Does Rick Rubin Really Not Know How to Produce?

Rick Rubin Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images
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Rick Rubin is, without a doubt, one of the biggest names in music production.

Not only has he worked with the likes of LL Cool J, AC/DC, Beastie Boys, but he has worked with quite a few metal bands.

Among the metal bands he’s worked with, Rubin has produced records for Slayer, Slipknot, System of a Down, and Metallica.

Rubin has gone on to make a big name for himself throughout the music industry… and yet… if one were to listen to him talk about music production, he would give the impression he doesn’t know a whole lot.

Recently, Rubin spoke about how his “lack of experience” ended up being an important component in shaping Slayer’s Reign in Blood.

Per a recent interview on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper, Rubin doubled down on this “lack of experience” point, saying “I know nothing about music.”

During their conversation, Cooper asks Rubin, “Do you know how to work a soundboard?”

Rubin replies with “No. I have no technical ability. And I know nothing about music.”

Cooper is surprised by this reply and asks the famous music producer, “You must know something.”

Rubin says “Well, I know what I like and what I don’t like. And I’m, I’m decisive about what I like and what I don’t like.”

Cooper then brings up what is a very good point, asking Rubin “So what are you being paid for?”

He replies: “The confidence that I have in my taste and my ability to express what I feel has proven helpful for artists.”

It’s kind of an insane statement, either Rubin is being intentionally obtuse or he really is just getting paid to vibe.

Clearly, not all are impressed by his vibes and way of working. Slipknot singer Corey Taylor has been a longtime vocal critic of Rubin’s approach, having worked together on the band’s Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses). Taylor said the following:

“Rick showed up for 45 minutes a week. He would sit on the couch and have a microphone brought right next to his face so he wouldn’t have to move. The Rick Rubin of today is a thin shadow of the Rick Rubin that he was. He’s overrated and overpaid.”

On the other hand, Rubin’s presence has certainly been to bands’ benefit. Back in November, he spoke about how his off-the-wall production approach shaped System of a Down’s ‘Chop Suey,’ saying,

“We’re sitting in the library in my old house and he said, ‘I don’t have words for this,’ and we were finishing and it’s like, ‘Okay, any ideas?’ He didn’t have any ideas. So I said, ‘Okay, pick a book off the wall.’ He picked a book randomly off the wall, I said, ‘Open it to any page, tell me the first phrase you see. He opened it, first phrase he sees – that’s what’s in the song. And it’s a highpoint in the song. It’s incredible, like magic.”

Clearly, sometimes the vibes are in the artist’s favor, sometimes they’re not.

What do you make of Rubin’s points regarding his work and why artists come to him?

Inside Corey Taylor's Feud With Rick Rubin During Vol. III

Rick Rubin Says His 'Lack of Experience' Helped Slayer's 'Reign in Blood'