Rick Rubin has an inevitable presence across the entire musical spectrum. No matter your taste, it’s almost certain he has his fingerprints on your record collection. The producer has worked with almost everybody. However, Neil Young has always evaded him.
Most notably, Rubin is the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings and also the former co-president of Columbia Records. In recent history, Rubin’s name has been innately linked to hip-hop for some modern music lovers because of his connections with the legendary label and his work with artists like Jay-Z, Eminem and Kanye West. However, that only tells one chapter about his dalliance with music.
Initially, Rubin’s first foray into music came with his hardcore punk band Hose. Even though he continues operating in the mainstream, it’s an anti-establishment mindset that aligns the vast deviation between artists he respects. While Neil Young is one of the few artists he admires that he’s never worked with, ‘Shakey’ did record his 2016 album Peace Trail at his Shangri-La Studios.
In 2008, Rubin opened up to Gibson about his eight favourite records, and one of the albums he singled out was After The Gold Rush by Neil Young. It’s an innovative masterpiece that has since been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and patently one of the all-time classic albums.
“I like the natural mood of this one,” Rubin commented about his selection. “Like the Beatles’ White Album it has almost a documentary feel. It feels like it’s capturing a moment in time, and not trying to be perfect. It’s not trying to be glossy, or pretty. It has a real, soulful truth in it.”
Specifically, there’s one track on the album which brings back emotional memories for Rubin. He recounted to The Fader in 2007, “I can remember driving into Malibu one night,” says über-producer Rick Rubin. “It was probably eight o’clock on a summer night, it had just gotten dark and there was a giant moon in the sky. I was listening to ‘I Believe In You’ from Neil Young’s After The Gold Rush.
Rubin illustrates that while he, a professional, can appreciate all music, there is still something inherently connective between one’s emotion and the notes played by an artist. “The song had such an overwhelming effect on me that I had to pull off the road,” continued the famed producer. “It felt like my heart stopped. It felt like I was just in this other experience. There was some feeling of death related to it too, but it didn’t feel scary or bad, it just felt beautiful and connected and expansive. It was fantastic. Those are the moments I’m looking for.”
Rubin’s final paragraph describes the overwhelming feelings which ‘I Believe In You’ had on him, which also explains precisely what he searches for from artists. It doesn’t matter whether it’s hip-hop, folk, or metal — the only thing that matters for Rubin is the sentiments that it stokes up inside of him, and few albums touch him in the same visceral way as After The Gold Rush.