Rick Rubin: My Life in 21 Songs

From LL Cool J to Kanye West, Slayer to Tom Petty, Johnny Cash to Dixie Chicks, producer reflects on more than three decades of challenging music's status quo

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Black Sabbath, "God Is Dead?" (2013)

I got together with them originally in 2001, and they went off to do some jamming and for whatever reason, nothing really came together. They called and said, "It's not really happening." The muse didn't arrive for them. 

This time, I tried to get them to work in the way they used to work, where a lot of material would happen through jamming. So they would have a part to start from like a jazz band, so Tony [Iommi] would have one or two main riffs and then take it into different directions. I sort of picked the main riffs for them to start with together, and then they'd just jam and see what direction they went into. So the songs are very intuitive, not organized like regular songs. They really move more based on just improvisational principles, and that comes through on this song.

People think of them as heavy metal, but they're really a rock band, and they're really a progressive rock band in the same way that Led Zeppelin is. So much of it is rooted in blues and improvisation. The people who have come in their wake don't have the skill set that they have. It's much more like jazz the way Black Sabbath play.

There were always antics, and they would always sort of make fun of each other and make each other laugh, and clearly Ozzy is very, very funny all the time and just great to be around. They're really nice people. We laughed a lot. That whole record was so much fun. How do these guys just start a riff and it falls right into that sound? It's in them [laughs]. It's unbelievable.

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