On the record:
Time Out Chicago: After a long, quiet stretch, Shellac is playing six Midwest shows. Is there a new album coming?
Steve Albini: Eventually. We work at a rather slow pace, with a record every three to five years. But we still wanted to go out and function as a band. We did one session last year that we were happy with, and we'll do another after the tour.
Bob Weston: We play better in the studio after playing a few shows, and we haven't played Chicago in a while. And since we're playing here, we might as well play Milwaukee and Minneapolis, too.
TOC: Shellac formed in 1990. Did you think the band would last this long?
SA: We do Shellac because we enjoy it, like some people enjoy skiing or tying strings on flies. I could see it going on for 100 years, but probably not past that.
BW: This is a hobby only—something we do away from work. Shellac feels like a young band because of the long breaks between periods of activity. Some bands practice three times a week, whereas we might practice three times in six months, whenever we can get together. That's why we never get bored with it.
TOC: How's the local music scene doing?
SA: No matter how many obstacles are put in their way, musicians here are always willing to make things happen. There is a commitment to it that can't be burned out. Chicago is renowned for its music scene, but the city is cutting it in the throat by making it so hard to open venues.
BW: It's true. The city has been clamping down for the last six or seven years, making it hard for new clubs to get a liquor license. It's as if they want all of Chicago's nightlife to exist along Rush Street. But there are still so many great bands here in spite of it, like Quatre Tete, Tight Phantomz and Pinebender. I moved here 13 years ago and I can't see myself anywhere else.
TOC: What's your favorite club to play in Chicago?
SA: Definitely Lounge Ax. It will be missed on an insurmountable scale, because of the bands who played there and the people who ran it. It was an experience that will never be replicated.
BW: We prefer nontraditional venues, like a loft or Centrum Hall [a small theater at Division and Ashland]. Renting the space and PA, printing our own posters and tickets...it makes it something other than just another night at a club. But every place we looked at this time fell through, so we're playing Bottom Lounge and Martyrs'. Everyone says, "Why are you playing Martyrs'?" It's no place anyone thought we'd ever play, so that makes it unique.
TOC: Heard any good rumors about yourselves?
BW: Only about Steve, like he's a crazy misogynist or that the songs are all autobiographical. Come on, people. It's called fiction.
SA: I heard I'd died about ten years ago. You can decide for yourself.—Ben Taylor
Shellac plays Bottom Lounge Friday 15 and three shows at Martyrs' on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17.