With all the controversy swirling around the new Metallica CD, I thought it would be a good time to pull out this Michael Fremer interview with Rick Rubin a few years ago. It's a terrific discussion between two devoted music lovers, one that I would love to hang out and chat with.
Rubin discusses many issues regarding the state of the music industry, his various projects, and his thoughts on audio. Tellingly, the subject of heavily compressed CD's arise, in this case the Mars Volta album, De-loused in the Comatorium. I am already familiar with Rubin's response, that "louder" CD's are more popular with the general public, that most people listen to music on their car stereos or boom boxes or iPods, that hi-fi stereo systems are a dying breed. I've heard all of these responses many times. But here I was struck, not only by his honesty, but a certain sense of resignation to the situation.
As Rubin says, his job is to listen to A/B, and his job as a producer is ultimately to sell albums. But it's clear to me from this discussion that he would gladly create hi-fi music that rivals the finest analog LP's, if only the market will allow.
Let this be a lesson to you, kids. You get what you pay for. It's like something Roger Ebert often says about the movies: "If you want better films, you need to cultivate better audiences."
Despite my own deep frustration with the brickwalled mix of D-Mag, I have a great admiration and respect for Rubin. Forget all of his great achievements, toss 'em out. The man made Johnny Cash cool again. For that, he deserves our thanks.
Michael Fremer Talks With Rick Rubin