“Mr. Rubin and the Loudness Wars”
For me, the Beatles are proof of the existence of God. Rick Rubin
Everything I do, whether it’s producing or signing an artist, always starts with the songs. When I’m listening, I’m looking for a balance that you could see in anything. Whether it’s a great painting or a building or a sunset. Rick Rubin
Frederick Jay “Rick” Rubin (born March 10, 1963) is an American record producer and former co-president of Columbia Records. Along with Russell Simmons, Rubin is the founder of Def Jam Records and also established American Recordings. With the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Run–D.M.C., Rubin helped popularize hip hop music.
■1985: Beastie Boys – Rock Hard
■1986: Run-D.M.C. – Raising Hell
Rubin has worked with Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Run–D.M.C., Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Jay-Z, Danzig, Dixie Chicks, Metallica, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Weezer, Linkin Park, The Cult, Neil Diamond, Mick Jagger, System of a Down, Rage Against the Machine, Melanie C, Audioslave, Sheryl Crow, ZZ Top, Adele, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga, Kanye West, and Eminem. In the 1990s and 2000s, he produced the “American Recordings” albums with Johnny Cash. In 2007, MTV called him “the most important producer of the last 20 years”
■1986: Slayer – Reign in Blood
■1987: The Cult – Electric
From the time I was 9 years old, I loved magic. I was an only child, and I think that had a big impact on me. I always had grown-up friends even though I was a little kid. I would take the train from Lido Beach into Manhattan, and I’d hang out in magic shops. Rick Rubin
I was the only punk rocker at my high school. And there were at least a handful of black kids who liked hip-hop. Both were kind of the new music of the day, and it was lonely being the only punk. Rick Rubin
In between 15 and 20 – probably at around 17 – my interests switched from hard rock to punk rock. And then by 20 they were circling out of punk rock back into Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, the stuff that I didn’t get to when I was younger. Rick Rubin
■1990: The Black Crowes – Shake Your Money Maker
■1990: Trouble – Trouble
■1991: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Blood Sugar Sex Magik
I’ve gotten to work with amazing people. I would say usually we get to a point before we get into the studio where there isn’t that sense of anxiety or nervousness of who they are because I don’t think it would be as productive in the studio if that was the case. But maybe meeting someone like Neil Young for the first time made me anxious. Rick Rubin
It’s a big theme in my life, learning about myself and being a better person. I’m a work in progress; I have revelations every day. Rick Rubin
■1993: Mick Jagger – Wandering Spirit
■1994: Johnny Cash – American Recordings
■1995: AC/DC – Ballbreaker
Usually when I start a new project there’s a fear of the unknown; maybe it’s a band I’ve never been in the studio with before. People are so different. It’s almost like you need to go through the process, discover and unlock what it is that makes that band that band. And a lot of times they don’t know it. Rick Rubin
■1998: System of a Down – System of a Down
■2002: Aerosmith – O, Yeah! Ultimate Aerosmith Hits
Rubin’s biggest trademark as a producer has been a “stripped-down” sound, which involves eliminating production elements such as string sections, backup vocals, and reverb, and instead having naked vocals and bare instrumentation. Producer Dr. Dre once stated that Rick was, “hands down, the dopest producer ever that anyone would ever want to be, ever.”
I don’t even know what a traditional producer is or does. I feel like the job is like being a coach, building good work habits and building trust. You want to get to a point where you can say anything and talk about anything. There needs to be a real connection. Rick Rubin
Not all artists who have worked with Rubin have enjoyed his production style.
■2004: Slipknot – Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses)
Slipknot’s lead singer Corey Taylor said that he only met Rubin four times during the entire recording process of Vol. 3 (The Subliminal Verses) and that Rubin barely ever even showed up to the studio: “…we were being charged horrendous amounts of money. And for me, if you’re going to produce something, you’re fucking there. I don’t care who you are. The Rick Rubin of today is a thin, thin, thin shadow of the Rick Rubin that he was. He is overrated, he is overpaid, and I will never work with him again as long as I fucking live.”
■2005: Audioslave – Out of Exile
■2005: Neil Diamond – 12 Songs
I never decide if an idea is good or bad until I try it. So much of what gets in the way of things being good is thinking that we know. And the more that we can remove any baggage we’re carrying with us, and just be in the moment, use our ears, and pay attention to what’s happening, and just listen to the inner voice that directs us, the better. Rick Rubin
■2007: Coheed and Cambria – “Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume Two: No World for Tomorrow”
Since at least 1999, Rubin has been criticized by listeners for contributing to a phenomenon in music known as the loudness war, in which the dynamic range of recorded music is compressed and sometimes clipped in order to increase the general loudness.
Albums produced by Rubin that have been criticized for such treatment include:
Californication by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (1999) – Tim Anderson of The Guardian criticized its “excessive compression and distortion”, and Stylus Magazine said it suffered from so much digital clipping that “even non-audiophile consumers complained about it”.
Death Magnetic by Metallica (2008). Some fans have preferred the Guitar Hero version of Death Magnetic, even though it was released for gameplay and not listening, because it was not subject to the same compression.
13 by Black Sabbath (2013) – Ben Ratliff of The New York Times said “The new Black Sabbath album was produced by Rick Rubin, who some believe to be a prime offender in the recent history of highly compressed and loudly mastered music — a major cause of ear fatigue…13 is mastered loudly, too… Your ears aren’t given room to breathe”
I like things that are unique and extreme. Rick Rubin