Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin has a well-earned rep for reviving the careers of aging legends like Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond. But Crosby, Stills & Nash will not be adding their names to Rubin’s list of accomplishments anytime soon. Because those guys hate the shit out of Rubin.

In a recent Music Radar interview, Graham Nash talked a bit about a scrapped full-length collaboration between Rubin and the group, calling the sessions “contentious” and “not a great experience” and claiming that the two parties “rubbed each other the wrong way.”

The problem, as Nash tells it, was that Rubin likes to tell his collaborators what to do, and the CSN dudes aren’t about to take instruction from some beard-come-lately who was still co-founding Def Jam in a dorm room when David Crosby was well on his way to liver-replacement. Here’s what Nash says:

“After almost 50 years of making records, we think we know what we’re doing, so it’s very hard to tell Crosby, Stills and Nash what to do. You can suggest anything you want, but you can’t tell us what to do… Rick said, ’There will only be one Beatles song. Crosby said to him, ’There’ll only be one Beatles song if we decide there will be one Beatles song.’ You know, like, ’Who the fuck are you to tell me…’… We felt like we had this guy who was telling us what to do all the time. I mean, who the fuck is Rick Rubin? I know he’s sold millions of records, but who the fuck is he to tell Crosby, Stills and Nash what to do? Guide us — yes. Make suggestions — fantastic. ’Try it this way’ — no problem. But don’t tell us what to do. You can’t.”

Nash still calls Rubin “a brilliant man” and notes that the group is still working on a new album. They’ve even re-recorded a few of the tracks from those Rubin sessions.

Comments (29)
  1. I have read numerous times that Rick Rubin never really does anything. The Avett Brothers said they never even saw him during the album sessions and only communicated with him by phone, emails, and texts. So there seems to be a consensus here.

    • Really? To me it seems like there is no consensus. Those seems to be almost two opposite complaints. Nash saying that Rick Rubin was trying to be too involved in the process while the Avett Brothers are saying it was nearly involved as they expected him to be.

    • The Consensus is that its all heresay…unless you are Rick Rubin and the artist who works with him. Mostly all of them enjoy the process…thats some of the consensus my good man with an awesome avatar.

  2. Rubin doesn’t have the musical or technical background that other producers have, so it can seem that way, but he has an ear. Bottom Line: People more impressive and more accomplished than the Avett Brothers swear by his ability to coax out their best music. That’s not a diss to the Avett Brothers as much as it is praise to Rubin.

    You don’t get asked to produce for the Dixie Chicks, Slayer, Beasties, Chili Peppers, Johnny Cash, Kula Shaker, Danzig, Jay-Z, Weezer…etc., unless you’re bringing something to the table. What he might lack in knob-turning, he makes up for with a preternatural ability to know what sounds great.

    • Except that there are quite a few artists who have complained of Rubin not showing up at all, having the day’s work sent to him via messenger and then sending back notes. (Didn’t the dude from Slipknot have similar complaints.) He gets asked to produce b/c his name on a record generates attention and sales, especially if the artist’s career needs a jolt.

      • Ok sure. Because Johnny Cash and the Mars Volta are known for chasing hits and records sales. I am sure Omar and Cedric have hired Skrillex and Diplo to produce their next effort, since that’s what “generates record sales and gives their career a jolt.”

        • In all fairness Cash wasnt selling shit for records in the 80′s, then Rubin got involved and then the rest is history.

          • Right, but at that time, it’s not even like Rubin was seen as this Brian Eno or Phil Spector character that would make an instant hit. They both profited from the relationship because it reinforced Cash’s status as a Legend (not that it was needed) and made Rubin seem like a genius (not necessarily saying he is). My point was just that the idea he’s brought to add cache and sales to an album like having Nicki Minaj or Kanye do a guest verse on your new song is off base.

            He might not be for everyone, but there are those that swear by him. Luke Worle below does a better job capturing his virtues than I think anyone else I’ve read so far. I think that’s a very fair assessment.

  3. I’ve heard the same thing. He’s incredibly hands off. He’s not a musician, he’s not even an engineer. I think he’s one of the most overrated producers going right now.

  4. Travis and Jonathan lampooned Rubin’s hands-off nature in their Rick Rubin/Ray Stevens video parody.

    I can imagine the fireworks that would have ensued if Rubin had told Crosby, Stills, Nash, AND YOUNG what to do.

  5. I could never say “no” to that guy. Look at him. Terrifying.

  6. But really, there only should have been one Beatles song.

  7. Yeah, but to use the kids’ internet speak:
    American Recordings >>>>>

  8. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Wow. That’s a very simplistic way of looking at it. First of all, Crosby, Stills and Nash FOREVER changed and dominated the landscape of rock in the 60s and their impact is felt today even among new generations of musicians, including Bon Iver, Band of Horses, Fleet Foxes and many more who are making great music. Rick Rubin is a kind man ( I met him) and I have the privledge of knowing about him and his engineer’s work ethic since she worked with our band. He can be hands off-he can be hands on. He simply takes mental notes and works in an unorthodox way. Some people getting into the production side of things understand this….he is a mentor type of producer and the guy who looks at a work to guide if its going anywhere or needs further guidance. Yeah, he’s not technical and hands on like Flood, Alan Moulder, Brian Eno or you name it, but I respect the man because he never claimed to be anything then a man who loves music and wants to approach record making as a fan who wants his artists to embrace their stylistic flourishes BUT also think outside the box. Some people don’t understand his approach, but he’s never claimed to be studied in theory, engineering and the like. He’s not a fly on the wall in the studio, but he is a mentor that guides and many bands are happy with the results. However, Crosby, Stills and Nash are LEGENDS dude…your comment was impassioned but not dead on in the least. And your comment about breathing life into tired careers? My friend, YOU try staying fresh in an everchanging musical climate in the world of I-Pods and Kesha.

    • Try a little harder next time…

  9. I think Rubin doesn’t want to attend the sessions for fear of being the fattest guy in the room. Sounds like he is a complete egomaniac. Too bad CSN paid him anything for the sessions. Any money he made on recording them has already been ingested. It’s too bad talented people have to kow tow to a**holes like this.

  10. Don’t get me wrong, I love CSN, but judging from any album they made after “Daylight Again,” they could use some new direction.

  11. Can I still blame him for being at the helm when Weezer jumped the shark?

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