The American music producer Rick Rubin has long been a living legend. For more than 35 years, he has had a significant influence on the music scene. The list of his legendary works is long. Rubin was right in the core of the action when hip hop was growing up. With his first label Def Jam Recordings he turned LL Cool J and the Beastie Boys into superstars. After a dispute with his partner, he renamed the company Def American and later changed its name into American Recordings. In the meantime, the music-obsessed producer also worked as co-head of the Columbia Records label. This company belongs to Sony/BMG now. Throughout his career, he has found and promoted numerous legendary records by stars such as Slayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Tom Petty, AC/DC, Metallica, System of a Down, Slipknot, Linkin Park, Johnny Cash, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Eminem, and Kanye West. The TV channel Showtime has now given him TV series where his studio Shangri-La plays a leading role.
The four-part series of the same name focuses on the personality of Rick Rubin and his studio located in Malibu. The series was filmed mainly in the studio and showed the master talking to his stars, or rather at work. It is noticeable that Shangri-La differs significantly from all other well-known recording studios. No awards are hanging on the wall. Rick Rubin’s studio is entirely empty. The walls are whitewashed and there is hardly any furniture in the numerous buildings. He dispenses with any frills. That was his way of working pretty much.
Inspiration from The Past
Rubin once compared his approach to peeling an onion. He removes peel after peel, until the core is left over. That’s what he tells his musicians how to work. During the recording, they should concentrate on their central abilities and thus get to the heart of the matter. In the series, the filmmaker explains this principle like this. The idea in designing the studio was to have no art on the walls. So with an empty brain, you have to start making art yourself. You can find all doo-dads behind closed doors. This music museum contains rare books, historical instruments, and old recordings. This stuff serves Rubin as inspiration for his work. The studio itself is kept sterile. After each recording session, they paint the walls inside the studio. The workers regularly vacuum the mixing console knobs. Nothing should distract the musicians from their art. During the recording process, everybody focuses on the music.
Barely Escaped the Catastrophe
By the way, the detached studio used to be a barn. That is where Mr. Ed lived. He was the horse from the popular 1960s TV show of the same name. Most recently Shangri-La survived two fires, including the Woolsey fire of 2018. The private houses of Rubin that was nearby burned down, but Shangri-La resisted the fire. An employee who had stayed on site caused the fire. He flooded the area and saved the legendary studio.