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Music

Butch Vig selects the album that "started and ended punk rock"

Butch Vig is a legend of the music industry, and his contributions have been monumental. Without his efforts, the 1990s as we know them would have been completely different, which gives you a measure of his significance. 

Vig is most famous for acting as the producer of Nirvana’s second album, 1991’s Nevermind, which features tracks such as ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and ‘In Bloom’, and is duly regarded as one of the best LP’s ever released. However, he’s so much more than just the studio wizard that brought Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic, and Dave Grohl to the masses.

Aside from the aforementioned grunge masterpiece, Vig has also produced a string of stellar albums. Ostensibly a rock producer, he’s been the brains behind the mixing desk for Smashing Pumpkins‘ Gish and Siamese Dream, Sonic Youth’s Dirty, AFI’s Sing the Sorrow, Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light as well as a host of other albums, including the later Green Day best-seller, 21st Century Breakdown

However, Vig’s career has not just been confined to the control booth. Along with helping to create some of the best rock albums of the ’90s, he also played in Garbage, one of the most notable acts of the decade. Ironically, it was actually because of the number of standardised rock bands he’d recorded over this period that convinced him to form his own band and, in a sense, to do things differently. 

The album Butch Vig is most proud of producing

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Vig told Billboard in 2011: “Part of the reason why I started Garbage was that by the time I’d done Nevermind, I’d recorded – I swear to God – 1,000 bands that were just guitar-bass-drums. I was reading about all these other records that I was getting excited about – like Public Enemy using a sampler in the studio – and I just decided I wanted to do a bit of a U-turn.”

Even though Vig and Garbage would undertake some brilliant moments of experimentation, he never forgets where he came from; a punk background. Given his connection to the grunge movement, which was partially borne out of the punk scene, it’s a genre he’s been asked about frequently over the years.

Speaking to Louder Sound in 2015 Vig discussed the ten records which changed his life, and as one of them he picked New York punks Ramones’ eponymous 1976 debut album, positing that it’s the album that “started and ended punk rock”.

He explained: “It’s the album that started and ended punk rock, the definitive word. Two, two-and-a-half minute pop songs with shout-along choruses, dead-simple production and guitar playing. Nothing more was needed.”

“I don’t think there’s any punk band before or since that will equal the Ramones. For me and a lot of fans, this is the album that kicked the whole thing off. So many of the British bands that came out of punk saw the Ramones on their first tour. After the Ramones played in the UK, suddenly the country had 200 punk bands. They were all trying to do what the Ramones were already doing.”

Vig concluded: “The production is groundbreaking. It’s lo-fi, but it sounds brilliant, so on that level it’s influential. But that wouldn’t matter if the songs weren’t there, and these songs are tremendous. The Ramones wrote wonderfully hooky pop songs, and they played them hard and fast.”

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