know more about what this is!”

There’s a ferocity and an urgency to that song, right from the downbeat. 

It’s really sort of wild to me that, aside from meeting over Facebook and getting to know each other over social media, this is otherwise a throwback, “punk rock” record, and I mean that in like the most ideal way. That’s not necessarily what I was expecting because of the way that so many people were writing music over Zoom and trading song parts and files over Dropbox. It’s really sort of refreshing that even though the band came together on social media, the album was written with just three guys in the studio for four days. That doesn’t happen enough in this scene anymore.

Yeah, I would agree with that. It was written in the moment. It came together so naturally. It felt like the three of us had been playing together for years. Finny and Jamie are such great guys that I feel like they’ve been my best buds for decades. The engineer couldn’t believe that we were writing these on the spot, but it’s that urgent, in-the-moment feel. The record captures the feel of what went down in the studio and obviously, we all have our backgrounds in punk, and there is somewhat of a nostalgic feel to it, but it also is fresh and sounds like it’s made for today. 

Yeah, it doesn’t really sound like anything else. It’s a rock trio so it’s got that sort of “thing,” and it’s very raw. It sounds like you recorded it live and all in the same room together, which I like and appreciate, but it doesn’t really sound like anything else out there now. Did you guys even trade ideas about what direction you wanted or what kind of thing Finny had in mind or whatever, or was it really just “let’s put a band together”?

It’s funny, so when Finny first contacted me, he’s like “hey, you know, this will just be a lot of fun. Let’s play some Husker Du, let’s play some Mahones, we’ll through in some UK Subs, maybe some SNFU, and we’ll just get together and have a laugh, and maybe we’ll play some festivals. People will fuckn’ love it.” And then we were like “well, maybe we should write some of our own music too,” and then when it happened in the studio, it was like “holy crap, we just wrote an album!” We’re getting ready now to go out on this tour. Jamie is already here in Red Wing with me, Finny comes in Sunday (May 7th) and we’re getting ready. We want to start writing new material right away, and we might even try to get some recording done while we’re on the road. It’s kind of the nature of what UltraBomb is! 

You’ve got what, a grand total of one show together under your belts at this point?

Yeah, one gig! Last July, in Minneapolis, after another stumble to get the band out on the road, I got diagnosed with prostate cancer. We canceled dates in England, but we had this offer from the Hook + Ladder in Minneapolis to headline a summer festival that they do, so Finny and Jamie fly in for that, we play one show, it was a total blast – the crowd went wild, there were people losing their minds, there were people crying, it was so incredible. And then five days after that, I had my prostate removed. We took the rest of last year off so I could recover. My diagnosis is good, my margins are clean, and the doctors say I should be yammering on for a few more decades here. 

Hell yeah!

So that’s how we get to the It’s Got Legs tour, which starts Thursday (May 11th) in St. Paul. We’ve got eighteen shows through the end of May – we’re playing 18 shows in 21 days, and Punk Rock Bowling is the crowning moment of the tour. We’re doing two shows in Vegas, one club show where we’re going to open for The Dickies, which I’m really looking forward to. That’s a band that Husker absolutely loved back in the day. I’ve seen them numerous times. And then we’re on the main stage mid-afternoon on Monday, the last day. It’s us and then L7 and then Suicidal Tendencies and then Dropkick Murphys, so…

That’s all killer, no filler right there. 

Yeah, jumping right into the deep end! (*both laugh*) 

And you’re going out with Bar Stool Preachers on this run too, right?

Yup! They’re doing the entire tour with us up to Punk Rock Bowling. I think they’ve got their own shows set up for Punk Rock Bowling, and then the last tour of our run is in Denver on our way home. That’ll be without Bar Stool Preachers. Their new record is great by the way.

They’re such a fun band. They’re such a fun group to see live too. They put on a great show.

I’m looking forward to playing with them.

They can sort of play with a lot of different bands because they float between styles a little bit so they fit on a lot of different bills. I think I saw them with Bouncing Souls, and I feel like they were here with The Business and maybe Swingin Utters. Super fun band. Are you excited to get back out on the road finally?

Yeah, really excited! Porcupine did a few runs, usually just four or five shows. We did a support run with The Flesh Eaters, and that was great. Dave Alvin and John Doe and DJ Bonebrake. They were super nice guys, and it was great hanging with them for the week. We did a run of shows with Flipper with David Yow on vocals. And then Mudhoney and Built To Spill. Those were all short tours though, so this is my first full-blown tour probably since the last long Husker tour. 

That’s pretty wild. Do you miss that part of the music industry? Being in a van and hitting the road for weeks at a time?

Yeah! Well, I’m sure nostalgically I look back on those days and remember them fondly. But the reality is I’m sure we’ll be in the van and going like “how many more hours do we have to go? I have to pee!” (*both laugh*)

Did that happen before, where someone would just hit you up about starting a band or joining their project? Was that a common occurrence for someone in your situation? I ask because I was just listening to your spiel with Mike Watt the other day. I don’t always listen to other shows or podcasts or things, but I love Watt and I’ve been blessed to talk to him a few times, so I used that as part of my research for talking with you, but I know he gets sent music all the time by people saying “hey, can you write with us?” or “hey, can you put bass riffs down under these tracks?” and whatnot, so was that a common occurrence where people would hit you up and ask about playing, and this time it just worked out? And I suppose, if so, why now and why Finny, because on paper it sounds like an interesting match…

You know, I dove into the restaurant world and became a chef and ran a place in Red Wing for seven years before I started my own restaurant. I went fourteen years without even picking up the bass. I thought “Well, that phase of my life is in the past now” and I just concentrated on the restaurant. It was probably early 2000s, there’s a jazz trio called The Bad Plus. Two of them are from Minneapolis, and they were playing a show and they had just released a record on Sony, These Are The Vistas, and they did a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” A friend of mine who was a regular customer and a huge music guy gave me a copy of the CD and said “hey, you should listen to this, I think you’d like it.” Right after that, they did an interview in a Minneapolis paper where Dave (King) and Reid (Anderson) were asked what their influences were. These are jazz guys, and they were like “growing up, Husker Du was a big influence on us,” and I was like “wow! That’s crazy!” I went to see them and loved the show. I wanted to introduce myself and say “hey, I really dig what you guys are doing!” and Dave immediately says “I have an idea for a band and you’d be the perfect bass player for it. So that became The Gang Font, which took maybe three years before we actually got together to play, but that was the impetus for me to get a bass amp again. I didn’t have any gear, so I bought a bass. 

Had you gotten so far out of music that you even sold all your equipment?

I still had my electric basses that I played with Husker, but they hadn’t been played in a lot of years and they needed to be cleaned up and tuned up and all that. I bought a cheapy Fender ¾ acoustic bass to play on and actually that’s still a bass that I’ll take with me to go camping and stuff like that. It’s a beater bass, but it works. It sounds good. That’s what got me back into playing bass. The Gang Font is sort of a hard group to nail down as far as what we are…

That is entirely accurate. I’ve spent a little time with The Gang Font stuff on Spotify. It’s definitely tough to nail down.

We actually have another album that we recorded thirteen years ago, in 2010, and I just saw Dave a couple weeks ago and we’re FINALLY going to try to get that released. After that, Casey Virock calling up and asking if I wanted to take over the bass spot in Porcupine is the only other thing really. Although recently, I have been in the studio and recorded a long improv kind of piece with Charlie Parr. He’s on the Smithsonian label, and he is a national treasure. He’s an acoustic player, but he’s also a guy who I met and was like “oh yeah, Husker Du had a huge impact on me.” That was fun playing with Charlie too. 

He’s from your area, right? He’s a Minnesota guy.

Yeah, he’s originally from Duluth I believe. 

I don’t remember when the official album release date was, because it feels like a lot of that stuff has become sort of a moving target since Covid, between digital releases and then physical CD releases and then vinyl releases. It seems for a lot of bands like there are always different release dates…but does it feel different now than it did releasing a Husker album forty years ago?

Yeah, it does. And this has been frustrating. We put this record out ourselves. We ordered 500 or 600 copies, and it’s a small order. There are so many pressing plants that have closed over the last couple of decades that a small order is not a priority for a lot of plants. Then you get people like Adele putting out an album or Taylor Swift or Beyonce, and all of a sudden everybody gets put on hold so they can press up three million copies or whatever. There kept being all of these delays in getting the vinyl. The vinyl is now finally on its way to the distributor. Here in Red Wing, I just got the box of record sleeves for the pre-sale so that I can autograph them! Finny will sign them on Sunday, then we’ll get those back over to London with the guy that is collating everything together, and then he’ll get the pre-orders all shipped out. So if you pre-ordered the vinyl, it’s coming! (*both laugh*) Hold tight, I promise this is for real this time! That’s been frustrating, and then the other goofy thing is that we wanted to have the record available, so we did release it digitally last year, so now we’re trying to get people excited and press excited, and they’re like “well this record came out last year…” and we’re like “yeah but the vinyl is coming! And we’re going on our first tour!” Back in the day, when the record came out, it came out! There was a drop date and you hit it. Hopefully for our next record, things will go a lot smoother. We’re working with DC-Jam Records here in the States and they’ll put out our next album, and they’ll also be distributing this one when it finally arrives at the distributor. They also made some CDs for us, so the stuff is coming!

For a band that started, met each other and wrote and recorded an album in four days, for it to take a year-and-a-half to finally exist physically has got to be mind-numbing!

Yeah! It came together so quickly and then it was just all of these delays and it was like “oh man, this is killing us!” 

If everything got pushed back because people ordered two million pressings of that Adele record, you know that 1.5 million of those are just sitting in thrift stores or the shelves at Target or Wal-Mart at this point. That was the wrong target market. 

Exactly!

That drives me nuts…and I don’t have a physical product that I’m trying to release into the world. I just get mad for all of you people who are creating the art and doing the work. I really applaud people who still put out music and stick to it. 

Yeah, I mean we had a lot of people who paid money on the pre-sale, and they’re still waiting…it’s crazy. 

And plus, you had the whole cancer bomb dropped right in the middle of all that…

Makes for an interesting last couple of years, to say the least! (*both laugh*) 

How are you now health-wise? You said before that things are good, all clear?

Yeah! Things are good. When they removed the prostate, the doctors said that it appeared that everything was contained, all of my margins were clean, all of my tests since then have come back clean, and that’s good. Actually, going down that journey, all of a sudden you start meeting all of these people that you know who go “oh yeah, I had that procedure done” or “oh I know somebody” or “oh, my dad had it done twenty years ago.” Prostate cancer is the number two cancer killer, and only because people usually don’t know they have it until it’s too late. I was lucky that something popped up on a regular blood test and it was like “you should go see a urologist.” So go out and get your prostate checked, all you men out there! (*both laugh*) 

Seriously! Go to your doctor’s appointments, go to your physicals, get your bloodwork done…

Right! Get the finger stuck up your bum. It’s all good! (*both laugh*) It only takes just a couple of seconds!

For someone who hasn’t gone through that yet, how long a process is it between when something pops up in your bloodwork and when you’re on the operating table and they’re taking out your prostate?

You know, the diagnosis happened pretty quick. They do an MRI, they do a biopsy, they confirm that it’s there. They kind of map out everything that they want to look at. Getting on the surgery schedule, then, actually took some time. That was a longer wait, but then the procedure itself, I was in the hospital for one night. They want you to get up and walk around and be active and get back to your regular normal life as quick as possible.

That’s amazing. I’m glad you’re here, and I’m glad you got checked out because like you said, too many people don’t until it’s too late. 

Thank you!

Since putting UltraBomb together and writing in the studio, has that prompted you to keep writing, whether it’s lyrics or other music? Do you have a lot of ideas to flesh out once you get on the road and start working together?

Oh yeah, sure. I keep writing lyrics all the time. Finny has been writing riffs for UltraBomb, so there’s a good chance that we’ll be able to get a record out – or get one recorded at least – most likely by the Fall. We’re going to even track some stuff on the road. The idea is that we might have a new single ready by the end of the tour, which is fantastic. 

Well if you have twenty-one days together, that’s like a quadruple album based on the way Time To Burn came together…

Right, exactly! Jamie last night was like “what if, for each show, we came up with a new song? Then at the end of the tour, we’d have 18 songs, and that’s a double album! Let’s do it!”

That’s old school, Husker/Minutemen style!

Yeah, Watt and I were talking about Double Nickels (On The Dime)…that was going to be a single album. They had it ready to go, and then we dropped Zen Arcade and they’re like “oh, they did a double album! WE better do a double album!” (*both laugh*) They went into overdrive to write the rest of that record. Even Joe Carducci from SST wrote lyrics for that record. He wrote “Jesus & Tequila.” It was just a fun back-and-forth between us and The Minutemen. We love those guys. Miss you D. Boon!

When a guy like Watt says “we were inspired by your band to raise the bar” because Zen Arcade was obviously an iconic album and then it lead to Double Nickels… which is a legendary album…does that still feel cool to know that it was that sort of competition between you created something like that?

It is, yeah. The SST camp back then was us, the Meat Puppets, Minutemen, then Saccharine Trust and of course Black Flag. But Meat Puppets, Minutemen and Husker, the three of us, I think that was the nucleus of SST at the time and of the stamp that they left on the world. Meat Puppets are still out and playing and it’s great that Derrick (Bostrom) is back in the band. I’m excited to hopefully see them out on the road. They aren’t on the road right now – Curt (Kirkwood) lives in Austin, I think Chris and Elmo (Kirkwood) live in Phoenix – so I hope they all come out and check us out. I’d love to see those guys. And of course Watt never stops.

He’s unreal. He really kinda is. I don’t understand how he just keeps going. And he does that show all the time on top of making music, and he always puts like three hours of music on each show…

Oh yeah, yup. He said he’s been doing that show for twenty-two years. Man…that is awesome.

He’s one of a kind. They definitely broke the mold with that one. 

Yeah, when you talk about going on the road, he’s like “well when ya shoving off?” and “where are you dropping anchor?”

Yeah, you really have to pay attention when he talks because he’s got so many Wattisms that take a minute to process sometimes…

Oh yeah, he’s his own pirate! (*both laugh*)

Thanks for doing this! I don’t want to take up too much of your afternoon and I try to be mindful of folks’ time. I really appreciate getting the chance to pick your brain even a little bit. As someone who grew up wanting to be a bass player for a while – and has long-since put that aside – but it was guys like you and Watt leading into guys like Ament in the “grunge” era who sorta revitalized your era’s sound, that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up. So I really enjoy getting to pick your brain!

Well thanks, I appreciate that!

And good luck on the road! I’m really excited for you guys to be able to be out there and I hope people show out for you. It’s a really good run, and a really good bill!

Yeah, I think they will! People are listening to it. If we’re coming through your town, go get your tickets! If we’re not coming through your town, follow us on Spotify or subscribe to our YouTube channel! We’re going to do a lot of content tor YouTube for this tour, maybe do some live streams, maybe do an UltraBomb travel log. Hopefully, the record will come out in stores while we’re on the road, and we’ll have copies of it on the road so people can come get it signed! 

It’s got to be a pretty cool thing still to have a physical copy of it when it finally shows up, yeah?

Oh I can’t wait to put it on the turntable! Being able to hold it is super exciting. 

Everybody go pick it up. Listen to UltraBomb. Like I said before, it is very much a quintessential “punk rock” record, and I mean that in the truest, most idealist sense of that term. My interest was piqued just by the original announcement…like “how are Greg Norton and Finny going to sound together…” It really does fit well. It’s really cool and really fun and hopefully you make your way to the Northeast some day. 

Oh yeah, definitely. We’re planning on a lot of US tours next year. East Coast, West Coast, all over. Finny got turned on to Husker Du when he was 18. He had just moved to London and he had just missed our show and he wanted to basically try to make his way in the London music scene, and then he heard Husker Du and he was like “oh shit, maybe Minneapolis is where it’s at!” The very first song that he sang (on this record) was “Time To Burn,” and it was funny, I had to tell him “Finny, stop trying to channel Bob (Mould). You’re not Bob. Just be Finny!” He couldn’t contain himself; it was like “oh man, here I am in a band with one of my childhood idols,” you know? He’s a great guy and a fantastic writer and musician and his sense of composition is awesome. And Jamie is just fucking amazing, that’s all I can say.

He’s playing with Mahones now too, right?

Yeah, he was just out with the Mahones in France, and he’ll be doing another tour in I think mid-June or July. He’s also drumming with Anti-Nowhere League right now, so he actually is going to fly home to London from Denver because he has Anti-Nowhere League stuff coming up that first weekend in June. I plan on coming home and relaxing a little bit, and he’s going to go home and go out on another punk rock tour. 

And yeah, speaking about Mahones covering “Makes No Sense At All” before, I could see that there are some hints of Husker on this record that I think people will enjoy. Not just because it’s a power rock trio, but there’s some of that feel.

It’s funny, I think a lot of that is just the way I play bass. Somebody commented after hearing it that it was like “wow, it’s cool hearing all those Husker basslines…” and it’s like, “well, no, those are Greg Norton basslines.” I play how I play, and I don’t really have a particular thing.

Did that change after fourteen years or whatever it was of not playing bass? Or was it just muscle memory when you went back to it? 

There was some muscle memory. I think Gang Font was a good project for me to get back into it, because Dave’s idea was to just let me play whatever I wanted to play, or to play however I heard the music. Erik Fratzke and Dave would write the music and a lot of times they would just start playing something and I would just start playing along however I felt like. I loved it. I’ve always been a big avant-garde jazz fan, so that was fun. 

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DS Photo Gallery: The Hold Steady bring their 20th-anniversary celebration to Boston’s Roadrunner…with Dinosaur Jr.!

There’s a thing that happens when you grow up in a music-appreciating household and then you reach middle school or junior high or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods and discover a new band or a scene that becomes YOURS. They’re generally a generation or so older than you – or […]

There’s a thing that happens when you grow up in a music-appreciating household and then you reach middle school or junior high or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods and discover a new band or a scene that becomes YOURS. They’re generally a generation or so older than you – or at least 10-ish years or so but it just SEEMS like a generation when you’re 13. They’re not your parents’ music – and in fact are probably a rebellion to your parents’ music – and they aren’t little kid music or cheesy pop music, but they become YOURS and they teach you about life and growing up and all sorts of things that seem so cool and almost mystical when you’re a youngster and they serve as the riverbed for whatever scene’s waters you end up dipping your toes into.

But then there’s another thing that happens when you’re in, say, your mid-twenties and you discover a new band. They’re still maybe a handful of years older than you, and they somehow take the musical influences of your parents – which really weren’t that bad or worthy of rebelling against at all – and some of those musical influences from the first bands that you fell in love with and it becomes something that’s new and different and it impacts you on a personal level because they provide a roadmap for a lot of the things that you have been through and will go through in this thing called “adulthood,” and so you have similar experiences and reference points. For the duration of my adulthood, the alpha and the omega of that latter phenomenon has consisted of two bands (with, coincidentally, an overlapping band member in their collective history): Lucero and The Hold Steady. The former celebrated their 25th birthday last month, and the latter are in the midst of celebrating two decades as a band throughout this year with a series of one-offs and weekenders at a variety of locations both at home and abroad.

The two- and three- and four-day weekender that’s been part and parcel of the last half-dozen years of The Hold Steady’s touring schedule was eschewed for the Boston stop on this particular “run.” Instead, the six-piece (frontman and occasional guitarist Craig Finn, dueling lead guitarists Tad Kubler and Steve Selvidge, keyboard/multi-instrumentalist Franz Nicolay, bass player Galen Polivka and drummer Bobby Drake) chose to use this stop for what I’m pretty sure is their largest one-day area headliner to date. It was held at the sparkly new Roadrunner music hall in Boston’s Brighton neighborhood (more specifically in the newly-christened Boston Landing neighborhood, which is also home to the sparkly-new practice facilities for the Bruins and the Celtics and a sparkly-new and giant New Balance flagship building). The sweet part of the city it’s not, necessarily; but obvious grievances about gentrification and the loss of smaller and especially independent music venues in a theoretically world-class music city aside…Roadrunner is a pretty sweet venue. Still, that’s all a topic for another time.


Set to the musical backdrop of the thematically-appropriate Boston classic, “Rock And Roll Band,” the band took to the stage at Roadrunner at about quarter-til-ten and, after a brief introduction, ripped right into the opening chords of “Constructive Summer” from their 2008 album Stay Positive, which happens to be the album that vaulted THS into my own personal stratosphere. The song and its theme of hope and of collective positivity served as an ideal segue into the festivities that would come over the next hour-and-forty-five-minutes or so. Two dozen songs followed, representing seven of the band’s nine studio albums – no love for the underrated duo of hiatus bookend albums, Heaven Is Whenever (2010) and Teeth Dreams (2014) on this particular night.


It would be a little too on-the-nose to say that a Hold Steady headlining performance is what a resurrection feels like, but I’m not sure the fact that the reference is on-the-nose makes it untrue. When the band launches into the familiar opening notes of longtime crowd favorites like “Sequestered In Memphis” or “Your Little Hoodrat Friend” or “Massive Nights,” the crowd takes on a celebratory, almost spiritual tone, a sort of mutual catharsis, really. Enigmatic Craig Finn leads the show in his traditional, chaotic manner that evokes notes of both a hardcore band frontman and an exuberant preacher leading the flock during a Sunday sermon. Nicolay and Kubler flank the stage adorned in shirts and ties and jackets and, in the former’s case, a bowler hat that I can only describe as “spiffy.” Selvidge and Polivka both ooze a sort of rock and roll that combines 70s swagger with mid-Gen X shrug. Bobby Drake is about as rock-steady and, for my money, underrated as you can get behind the drum set in this scene, effortlessly bracing the changing tempos and swirling guitars and keys and extended, celebratory jams.


The Hold Steady released their ninth album, The Price Of Progress, earlier this year, and the new tracks that found their respective ways into the setlist for this gig were equally well-received, particularly “Carlos Is Crying,” which is a song that I think I called “the most Hold Steadyish song on the record” when I reviewed the album back in March. While I’d certainly call The Hold Steady a rock-and-roll band for lack of a better and more finely-tuned descriptor, it’s easy to tell that many of the bands members grew up on the punk rock and hardcore scenes of the 1980s (and not just when Mosh Pit Josh assumes co-frontman duties for the breakdown of “Stay Positive,” the main set’s penultimate song).


The four-song encore was a compilation of a bunch of old-school THS songs that continued the revelatory nature of the evening. Lead guitarist (co-lead guitarist?) Tad Kubler brought out the double-neck Gibson SG that you see pictured there on the right for “Lord, I’m Discouraged” and the first verse of “Banging Camp” before trading it out for his more traditional 345. “Chips Ahoy” and of course “Killer Parties” closed out the evening, the latter with an extended jam that seemed to indicate a reluctance to actually leave the stage and bring the celebration to a close. On this night, as with on many nights dating back over the course of the last twenty years, we were, indeed, all the Hold Steady.


Massachusetts’-own alternative rock legends Dinosaur Jr. served played a 75-minute direct support set. THS frontman Craig Finn, who was notably raised in Minnesota but was born a stone’s throw from Roadrunner at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center and returned to the area for four years as a student at Boston College in nearby Brookline, told a story of mountain biking down to Newbury comics to by Dino’s 1991 classic Green Mind the day it came out, so it made perfect sense for the local trio to play an extended support spot on such an occasion. The trio opened with “Thumb” from that very same Green Mind album and proceeded to steamroll through a sixteen-song set that represented most-if-not-all corners of their nearly 40-year career as a band. A Dinosaur Jr. set really is a sonic assault in the best possible way, a tsunami of sound emanating from frontman J Mascis’ wall of Marshall full stack cabinets adorned in vintage Marshall Super Bass and Hiwatt heads.


Somehow Lou Barlow’s ‘lead bass’ attack still finds a way to carve out its own space in the mix, which is no easy feat. Murph’s razor-sharp drumming provides at least a semblance of structure to the whole onslaught, particularly useful during Mascis’ epic, fuzzed-out solo wanderings. Getting J and Lou to switch instruments and have the latter take over both guitar and lead vocal duties for “Garden” from 2021’s Sweep It Into Space was a particular highlight of the three songs that the four or five of us in the spacious photo pit got to shoot to kick off the set. A later highlight occurred when the trio was joined by Scott Helland on bass for a “cover” of the Deep Wound song “Training Ground.” For the uninitiated, Deep Wound was a pre-Dino (so, very early 80s) western Massachusetts hardcore band that featured Mascis on drums, Barlow on guitar, Helland on bass and Charlie Nakajima on vocals.


Apologies go out to Come, the local alternative rock icons who played the role of lead opener on the three-band bill on this night. Due to a combination of Mother’s Day festivities, traffic, and being unfamiliar with the area, we missed the photo-pit portion of the band’s set. Check out more shots from the Dino and THS sets below!


The Hold Steady Slideshow!


Dinosaur Jr. Slideshow!

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DS Remembers: Reflections on the Life of Music Icon Steve Albini

Feature Photo by Paul Natkin The death of Steve Albini on May 7, 2024, due to a fatal heart attack, sent shockwaves throughout the music world. None more so to those who called Albini a friend, a mentor, or a collaborator in making their music. CHRIS CONNELLY Scottish-born, Chicago-based musician Chris Connelly has known Steve […]

Feature Photo by Paul Natkin

The death of Steve Albini on May 7, 2024, due to a fatal heart attack, sent shockwaves throughout the music world. None more so to those who called Albini a friend, a mentor, or a collaborator in making their music.


CHRIS CONNELLY

Scottish-born, Chicago-based musician Chris Connelly has known Steve Albini for decades. He recalls the 2 weeks spent in Minnesota, in 1991 with Albini. He sent me this reflection and calls this time the Mouse and the Elephant.

“In the summer of 1991 I went to Pachyderm Studios in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, about 40 miles outside of Minneapolis, to record what would be the first and only album by the somewhat volatile Murder Inc, a band which was basically Killing Joke minus Jay Coleman, and with the addition of myself and original drummer Paul Fergusson along with later drummer Martin Atkins. We had toyed around with some song ideas in Chicago and Steve was going to record us.

I already knew Steve, through my friendships with various Jesus Lizards, Butthole Surfers, Naked Rayguns, etc, this was Chicago in the very early 90’s, it was a hotbed of vicious talent, it was a great place to be after fleeing the often baffling blue eyed major label soul boys of the Scottish music scene. Chicago had teeth and fangs.

I was not a part of the music writing or recording: My choice, I would go into the studio late in the day and listen back to what we had done and write accordingly. It was just myself and Steve, he was honest to a fault, blunt, not rude, not opinionated, I soon learned that he was serving the record, not me, not the band, but the album: truth be told, I had worked with many engineers who were often yes men, so this was refreshing. I have repeated this phrase Steve said to me once whilst recording and I mentioned something I wanted to try “SURE! It’s your album! If you wanna go ahead and ruin it, go right ahead!”, to which I laughed so hard…

The “title” song “Murder Inc.”was a long groove, about 6 or 7 minutes of organic sounding angular lopsided funk, and I wrote the lyric and came into the studio and told Steve it was “kind of a rap,” his face fell and he said “oh GOD!”, but I went ahead and tried it, a little sheepishly, understandably, we were hovering at the border of rap/metal, it could have been a horrible idea, BUT after I did the pass, Steve was noticeably relieved, more John Cooper-Clark than Ice T, …the day was saved.

We spent many a night having a great time, he had me sing a vocal lying on the ground, another one where he rigged a 3-foot square of plywood unevenly balanced on a couple of bricks whilst I jumped up and down on it as if throwing a toddler tantrum, and another one where he found the most expensive vocal microphone in the place and had me swing it around my head as if I was trying to coral a wild horse. This became the song “Mrs Whisky Name,” an ode to my favorite whisky, which at the time, I was too drunk to remember, so that’s what Steve wrote on the tape box…

Late evenings were spent with the band and Steve having dinner and drinking (not Steve, no, but the band, YES) stories were swapped and jokes told, Steve had an endless supply of great ones, including the legendary MOUSE AND ELEPHANT joke, which I cannot for the life of me remember, but it was a great one (if you know it, let me know!)

Honest, adventurous, inspiring, and a hell of a storyteller, these are some ways I would describe Steve, and in my very long career in music, these 2 weeks in rural Minnesota were a shining highlight for me.  Thank you Steve!


MARC RUVOLO

Author and Musician Marc Ruvolo shared numerous memories of his friendship with Steve Albini. He permitted us to share them here: Posting those memories here as he did on Facebook:

COMPILING ALL MY ALBINI MEMORIES INTO ONE PLACE AGAINST THE DAY MY BRAIN FINALLY BRICKS (Not in chrono-illogical order). My heart goes out to Heather Whinna, and anybody else that adored him. ????

1. Steve recording dOUBT in his original home studio. We were in the basement and he was upstairs. Never heard a home studio sound so good. His house was like a dragon’s hoard of cool shit: books and records and movies and posters and porn (erotica!). I looked on the back porch which was filled with records and saw a box of the limited edition Big Black “Headache” EPs with the original shotgun suicide cover. 

2. Steve introducing me to Fluss, his cat, he credited much of his production work to. He also used these producer aliases, which always made me laugh: A Skinny Bespectacled Guy, Arden Geist, Buck Naked, Ding Rollski, Don Moist, Engineer, Frank Francisco, Harry Schnell, King Barbecue, Lenard Johns, Mr. Billiards, Reggie Stiggs, Robert Earl Hughes, Some Fuckin’ Derd Niffer, Terry Fuckwit, The Li’l Weed, The Proprietor, Torso Man, Whodini.

3. Steve flying back early from recording Bush’s “Razorblade Suitcase” to finish the Traitors record because he promised us the date and then we of course didn’t have all the money to pay for the session so he kindly put us on a payment plan.

4. Steve, Heather, Ethan, Kim and Kelly Deal and I sitting around playing wholesome party games, eating snacks and laughing our asses off before the Breeders show because Kim and Kelly wanted to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

5. Steve letting me bang on his Travis Beans through his amps and play with his vintage mellotron. When he recorded dOUBT I was kinda embarrassed to be playing through a Peavy Bandit but he was stoked to record it and said he loved Peavy because you could beat the hell out of them. He even made it sound kinda good.

6. Steve inviting Traitors to play shows on a Shellac tour he booked where they only played in Comedy Clubs and had standup comedians for an opener. In SF, he and I were sitting outside some pizza place shooting the shit when he said he was going back to his hotel. As soon as he walked away, some weirdo ran over and grabbed the plastic chair he was sitting on and ran away yelling, “I got Steve Albini’s chair!” Earlier at the show, people in the audience were spitting (gobbing?) on him while he played and he stopped playing and said, “What the fuck? Stop that shit. This isn’t 1978!”

7. Seeing Big Black reunite at the Hideout Block Party (Touch & Go 25th) and after they were done Steve saying to the crowd, “See? They’re just songs. You didn’t miss all that much not seeing it until now.” or something to that effect.

8. Steve giving Gar Brandt a free car. Steve was incredibly generous with his money and time and loved 80s Subarus and would drive them until they were about to die and then sign the title over to whoever wanted them. The back seat well of this particular one was filled with hundreds of unmarked black tapes, all various mixes of bands he was recording. You could just pick one up at random and pop it in the tape player and try to figure out who it was. A bootlegger’s dream, and we had such a ball driving around listening to that shit.

9. Steve taking dOUBT to record for an overnight session at Chicago Recording Company (where they recorded Eye of the Tiger, turned out it was designed more for commercials than music= no fun) and when we didn’t like the way it came out he told the studio we were some crazy Belgian band who stiffed him on the bill and skipped the country so we didn’t have to pay.

10. Steve generously helping me try and salvage the only copy of a No Empathy song from a broken DAT tape, failing, and then gently telling me what an idiot I am for not making a backup and that DAT tapes were not meant to sit in a moldy box for ten years.

11. Steve blowing off firecrackers on stage at Metro and getting banned.

12. Steve keeping the actual physical copy of “Two Nuns and a Pack Mule” porn magazine on his toilet tank so anyone could read it while they took a shit.

13. Shellac playing Fireside not on New Year’s Eve, but on New Year’s Day–at NINE A.M. in the damned morning. It was sold out, of course. Steve bought coffee and pop tarts and asked if we would man a table, toasting them and handing them out, which we did, feeding the whole crowd.

14. Steve showing us around the under-construction Electrical Audio [Albini’s Chicago recording studio], culminating with the incredible reverb bed he was having built in the basement.

15. Shellac playing on Halloween as the Sex Pistols (with David Yow as Johnny Rotten) and Steve wearing a handkerchief hat like Glen Matlock. Steve was amazed I could play full barre chords for so long. I never realized he didn’t play almost any barre chords. He said he never built up the stamina in his hand. On tour Traitors relentlessly made fun of Shellac because they had a Sex Pistols chord book to learn these three chord songs. I asked Steve to show me the chords to “Copper” once and he showed me these jazz chords and I said “can’t you just play it as barre chords like this?” And he said, “Where’s the fun in that?”

16. For some unknown reason, Traitors appealed to Steve. I remember one show he attended and in the midst of the usual sweaty drunken stupidity orgy that was our “music performance,” I saw him sitting in the back, drinking an espresso, with a big smile on his face. When we played with Shellac he always seemed to sit behind the Traitors merch reading a book so that anyone who wanted to talk to him had to look at our records first. We never discussed it, but I believe the now-famous silkscreened Electrical jumpsuits were inspired by the Traitors jumpsuits (you can see Steve wearing what was probably one of the first in the pic below. This was a sound check at Lounge Ax). We both liked the idea of putting on the work clothes to do the job of making music. Chicago in a nutshell. Godspeed Steve, it’s a real kick in the nuts when good, honest people go early while the evil asshats seem to live on and on.


NICK NOVAK

Steve Albini and Nick Novak. Photo by Tash Cox.

Nick Novak, Lead Engineer at Smashed Plastic, and Staff Engineer at Mystery Street Recording Company, once worked for Steve Albini at Electrical Audio. In his Facebook bio, Novak describes his role at that time as “Steve Albini’s Minion.” For Novak, Steve Albini was a great and generous mentor. Novak shared his reflections on the time:

I interned for Steve several years ago. I was there for maybe 7 months [2017-18].

I was very fortunate to have learned from him. He was always very generous with his knowledge. Any question he would have a very thorough and well thought out answer. Steve’s technical knowledge was incredible and he had no hesitation to share what he had learned over his decades in the studio. No question was a bad question to him. 

I don’t think Steve got the credit he deserved for how humble he was. He went to great lengths to not ever take or accept credit for the success of any project he had worked on. He saw himself as a facilitator for bands. His goal was to capture an accurate representation of the music and allow musicians to achieve what they wanted with their music. He refused to ever take any credit for other people’s art. 

He truly believed that every single client matters. When on the topic of how he handles working with major bands and artists he made it very clear that every client, big or small, should be treated the same. He felt he could be doing a “disservice” if he treated any of his clients differently from any other. This client could be recording for their first time ever, recording for the last time ever, or this could be their only opportunity ever to record. So he needed to treat every project, every client, with the same level of care, skill, and professionalism.

Steve was a person who showed me that you can run a business ethically in an industry that often isn’t. It was always his goal to serve the band. He made sure that everyone who entrusted their music with him got their money’s worth.

Steve was great. He was truly a “no dumb questions” guy. There’s nothing you could ask him that he wouldn’t give a thorough and well thought out response to. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from him.


DARYL WILSON, M.D.

Daryl Wilson, founding member and singer for The Bollweevils, is also a medical doctor in the emergency department at Edward Hospital in Naperville, IL. He sent us these recollections of Steve Albini, including the time The Bollweevils recorded with him:

The recording session was pure Albini. He believes you sound like you sound. Bob [original bass player Bob Skwerski], and Ken [guitar player Fitzner] were fighting the whole recording session. I was just fascinated talking to Albini about life and anything but music. He was big on everything being on physical media because he was adamant about things being real. Digital stuff was just vapor is what he was preaching. He is so right. He had me record vocals in a bathroom shower. The first mix sounded pretty good, then Albini hit some stuff on the board and the mix sounded horrible to Ken and Bob. He just said, “that’s how you sound”. I find that funny as hell looking at it. We played straight-up punk rock. We weren’t some 80s hair metal band or anything like that. What were we supposed to sound like? A punk band. He was spot on. RIP.

There are some great stories about him hearing our cover of Naked Raygun’s “I Lie”.  He was in Reckless Records and it was playing over the speakers.  He looked up and just shook his head. Hahah.

He called out folks on their bullshit and that is the best.  He was real.  100% of the time.  That is the most admirable quality a person can have.

STEVE SILVER

Writer Steve Silver and Steve Albini had a complicated relationship at the start. But eventually, it was one of mutual respect. Silver recalls the invaluable advice he received from Albini.

Steve and I did not like each other when we met. For sure. I was the muscle head door guy at Exit and he was the pretentious prick band guy who wrote nasty shit in fanzines. 

But those were titles other people had saddled us with, and soon after we met through mutual pals, he was the first to drop the curtain on all that foolishness.  He decided I was ok, and I did the same for him, because we actually talked about dumb shit, and we liked that the other guy wasn’t backing down from his opinion. 

He told me once he pushed people just to see if they would blink because he was using his intelligence OR band shit to intimidate them. And if he did cave too easily, he never really forgave that much. He liked strong opinions. He and other people. 

I sit in a weird spot in all of this. I wasn’t what I would ever call close to Steve, we just knew each other forever. And it wasn’t always fun being around me. I had some bad years of my own doing and I sort of disappeared for a lot of years. But, when we reconnected, it was nice and Steve actually at the beginning of our reunion, said he had no idea how bad I had been and he was so glad I could put it behind me. Which was really my first time noticing that HE had really changed for the better since our long-ago days.

Everyone is talking about how Steve would do the most unexpected, nice things to help musicians and engineers get better at the craft. Or, how he would answer the phone or door at his studio and spend a ton of time giving his perspective on things (I think he hated to use the word advice, it sounded condescending to him I think) but the world is filled now with stories like this about him. 

Steve and I never, ever had that kind of relationship for a simple reason…..I wasn’t in a band, I was never going to produce or engineer music. I did a long stretch as a roadie or security for a bunch of bands, then I became a tour manager. It’s going to sound too simple, but the truth of the matter is, we never were going to need anything from each other like that, and I think it freed us up to just be our idiot selves when we were young and appreciate where we were when we reconnected later in life. 

Here’s the funny part though….. he did completely ALBINI me at a time when I really needed it.

I had just finished writing my first book, and because it was a DIY publishing thing, and because I had no fucking idea how things worked in the business of being a writer, after it came out, other than Facebook, I had no way of getting it out there. 

I sent Steve to the book page on Facebook and he wrote back in seconds that he was happy I had finally done it. And he asked how it was going. And I told him bookstores didn’t want me to do events and literary events only cared about letting writers with publishing deals do their showcases. I was basically lost with what to do next. I should have been out of my mind with happiness and I was so fucking angry and frustrated I couldn’t see straight.

He asks me…“you want to be famous or do you want to be a writer?” 

A writer. 

He proceeds to explain to me that I have the opportunity to do the whole punk rock work ethic thing but for my book. He reminds me of how the first punk shows weren’t in established places, we used gay bars or rented cheap nights in the week at VFW halls and bowling alley lounges. We made our spots until it made sense for the people with money to let bands play at their places or sell the records. He tells me, I am sitting on a goldmine that is only available to me as a writer and really no one else. “You know everyone who owns nightclubs and bars. You know some gallery owners. you know all the bands from the old days. Read there, tell stories before they go on, MAKE THE SPOT FOR YOURSELF.” 

And, I do. Slowly but surely. And one night at Live Wire he catches a few minutes towards the end of my reading. Smiles at me and says “I fucking told you so!” 

He continues to give me the same as he gives bands…. “Do it yourself, don’t follow the money, own the entire process. DON’T SIGN ANYTHING with a publisher who says they know what’s best to sell you. Fuck that.

Write, tell stories, pester your friends to open, sell books at bars, sell your t-shirts. Build what you want on your own. 

When he first told me this stuff, I told Claudia my wife and editor, a writer of her own, and she lit up immediately. She knew he was right. He fucking was. 

And later, he would tell me, “All these writers running around, you have something the will never have. 

He was fucking right. Again. 

We chatted online a bit. We got into fights with trolls on Twitter a lot, which I loved and when my friend John invited me to Bluesky. John was my first connection and Steve was my second. I didn’t add anyone else for months.

Recently, I was asked to tell some stories before Deep Tunnel Project played for the vinyl release of their album. It was a huge honor for me. John Mohr is an old friend and this record is as Chicago as fuck. John had a lot to do with the trajectory of my new book, and that happened at the service for our old friend John Kezdy after I spoke. 

And then, four days before that show, Steve passed away. The world, especially Chicago was stunned. A huge hole was ripped out of our lives and we were adrift in disbelief and absolute shock. 

The four guys in Deep Tunnel Project were all very close to Steve, had all worked, played, argued, and yelled with him for decades. Actual friends. Lifelong.

We weren’t sure that the show would happen. The decision was made by the band to go ahead.

And that’s how I found myself in a great record store, packed to the rafters, band standing right there, telling some Steve stories, and just some in general stories I thought fit. I spoke for what seemed an eternity, hoping to ease some pain. Then, the band played this amazing set of beautiful, loud, magnificent music that has Chicago and Steve stamped all over it. A grown-up punk rock gathering that helped everyone there heal a little bit.

John Mohr used the word “prescient” several times to describe that show that day. 

First of all, nice to have a smart rockstar around. 

Secondly, and more importantly, he was right. 

And, because Steve was Steve, he really did set those wheels in motion. If I never do anything else with my writing, I will have that day when we all came together and healed a tiny bit. Just a tiny bit. 

He’s going to be missed. He already is. His kindness and generosity will never be forgotten, and we all will try our best to pay back the debt we owe him. 

Im gonna miss that Jagoff. You are too.

Yes, we will.

One more thing to add: in 2015 Steve Albini wrote about Christmas with his wife Heather Whinna and how Letters to Santa came about. Whinna is the president of the non-profit whose mission statement is:

Poverty Alleviation Chicago is a nonprofit organization on a mission to use Art as a conduit to transform passive compassion into immediate assistance through the distribution of money given, without expectation or judgment, directly to families experiencing poverty.”

All of us at Dying Scene extend our deepest condolences to Steve’s wife, Heather Whinna, and all of his family and friends.

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DS Show Review & Gallery: Off With Their Heads, The Bollweevils, and Lost Legion – Chicago (12.10.2023)

It is often forgotten that activism is an essential element of punk culture. While, yes, we enjoy complaining about the system and bringing awareness to personal and social injustices, actively doing something to address them is what this is all about. On the second Sunday of December, Chicago’s legendary Liar’s Club hosted a sold-out show […]

It is often forgotten that activism is an essential element of punk culture. While, yes, we enjoy complaining about the system and bringing awareness to personal and social injustices, actively doing something to address them is what this is all about.

On the second Sunday of December, Chicago’s legendary Liar’s Club hosted a sold-out show to raise funds for KT’s Kids, a Chicago non-profit that specializes in providing kids and youths with disabilities with fun and enriching activities such as field trips, camps, and holiday parties throughout the year. You can learn more about how to support KT’s Kids by checking out their website

During this particularly warm(ish) winter evening, people were waiting outside before the sold-out event even started. Some had their tickets ready, others were waiting in case a spot opened up to get in.


The first band opening that evening was Lost Legion. These guys were not playing around; they were loud, aggressive, and put on one hell of a show. The lead singer kept the crowd engaged and fired up, while the rest of the band had us all headbanging to some great tunes. Had it not been early, you would have thought they were a headliner band.


The next band needed no introduction as everyone at the venue seemed to either know them personally or at the very least of them. The Bollweevils made their way onto the stage and the crowd immediately knew it was time to party. In between the in-band bickering over the set list order and friendly banter with the spectators, The Bollweevils delivered a performance that proved that these experienced punks still got it. 


Frontman and birthday boy of the evening, Daryl ‘The Doc’, showed us that you do not need to be in your twenties to jump around and keep up with punk music’s fast tempo. Showing off some strong knees, Daryl kept the crowd entertained by jumping off the stage into the pit to give the chance to the fans to join him singing some of their classic songs. The rest of the band kept up as well, delivering a great and memorable performance.


The Bollweevils have been nominated for “Best Punk Band of Chicago” as well as “Best Local Album Of The Year” by The Chicago Reader. If you enjoy their music, you can support them (as well as other artists and venues) by voting in the poll.


The last band of the evening, Off With Their Heads, swiftly took over the venue and made it their own for the rest of the evening. The gruff-punk trio originally from Minnesota truly put on a great show; no wonder they have been able to do this for over two decades. 


Lead singer and guitarist Ryan Young as well as the rest of the punk power trio put on a solid performance going through songs from their extensive repertoire including songs from their album Home, which is one of those punk albums everyone should give a listen through at least once in their lives.


Head below to check out the full gallery of the evening, and do not forget to support KT’s Kids.


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Dying Scene Photo Gallery: Movements, Mannequin Pussy, Softcult, and Heart to Gold, Concord Music Hall, Chicago, Illinois (09/30/2023)

Movements was the headliner on this tour with an amazing opening performances by Mannequin Pussy, Softcult, and Heart to Gold. This was a SOLD OUT show at the Concord Music Hall. Movements is a post-hardcore band from California who recently released the Ruckus album in August 2023. The band is comprised of Joshua Swain – […]

Movements was the headliner on this tour with an amazing opening performances by Mannequin Pussy, Softcult, and Heart to Gold. This was a SOLD OUT show at the Concord Music Hall.


Movements is a post-hardcore band from California who recently released the Ruckus album in August 2023. The band is comprised of Joshua Swain – lead vocalist, guitarist, Jason Schmidt – bassist, Gary Jackson – drummer, Matt Goodwin – keyboardist and Kyle Jerome – saxophone and percussionist. Find them here for their next show.


Mannequin Pussy is an American punk and indie rock band from Philadelphia, formed in 2010. The band consists of Marisa “Missy” Dabice – lead vocalist and guitarist, Kaleen Reading – drummer, Colins “Bear” Regisford – bassist, and Maxine Steen- guitarist. Marisa’s energy on stage was contagious and the audience were not disappointed. If you have the chance to see them, please do. Find them here before they go overseas.


Softcult is a Canadian grunge duo consisting of twin siblings Phoenix – drummer and Mercedes Arn-Horn – vocalist and guitarist. The duo are known for their melding of grunge with shoegaze, as well as their DIY and riot grrrl-inspired ethics. The band’s most recent EP, See You in the Dark, was released on March 24, 2023. Find them here next.


Heart to Gold is a punk rock band from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The band is comprised of Grant Whiteoak – guitarist/ vocalist, Sidian Johnson – bassist, and Blake Kuether – drummer. Check them out here.

Check out the Movements Photo Gallery below.

Check out the Mannequin Pussy Photo Gallery below.

Check out the Softcult Photo Gallery below.

Check out the Heart to Gold Photo Gallery below.

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Extraterrestrials 

Minneapolis, MN

“Extraterrestrials is a real band, with real needs, feelings, and expectations.”