Producer Nick Raskulinecz picks 10 essential rock records
Since Elvis moved like Elvis on the Ed Sullivan Show, rock 'n' roll has played a key role in widening the cultural gulf between parents and their kids. Producer Nick Raskulinecz wouldn't know from that, though: As a music-obsessed teenager growing up in Knoxville, Tennessee, he used to bond with his mother over their mutual love of rock, metal and even prog albums.
“My mom had great taste in music," Raskulinecz says. "She and her friends would play Rush and Yes and all kinds of cool bands. It was awesome having a mother who loved music. Anytime she went to the record store to buy a couple of albums, she'd get some for me, too."
In the early '80s, Raskulinecz developed a particular fondness for glam metal ("great guitar players, killer tones"). He cites Ratt's 1983 debut, Out Of The Cellar, as the first album that made him appreciate the role that a producer plays in crafting sounds. "Beau Hill produced that album," he recalls, "and he did a lot of cool things that were probably very innovative at the time, all of these backwards effects and reverbs. There's even Simmons Drums on the record. My ears definitely perked up."
Since he made his first big splash as a producer, manning the board for the Foo Fighters' One By One in 2002, Raskulinecz has racked up an impressive list of credits: Alice In Chains, Stone Sour, Evanescence, the Deftones and, of course, his childhood heroes, Rush. Right from the start, however, his production ethos was already fully formed: "I want to make records that I'd actually listen to," he explains. "I'm as much a fan as I am a producer. The experience of putting an album on in your car and just wanting to drive to it for hours and hours – that's what I want to capture. Those are my favorite kinds of records."
On the following pages, Raskulinecz runs down 10 albums (well, 17, if you count multiples by Rush) that he's logged a lot of miles listening to. Ranked in order, here's his 10 Essential Rock Records.
Metallica – Master Of Puppets (1986)
“James Hetfield’s right hand, the tightness of his playing, was something that had never been heard before. The tone of his guitar at that particular time added to the weight of the music, and it became tremendously influential.
“The Ratts and the Dokkens and the Motley Crues were happening at the same time this record came out, but Master Of Puppets announced to everybody that something different was going on. It was a really vicious, crushing sound. You couldn’t escape the fact that a new kind of band was on the horizon.
“Metallica were probably considered heavy metal at the time, but I think of them as a rock band, and this is a real rock record.”
Loudness – Thunder In The East (1985)
“To my ears, this record has one of the greatest rock guitar tones of all time. It’s got everything: midrange, top and bottom, and Akira Takasaki’s playing is just mind-blowing. The vocalist [Ninoru Niihara] was trying to sing in English, but you don’t even listen to him, in my opinion – it’s all about the guitar.
“I discovered the album through a friend’s older brother, who came back to Knoxville one Christmas with a whole bunch of records. I had never heard of the band before, but they really knocked me out. Thunder In The East had a huge impact on me when it came out, and I still listen to it now.”
Aerosmith – Rocks (1976)
“Rocks has the heaviest, cleanest guitar tones I’ve ever heard. What a wonder palette of sounds Joe Perry and Brad Whitford have on this thing, a wonderful bed for Steven Tyler to sing on and jump up and down on and get laid on.
“The way that Joe and Brad weave their parts is a perfect example of how twin-guitar bands should sound. It’s almost like they’re one guitar player – everything fits perfectly. There’s a density and a weight to their tones, but it’s all done without distortion. That’s pretty remarkable.”
King Diamond – Abigail (1987)
“When this record came out, it changed my entire year and the way I heard the guitar. The way that the guitarists in Kind Diamond played off of one another and created a very distinctive sound really impressed me. What they did was so perfect, in fact, that I didn’t believe they could re-create it live. I went to see the band pla, in fact, just to see if they could pull it off, and they sure did. They could shred!
“It wasn’t just the sound; there was a different attitude about the band, as well. Maybe it was because they’re European – they just seemed quite unique and didn’t present their music the same way as the Los Angeles rock bands I was listening to.”
Alice In Chains – Dirt (1986)
“This is probably the most recent album on my list. I love it because of Jerry Cantrell’s guitar tone – it’s like a big woolly mammoth coming at you. He’s one of those guitarists who can just play a couple of notes, and you know who it is. When I started working with the band, that was one thing I was very particular about capturing, the distinctive sound of Jerry Cantrell’s guitar work.
“Layne Staley was the singer of the band at the time of Dirt, and obviously he was brilliant. He and Jerry worked beautifully together – as singers, too, because Jerry’s voice is very much a part of the band’s sound.
“It’s funny: Alice In Chains don’t get the kind of credit that they deserve. They were actually the biggest Seattle band around before any of the other bands from that city got noticed. Before Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, there was Alice In Chains. They opened doors and influenced a lot of people.”
Van Halen – Fair Warning (1981)
“Eddie does a lot of different things on Fair Warning than he did on Van Halen’s first records, but he’s going for it just as hard. A lot of people might say it’s a darker record, it’s not as lighthearted, but to me, it’s the band’s most energetic album.
“Most of the Van Halen albums are almost equal to me – they’re all great – but this one pokes through a bit as being a standout. The playing, the songs, the spirit – it’s all exceptional.”
Dokken – Under Lock And Key (1985)
“George Lynch is a brilliant guitar player. His sound and the genius of his musicianship are just overwhelming. I listened to Under Lock And Key so much when it came out.
“Dokken put out some great records in the '80s. This one, Tooth And Nail and even Back For The Attack are fucking ripping guitar albums. George Lynch is a real master of his instrument.”
“There’s no way I can pick just one Rush album, or even a few of them. Each of these records is so different, but they’re all fantastic in their own individual ways. I always say that Alex Lifeson is the chameleon of rock guitar because he’s changed his sound and his style so many times. I always want to hear what he’s going to do next.
“I discovered Rush because my mom was listening to 2112. How awesome is that? I was six years old, and my mother is introducing me to Rush. I guess my daughter will be into them, too; she’s seven years old, and she listens to everything that I do.
“Highlights, for me, are probably Hemispheres, 2112 and Permanent Waves, but again, each one of these records means something special. Nobody sounds like Rush.”
Stevie Ray Vaughan – Texas Flood (1983)
“A little bit of a departure for me, but it’s Stevie Ray Vaughan – he cuts across all styles. The passion in his playing can bring me to tears. He used .13 gauge strings and had to bend them all the way, man. And you can feel that, too. It comes through loud and clear in every one of his songs. This is as real as it gets.
“To be honest, Stevie Ray is pretty much the only straight-up blues guy I’ve ever gotten into. His fire, his tone, his overall command of the guitar – it appealed to me in a way that other blues players didn’t. I could drive around listening King Diamond, and then I’d throw on some Stevie Ray Vaughan. It worked.”
Ratt – Out Of The Cellar (1984)
“Actually, this is hard because I have three albums that are tied for the number one spot: KISS Alive!, Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads Tribute, and Ratt’s Out Of The Cellar. But if I had to pick one for the desert island, it would be Out Of The Cellar.
“I was in seventh grade and I saw the Round And Round video on MTV. Immediately, I fell in love with the song, and I begged my mom to buy the record for me. I couldn’t stop listening to it. To a kid in Knoxville, Tennessee, living through Hit Parader and Circus magazines, it was absolutely magical.
“Wanted Man, Back For More, In Your Direction – what a bunch of cool, guitar-riff tunes. Warren DeMartini pretty much gets all of the spotlight, but Robbin Crosby was awesome. He wasn’t a shredder – he did more of the rhythms, holding down the fort and doing the bluesy, bend-y stuff – but when he did take a solo, it was big. His leads were almost more memorable than Warren’s in a way.”