Friday, September 7, 2007


Rick Rubin is one of my favorite producers ever, and I think he is a positive force for music. His partnership with Johnny Cash yielded a bunch of classic albums and introduced The Man In Black to a new generation. He helped redefine The Red Hot Chili Peppers with their classic BloodSugarSexMagik album, and he's produced all of their albums since then. He had a good run working with Tom Petty - and even though he didn't work on Tom's last album, he released it on Rick's American Recordings label. He was the right guy at the right time for The Dixie Chicks. He's produced some of my favorite albums by L.L. Cool J and Run-DMC, he even coaxed a great solo album out of Mick Jagger, and he's done great stuff with Slayer and Audioslave among many others. I can't wait to hear the new Metallica album that he's producing. Everyone should be so open-minded as Rick Rubin.

That said, not everyone loves the guy. I got to interview the members of The Bangles once, and they talked about working with him on their cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade Of Winter" for the Less Than Zero soundtrack. They sort of mentioned that he wasn't in the studio that often, and when the band came up with the synth heavy intro to the song, Rick didn't like it, and took his name off of the production credits for the track. Which was fine with the ladies.

I've also had the opportunity to interview Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC's Angus Young: I think Rick was supposed to be producing an album for Oz and it didn't work out. Ozzy isn't used to Rubin's lay-on-the-couch-and-listen technique. Rick did produce some stuff for AC/DC (who he's said is his favorite rock group), but I didn't get the impression that they thought much of the experience. Still, Rick Rubin's pluses outweigh his minuses by far.

But can he save the music business as this issue of The New York Times Magazine asks? I don't know about that one. I mean, it's great an actual music guy is being put in charge of a record label (he's co-president of Columbia Records). On the other hand, he doesn't ever have to go to the office, he can still produce records for artists on other record labels (and they aren't small records - he's producing Metallica, he'll probably do the next Chili Peppers album), and he seems to disdain coroporate culture (who can blame him, but still). Can you imagine going on a job interview and saying, "Well, I'm not ever coming to the office, I can do as much freelance work as I want for your competitors, and don't try to define what I do." And then the interviewer saying, "Great! Can we pay you a ton of money?" But the man has earned his place - it will be interesting to see what he does with the label.

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