September 02, 2007

Rick Rubin - Recording Industry - Rock Music - New York Times

Is there some reason the NYTimes periodically runs fawning pieces on Rick Rubin? I swear I have read virtually the same article in the Times sometime in past year or so. I know I have because my knowledge of Rick Rubin is largely limted to these two articles. (Was maybe the other in the New Yorker? If so, isn't the Times just running a dumbdowned version of it?)

Rick Rubin - Recording Industry - Rock Music - New York Times

Why does the Times allow this kind of foolishness to appear in print:

Rubin, wearing his usual uniform of loose khaki pants and billowing white T-shirt, his sunglasses in his pocket, his feet bare, fingers a string of lapis lazuli Buddhist prayer beads, believed to bring wisdom to the wearer. Since Rubin's beard and hair nearly cover his face, his voice, which is soft and reassuring, becomes that much more vivid. He seems to be one with the room, which is lined in floor-to-ceiling books, most of which are of a spiritual nature, whether about Buddhism, the Bible or New Age quests for enlightenment. The library and the house are filled with religious iconography mixed with mementos from the world of pop. A massive brass Buddha is flanked by equally enormous speakers; vintage cardboard cutouts of John, Paul, George and Ringo circa "Help!" are placed around a multiarmed statue of Vishnu. On a low table, there are crystals and an old RadioShack cassette recorder that Rubin uses to listen to demo tapes; a framed photo of Jim Morrison stares at a crystal ball. In Rubin's world, music and spirituality collide.

Oh, Jesus Christ. That last sentence is so grating and annoying. How about, instead, more clearly: Rubin has accessorized his hipness with random artifacts, a mixture of dumb pop shit and pseudo Eastern mumbo jumbo with some other random shit to go along with it to increase the wisdom factor.

(Yes, I also have many Buddhas throughout my house, (though I try to avoid the billowy shirt look) but I do not try to act the guru part. They are pure visual appeal. Do I even pretend these Buddhas make me less of an banshee hater of all things?)

And who mixes Buddha AND the Bible AND with New Age stuff. Pick the mumbo jumbo that best matches the wallpaper, friend: finger the prayer beads OR handle snakes OR strike a yoga Warrior I pose. You don't get more spiritual the more traditions you fake.

But Rubin, man, he is so, like, spiritual. Don't take it just from the bootlicking NYT magazine piece either. Take it from one of the Dixie Chicks:

"That's why they call him a guru," Natalie Maines, the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks, explained to me in August, calling from her home in Los Angeles. Maines, who has been with the label since 1997, first worked with Rubin in 2004. "At first, I didn't know if I was down with all that guru stuff. I thought, We're making a record — I don't want to be converted. But Rick's spirituality has mostly to do with his own sense of self. When it comes to the music, he's so sure of his opinion that you become sure of his opinion, too. And isn't that what gurus do? They know how to say the right things at the right time and get the best out of you."

Shouldn't that concept of your spirituality "mostly [having] to do with his own sense of self" be explored just a bit more? Isn't that more accurately called meglomania and not spirituality? Just a question.

So if you are totally, like totally, sure of yourself and you have good taste, than it is spiritual?

{I am God.}

Sure, sure, Rubin is an amazingly successful producer and a music whiz who rescues washed up guys, and he got hip hop really early on, and all of that shit. But do we have to buy him as the Buddha too?

Brian Wilson is a more interesting candidate for guru. He had a big beard and a flowy shirt. And he wrote his songs himself!

I bet John Paul Jones, who gets it, has a relatively limited sense of himself as spiritual leader. And he was in Zeppelin, for fuckssake.

How about the fact that hip hop is shitty music, surely that must be relevant. Or that the new albums of the people he resurrected are nothing compared to the old (use Johnny Cash as case in point: when did he record his best stuff?)

This section was kind of a sign of Rubin's inflated sense of self:

"I was always aware of how important Cash was," Rubin said. "But no one under 40 who didn't live in the South knew much about Johnny Cash besides a few hits and his name."

Or, perhaps nobody who hadn't paid attention to good music for years had knew about Cash. Anybody who wasn't bothering to listen to shitty hip hop at the time might very well have spent the necessary time to hear Cash and all of the other greats of his era. Everybody I know was steeped in Johnny Cash long before Rubin helped to put out the mediocre series of latter records. Those albums are ok but nothing special. At least Johnn Cash's terrible mid-career records had some great covers. Like "The Holy Land" where he is pictured in said Holy Land in 3-D, or the "Bitter Tears" album, with Cash looking like a Indian wiping sweat from his brow.

There are too many annoying things in this article to detail: the restaurant where the author and Rubin meet (specifying that they met for lunch at "Hugo's, a health-conscious restaurant in Hollywood,") or that Rubin was listening to Simon and Garfunkel (how unexpected!) or that his wife was getting private Yoga instruction...

I can't stop the music!

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