Obits — February 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm

Iain Burgess, recording engineer and key figure in ’80s ‘Chicago sound,’ dies in France

Iain Burgess

Iain Burgess, a studio engineer renowned for his role in the ’80s Chicago punk underground and a major influence on and mentor to Steve Albini, died Thursday morning in France of a pulmonary embolism stemming from liver and pancreatic cancer, Albini’s Electrical Audio studios reports.

A U.K. native who relocated to Chicago, Burgess recorded such acts as Albini’s Big Black and Shellac, Ministry, Naked Raygun, Cows and Poster Children. He relocated to the Anjou region of France in 1993 and opened the Black Box Recording Studio with Peter Deimel. As PrefixMag.com notes, “Burgess basically invented the concept of an album ‘engineer’ vs. an album ‘producer’ and was a huge influence on  basically anyone who had anything to do with Steve Albini and Chicago’s Electrical Audio studio.”

A post on Electrical Audio’s forum eulogizes:

“If there is a ‘Chicago sound,’ its foremost recording engineer died today. Iain Burgess, Weymouth, U.K. native and proponent of the ‘huge bigness’ live-centered recording approach found on important rock records throughout the ’80s and ’90s, reportedly passed away today in France. He had been recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Iain was a great and generous guy and had a hell of an ear. Raise a glass (or several) for him.”

This afternoon, Albini posted that he visited the ailing Burgess at his French studio in January, “he was in good spirits and essentially the same guy we’ve always known. From the conversation I had with Dave Odlum, who works and lives at Black Box, the doctors said every indication was that Iain’s passing was peaceful.”

Albini adds:

“Iain was a dear friend and mentor, and I consider him responsible for a good many of the best things that have ever happened to me. As is the case when someone important dies, I find it hard to imagine the world without him. Black Box survives as a testament and monument to Iain’s imagination and perseverance. It’s in the running for the best place on earth to make a record.”

Finally, a poster on the Modern-Radio.com message board who says he roomed with Burgess in Chicago in the ’80s shares his memories, writing, “Iain was a joy to be around and seemed to cloak his affection for people in a spiky balloon of good natured ribbing and jabs. … If there’s a bright side, it’s that he did exactly what he loved doing, exactly where he wanted to do it for the last years of his life.”

A funeral is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 19.

3 Comments

  1. John Walker

    R.I.P – You will be missed.

  2. jennifer burgess

    iain was my 1st. cousin whom i hadnt seen for over twenty years. we shared a flat together in bristol england for sometime and a flat on a farm at grittleton wiltshire. he was a very observant indvidual who cut to the chase with his dealings with others. iain had a remarkable sense of humour and was never deliberately unkind to anyone. his misical interest was fostered by my own a professional jazz musician of some note. iain and i exchanged letters across the pond for many a year.
    i was responsible for naming his only child who was declared by iain to be my unoffical god daughter. i would love to contact her sometime.
    the obituaries were kind but o that terrible photo!!
    jennifer burgess

    • Jennifer Taylor

      Hi Jennifer, We knew Iain very well when we lived in Aurora, Il, he in Schaumburg Il (sp). He came to visit us in Ohio a few years later but that visit didn’t end well. We lost track of him. We were sad to find he had died. I used to also be friends with his exwife and daughter (who looks so like him!) but always wonder what happened to Clive and his family. If you find this I hope you get in touch with me.

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