According to The Quietus, Powell originally approached the Shellac co-founder to obtain permission to use a brief sample from a recording of a Big Black gig in London from 1987. Albini was at that time the band’s frontman and introduces the song L-Dopa with the words, “This song is about sleeping sickness” (see footage below). Powell has used the line along with Albini shouting “one, two … one, two, fuck you” in his forthcoming XL track, Insomnia.
While Albini granted Powell approval to use the sample, he then had a few choice words to say about electronic music in general – words which XL and agency Diabolical have turned into a billboard (again, with Albini’s permission) which is now on display on London’s Commercial Street.
“I am absolutely the wrong audience for this kind of music,” Albini writes in his email to Powell. “I’ve always detested mechanized dance music, its stupid simplicity, the clubs where it was played, the people who went to those clubs, the drugs they took, the shit they liked to talk about, the clothes they wore, the battles they fought amongst each other.”
Albini, who owns the Chicago studio Electrical Audio, goes on to say that he favours electronic artists like “White Noise, Xenakis, Suicide, Kraftwerk, and the earliest stuff form Cabaret Voltaire, SPK and DAF. When that scene and those people got co-opted by dance/club music I felt like we’d lost a war. I detest club culture as deeply as I detest anything on earth,” he continues.
Having declared that he hasn’t been able to listen to Powell’s track – which, from the version posted at factmag.com does have a scuzzy, Suicide-like grain which might even appeal – Albini signs off with: “So I am against what you’re into, and an enemy of where you come from but I have no problem with what you’re doing. In other words, you’re welcome to do whatever you like with whatever of mine you’ve gotten your hands on. Don’t care. Enjoy yourself.”
The Quietus reports that Powell replied, mentioned that the vocal sample had been cleared with Touch & Go and enquired as to whether he could use their emails in the video for the track. Ambivalent again, Albini replied with “Still don’t care,” say TQ. A video is yet to emerge, but the billboard is certainly getting people talking.
Here’s Albini in Big Black introducing L-Dopa in 1987 (contains a brief swear as noted above):