Phil Alexander of MOJO magazine recently spoke to Rick Rubin about the legendary producer’s work on “13” — the first BLACK SABBATH record in 35 years to feature singer Ozzy Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi and bassist Geezer Butler all playing together. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
MOJO: When it came to working with BLACK SABBATH, what was your biggest challenge?
Rubin: When I started working with them, they really hadn’t worked together in such a long time and, because they’ve had such success in their career over the years, it was almost a case of red light fever. There was an anticipatory anxiety among different members of the band and they were worrying about whether [the music] would be any good, and whether they were up to the task. The history and myth of SABBATHloomed large and everybody really wanted to do it justice. No one wanted to do it just for the sake of it. The idea was that we were only going to do this as long as this was going to be as good an album as they’ve ever made.
MOJO: You suggested Ginger Baker as a replacement [for Bill Ward] at one point…
Rubin: I did. He was on the list I submitted to them. Certain people were dismissed outright by the band based on having dealt with them on the past or the baggage. It wasn’t always about drumming ability. I’ll tell you what the deal was. He was on my list because I wanted to get someone who had grown up in the same world as them and who jammed the way they did and there aren’t many of those people left. Most of them are dead. But I was asking: who grew up listening to the same music as them? Who played in bands where they jammed back then? It’s a very different thing from the way hard rock and heavy metal drummers play today. That’s the kind of drummer I was looking for.
MOJO: You also suggested Brad Wilk. Why?
Rubin: Of all the people I heard them play with Brad had the best feel. I got chills when I heard him play with them. There were some other very good drummers [that tried out], but there wasn’t that emotional connection or that tension that you need, musically speaking. To me, every great band has emotional side. When it really works in a band there’s a tension that builds in the players. It’s not anything they even know about in some cases but it’s there. It’s the way each person in the band hears the same groove and the way one person in the band moves forward on the groove while the other moves back on the groove. That’s what makes a great band, that’s what makes THE ROLLING STONESsound like THE ROLLING STONES, that’s what makes AC/DC sounds likeAC/DC where Malcolm Young pushes in a way where Phil Rudd lays back. The relationship between the guitar playing and the drumming is what creates this tension in the music and makes it really exciting. WhenBrad played with SABBATH, you could feel that there was something pulling them. He had that emotional connection, or that tension that you need musically speaking. It’s difficult to explain, but there’s a feeling.
Read the entire interview from MOJO magazine.