Hardcore Humanism Podcast Interview With Steve Albini

What we can learn from the punk rock mind.

Posted Jul 14, 2020

After years of writing about my interviews with compelling individuals, I'm thrilled to now be able to share the actual conversations with you on the Hardcore Humanism Podcast. Each week, we will be celebrating, talking with, and learning from an outside-the-box thinker—musicians, artists, writers, activists, and entrepreneurs who challenged conventional norms, discovered their life’s purpose and dared to put that purpose into action. And throughout the week, we will be sharing content on Psychology Today based on these interviews—podcast, articles, and a self-help video.

This week we interviewed Steve Albini. I had first interviewed Steve back in 2015 for Psychology Today and he has been a huge influence on me, the way I think, and how I practice as a clinical psychologist and life coach. Steve is a founding member of seminal punk rock bands such as Big Black and Shellac. He also founded Electrical Audio—an independent DIY recording studio. Over the years, Steve has recorded hundreds of punk rock artists, as well as other artists such as Nirvana, The Pixies, and Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

But perhaps even more importantly, Steve has been a fierce advocate of the art, craft, and ethics of punk rock culture. And even if you don’t listen to punk rock music and are not an active part of the punk rock community, there is a great deal that anyone can learn from listening to Steve’s story.

Check out the podcast for the whole conversation—but here are a few important psychological concepts to consider beforehand.

First and foremost, Steve explains in the interview his approach to life as an open-minded individual. Research suggests that open-minded thinkers are happier and more creative. But Steve explains how the punk rock community is not simply about being open-minded—it’s about being anti-stigma. Stigma on a range of issues, from personality style to interests and mental health—can be incredibly damaging emotionally. Steve explains how he was able to resist self-stigma and was able to apply that open-minded approach to his interactions with others.

Next, Steve clearly found his purpose in punk rock music and culture. Purpose—understanding and striving for what gives our lives meaning—has been identified as a key ingredient in living a longer and more productive life. Living with an overarching purpose is associated with healthier behaviors, as well as improved stress management. Punk rock has clearly provided Steve with an ongoing sense of purpose that has manifested both in his music as well as his do-it-yourself (DIY) approach to his business as a recording engineer.

Finally, Steve explains how being open-minded and accepting in combination with a strong sense of purpose has allowed him to develop a strong community in punk rock. Research suggests that strong social connections are associated with improved mental and physical health. For example, a recent meta-analysis of 148 studies showed that strong social relationships predict lower mortality comparable to other known risk factors.

Whether you are a Steve Albini fan, a punk rock fan, or just someone interested in listening to and learning from inspirational people—check out my conversation with Steve on the Hardcore Humanism Podcast on HardcoreHumanism.com, Apple Podcasts or your favorite podcast app.