« Desert Island Discs

Rick Rubin, music producer

2022-11-20 | 🔗
Rick Rubin is a multiple Grammy-winning record producer who has worked with a wide range of artists including Adele, the Beastie Boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also reinvigorated the career of Johnny Cash in the 1990s, with a series of acclaimed stripped-back albums, introducing the legendary Man in Black to a new audience. Rick was born on Long Island in New York in 1963. As a teenager, his first love was punk, but he soon became entranced by New York’s emerging rap scene and started hanging out in hip hop clubs to discover more about what was then considered to be an underground form of music. In 1984 he co-founded Def Jam Recordings from his dorm room at university and produced rap records for T La Rock and LL Cool J. Together with his business partner, promoter Russell Simmons, Rick took rap into the mainstream by putting rappers Run-DMC and rock band Aerosmith together to cover Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. It enjoyed international success and became hip hop’s first crossover hit. In 1993 Rick approached the country singer Johnny Cash about working together. By that time Johnny, who was in his sixties, had been dropped by his record label and was performing at dinner theatres to small audiences. In his mind his career was over. Rick persuaded him to record again and released the album American Recordings in 1994. Lauded by the critics, the album led to a creative collaboration that lasted until Johnny’s death in 2003. Rick's more recent work includes the album The New Abnormal by the Strokes, which won the band their first ever Grammy last year. DISC ONE: Across the Universe by The Beatles DISC TWO: …And at the Hour of Death by Víkingur Ólafsson DISC THREE: Rockaway Beach by The Ramones DISC FOUR: Us V Them by LCD Sound System DISC FIVE: I Believe in You by Neil Young DISC SIX: Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, Holy Reconciling by Thomas De Hartmann DISC SEVEN: The Dangling Conversation by Simon & Garfunkel DISC EIGHT: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack BOOK CHOICE: The Red Book by Carl Jung LUXURY ITEM: Tarot cards CASTAWAY'S FAVOURITE: Holy Affirming, Holy Denying, Holy Reconciling by Thomas De Hartmann Presenter Lauren Laverne Producer Paula McGinley
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Bbc sounds music radio, podcasts, hello, I'm Lauren Laverne, and this is the desert island discs podcast. Every week I ask my guests to choose the eight tracks book and luxury they'd want to take with them if they were cast away to a desert, island and for rights reasons. The music is water down the original broadcast. I hope you enjoy listening. I My castaway this week is the music producer, rick reuben. He is shaped the sound of popular music over the past four decades. As a student in new york in the early eighties, he fell in love with the emerging rap scene and funded the Naples deaf jump in
dorm room, he helped catapult music into the mainstream, signing public enemy and the beastie boys and enjoying early international success with the hit single walk. This way, when rap has run dmz collaborated with the rock band aerosmith, these one, nine grammy's and its credits run the gum it from Adele to jesse touching on, if not every letter, and certainly every genre in between musician speak of his mysterious production style in referential tones. It is powerful, creative alchemy that reinvigorated an ailing johnny cash and transform the red hot chile, peppers from frat rock jokers to stadium dominating see the stars. As for how he does it, he says I just show up and try to make music that excites me sometimes there'll, be an idea. That'll make a record great, sometimes it'll just be patiently waiting for magic occurrence to happen or setting the stage to allow it. Rick Rubin welcome to desert island discs. Thank you for helping me so rick. I've seen lots of photos of the
our work over the years, and but you are not, as many producers are hunched over sound behind him mixing desk. You are usually in these images recumbent on a sofa, often barefoot with your eyes closed. So as a production technique, it clearly works. I made you know that your cv speaks for itself, but I am very intrigued. Tell me a little bit more about your approach in the studio. While I'm not technical in any way, and my job is to listen, I could listen in the deepest way if I'm, waxed with my eyes closed and what are you listening for? Is it a search or is it just an experience? It's just an experience, I'm both listening to what's coming at me and
paying attention to what is going on in my body. As I listen does something happen. That makes me one leaned forward. Is there something that makes me want to laugh? Even if it's not funny? Is there something that surprises me? Poor makes me want to know more or bores me, which happens and amend that. I would say that the problem, if it If it's boring to me, it'll probably be born someone else or it's likely to be. Sometimes, though, you don't even work in the studio where, where else do you like to go with your artists, where do those conversations start? We just finished the basic tracks for the next strokes album we recorded it on a mountain top in costa rica. With the band outside looking over the ocean awhile, and it was unbelievable. I'm never done that before and what does not bring to the music. I can imagine that an unbelievable day the office so to speak, but you can. It brings equality to the recording
if you'd made several albums and if each album is going to recording studio you get into the habit of we're doing another one we're doing another one and when he create this new venue for something to happen? It's not just another one, it's a different experience and sometimes is something as simple as turning the lights off in the room. Can change The way a performance happens being in a remote place or in the case of chile, peppers, the blood sugar sex, album album was recorded in a house, haunted house. And it adds to the adventure the whole. The whole project has this feeling of adventure to it, and sometimes it works it's way into the the way it sounds. I think we better get started with your festus, What are we going to have this number one and and why first we're gonna to beetles across the universe from years old to seven years old. The beatles was everywhere
and everywhere in my in my home, and it somehow imprinted what a great song is in a very deep level before I knew that I was looking for what that was. Jai grew deva is sung which is a mockery. She greeting and I learned to meditate when I was fourteen in part, because the those did that and it ended up informing. So much in my life probing one anything else like this.
The beatles and across the universe. so, regrettably, new born in long beach on long island in nineteen, sixty three you may have to lead a beach on the island when he was seven. Tell me about your parents: makin linda you have very close to them. When I slipped in my parents bed with them for the first five years of my life so eminently childs was very tight, knit family the fact that my parents were so being and warm and supportive of every thing may be too
fault in my life gave me the confidence to be able to do things that were other people felt were more challenging. I know that you said your mother Linda's job You tell me more about that relation. I'm my mom's full time. Job was me. I would get home from school and she would say where we going today and she was my driver early In my thoughts magician, she would drive me to the magic store and wait in the car and read while I was in the magic store for two hours three hours and then my dad was a bit of a worker. Next. I didn't see him as much, but when I did, you couldn't be more loving and suppose. I learned a strong work ethic from my dad because he was very diligent to present see that practical example of your dad, and then you have this quite intense signing should ship with your mom, where it's she's utterly devoted to you, but that can that can bring a certain amount of pressure with it as well. I think did it ever feel like it was a bit too much
until I left home when, at once I left home? I understood it was out of balance and they? while they couldn't have been more positive about me, I would say I honestly, I don't think that they actually saw who I was. They had a fantasy version of who I was okay and they saw the fantasy, but I don't think it was actually who I am. What did that look like? Do you think Section- and I was by no means perfect- I could tell you a story about that. I am. Is there something called the regions in new york state, which is a statewide test and the first ones and algebra and junior high school? I got a hundred on them. The algebra regent, which was a big deal in my household, but also may be twenty five kids in my school that hundreds, it wasn't so remarkable. The next year was the geometry.
Regions, and I got ninety nine and my parents were disappointed and only one person got a hundred and me One of the person got ninety nine, but my pants felt like I missed the mark. Somehow and it's interesting even though the ninety nine was better than the hundred to them. It was, I wouldn't say, a failure, but it was a discipline. the time, simile, music. It's disk number two we're going to hear. in their olive sins rendition of buck and at the hour of death I dont If we can have a conversation about music without some Getting back to a foundational element and forget player righty of music, including seems necessary. There's something about this. It is relatively new. Peace is an icelandic pianist, there's this undercurrent this groovy undercurrent. That speaks
me and technically it's a very modern recording and we can hear things that we don't hear in the traditional classical recordings and it also tells the story of taking something old, putting it through new filter and creating something fresh and new, and exciting all over again after hundreds of years. I love that, the the
The irish dash music digest back produced by christine patsy ran, performed by seeking a lesson. now rick we've been. I must ask you about another important figure in your early life, your aunt carol. She worked in manhattan at estee, lauder and she ran the creative service department there. She was real groundbreaking person and she never married so
for her. I was like her child as well, and it was a beautiful relationship. She was a sophisticated intellectual, whereas my parents were not and I had this balance between spending Monday through friday, with my parents amen friday night too, Two monday morning with my aunt carol's, so every weekend every weekend, my parents would bring me to my grandmother's house, where my aunt carol would come from the city for the weekend and I would spend the weekend and the reason that they did. That was because carol had something to offer that was different than what my parents had to offer, and my mom recognize that and wanted me to experience, literature and classical music, and she would take me to broadway shows and she would take me to museums and my parents were less interested in those things my parents rarely read to me my aunt carol read to me constantly. What did she mean to Sherlock holmes? Lots of poetry, I loved it. I loved
the picture that you've painted for us. So far of an interview yourself as a kid. It is almost like you in this world of adults. I wonder about your nature as an only child. Did you have quite a solitary nature? Did you have friends your own age had you friends. My own age was mostly by myself. I was round adults a lot, but also in my room alone, what an annual good you're, ok, without with your company in europe I didn't know any option. It was what it was and it was fine what did I sky bet when you were in high school? I think that music was. It was already a huge passion for you are, but that the music you are interested in can set you apart from people what we listening to and and and why did it make you different? I was in a punk rocker. I was the only punk record, my school. There were no new one over the punk rockers and there was no internet. So I couldn't
meat. Like minded people through social media. I was the loan punk rocker yeah the lonely road to work as net for the longest time. Yes, it was sir, it was a little sad and then hip hop come along and there were some kids in my high school who liked hip hop and they became my friends, and that was a little bit of a community that I had first first time I had a musical community, it's time for your next piece of music break What we're gonna hear this number three. We are going to Iraq. We beach by the remains there the first programme than ever heard. They were the first ban to play fast. Did I ever heard- and I remember hearing them and junior high school and just laughing at it- was really funny to me made no sense and it's funny to hear the ramones sing about rockaway beach in such a joyous manner, because it was by no means beautiful place. It was it was as as much of a dump of a beaches as you could find.
the rockaway beach by ramones, rick Rubin. By the time you got to university, rap music had replaced punk in your affections. Why were you drawn to it to me? It was. It was punk rock you didn't have to be a virtuoso be a great wrapper. You didn't have to be had to have a point of view, something say and usually something to be: let's excited about
and this music wasn't always easy to access. You know: you'd, have to know the right club to go to be tuned to a particular radio show you were there. You were at hip, hop clubs in new york. You were meeting the dj's, the mcs, and sometimes I think you were the only white person in the audience. How did you feel like you fit in? it is because I loved the music and we all the music. The thing that found us together had nothing to do with skin color. Was this passion about this beautiful new art form some? What made you make the jump from an fan and and can see met to somebody thought it could make him up goods for themselves. What did you want to kill child? Also? The only reason I did it was because I bought every at this point in time. It was twelve inch singles the only were no rap albums, yet there were only twelve inch singles and the music and hip hop clubs didn't sound like those records, so my was. I want to make records real
for myself that sounded like what I liked about going to the club, which was much more raw, much less musical and the fact that I did I know how to make recordings allowed me to make ones that were true to what it was instead of following the rules of recording where he hire great a great band and you make everything sound a certain way. That was not the case. I was making it much more like someone who didn't know what they were doing time for discipline before, but he thinking with you and why This is us versus them. Elsie sound system, Song represents my time in the eu, when I, when I was going, and why you and I was going to dance Tyria every night with beastie boy and with random c and with a low cool J, and there was this incredible its music, seen going on that had groups like liquid liquid and yes g, and while elsie was not yet a band
their music. Is this out of new york. That period and elsie sound system are actually the best version of any. this musically. They perfected it and also got to meet my wife at an elsie de sound system concert years and years later, so they hold it even more emotional place. It myself, OH stresses,
by EL seedy sound system ribbon. Nineteen, eighty four you produce the first track. It's yours by the repartee look at feel new label of death, recordings which he ran from your dorm room, what we were aiming for and how confident working that you could achieve it will. I was confident I could achieve it, because I had no expectation whatsoever without the fact that I had a vinyl d In my hand, was it worked? I had forgotten his skin might not done I never thought music would be my work or career in any way. I thought I would have a real job and I would make music forever, because what I love to do, but I never considered it as a career path. Well, it didn't quite work out like that at you and your def jam business partner, Russell simmons soon enjoyed success and your first album release was ll cool, J's radio. Now your credit on that is actually reduced by rick Rubin rather than produced. So what exactly was your role?
I thought at the time of production as building something up, and I was interested in getting to the essence of things and using the least amount of information to get an idea across. So we do seem more accurate. You had a huge crossover hit in nineteen eighty six when you broke together, the hip hop great brundusium, see with the rock band aerosmith to record a version of the aerosmith track whoop way. What did one dmz make of this when you suggested it? his smile on your day, we're fine with the idea of the music being the music, because the beat that book tat. First, that the problem that the intro was a well known. Hip, hop break, beats a you'd here that beat in hip hop clubs. Already before we, before indians. He ever did it. They never heard of the sun. This way all they heard was the drumbeat and the drumbeat was. They were excited about performing on, and then I suggested
we're gonna do the lyrics, the aerosmith lyrics and eight thought it was insane like. Why would we do that? But events Lee. They became around to doing it and now I think rustles pursue Save runners is branded little brother like do exist, it did what I hoped it would do in just explaining what rap music was people who did understand we're going to take some time for the music rick. It's your fifth choice today, but it with any annexed I believe in you buy melian. I had a spiritual experience listening to this song, where I was driving from malibu back into los angeles and there's a a long drive on pacific coast highway, which is a magical beautiful highway, and I turned firms. Difficult highway onto the ten freeway and analysed to the words of the sovereignty. Emotion in the vocal and I had an experience it's hard to describe. I stopped breathing and I would say it was a field,
in some, how related to dying everything stopped in my body, and I pulled the side of the highway. It's a big, fast highway, but I pulled off to the side of the highway and just sat there with my eyes closed and let the song finish- and I think I cried and even saying, I believe in you now I can tear up the power of belief so strong. At some point. In my life- and it so important in going to studio- you have nothing and then believing something's gonna happen, and that we have this thing in front of us. It's always a miracle and sung hits. in this way of everything that I believe in a day
neil young and I believe in you requested some of the artists eve signed have been controversial, accusative glamorizing, promoting violence or misogyny I'll. Do you see your role when you working with them only interested me artist- I'm only interested in the artist pushing the boundaries as far as they and in whatever it is? They want to say, for example, obesity, Boise you work with and produce their first recorded and they have expressed. Amount of regret about their choices at the time and as some of the lyrics instead of leather is, is that something that you ve ever
like. Oh, I wouldn't do that now. Do you not know that might not do it now, but I have no regret about doing it. The best work divides the audience, and I embrace that I want to go. As far as we can to the edge, and sometimes we fall. over notes. Is he can't help you can't help it, but those things at most site me. That's what I want to hear from someone else. If we all are in agreement about everything, arts gonna be dull, life will be dull. You know. The nineties was a very fertile rich period for you creatively. You produce critically claimed albums for the red, hot shitty, peppers, tom, petty black crows, some incredible deliberations, but I know that at the time that was somewhat adults with your your personal state of mind, what we are experiencing an and going through a route through the depression first time in my life it wasn't anything that I am. I understood I thought I was dying. I didn't understand when it was one
point in time? I was going to see a therapeutic practitioner. of one kind or another, probably two a day. Five days a week, six days a week, just hoping I would rag myself out of bed to get to the appointment in the hopes that this is going to fix it, and that was my life for two years eating working with one about this at the time and your long term collaborated with no austin industry legend, so he too had a close relationship, but he left after a corporate power struggle. What happened? did that the person who replaced him call me and said you know, I don't. I read your deal and now it's too good. I don't like it Not to any one else, specially successful person, it's ok be willing to talk about written illegal work out or not does work out I'll do something else. No problem
It's the first time in my life. I didn't feel support from my parents. I felt support through the whole deaf to period. I felt support because really because we had so much success from the beginning I just had never experienced anyone questioning me before reading and how can I do that? I didn't have the musculature to deal with this and I I collapsed. I would say I'm not the same person, but I was before in some ways I miss the person I was before, because the person I was before was more fearless than I am now, I'm more rooted in reality, which I can't say I love but its israel and I would say, I'm more and pathetic with the artist I work with many of whom have emotional issues
because the best people do, and so I now I understand it more before it was at a distance. Now, I'm in the boat to urine it can become a music. I think, wreck at number. Six. What are we going to Herod? Why you taking this tiny island with you? Okay, this is a holy affirming holy denying wholly reconciling an this music feels like it's from not just another time. time timeless time, and it doesn't bring up specific memories of things to miss, which I was thinking about it and want to miss anything when I'm on the island and must have most of the things I can do this would give me memories of what I would miss. This doesn't do that this is
soundtrack for another world. The the I the the
holy shit, Mean wholly denying wholly reconciling composed by george good Jeff and performed by thomas to hartman so we ve it was in nineteen. Eighty four that you began a creative partnership that will be one of the defining periods in your career and that of the artist you are working with. It was a collaboration with johnny cash. He was plainer after dinner show a theatre theater. When the see the show rice first saw him out with were maybe a hundred or so people and everyone was sitting down eating dinner while he played- and he was happy because he was performing- that's what I like to do. He didn't know who I was, but he wanted to understand why I would want to work with him, because why would anybody want to work with him in his mind? He was done. What did you tell him? How did you convincing
I am convinced that we just sat and talked for a while, and I said well, let's just sit down, play me. Solvency love in we'll figure out what to do. Tat. My living room just play media's songs, songs, most of which I had never heard old old country. Songs are old, folks songs and was magnificent so tell me about choosing the songs? I thought of the image of johnny cash as the mythical man in black Any psalmody sang had to suit this mythical man in black and one of the ones that that seem to resonate with people after we did it was they manage nelson, it hurt, and if you listen to the words it's like looking back over a life of regret and remorse, I played him the song first and johnny, just looked at me like I was insane because it's a the the nine inch nails origin song is very noise.
See aggressive and dumb and johnny was wary, and I think I did a demo where I had a guitar player play it and I said the words the way I imagined him saying it and then, when he heard the lyrics- and he heard the format of what it could be and said, let's try a junior final sessions. He was very frail very ill and he was also grieving. his wife June ada died just a few months before how did making music with you help him in those final months of his life, he was willing to talk any more. His partner was gone and his choice was too to die or to carry one and he chose to carry on, and I know you are always on the end of the phone line. Even if you weren't there in person you you spoke most days. What did you talk back and there was
televangelist that I saw, who was a real crazy character in its name, was doktor jean Scott and he was probably also mid seventies and he found out that he had cancer and was dying. He believed that the ima healing power of communion- and I called Johnny about this- and I was really jewish- I've- never done communion, and I said next time we get together. Maybe we can do communion together any he. Let's do that and we did every day we spoke on the phone and we did communion together every day and he said the words and I visualized it close my eyes and visualized what he was saying and say a men with him. It was a beautiful ritual and I continued on after he passed. I continued doing it and hearing his voice, leading it could be done at long enough where I was in tune with it
Make set sat time for some music number seven. What have you got for us and why you you this with you today, mrs dangling conversation by Simon and garfunkel? I can relate it to a story. I was told two days ago, the precise speaking to us from edinburgh and she said people from Edinburgh look outward people from london. Look inward and people in manhattan. Look inward and people from long island. come from look outward growing up on long island. I wished I lived in manhattan, but had I lived in manhattan, I might have looked inward more than looking outward so in some way. The fact that I wasn't where I wanted to be physically geographically ended up being a very good thing: taste wise. In my life it represents intellectual, new york, the pretension of intellectual new york, but also beautiful music harmony,
and I love suddenly garfunkel, as the sun shines through the curtain lays an shadows wash and we can still lag so- you can hear the ocean in the and ass. The dangling conversation Simon, I'm garfunkel, rig reuben. Today, let mostly malibu with your wife and young son when he started producing. I think you often worked throughout the night. Do you still keep those hours? I change my schedule to are in tune with the planet, so I wake up as close to the sun is possible, and
put on these red glasses as soon as the sun sets and live in harmony with with the way the planet supports an as we are about to cast you aware, I do ask you, boats at the signature, rick reuben, look, because you are a step ahead of many castaways you already have the beard that kind of comes with the territory. It's it's much talked about part of your look news week. One said it. So why did long? It could be its own ecosystem? Was it Limburg ploy on your part, to create this image for yourself, not at all. It's just what happens if you stop shaving pick up and all by itself, I had nothing to do with it. So coarse, innovate, recasting your weight, Do your desert island! You will be very much in tune with the rhythms of nature there, but you will be cast away from everything you love. Otherwise, how will you adapt? I dunno I'll find a way, I'm open to
What comes next, you know I'm pretty positive, while one more song before we cast you away, you'll find a piece of music. If you are today but are going to be Rick Rubin, the final pieces of music is the first time ever. I saw your face as performed by roberta flack, this deep soul and I'll say spiritual. I don't know if she meant it that way, but I hear it that way. Almost a devotional piece of and if you ve ever heard the dune mccall original. It's not like that. So I love the idea that music and put on different masks and play different characters, felt. The moon.
like what the first time ever. I saw your face roberta flack, so Rick Rubin, I'm going to send you away to the island. Now I'm giving you the bible, the complete works of shakespeare, and you can take one of the book. What will it be? Kyle humes rebook it's a book of his seems and inner journey its pondering, the inner world, the inner life, and it seems like a good guide for someone it's gonna, be pondering the inner life for some time he can also look sri item to make life more enjoyable. What will that be terror cards? Each card, tills and titles? worry and there's enough detail in the cards to read deeper and deeper into them over time
So in some ways, whether only seventy eight images, it's an end sternly inward and find, which one of the eight tracks that you share with us today, would you rush to save from the waves. If you only had time to grab one, I would bring holy roaming wholly denying wholly reconciling. If I was on a desert island. That is what I would want, the soundtrack to be we ve been. Thank you very much for letting us here. Your desert island discs. For having me the hello
enjoyed. My conversation with rake will leave him in peace to ponder, isn't a life we ve castaway many musicians and produces including nile rogers robin villa knit and soon he can find these episodes in our doesn't unending program archive and three bbc sounds the studio manager for today's programme was Andy Garrett. These systems producer was christine, pavlovsk, eight and the producer was poorly mckinley. Next time my guest will be the forensic scientist professor Angela guy. I do hope. You'll join us
lithuania with news of a very successful desert. Island discs, rescue they'd been missing for decades, David hockney or went they are me if I had a private income from income. I didn't know what was said. Well, not you're. When you can't be just will never make a living. I had margo Fontaine what I've always looked forward to make. My life would be an old age on a desert island. in gramophone records all day, long and bing Crosby to build a heart no way no way. I couldn't fix a safety pin but they're all back in radio for desert island discs archive thanks to the efforts of keen vintage tape, does to listen to them, along with totally more sophie, took up no coward and dozens of other castaways just head to the desert. Island discs website.
Transcript generated on 2023-02-18.