Nirvana Producer Recalls $100,000 Gamble Over ‘In Utero’
Producer Steve Albini recalled the moment he challenged Nirvana to a bet, with his fee for producing their 1993 album In Utero at risk.
The night before recording began, he told them that if any one of them beat him in a game of pool, he’d forego the $100,000 payment he was about to earn in the studio – but if he won, the band would have to double the amount. None of the trio accepted the offer, with Dave Grohl later saying: “Anyone who’s got the stones to gamble something that large must be amazing, so everyone said no. Plus, he had his own stick. We didn’t want to fuck around with that.”
In a new interview with Kerrang!, Albini revealed he wasn’t surprised with the outcome. “I did that with every band I worked with, and no one ever took me up on the offer,” he said. “It’s not like I’m a particularly good pool player, but I have an equal chance of winning in a fair game. Ultimately, it wasn’t going to make that much difference to my life if I got double the money for the session or worked for free. But I guess Nirvana were a little more risk-averse than I was.”
Even though that bid to win $100,000 failed in 1993, he pocketed the same amount after winning a professional poker tournament in 2018. “It’s a fascinating game, and it stimulates my brain, but if I didn’t make money from it, I wouldn’t do it,” he said. “It’s become a significant part of my income, and I rely on it as part of my livelihood. I don’t do it for amusement.”
Albini also recalled that he was careful in the way he approached Kurt Cobain during the In Utero sessions. “I didn’t try to become a bosom buddy of his, because I knew that everyone around him was trying to weasel their way into his world parasitically, and I wanted him to know that he didn’t have to worry about that with me,” he said.
“I never pressed him for any personal intimacy. But I got to see him at work, and I saw that he was extremely serious about his music, and his passion was genuine. I think that’s what people responded to, because he had a distinctive voice. I grew to respect him as an artist and as a person.”