Bob Rock Discusses His Role In Making METALLICA's The Black Album
Producer Bob Rock's place in Metallica history is undeniable. Rock produced everything from 1991's Metallica to 2003's St. Anger, the latter of which he played bass on as well. Rock recalls in an interview with Decibel that he was asked to mix Metallica by the band, and refused by saying he'd be more than happy to produce it.
Rock says he pushed Metallica to record the album basically live in the studio, and recalls that he was blown away by James Hetfield's lyrics during the process.
OK, I had bought Justice. The Cult were warming up for the Justice after Sonic Temple. When the tour hit Vancouver, I went to see Ian [Astbury] and Billy [Duffy]. I stayed to watch Metallica. I had heard the Justice record, but they sound heavy and big and monstrous and thick live. On record, there’s none of that weight. That was my thought. Months later, I hear they want me to mix their new album. I said, “I don’t want to mix your album, but I’ll produce it.” Somebody told me they were put off by that. Evidently, not. A little bit later, they came up to Vancouver to play me their songs. On cassette, right? I heard “Sad But True.” In my mind, I said to myself, “I can do this! I know how to make this sound big!”
I knew how to make their weight work for them. I mean, Flemming [Rasmussen] had a way of recording the band. That’s pretty much what they knew. He did a fantastic job and it worked well. But they said to me, “If you produce this, you gotta do what you do.” So, I said to them, “I want you to play in the same room at the same time.” They had never done that before. Basically, there was no preconceived way of doing Metallica. I brought what I knew to the table and did what they told me to do. It was quite a change. These guys, they were deeper. More intense.
There were times when I was thinking about James’ lyrics. I was thinking, “This guy’s as good as anybody.” He’s intense. He’s deep. I didn’t grow up on Metallica. I just came in to help them with a record. If were doing Led Zeppelin, that’d be a different story for me. I’d be so enamored with them, I’m not sure I could do it. With Metallica, they were just guys to me. I didn’t cater to what they were. I catered to what they wanted to do. That’s ultimately what a producer is.
Speaking on if he enjoyed working with the band and if he liked Metallica, Rock said "I’m very proud of it. It’s a huge part of my life. I spent 15 years with those guys. I couldn’t have worked with a better band." The whole interview is definitely worth a read for production nerds.
Clearly Rock's methods and ways of pushing the band worked, considering Metallica is one of the best selling albums ever recorded. Seriously, Metallica has sold 21.2 million copies worldwide since 1991, and still sells so many copies per week that even the band themselves don't know who the hell are buying them.