With his work on new albums by Black Sabbath, Metallica, Eminem and Jay-Z hitting the top of US and UK charts this year, producer Rick Rubin is back at the forefront of changing tastes, trends and sounds in both hip-hop and metal. Just like he was in the 1980s and early 1990s.
So how does he do it?
Here's a short guide on how to produce hit songs, and hit albums, from a selection of Rick Rubin interviews over the last decade.
From the NYTimes Magazine:
"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. There's just a natural human element to a great song that feels immediately satisfying. I like the song to create a mood."
"Before Def Jam, hip-hop records were typically really long, and they rarely had a hook. Those songs didn't deliver in the way the Beatles did. By making our rap records sound more like pop songs, we changed the form. And we sold a lot of records."
"I try to get the artist to feel like they are writing songs for the ages rather than songs for an album. As they write, they come over and play the songs for me. For some reason, most people will write 10 songs and think, That's enough for a record, I'm done. When they play the songs for me, invariably the last two songs they've written are the best. I'll then say, 'You have two songs, go back and write eight more.' "
"The right sound reaches its hand out and finds its way. So much of what I do is just being present and listening for that right sound."
"What's important now is to find music that's timeless. I still believe that if an artist gains the belief of the listener, then anything is possible."
"I have no training, no technical skill — it's only this ability to listen and try to coach the artist to be the best they can from the perspective of a fan."
"I do not know how to work a board. I don't turn knobs. I have no technical ability whatsoever. But I'm there when they need me to be there. My primary asset is I know when I like something or not. It always comes down to taste. I'm not there to hold their hands and baby-sit, but I'm there for any key creative decisions."
From Interview Magazine:
"...continuing to edge into different genres and experiment in different kinds of music is really a kind of training. It forces me to think about things and approach things in new ways, and then I can apply the things that I learned in one genre to another. It all just makes me more versatile in the craft. And I like the stimulation of coming into a project where I really don’t know anything about anything and having to learn about it and understand it."
"My job is the same as it is when I'm in the studio producing a record -- to share my opinions, be honest and truthful. Ultimately it is like the role of a coach. The artist, ultimately, at the end of the day, gets to do what they want to do. And the company, at the end of the day, gets to do what they want to do. I try to be the voice of reason and positive creativity."