I probably own all the hard rock albums Bob Rock has been involved in from a production stand point, mixer and engineer from Loverboy and onwards. And this podcast is brilliant. Bob Rock gives so much information and there are so many takeaways from it.
He’s sitting on two albums already done, one with Richie Sambora and Offspring. And it looks like the albums will not come out until next year.
To me, the reason why the albums are being held is because the focus is still on sales.
But the time is now.
It’s all about people listening. Not sales.
I read that “The Last Dance” was scheduled for a different release window, but Netflix saw the opportunity to release it during the no sports period of COVID-19 and it hit our screens exaclty then, giving the people their fix of sports and re-creating Jordan as a modern day superstar. It’s like he just finished playing and it’s being over 22 years.
As soon as budgets for recording sessions went super low, labels and artists stopped using mega studios. Hence he has a dormant mega studio at home. And he uses Bryan Adams studio, in Vancouver to record with artists.
He got into music for the love of making records. And even though budgets are smaller he still wants to make records, so he chooses who he wants to work with and he’s okay with a smaller budget.
He’s 66 now and he’s been together with his wife for 35 years, which is huge when it comes to the music business.
But the best advice he gave is;
Mixing is a perspective. The way the Mixer mixes is their perspective on how music sounds.That’s brilliant, because so many people chase sounds developed by others and Bob Rock is creating sounds on how he thinks it should sound.
He’s A Musician First
Even though he is known as a producer he was a musician first. So he still writes tracks with drums, keys, bass and a scratch guitar. He co-wrote 8 songs on the new Richie Sambora album.
He’s a collector of vintage gear. He collected all the amps and pedals that Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Dave Gilmour used. And he was trying to re-create the Led Zep 1 guitar sound and he found out on the internet he was missing one small effect, which he had, and once he plugged it in, he got the sound.
And he felt like a kid.
He has a warehouse full of amps, keyboards and guitars/bass.
He had a lot of singles because albums were expensive. So he was exposed to different artists, different productions, different styles.
Put Yourself Out There
With one of his first proper bands, they worked jobs, saved money and then they all went to England to make it. That lasted six months before they came home with nothing to show.
His parents were not even happy about their sons choice of careers. And after he came home, he got a normal job again. And it was at one of those jobs, he heard an ad on the radio, to learn basic engineering.
So he went to Vancouver with funds supplied from his parents and the guy who was teaching the course offered Rock a job at Little Mountain Recording Studios.
He got the job because he wasn’t scared to make a mistake. And this opportunity started his entire career.
So the lesson here is to persevere, PUT YOURSELF OUT THERE and don’t be sacred to fail.
Punk Music Opened Doors
Punk made it easy for bands to play clubs and make records, because before punk, the musicians had to be of a certain standard, (just think of Steely Dan, The Eagles, Little Feat, Styx and even Toto). Then punk comes around and three chord songs are getting studio time and club time.
Punk music opened up these doors.
And Bob Rock said, punk music allowed him to make records. The first song he wrote, he got an album deal. The Payola$ and REM got signed on the same week.
The Payola$ name was a poke at the payola scandal where the labels and the radio stations tried to fix the charts.
Find The Home Of The Song
He worked with guitarist Mick Ronson from David Bowie. Ronson produced two Payola$ albums.
Ronson taught Rock the lesson, that you don’t need to re-record everything. Sometimes the demo could have enough in it and a few overdubs could finish it off.
Another lesson Ronson taught Rock is about finding a home of the song and doing it right. In “Sad But True” Rock told Metallica, you have a song here and he was hearing “When The Levee Breaks” but the tempo was too fast on the demo. He told Metallica to slow it down and they found the songs home and the world got a groove metal behemoth. Lyrically I’m not a fan of “Sad But True”, but musically its bone crunching to play.
Bruce Fairbairn liked to have demos or do pre-production before he got the artist into the studio. And he kept a tight schedule, pushing artists hard to get a lot of out em within the schedule.
So coming into the “Black” album, Metallica never played in the studio together but he got em to do it for the “Black” album which Rock calls the “pocket” album.
Pre-Production for the “Black” album took 2 weeks and it took 15 months to record the album. But originally, he was hired to mix the album, because the guys liked the sound/sonics of the Motley Crue “Dr Feelgood” album.
And it took that long because they spent weeks getting the perfect guitar sound, and weeks for the perfect drum sound and weeks for the perfect bass sound. He sent Lars to get drum lessons and James to get vocal lessons. And they had no idea how big the album would become. All up he spent 15 years working with Metallica, and he realised he just had to move on eventually.
Bon Jovi and Bruce Allen
The manager of The Payola$, Bruce Allen, ended up managing Bob Rock and Allen told him, “you gotta stop doing these gigs because you are a producer and I will manage you as a producer and you will make some money”. And Allen said to him, “you are going to get a point on the next record” and that was “Slippery When Wet” but he didn’t get the point.
So on “Slippery When Wet”, Rock only made $10K Canadian and for “Permanent Vacation”, Bruce Fairbairn offered him $8K Canadian. And the production crew just wanted “Slippery When Wet” to go Gold so they could get another production gig. And in three months it sold 3 million in the U.S alone.
But Jon Bon Jovi wanted Bob Rock to do the next album “New Jersey” and Bruce Allen said that Bob isnt doing it. But Jon wanted Bob Rock and Rock got his point (1%) for mixing the album.
He Keeps On Learning
In every production gig he always learned something new, from either the artists because of what they wanted to do/achieve or the other people he was working with in the production team and he’s still learning right now.
That’s why he’s still in the business, he has continued to self develop, learn and grow as a producer. He never rested on his laurels. And he keeps an eye on what rises to the surface, so he could see what is happening sonically and from a song point of view.
Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone
And everything Rock has done is because of the sounds on the Motley Crue and Metallica albums he produced.
And Rock goes its because the guys in Motley Crue and Metallica pushed him to step out of his comfort zone and try different things.
Do Your Time
Rock came from jingles, a 1 minute record every day. You need to start somewhere. And be patient.