Rick Rubin on Songoverwriting and Underproduction

Rick Rubin gave a brilliant interview to Andrew Romano’s in the The Daily Beast. Here’s some excerpts on songwriting and producing

I’d say [to Kanye] “This song is not so good. Should I start messing with it?” And he’d say, “Yes, but instead of adding stuff, try taking stuff away.”

There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across.

For me the Beatles are proof of the existence of God. It’s so good and so far beyond everyone else that it’s not them.

My job [as a producer] is to be a professional version of the outside world—a listener who is not attached to any of it, who doesn’t know the story of how it was written, who doesn’t know how it works, who doesn’t know why this is important to you.

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.

There’s a cycle that’s dictated by the reality of being a touring artist [when you only have eight weeks between tours to make a record]. At some point in time the cycle takes over, and even though you’re not really ready to make the record during that window, it’s the only window you have, so you put it out. Cracks in the foundation start. And slowly, over time, the creative process gets eroded, and [making a record] becomes something that’s just a window in the schedule instead of the most important thing that drives the whole train.

I always request that artists overwrite. Write as much as possible—and then we can narrow down—because you never really know. The best song you write might be No. 25, not No. 12. For every System of a Down record, we’ve recorded probably 30 songs to get the 12 or 14 that are on the record. The same with Chili Peppers. It was a little bit of a struggle with Black Sabbath…We probably recorded 16. And there are eight on the album. It made sense to me [to work that way] because in the past they were on a roll from album to album, and now they haven’t been a band together in 35 years. The idea that after 35 years the first 10 songs you write are perfect is unrealistic.

How did you discover Public Enemy, another one of the greatest rap groups ever?

D.M.C. played me a tape of Chuck D hosting a radio show. The show was called “Public Enemy Number One.” So I called him, and he said that he had already done the rap thing. Now he had a regular job. He wasn’t interested. He felt like he was too old. He was probably 20. Chuck thought he’d missed his chance. He worked at a record store. I called him every day for six months, probably. He would leave a message with whoever was there, like, “Tell Rick I’m not here.” And then eventually I got a message: Chuck wants to meet. And he comes in, and he’s like, “I’m willing to do it under these terms: it’s called Public Enemy. It’s a group. It’s more like the Clash than a rap group, and it’s me and Flavor Flav, and Griff and Hank are involved.” And I said, “Whatever you want to do is fine.”

Read the full interview here

Check out my Black Sabbath/ Beastie Boys mashup here

About mattblick

Songwriter/Singer from Nottingham, UK. My 2nd EP, Everything In The World Is Fighting Everything In The Sky, is out now. I'm blogging (& podcasting) through the entire Beatles catalogue at Beatles Songwriting Academy. In my spare time I wish I had some spare time.
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