First off, this is not an official work by Rick Rubin, but a collection of a ton of interviews from both Rubin and all the artists he’s worked with. Actually, I find this to be a good thing because when guys this big attempt to make a “how to” kind of thing, they always get lazy and never make it as comprehensive as it should be or lose perspective on just how much they know.
Of course, this book wasn’t intended to be all-out everything-you-need-to-know about producing kind of book. It was intended to be a fun read that gives some huge insight into the way Rick Rubin works. I plowed through it in two days.
It’s very easy to forget just how much Rick Rubin has done. Being a guy born in 1980, I’m very familiar with his work. However, it’s easy to lose track of just how expansive his catalog really is. Yeah, his work with the Chili Peppers is obvious. Everyone knows he started out with the rap thing. Most people know he got Slayer and System of A Down going. When you factor in Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks, Linkin Park, Mick Jagger, Danzig, and The Bangles you start saying, “Oh, he’s done EVERYTHING!”. Hell, he even produced “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix A Lot. Awesome!
I did find it slightly annoying (not too bad) when the artists themselves are describing the recording process. You see, I hate bands and don’t trust anything they say. When Anthony Keidis starts talking about the band being one energy, I have no idea what that means. Not one. There is a significant amount of that sort of thing in this book, but again, it only gets slightly annoying and I am the kind of guy that is easily annoyed. So most of you guys will have no trouble. If you LIKE bands talking about nothing, you’ll love this book If you are used to drummers looking for a “blue snare sound”, you’ll handle this just fine.
What this book has done for me is given me a huge kick in the butt and reminded me why I do what I do. It’s reminded me to get aggressive with my band and eliminate all the busy playing and that sort of thing. It’s pointed out many things that I already known, but pointed them out in ways that are so aggressive, you’d have to be a nitwit not to be a better producer after this book.
The producing lessons in this book (implied as they may be) are absolutely indispensable.
I didn’t realize just how absolutely successful Rubin has been. It’s one thing to say, “Yeah, he’s done a 30 big records.” It seems that 9 out of 10 records he does end up being astronomical successes. I didn’t tally up how many diamond records he’s done, but it is absurd! It seems that everything he touches does extremely well both in artistic and commercial terms. This was the big point for me.
As you’ll read, Rubin’s approach is to not care AT ALL about album sales and just getting the artist to max out what they do, remove all gimmicks, and make sure the core is as badass as it can be.
I see so many bands who think that if you are selling your albums, you are doing something wrong. They’ve went so far off the artistic deep end that they believe that if you sell 10,000,000 records you’ve sold a part of your soul in order to do it. This has never sat well with me. I’ve always felt that the best artistic statements sell the most records. There are exceptions out there, but this book’s theme has been that great music makes money, not record label Milli Vanilli crap.
I come from the school where the ultimate album has maxed out artistic merit and commercial merit. To me, they are one and the same. So when these two sometimes differing worlds end up at the same point, you know you are on the right page and that’s the main reason I highly recommend this book.