Metallica Producer Bob Rock: ‘Black Album’ Changed What Went on the Radio
Metallica's 1991 self-titled album, better known as the 'Black Album,' is one of the highest selling records of all time, not just in the rock and metal world, moving over 16 million copies since being released. It saw Metallica veer away from their thrash roots, pioneering an entirely new sound that has lived on through the decades. Famed producer Bob Rock was brought in to work with the band for the first time on that album and he recently reflected on linking up with the band and the impact their work together made in a new interview with Decibel.
The producer recalled having heard Metallica's ...And Justice for All prior to going to see The Cult open for the thrashers on the supporting album tour. Sticking around to watch Metallica after initially hitting a stop in Vancouver, Canada to see The Cult's Ian Astbury and Billy Duffy, Rock commented, "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."
Rock was asked to mix Metallica's successor to ...And Justice for All, but instead offered to produce it. When the band came to Vancouver to play some of the new songs on cassette, the producer heard "Sad But True" and was won over. "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," he added.
Switching up the band's experience from working with Flemming Rasmussen, Rock instructed Metallica that he wanted them to play in the same room at the same time. "They had never done that before," he said. "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."
Rock also noted, "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."
Looking back on it all, the producer acknowledged, "It's a huge part of my life. I spent 15 years with those guys. I couldn't have worked with a better band. It was difficult, but when you're in a place that's not comfortable, you do your best work. Clearly it's some of my best work. It was all of us that made that record. No compromise. Culturally, in the music business, that's when Metallica got on the radio. It was the biggest cultural record I made. It changed what went on the radio. I'm very proud of that. I look back on it fondly."
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