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Poker Stories Podcast With Steve Albini

by Julio Rodriguez |  Published: Apr 22, 2020

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Poker Stories is a long-form audio podcast series that features casual interviews with some of the game’s best players and personalities. Each episode highlights a well-known member of the poker world and dives deep into their favorite tales both on and off the felt.

Age: 58
Lives: Chicago, Illinois
Live Tournament Earnings: $166,519

Poker Accomplishments

June 2018 — $1500 WSOP Stud — 1st Place — $105,629

Steve Albini is regarded as one of the top recording engineers in the world, and has been creating music with his bands Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac, since 1981. As the owner of Electrical Audio in Chicago, Albini has produced thousands of albums and has worked with numerous notable acts such as Nirvana, Bush, The Pixies, The Breeders, Chevelle, PJ Harvey, Joanna Newsom, Jawbreaker, Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, and Cheap Trick.

Despite having his name on some of the most memorable indie rock albums ever made, Albini chooses not to collect royalties and instead earns a flat rate for his time, leaving more cash on the table for the artists themselves. As a result, he has been relying on poker to supplement his income. For several years, Albini has been competing in a regular low-stakes home game that includes several World Series of Poker bracelet winners, including Brandon Shack-Harris, Eric Rodawig, Jason Gola, Matt Ashton, and Matt Grapenthien. Albini has WSOP cashes dating back to 2010, and in 2018, he earned a bracelet of his own, taking down the $1,500 stud event for $105,629.

Highlights from this interview include mixed games with Norman Chad, fires so big they make their own weather, The Problem With Music, go-go with Dave Grohl, balancing time for touring, engineering, and poker, ignoring his day job for Bill Withers, Bush’s surprising American success, the stacked game above a bakery, whammy cards, being ethically poorer than he should be, working differently than Phil Spector and Brian Wilson, Jeff Lisandro reads from Matt Ashton, wearing a guitar like a belt, quitting drummers and nude singers, prank calling Gene Simmons for Kurt Cobain, cured bacon, Krakow poker, being 3% gamble, the problem with circular glasses, Fun House by The Stooges, tar targets in concrete bunkers, and the Krispy Kreme donuts at Gwen Stefani’s wedding.

The Transcript Highlights

On Prank Calling Gene Simmons For Kurt Cobain

Julio Rodriguez: I read in an interview that you used to prank call celebrities.

Steve Albini: Not just celebrities… but they were by far the most fun. When I was in the studio with Nirvana, their management company said that Gene Simmons was working on a Kiss tribute album, and he wants [them] to do it. And they did NOT want to do it.
There was a phone number where they could call Gene Simmons back to talk to him, but Kurt was like, ‘I don’t want to talk to this fucking guy.’ And Krist Novoselic says, ‘I’m not talking to him.’

So I said, ‘I’ll talk to him!’

So we called Gene Simmons, and I pretended to be Kurt Cobain. I told him that a lot of the decision making wasn’t in ‘my’ hands and it was because ‘I’ hadn’t been making good decisions. This was after there had been a big drug scare… And I just kept him on the hook for a long time.

He was trying to commune with the band, rattling off the names of bands that he thought would impress them. These were either bands that were going to participate in the tribute album, or bands that they would be familiar with. And one of the bands was the Melvins, which is a band from their town that they had grown up with and were friends with.

And there was another band from the northwest, a very influential punk band from Portland called the Wipers, who I knew were a particular favorite of Nirvana. So I asked Gene Simmons if he was familiar with the Wipers, and he said, (doing his best Simmons impersonation) ‘I don’t know the Wipers. I know the Melvins, I don’t know the Wipers!’

JR: Did you ever let on who you were?

SA: No. But for months after that, Bob Weston, who was the assistant engineer in that session and is in the band Shellac with me, whenever anything absurd happened, somebody would say, ‘I don’t know the Wipers. I know the Melvins, I don’t know the Wipers!’

On The Kripsy Kreme Donuts Served At A Celebrity Wedding

JR: What can you tell me about Gwen Stefani’s wedding?

SA: It was lavish. This was her wedding to Gavin Rossdale. They had tablecloths made with their monogram on it. A tennis court with their monogram painted in the middle of it. It was the two ‘Gs’, for Gwen and Gavin, hooked together.

There were gift bags for all of the guests at the wedding that included an umbrella, because it started raining. When you got to the [venue], there were valets that would take your car and park them. When you left, they would summon your car from the valet, and inside each car, was a fresh box of Krispy Kreme donuts.

JR: What? That’s awesome.

SA: How good is that? What a nice surprise on the way out.

When we were at the wedding there were all of these music business people everywhere, and you could see they were kind of jockeying for position. Like, ‘Why am I at this table instead of over there with Jimmy Iovine?’ There was a lot of that going on. We actually had some people leave our table and go schmooze their way to a better table. You know, everybody was networking non-stop.

But there were all of these little monogrammed trinkets on the table. There was an ashtray, a book of matches, a candy box, napkins, everything monogrammed… and my wife was just shoveling that shit into her purse. (laughing)

The charming thing about my lovely wife, Heather Whinna, is that she was doing it, knowing that it was a trash thing to do. But she was going to do it!

On the way out, she opened her purse and proudly showed Gavin. ‘Look at all this shit I got!’ ♠

You can check out the entirety of the interview in the audio player at the top of the page or download it directly to your device to play on the go from Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Google Play, Spotify, or your favorite podcast app.

Catch up on past episodes featuring notables such as Doyle Brunson, Daniel Negreanu, Bryn Kenney, Justin Bonomo, Antonio Esfandiari, Nick Schulman, Barry Greenstein, Michael Mizrachi, Mike Sexton, Brian Rast, Jean-Robert Bellande, Jamie Gold, Chris Moneymaker, Maria Ho, and many more. If you like what you hear, be sure to subscribe to get the latest episodes automatically when they are released.