Steve Albini may be best known to many as a prolific recording engineer and producer, having worked with such hallowed acts as Nirvana, Cheap Trick, PJ Harvey, The Stooges, The Breeders, and more. But he’s had an impact as a musician, too, through his participation in such bands as Big Black and the minimalist rock trio Shellac. Australian musician and feminist Evelyn Morris has been heavily influenced by Shellac, finding that the anger in the group’s songs gave her an outlet for her own long-suppressed rage. She opened for the band at some Australian shows and was gratified to be treated as a peer by her musical heroes. Following a traumatic incident of sexual coercion in her own life, Morris found that she was having an extremely visceral reaction to “You Came In Me,” a satirical track from Shellac’s 2014 album Dude Incredible. Morris decided to talk to Albini about music, feminism, and other topics in a detailed interview at her own site, Listen.
In the interview, Albini talks thoughtfully and at length about the sexism inherent in rock and the world in general, and how he and Shellac have addressed that through their music. “You Came In Me” is a parody of a particular kind of male thinking, as is “Prayer To God.” For now, Albini is relieved that the band’s music has not been tragically misinterpreted. “I am pleased that as of yet nobody has pretended we are championing this sort of thinking, as in the creepy-as-fuck Men’s Rights type shit,” Albini says, “and it has sparked some interesting discussions like this one.” He adds, however, that “sooner or later, I’ll have to answer for the protagonist in the song.” Though he says he’s tried to be “an ally in feminism,” he does not try to write from a female point of view, saying that to do so would amount to ”minstrelsy.” He recognizes, too, that his lyrics can have a traumatic effect on listeners, as they did for Morris. But it’s a risk he’s willing to take:
I appreciate that some of this is playing with fire, and if I’m going to do that, I am obliged to do it in a way that is both responsible (respects the truth) and worth the risk (not capricious, not frivolous). If these defenses of offensive material are going to have any meaning, I should be specific. I’ll outline the sexual/power content of several songs, what was on my mind when we wrote them and what I think about them now.