Steve Albini recalls the secrecy around the Nirvana In Utero sessions: "I had to do everything I could to keep it under wraps to make sure that we didn’t get overrun by fans and the added nonsense"

Nirvana In Utero cover
(Image credit: Nirvana)

When Nirvana de-camped 50 miles outside Minneapolis at Pachyderm studio with recording engineer Steve Albini in February 1993 they were already a very big deal thanks to their second album Nevermind. So much so that Albini decided to book the band in under an alias.

“We had to make sure that word didn’t get out," he tells NME in a new interview. "The studio was an independent studio and there was only a small number of people working there. I didn’t really want to trust them with the secret, so I booked the studio on my account under the pseudonym the ‘Simon Ritchie Band’, which was of course Sid Vicious’ real name."

Even the studio's owners didn't know Nirvana was coming until emblazoned flight cases turned up. But despite the band's profile, the producer maintains the sessions were relatively normal.

“There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about the sessions,” he adds. “I mean, apart from them being extremely famous. I had to do everything I could to keep it under wraps to make sure that we didn’t get overrun by fans and the added nonsense. That was the only thing that was weird about it.”

One unexpected factor was a guitar connection Albini found out that he had with Kurt Cobain – something he didn't even know about until the Nirvana songwriter reminded him.

“When my band Big Black did a farewell tour years before the In Utero sessions, the final show was in some industrial space in Seattle,” Albini remembers. “It was in a weird building with a makeshift stage. It was a cool gig and at the end we smashed up all of our gear. I distinctly recall some kid asking me if he could take a piece of my guitar off the stage and me saying,  ‘Go ahead it's garbage now’.

You can guess where this is heading… 

“Many years later when we were working on In Utero at the studio in Minnesota, Kurt showed me this little piece of this guitar that he had saved. He had brought it with him after all those years. He had been that kid.”

You can watch Albini smash the guitar in question in front of the audience with Cobain during the video above at the 51-minute mark. 

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.