Rick Rubin has got his fingerprints all over your record collection. The studio whizz has worked with everybody who is anybody, including Black Sabbath, and the illustrious producer once named his favourite album by the metal pioneers.
He’s the co-founder of the iconic Def Jam Recordings and also the former co-president of Columbia Records. Rubin’s name is innately linked to hip-hop to some modern music lovers because of his connections with Def Jam and work with artists like Jay-Z, Eminem and Kanye West. However, that’s only part of his story, Rubin has always maintained a penchant for the heavier side of life.
Rubin’s first foray into music came with his hardcore punk band Hose, and, even though he’s operating in the mainstream, that anti-establishment mindset is one that he still has today.
No matter the music, Rick Rubin is always moving forward. However, he always keeps coming back to metal, and the chance to work with Black Sabbath on their final album, 13, was an opportunity that Rubin simply couldn’t refuse. It was the group’s first record with Ozzy Osbourne since 1978’s Never Say Die and one of the proudest, yet gruelling, moments of the acclaimed producer’s career.
However, the experience didn’t come without difficulties, and Rubin had his work cut out to do Black Sabbath justice. “I think the hardest part was getting them comfortable playing together again and to go back to the recording techniques of their earliest work,” he commented. “Technology has changed the way music has been made since then, and as individual artists, they have changed the way they record to more a modern method.”
Overall, the episode was an unforgettable one for Rubin. Having a front-row seat to see one of his favourite band’s create an album is something we’d all dream of doing, but Rubin went one step further and played a crucial role by finessing the sound on the original line-up’s first record in 35 years.
Before he had the pleasure of working with Sabbath, Rubin spoke about his love for the band. In an interview with guitar company Gibson back in 2008, he named their eponymous debut album as one of his eight favourite records of all time.
Commenting on what endears him to Black Sabbath, Rubin said, “This album is really the beginning of riff-rock, which I really like. It sounds huge and scary, and slow and sludgy, and has a kind of otherworldly aspect to it that moves me.”
In 1970, when Sabbath announced themselves to the world with their debut album, they not only introduced a band but instead brought a whole genre to the attention of the masses. Although Black Sabbath perhaps isn’t their finest work from a technical perspective, it left a lasting cultural impact that can still be felt today.