Remembering Two Behind-the-Scenes Visionaries Who Reshaped Our Culture

Posted on May 16, 2024

by Eric P

Within two days of each other last week, two toweringly influential figures in American popular culture died. And most people probably wouldn’t recognize either one’s name. Steve Albini, who died on May 7 at the age of 61, was a musician in noisy postpunk bands like Big Black, but the indelible impression he made on American culture came via his role in the sound booth, as the producer and engineer on albums by some of the most iconic alternative rock acts in the industry. And Roger Corman, who died May 9 at the age of 98, was a trailblazing film director and producer who made independent movies back when the term “independent movies” didn’t mean “Sundance” and “art house” so much as it did “teenage caveman” and “crab monster.”

Both were behind-the-scenes auteurs with outsized influence. Both gave boosts to early-career collaborators who eventually became household names. Both approached their art with a seasoned pragmatism, a casual anti-authoritarianism, and a scrappy sense of integrity.

Albini said he’d work with any band that could pay his modest fee; Corman would make any movie he could manage to cobble together with the resources at hand. Albini advised musicians to ignore the corporate suits at the label; Corman refused to get vacuumed up by the studio system. Albini strived to engineer each album for posterity, while Corman was just trying to get the film in the can by tomorrow. Some of the albums Albini shaped are timeless classics; none of Corman’s movies are. But both men transformed their chosen industries. Without Roger Corman’s mentorship, we wouldn’t have Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola or Ron Howard; without Steve Albini, we wouldn’t have hundreds of bands all trying to sound like the Pixies.

Here are five movies and five albums you should check out if you want to find out what these behind-the-scenes iconoclasts were all about.

A Bucket of Blood

hoopla video   |   Kanopy

The Terror

hoopla video   |   Kanopy

X: The Man With the X-Ray Eyes


Neurosis, Times of Grace


Low, Things We Lost in the Fire


Joanna Newsom, Ys

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