Although there are many I admire in the recording industry, the one person most influential to my production style would have to be Rick Rubin. He is a hit-maker, a diamond-miner, a mad scientist. He is like a top chef - with an uncanny knack for combining the right ingredients. In Rick's kitchen the menu constantly changes, but it's always a satisfying meal.
And Rick will take risks. I remember when he played the Geto Boys for me for the first time. Here was a rap band in 1990 that wasn't singing about Nikes and booty. They were singing about murdering your grandmother. The music world was about to get turned on it's head, and Rick has continued to shake it up again and again. He is not pigeonholed to any specific genre. Look at his discography - from Beastie Boys to Dixie Chicks to Jay-Z to Adele to Slipknot. Holy cow that is all over the map. And he acknowledges the Legends of our music culture. Tipping the hat to the greats like Donovan, Neil Diamond and Johnny Cash. Not all commercial successes, but rightfully respected by his production efforts.
Rick Rubin knows "Production" with a capitol "P". He drives a machine that turns out great records, one after another. And the more he produces, the better his chances of something hitting big. Part of the reason why he has had so many big hitters. As a producer you can only do your best to find the right songs, get the good performances, make it an album or a single worth listening to over and over... beyond that you lose control. Hand the finished product over to the label and cross your fingers they won't dilute the music's power, aim it in the wrong direction or completely lose it under a crush of other obligations. Rick bypassed all that by running his own music companies. His fearlessness has really changed the direction of the music biznezz.
I had the good fortune of working with Rick on the first System Of A Down album. He is the only one who would have listened to a song like "Sugar" and imagined it to be a radio hit. That took real vision, or maybe just real balls! System Of A Down was a band I really wanted to produce and had met with before Rick came into the picture. Maybe it was destiny that Rubin would discover them. He offered them an album deal. Of course the band went with him as the producer. I contacted Rick directly, asked for and got the engineering gig on the System record. And I am absolutely grateful to have been a cook in Rick's kitchen for that fine dinner.
Thanks very much for this great insight into Rick Rubin's kitchen!
Does Rick ever deal with 'hands-on' aspects of the engineering, say grabbing some faders to get a balance he wants or is that always communicated to the engineer?
Does Rick demand specific gear in the sense of 'let's try a Faitchild on those drums' or is he strictly performance-oriented?
And if you don't mind another question: RR is always being portrayed as only being there for part of the sessions of a specific project i.e hadnling many projects at the same time. Is that so and do you have any thoughts on the subject of 'producer presence' and how it affects the workflow of the sessions?
Thnaks so much for doing this, I think yours is my fave Guest Mod episode on GS so far- and we've seen some great ones over the years!