FINNEAS meets Rick Rubin: “OK, this is a personal question. I look at the breadth of your career, and I see you as a master delegator”

Rick Rubin
(Image credit: JB Lacroix/ Getty Images)

The precise nature of Rick Rubin’s production process has long been the subject of debate, so it isn’t hugely surprising that it was something that FINNEAS wanted to explore with him when the pair met up over Zoom for Rolling Stone.

“OK, this is a personal question,” began Billie Eilish’s brother and producer. “I look at the breadth of your career, and I see you as a master delegator, giving people the steering wheel and being like, ‘I think you could drive in this direction,’ but trusting them to drive the car. Is that right?”

In reply, Rubin said: “When I started, I created all the music myself and there was a lot of writing involved, even lyrics. What I came to realise, very quickly, is that if I wanted to work on a lot of stuff, I can’t write everything myself. The greatest writers in the world can only write an album or two albums of material in a year.

“So I stepped away from writing and focused more on just the way it sounded - the arrangement of the song, whether the material was good enough. I might leave at 6pm, but the engineer and the artist continue working into the night. Then in the morning, when I come in, there’s another batch [of songs] to listen to.”

Discussing Rubin’s unique working methods earlier this year, Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis told Apple Music 1’s Zane Lowe: “I'll see people look at him like, ‘Shouldn't he be getting to work now?’,” before confirming that “Oh, he's there. He's there.”

“Because he's going into a new place, an abstract place,” Kiedis continued, “a ‘what if we tried it completely different?’ And then we have to go, ‘whoa, OK. Let's let go of everything that we had in mind, and try something that we could not have predicted or thought of ourselves.’”

In his chat with FINNEAS, Rubin also discussed the importance of location to his creative flow.

“I try to live in places that are inspiring to be in for my own head,” he explains. “It helps me to be in a peaceful, beautiful place, whether it be a forest or an ocean.

“When I moved to California, one of the first albums I made was the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sugar Sex Magik. This was their fifth album. The choice was, we could go into a windowless recording studio, like the ones they did the last four times, or we could create some new adventure. We rented this mansion, and the band lived there and we worked there together. And as a matter of fact, three of the members never left the premises until the album was done, which is radical.”

FINNEAS and Rubin’s conversation reveals that the pair have huge respect for one another, with both expressing their love and the influence of The Beatles. In fact, we’re getting bromance vibes from the two of them, with Rubin wrapping up by saying that he’s sure that their next meeting “will be in person, and it will go much longer, and we’ll get to listen to music. It’ll be great.”

You can read the full discussion between FINNEAS and Rick Rubin on the Rolling Stone website. 

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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