‘In Utero’ Producer Offered Nirvana $100K Bet in Game of Pool
Nirvana paid producer Steve Albini $100,000 to oversee their In Utero album, but there was an offer on the table from Albini where they might not have had to pay him a cent. As the story goes, Albini offered a bet that if any of the three band members beat him in a game of pool, he'd work for free but if they lost they'd double his salary.
The story was recently revisited during an interview with Albini for Kerrang! “We were paying him $100,000,” Dave Grohl once recalled. “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.”
When asked about the bet, Albini recalled, “I did that with every band I worked with, and no-one ever took me up on the offer."
He continued, "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.”
Reflecting on his time with Nirvana, Albini says he was careful in how he approached the group and in particular Kurt Cobain. “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. So I never pressed him for any personal intimacy," said the producer, before offering his personal take. "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.”
While the pool bet was not accepted by Nirvana, they should probably consider themselves lucky it wasn't poker that was on the table. The producer revealed, “I play poker for money. It’s a fascinating game, and it stimulates my brain, but if I didn’t make money from it, I wouldn’t do it. 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.”