With a proposed album of covers with Crosby Stills and Nash now scuttled, never-ending delays with ZZ Top’s new project, and similar mishaps with Slipnot and Muse, the question becomes: Has Rick Rubin, once a sure-fire producer, lost his touch?
After co-founding Def Jam Records — where he helped popularize hip hop with acts like the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J and Run–D.M.C. — Rubin later went on to become an in-demand producer across a variety of formats, most notably jumpstarting Johnny Cash’s long-dormant recording career. Over the years, he has also worked with Tom Petty, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Mars Volta, Mick Jagger, Aerosmith, Sheryl Crow, Adele and AC/DC, among many others. MTV would eventually praise Rubin as “the most important producer of the last 20 years.”
But, more recently, his projects have been fraught with difficulties: ZZ Top’s long-awaited new studio release has seen a series of revised street dates — and that’s directly attributable to Rubin’s eccentricities, according to the legendary Texas blues-rock trio. Members of Muse, meanwhile, recently thanked Rubin for “teaching how not to produce,” while Skipknot frontman Corey Taylor said last year that he would never work with him again.
Sessions for a proposed reunion of the original lineup of Black Sabbath have been a complicated mess too, though that seemingly cursed project has also had to contend with a cancer diagnosis for guitarist Tony Iommi and a contract dispute with drummer Bill Ward.
Now comes word that battles over song selection eventually halted sessions for a proposed tribute album to be called Songs We Wish We’d Written by Crosby Still and Nash, as well.
“I mean, who the fuck is Rick Rubin?” Nash says in a new MusicRadar interview. “I know he’s sold millions of records, but who the fuck is he to tell Crosby, Stills and Nash what to do? Guide us – yes. Make suggestions – fantastic. ‘Try it this way’ – no problem. But don’t tell us what to do. You can’t.”
Specifically, there was a row over David Crosby’s desire to include more than one Beatles song. “After almost 50 years of making records,” Nash says, “we think we know what we’re doing, so it’s very hard to tell Crosby, Stills and Nash what to do. … Crosby said to him, ‘There’ll only be one Beatles song if we decide there will be one Beatles song.’ You know, like, ‘Who the fuck are you to tell me … ‘ From the start, it was irritable.”
Nash says that CSN has returned to the album concept, now that Rubin has been jettisoned, refuting an earlier comment from bandmate Stephen Stills — also to MusicRadar — that the group was finished recording: “Crosby, Stills and Nash will do another record,” Nash insists. “We started that process with Rick Rubin. It didn’t work out, but the idea is still a brilliant one.”