Lex Fridman Podcast - #275 - Rick Rubin: Legendary Music Producer

There are no right answers for anything involved in art.

We’re all trying experiments to find a way.

And even for the things that I work on,

I don’t have a set way that I do anything.

I come to every project blank.

Maybe you’re just a meat vehicle

and you’re channeling ideas from somewhere else.

I believe we know close to nothing,

close to nothing, about anything.

If we embrace that not knowing,

we’ll have a healthier experience going through life.

The following is a conversation with Rick Rubin,

one of the greatest music producers of all time,

known for bringing the best out of anyone he works with,

no matter the genre of music or even the medium of art,

or just the medium of creating

something beautiful in this world.

And the list of musicians he produced includes many,

many, many of the greats over the past 40 years,

including the Beastie Boys, Eminem, Metallica,

LL Cool J, Kanye West, Slayer, Tom Petty,

Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks, Aerosmith, Adele,

Danzig, Red Hot Chili Peppers,

System of a Down, Jay Z, Black Sabbath.

I can keep going for a very long time here.

Most importantly, Rick is just an amazing human being.

We became fast friends, which is surreal to say,

and is just an incredible honor.

I felt truly heard as a person

when I spent the day with him

eating some delicious Texas barbecue,

talking about life, about music, about art, about beauty.

This was a conversation and experience I will never forget.

This is the Lex Friedman podcast.

To support it, please check out our sponsors

in the description.

And now, dear friends, here’s Rick Rubin.

Are you nervous?

I’m not shaky, but I would say I feel uneasy.

And I feel like the sooner we start talking,

the more relaxed we’ll get.


Well, maybe we should sit in this moment

and enjoy the nervousness of it.

Let me start with Nietzsche.

He said, without music, life would be a mistake.

What do you think he means by that?

Let’s talk some philosophy.

Let’s try to analyze Friedrich Nietzsche from a century ago.

It seems like music has the ability

to bring us so much depth in our soul

that’s hard to access any other way.

And without it, there would be a loss

beyond the pleasure of it.

Feels like it’s a window into something else.

Something that no other medium

can express quite the same way.

I would say not as automatically.

Something about music can do it automatically.

Maybe poetry or maybe certain abstract forms

can get us there.

But there’s something about music

that really can get us there quickly.

But it’s also the time, the place, the history.

There’s something about, like a lot of my family’s

still in Philly, there’s something about driving

through Jersey and listening to Bruce Springsteen.

And then you just, I’ll get emotional.

Like listening to I’m On Fire.

That like, one of my favorite Bruce Springsteen songs,

there’s a haunting kind of strumming to it.

It’s not a strumming, it’s actually picked.

It has a country feel to it,

almost like a Johnny Cash feel actually.

And it, I don’t know, makes me feel,

so for people who don’t know, I’m On Fire.

That song is, I guess, a love song to a woman

that you can’t have because she’s married

or she’s with somebody else,

which I guess is quite a lot of love songs.

But there’s something about the haunting nature

of the guitar and then it has to be driving through Jersey.

And I feel like everyone has fallen in love

with a Jersey girl at one point in their life.

I don’t know if that’s true for her,

but I feel like that.

I haven’t either, but I just feel like that.

There’s something about Bruce Springsteen is like,

yeah, I’ve been there.

And that just takes you to a place of emotion

that you just, that captures love,

that captures longing, that captures the heartbreak

of just the way time flows in life

and the fact that it’s finite

and just all of that in a single simple song.

What else can capture that?

Yeah, I don’t know.

But it’s true that there’s a connection

both between time and place and music.

And I, certain music growing up on the East Coast

didn’t really resonate with me

until I spent time on the West Coast.

Eagles being an example.

When I lived in New York,

the Eagles didn’t really speak to me.

ZZ Top didn’t really speak to me.

And then when I started spending time in California

and driving through Laurel Canyon,

all of a sudden the music of the Eagles felt

appropriate somehow.

And I started listening to it more.

Got it.

So not until you went out West

can you understand the sounds of the West.

So it’s really like New York has a sound.

What other places have a sound in the United States?

I think every place does.

And that said, sometimes we can get an experience

through music of a place.

Like we can resonate with the music and not understand why.

And then maybe when we go to the place

where it was created,

it’s almost like we have a knowingness of that place.

It’s not a strange place anymore.

Yeah, Stevie Ray Vaughan with blues and Texas blues.

You can just listen to Texas Flood and just,

again, this is like a woman you’re missing,

a broken heart and somehow that connects to the place.

The Eagles, what song with the Eagles connects with you?

Are we talking about like Take It Easy

or are we talking more like Hotel California?

I’m thinking Take It Easy, but both are great.

Yeah, there’s certain songs

when I started learning guitar when I was young

that’s like, I would like to be the kind of person

that not only knows how to play this song,

but understands the song and like have that song

be something I played 20 years ago.

And I’ve lived with that song for a while.

Like Hotel California is an example.

Obviously there’s the solo,

but there’s also the soulfulness of the lyrics,

which I still don’t understand.

And it could be about anything.

And as you get older,

I feel like the meaning of the song could be anything.

Yeah, I think that’s true.

I think that’s the beauty of them.

I think when the person wrote them,

they may have had one interpretation,

but it’s not contingent on us getting that interpretation

to like it or resonate with it or feel it.

In some ways, the best art is open enough

where the artist gets to have their experience

when they make it

and then the audience gets to have their experience

when they listen and they don’t have to be the same.

And then it connects thousands

or millions of people together.

There’s a togetherness of music when you share that music,

when you’re listening to stuff together, like in a car.

First of all, the car is a sacred place.

So I work in part on autonomous vehicles.

And you start to think, well,

what are the things you lose

when the car stops being the central part of American life?

The car ownership.

It just feels like the car, when you’re alone,

it’s like a therapist thing, session,

because you get angry at other humans

and then you get to like sit in your own anger and emotion.

You get to listen to the song on a long road trip

and remember, like run through your memories, the heartbreak.

I don’t know, the one that got away,

but also like the beautiful moments, all of it.

Yeah, and all of that in the car.

Yeah, driving also serves another purpose.

And it’s one of the things that we can do

that we have to pay attention enough not to crash,

but typically can essentially run on autopilot enough

where we could be thinking about something else

or concentrating on something else.

And the difference between concentrating on something

or trying to solve a problem

when you’re solely trying to solve a problem

versus when you have some little task

that’s keeping you occupied,

I find if I have something slight to take care of,

it frees a more creative side of my mind

to better solve problems.

You know, I’m kind of jealous of people

that found that in painting, for example.

They’ll be drawing or painting and listening to,

so that’s the small task you do.

You’re coloring in the lines.

It’s like this gentle, peaceful, slow process

that requires just a small fraction of your mind

and then you can listen.

Some people listen to podcasts that way.

Some people listen to music that way.


How do you do it?

How do you free your mind?

Yeah, running is one of them.

There’s a process.

So most freeing of the mind for me

has to go through a process of a bit of pain for a bit.

So doing something difficult,

so it’s like an airplane taking off or something.

So that’s like, for example, running.

The first few miles would just be,

just first of all, the physical aspect,

which is like, ah, you’re so fat.

You’re out of shape.

You’re, this is the getting old, this, that.

Okay, that slowly dissipates.

And then the demons come in who are like,

you should be getting this and that and this done.

You haven’t gotten it done.

You’re like breaking promises,

all those kinds of voices coming in.

And after that, maybe mile four,

it’s like, fuck it.

You just run, run with the wind at a very slow pace,

but with the wind, and then you could think.

So it’s the footsteps, the physical activity.

Then you could deeply think about stuff, ideas,

sort of design, whether it’s program design stuff

or like high level life decisions, all those kinds of things.

I would say running.

I used to build bridges from toothpicks.

I used to be a thing.

It’s an engineering.

I guess some people like glue together airplanes

and stuff like that.

But the bridges, it’s such deeply honest work

because at the end of it,

you’re gonna have to test that bridge

and you’re gonna see how good your work was.

The little details, but also the big picture.

Do you use glue or no?

Yeah, use glue.

So it’s not pure physics.

It’s materials engineering too.

Because the way you want to do it is

you actually split the wood as thin as possible

and then glue it back together

because the glue is really strong,

except for the arches and things like that.

So you’re building arch bridges,

which is a whole nother skill

because you have to bend the wood.

And it’s so cool

because the thing can hold thousands of times its weight.

And then you get to watch it explode at a certain point

from the pressure and when you do a really good job,

it doesn’t explode in a kind of some weak point

that you didn’t anticipate just kind of starts cracking.

Everything cracks, everything explodes.

It’s just pieces fly everywhere.

And it’s literally hundreds of hours of work

just explode in front of you.

And that’s a metaphor for life maybe.

And it’s all for nothing,

except for the journey that you took to get there.

And no one understands.

Speaking of which, back to Nietzsche,

these questions are ridiculous.

So you’re gonna have to try to figure out

what the heck I’m trying to do here.

So Nietzsche also said,

a line I love, which is,

and those who were seen dancing

were thought to be insane

by those who could not hear the music.

Do you, Rick Rubin, ever feel crazy?

Or maybe you’re the one who’s sane

and everybody else is crazy.

You know that the dancing, the joy of the music,

of just feeling the music

and everybody else just doesn’t understand.

And this doesn’t have to be literally about music.

This is about art, about creation.

I would say I feel different

and it’s hard to say

it’s like which side of the equation is crazy, you know?

Did you ever find a group of people

that you get, they get you?


Is that what producing is essentially?

Is you try to find the moments

when you just get each other?


I would say there are definitely certain artists

with certain temperaments.

When you’re around them,

it feels like you can finish each other’s sentences.

You know, just see the world the same way.

Comedians as well.

And that’s not essential for the two of you together

creating something special.

No, no.

So it could be attention too?

It could be anything.

It could be any, there’s no rules.

It’d be like, think of it like a coach.

A coach could bring what they have to bring

to any talented individual

and help them find their way.

And sometimes the right coach for the right athlete

really works and other times there’s a mismatch.

Have you seen the movie Whiplash?

I did.

I saw it when it came out

so I don’t really remember it well, but I did see it.

So there’s a coach type of figure.


Who is pushing a drummer to create,

to grow as a musician, but also to create something special.

I don’t know if it’s even special music skill wise,

it’s a special moment.

I don’t know what he’s trying to create.

From one perspective, it’s just an abusive,

a person who selfishly gets off on being abusive

to those he’s with.

But from another perspective, the way I saw that movie,

is it’s just the two right humans finding each other

at the right moment in life

and risking destroying each other in the process,

but maybe something beautiful will come of it.

Do you think that’s a toxic relationship?

Or is there, does some of that movie resonate with you

as that sometimes is required to create art?

That kind of suffering.

Yeah, it doesn’t.

Well, there’s suffering involved,

but not that kind of suffering.

Not for me.

There are some people who that’s their process

and that’s whatever works.

There’s no right answers for anything involved in art.

We’re all trying experiments to find a way.

And even for the things that I work on,

I don’t have a set way that I do anything.

I come to every project blank

and see,

I really listen to what the artist plays and says

and through what they explain they wanna do,

help find the best way to get there.

Was it implicit in the movie

that the mean teacher liked being a mean teacher?

You said the way you described it was

that he got off on treating people this way.

Do we know that to be the case?

I don’t remember that in the movie.

No, but we sometimes project that onto people,

people who are really rough on students.

You start to think, well, maybe,

maybe that is fundamentally who they are

and if it’s fundamentally who they are,

that there must be some pleasure in it

or it’s an addiction of some sort.

But it could be also a deliberate choice

made by the teacher.

It also could be a lineage.

Like in the Zen tradition,

there are sort of the mean Roshi’s

who if you do something wrong, take a physical action.

And it’s just in the lineage,

it’s considered that’s how you teach.

I didn’t come from that lineage.

So I’m much more of a,

I feel like it’s more of a collaboration

between people working together to make the best thing.

It’s not a boss slave relationship at all.

It’s much more of a let’s find our way.

And we agree at the beginning of the process

that if either of us or any of us

don’t like what’s happening, we say it.

And the goal is to keep working

till we get to a point where we’re all really happy with it.

It’s like if we make something

that an artist likes and I don’t like,

or that I like and they don’t like,

we haven’t gone far enough.

In terms of lineage,

the ones that seek destruction

and the ones that seek happiness

all come from the same lineage.

We all came from fish.

So somewhere in you, deep down there,

there’s the other stuff too.

It’s just that you haven’t been yet, by the way,

because you said every new project,

including maybe starting today,

is an opportunity to channel, to plug into something

that was always there

and you haven’t gotten a chance to plug into.

You mentioned listening.

How do you listen to a person?

How do you hear a person?

When you first come in, like we just met,

what’s the analysis happening?

But I mean, with me is one thing.

I’m an artist of sorts.

I program and I’m just, I’m human, I guess.

I guess we’re all creating art.

How do you see, like, how do I bring out?

So for people who don’t know,

I mean, obviously everyone knows

that you’ve produced some of the greatest records ever,

but the way I see that is you just brought out the best

in a lot of interesting artists.

And so in order to bring out the best in them,

you have to understand them.

You have to hear the music of their soul,

hopefully not being too romantic here,

but just like, is there something you can say

of how difficult that is, if there’s a process,

if there’s tricks, if it’s luck?

I think it starts with this, again, coming in blank,

like not having any preconceived ideas,

being open and really listening,

listening and not thinking about what you’re gonna say next

or what your opinion is or any, you know,

not basically being a recorder

and just hearing what comes in.

And then once you hear what comes in,

processing that information

and trying our best to do that

without any of the beliefs that we might have

to impact what that is.

If I ask you a question, I don’t wanna hear what,

I don’t wanna listen to you

and have any reaction happening when you’re speaking.

I wanna be as neutral as possible.

For me, my goal is not to form an opinion,

it’s to understand.

So if anything, I would draw you out further

and just ask questions to really understand.

And if you say, or if you say something

that somehow triggers me in a way that that’s, you know,

I wonder how he came to that.

I wouldn’t challenge you, I would ask,

like, how did you find that?

You know, how did you get to that place?

From a place of curiosity, you would try to figure out.

Yeah, I wanna understand who the person is.

And through questioning, we can usually get there.

Or through just spending time together,

you find out who the person is.

What about finding out and figuring out

how to then take the next steps

of bringing out the best in them?

Like, is it just trial and error?

Like, let’s try this.

It’s definitely trial and error.

It’s always trial and error.

Are you afraid of making a mistake?

Like, let’s add this instrument,

let’s remove this instrument.

Let’s add this line, let’s remove this line.

Let’s try.

And let’s be open.

So one of the, we don’t really have rules,

but one of the agreements in the studio is

any idea that anyone has will always demonstrate it,

will always try it.

Because I can describe to you an idea

and you can think, that’s a terrible idea,

let’s not do that.

And then I can play you the idea

and then you can say, oh, that’s really good.

And it’s completely different because we,

when we hear, when we’re told something,

we have to imagine what that is

and the way you see something and imagine it

and the way I see something and imagine it

are completely different.

So you say a thing and now there’s two humans

that play that thing in their mind differently,

in their imagination, and then there’s a cool creative step

and when you actually do it,

to see how it differs in the imagination,

and then the difference or the commonality

will be like an exciting little discovery together.

Well, so many groups of people

making things together in a room,

one person will suggest something

and someone else in the room say,

ah, that doesn’t sound like a good idea,

let’s not do that, and then they move on.

The testing of every idea is really important

and that’s how you get to see,

oh, that’s not at all what I thought it was gonna be.

Happens to me all the time, I know,

because someone will suggest, why don’t we do it like this?

And I’ll think, that sounds bad,

and then I’ll think, okay, let’s try it,

and then we hear it, and then eight times out of 10,

it’s nothing like I imagined and great.

And then you try not to have an ego

about the fact that you thought

it was not a good idea in your head.

There can’t be any ego in this.

It doesn’t, if everyone’s there

with the purpose of making the best thing we can,

there’s nothing else.

There are no, there can’t be any boundaries to that.

So there’s a moment I saw with,

I know you don’t love talking

about previous things you’ve done,

but it’s cool to dive in there every once in a while.

I’m fine to talk about anything.

To sample it, anything?

We’ll see.

I have this pain I gotta talk now.

I’ll think of something ridiculous

that would make you change your mind.

You mentioned, I saw a video of you with Jay Z

at Workaround 99 Problems where you suggested acapella,

opening the song with acapella,

just no instruments, just voice.

That to me, I mean, that’s one of the characteristics

of the things, of the ways you’ve brought out

the best in artists is doing less.

Sort of the tending towards simplicity in some kind of way.

So that choice of acapella is really interesting

because I could see a lot of people think

that that’s a bad idea,

but it turned out to be a really powerful idea.

Can you maybe talk about the simplicity,

how to find simplicity, why you find simplicity is beautiful.

It does appear to be beautiful.

What is that?

Yeah, I don’t know where it comes from.

It has been with me from the beginning of my work,

the very first album I ever produced,

the credit I took was reduced by me

instead of produced by me for that reason.

I like the idea of getting to the essential

and I have a better idea now that I’ve done it for a while,

but at the time it was purely an instinctual thing.

And part of it is a sonic, there’s a sonic benefit,

which is the less elements you have, you can hear each

of the ones that are there and they can sound better.

And the less there are, the more space they could have

around them and the more you can hear their personality.

If you were to record 10 people playing the same guitar part

and you listened to it, it would sound like guitar.

And if you record one person playing a guitar part,

it sounds like a person playing the guitar.

It’s different than just guitar.

And often in the studio, the idea of building upon things

and adding layers to thicken, to make it sound bigger,

sometimes the more things you add, the smaller it gets.

So a lot of it is counterintuitive

until you just in practice see what works.

Try it, to try removing stuff until it’s just right.

It’s the Einstein thing, make it as simple as possible,

but not simpler.

That’s such a, like finding a stopping place,

just keep chopping away and chopping away.

Yeah, there’s something we also like to do

called the ruthless edit, which is,

let’s say you’re at a point where it can work for anything,

but I’ll give you the example with an album.

We’ve recorded 25 songs.

We think the album is gonna have 10.

Instead of picking our favorite 10,

we limit it to what are the five or six

that we can’t live without.

So going past even the goal to get to the real heart of it

and then see, okay, we have these five or six

that we can’t live without.

Now, what would we add to that

that makes it better and not worse?

It’s just, it puts you in a different frame

when you start with building instead of removing.

And you might find that there’s nothing you need to add.

Sometimes, sometimes something happens

when you get to the real essence.

Then when you start adding things back,

it becomes clear that it was just supposed to be

this tight little thing.

Can I ask you like a therapy session question?

So you mentioned somewhere that one way

to kind of think about music to get into music

is to look at the top like 100 albums of all time

and just go down the list and like,

just take it all in like one piece of artwork.

So I was doing that for a while.

It’s a cool experiment,

because unfortunately I have to admit

I’ve gotten lazy and stopped taking in albums as albums.

And I looked at one interesting top 100 list,

top 500 actually, which is put together by Rolling Stone.

And they put, this is the therapy session part,

and this has to do with simplicity too.

They put Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On at number one.

Spoiler alert.

So I’d like to maybe get your opinion on that choice.

The reason that Marvin Gaye is really interesting,

it’d actually be cool to play What’s Going On in a second,

but when you just listen to his like acapella,

just listen to his voice, it is really good.

Like people, it makes me wonder if it’s possible

to pull off like most of his songs with no instruments.

Like in many parts, there’s so much soul

in just Mercy, Mercy, Me, What’s Going On.

There’s so many songs that you could just be like,

I wonder if you could just like, just go raw,

or maybe in parts, or maybe do what you do with Jay Z,

just open up with nothing.

Anyway, there’s something so powerful

to a great soulful voice.

Do you mind if I play it real quick?

No, please.

What’s going on?

This is probably one of my favorite songs.

I mean, it’s up there.

Hey, what’s happening?

What’s up, brother?

What’s up?

Hey, how you doing?

Hey man.


Hey man.

Mother, mother,

That voice.

There’s too many of you to cry.

Brother, brother, brother.

There’s far too many of you to die.

there’s some just very subtle backing vocals

this one hurts

father father we don’t need to escalate

i wonder who the father he’s talking about is

oh that’s interesting i mean i have so for people who don’t know his his own father ended up

uh killing marvin gay yeah i mean that one is really pain i mean for a lot of people your

relationship with your father your mother i mean there’s different dynamics but there’s

it’s almost like part of life is resolving some kind of complex puzzle you have

or the people you love the people close to you or the people who are not there all those kinds

of things that’s so much pain in that we don’t need to escalate father father i never thought

if it’s i always thought it’s his father directly yeah i don’t get that it could be but i don’t i

feel like it’s a more um masculine spirituality like a father figure or just broadly some kind

of spirituality could be like god father god mother god you know like could be i don’t know

but there’s there’s so much it’s like both hope and melancholy you seeing war is not the answer

it’s like you you don’t tell your father war is not your your blood father war is not the answer

it’s strange conversation it’s a bigger conversation they’re not personal don’t you

think it feels like war if one is personal what’s the difference between is the war is personal too

it’s only leaders think about war in a geopolitical sense yeah when people that fight wars you lose

your brothers you lose i mean you death is just right there so it might feel just like that but

yeah there is a dance between like the personal and like talking to the entirety of the society

it’s like john lennon imagine like also a song where is that is that a hopeful is that cynical

is it like melancholy like heartbroken like you you hope you wish things would be a certain way

and they’re not yeah i don’t know i don’t know john lennon is giving up on the world in imagine

yeah i don’t know you know it’s a it’s an interesting question there’s another uh

john lennon lyric um in let me think of what it is take me a second

and different songs keep coming into my head the one that i’m looking and you keep pressing next

um across the universe um nothing’s going to change my world and when i hear that

i hear it as hopeless but i don’t think i don’t believe that that’s

well it may be how he meant it but i don’t think that’s how it’s normally taken

and it’s also the taker is important i’m generally optimistic and hopeful so i i always like look for

the hope and the actually the harshest love uh heartbreak songs are always somehow hopeful to me

that’s a love song uh to me like a song about losing love is is a song about the great capacity

for love in the human heart that’s what i hear so to me losing love is exciting because it’s

like that means you really cared that means you felt something you feel something you can sit in

that pain and that pain is a reminder what it means to be human when you’re that um what is it uh

we’re just listening uh the only man who could have reached me was the son of a preacher man

so see um it’s like that early love or something or partially sexual or whatever that’s not as

interesting to me it’s fun it’s great but it’s not as interesting to me as it is to me

it’s fun it’s great but it’s that heartbreak that’s the reminder that it can go deep

although that’s a damn good song have you ever heard the uh detroit mix of the marvin gay album

no call it up how by far better mind blowing i just heard it recently blew my mind

oh wow reverb distant



there’s far too many of you

it feels like it’s all around the room more

to bring some loving here today

more voices more voices

he’s layering his own vocals

just like there’s multiple people singing

don’t punish me with brutality talk to me so you can see oh what’s going on that’s beautiful yeah

seems to have more energy if you if you listen to the whole album even even though you just said

you don’t listen albums anymore the detroit mix of the whole album changes the album a lot

i mean that that felt uh so that’s the opposite of a cappella i would say yes because it’s saying

it’s it’s um there’s layers there’s um and that maybe i don’t know if you remember but

if memory serves me uh correct here he produces this own album here marvin gay was the producer

on this i believe i believe so and this one sounds more like it’s a get together and the

whole album sounds more like a get together where it’s a group of people in a room playing music

together whereas the album version sounds more like an out like a recording this sounds less

like a recording and a little more like a party now you had a series of conversations with paul

mccartney which is amazing that people should should watch but is is there this is continuing

our therapy session is there a case to be made that uh what’s going on is number one album above

the beatles uh white album or abbey road above pet sounds can you still manage case there’s

there’s always a case i mean there’s always a case every there’s no uh in reality in art there is no

um there’s no metric that makes sense so um you could put numbers on things but it’s like

is this apple better than this peach like it’s not really a fair comparison but if you just had

to keep one to represent the human species that’s the way i think to the aliens so i think it’s a

very personal decision i don’t i think you can make you can make your choice to represent the

human species and i’ll make mine you know well i would pick the beatles over the beach boys so

that’s my if i became dictator of the world i was talking to the aliens but i do think that

aliens but i don’t know the full historical context to the impact of the music i don’t

know if that’s something to consider like this kind of thought experiment of imagine what it was

like back then to create to go into the studio to do such interesting work in the studio

as opposed to like listening to just as a pop song almost from because i’ve never been able

to understand uh beach boys god only knows the song god only knows god only knows but all of

it the album the pet sounds just in my room was uh in my room that’s all um is that what’s your

favorite on the album that sounds album that sounds um the opening track do you mind if i

play it please it’s it’s it’s too fun that’s part of their trip though the you uh you open

the heart with the fun it’s possible original mono and stereo mix versions i don’t know what’s

the opening song wouldn’t it be nice yeah that’s the song

we could say good night and stay together wouldn’t that be nice wouldn’t it be nice

wake up together but we’re not there’s heartbreak in this one too

still to me like george harris like um uh is that the way that album while my guitar gently weeps

i mean that um with the beatles it’s so hard to depending on the day i’ll i’ll say a very different

song that’s my favorite song but i often return to while my guitar gently weeps is my favorite song

spectacular spectacular anything george harrison honestly something something in the way she moves

the bet i what would you classify that there’s like several beatle songs categories of beatles

categories of beatles songs so that’s like the melancholy love songs or ballads or something like

that um yesterday let it be what’s do you have favorites so from your like how have you changed

as a man as a human being as a musician and music producer ever having done that lengthy interaction

with with mccartney hmm anytime you’re around someone who’s such a hero and you spend time

with them and they’re a human being it helps put perspective on everything you know that they’re

just human that well obviously i mean every everyone’s just human and um but i remember

the first time i got to see paul mccartney play live it was in a stadium of 70 000 people

and he started playing and i started crying and i couldn’t believe i was in even with 70 000 people

i couldn’t believe i that this man walks the earth and that i’m in the same place as him

and he’s the person who wrote that and played that and now he’s here playing it for us

it’s mind blowing that’s the voice that’s the it’s overwhelming is it inspiring or is it um

like because sometimes when you have and i’ve gotten a chance to me i mean i love people in

general like every every person is fascinating to me but yeah when you’ve been a fan for a long time

and you meet a person uh sort of uh i’ll just remove present company is you um it’s like oh

they’re just human so there’s both it’s both inspiring that just a simple human can achieve

such beautiful things but it’s also like almost wishing there were gods moving in around us it’s

it’s somehow peaceful this is it’s more uh comforting to know that there’s you know uh

there’s bigger fish i’m just a small fish and then there’s bigger fish and it will take care

of the ocean for us i think we’re all capable of being big fish i don’t think that there are

special people i don’t think it it’s like that i i would make a case so the variety

of artists that you worked with and brought the best out of it does seem the year out of this

world so do you think you would know like if you’re the same kind of species maybe you’re

just a meat vehicle and you’re channeling ideas from somewhere else i feel like i’m channeling

ideas from somewhere else 100 but i think have you asked questions about where from i believe

we i believe we all are though you know i believe we are um we’re vehicles for information that when

it’s ready to come through it comes through and the people who have good antennas pick up the

signal but um if i’m sure you’ve had an experience in your life where you’ve had an idea for something

and you’ve not acted on it and eventually someone else does it and it’s not because they’re doing

and it’s not because they’re doing it because you had the idea and they stole your idea it’s because

the time has come for that idea and if you don’t do it someone else is going to it’s

being broadcast by whatever the source whatever the source is uh yeah i tend to

i tend to see humans as not quite special in that way yeah it’s it’s different kinds of antennas

walking around listening to ideas and ideas that are i like the the notion of uh richard dawkins of memes

or it’s kind of the ideas of the organisms and they’re just using our brains to multiply to

to select to compete to to evolve and humans we really want to hold on to the

specialness of our body of our mind but it’s it’s really the ideas so for a group when was born

two centuries ago you wouldn’t be a music producer you’d be or i mean maybe but you have an antenna

and if no signal is coming in uh or you’d be hearing a potentially a different signal

is there um i think we all have our own antenna for whatever it is that we you know maybe not

everyone has tuned into their antenna to see what it is that their strength and bringing through is

i’m lucky in that it found me because i didn’t know that it was a i didn’t even know this was a job

i sometimes wonder i mean a lot of young people a lot of people wonder like what’s the purpose

and the the specs of my antenna what am i put on this earth to do like if um you know i i

can live a thousand lives there’s so many trajectories and imagine the greatest possible

trajectory that reveals the the most beautiful thing i can possibly create in this world live

the most beautiful way uh what is that i feel like that’s a good exercise to think about

um because it’s also liberating to think that you can do anything i mean that

um more and more i suppose that’s kind of life it’s like society is pushing conformity on you

you know i thought i i had my own flavor of conformity i thought i’m supposed to be following

and then early on i would say like in the late 20s you realize wait a minute you don’t have to

tell you don’t have to do what teachers tell you to do what parents tell you to do what

society tells you do you can like um i would never wear a suit if i listened to like my colleagues

and community who think a suit is like the symbol of uh what is it a symbol of conformity actually

which is hilarious but uh it’s actually a kind of rebellion and everything else like of that nature

doing doing these silly podcasts like um i have a question i have to ask sure because you brought

up the suit yeah uh do you wear the suit is this your daily uniform outside of podcasting so uh for

the longest time it was some kind of suit and then recently i mean coinciding with going to texas

there’s a i’m such a loner i’m an introvert and there’s a bit of a hiding from the world when i

wear other stuff i really want to um to not make fame recognition

money all those things a motivation at all and the world kind of wants you to make those motivations

not not the world but i would say maybe the western world and maybe america maybe a capitalist system

does but that’s a choice to buy into that or not right it takes a brave person a person of character

to not buy in and i’m i’m like a like a baby deer trying to find his legs you don’t have to

buy in because i love people and i think i’m kind of an idiot and so when other people

say do this and do that it uh there’s a there is a pressure there it’s actually very difficult to

not listen necessarily to the advice of others and yet keep yourself fragile and open to the world

it’s easy to be like i’m always right you know just kind of sticking a ground but if you want

to be like vulnerable if you want to connect with people and just wear your heart on your sleeve

then you’re going to listen to them i mean that’s the double edged sword of it and uh but then again

that pain like if you don’t let it destroy you can grow grow from that has fame affected you at all

did you unplug from the system at some point same i’ve always been sort of removed i don’t

feel like i’m part of any system do you feel famous um i’m aware that when i go out people

will you know say nice things to me which is great but that’s about it that’s about as far as

but it doesn’t affect your art about your creativity or your thoughts like when you’re

sitting alone and thinking about the world it can’t it’s a destructive force the the thing

the reason that you’re who you are and the reason that you’re finding the success you’re finding

is because you’ve been true to yourself to get to that stage so to start changing that

to conform to either conform to someone else’s idea what you should be doing

it just seems like uh it doesn’t make sense do you have a sense of who you are because i don’t

necessarily have a i don’t know i i know that i really like making good things and i know that i’m

um crazy about it in that um it’s like an obsession and i want things to be as good as

they could be whatever it is and if i’m if i finish a music project and i have a window of

time where i’m not working on music i might be moving the furniture around in the house you know

i’m always looking for a prod a creative outlet to find a way to make something better or there

was a period of time where i was in a weird corporate situation that was uh

that didn’t allow me to flourish and i turned i focused the creativity and on myself and i

lost a bunch of weight and changed my life and so that was the kind of art like the you’ve gone

through a whole process of losing weight getting in shape getting healthy that was a kind of creative

act it certainly was it wasn’t an intentional creative act but i had a lot of energy and i just

a series of events happened i read a book at the time that was my heaviest i weighed about 318

pounds yeah and i’d never been i’d been sedentary my whole life basically laying on a couch working

on music so i’ve never been physically active in my life and i read a book about a guy named stew

middleman a runner who ran a thousand miles in 11 days and i thought wow i you know get out of

breath walking to the corner and another human being can run a thousand miles in 11 days i feel

like i have bad information you know i’m doing clearly i’m doing something wrong and um and i

reached out to a person that stew mentioned in the book phil maffatone who’s a legend i i really

appreciate him as well he’s math 180 method too he’s such an interesting i think he focuses on

heart rate uh training and he was the first person to talk about um essentially a

low carbs paleo yeah keto diet 40 40 years ago for a person who’s going to be healthy who can

exercise and actually perform at an early level he’s the first person when i um you know talked

about heart rate training him and other endurance athletes he influenced he gave me permission to

like run slower yeah it’s the first time i realized oh i can run long distances if i just

run slower and then take that seriously and i actually fell in love with running very much so

because for me everyone’s different but for me the love of running happens in the longer distances

yeah did you read born to run great book amazing book there is something special about running

and everybody has their own their own journey with it and even ultra marathon running those

kinds of things it’s a it is like many journeys one that can pull you in like you won’t be the

same person after and i i try to be deliberate about making deliberate about making choices

after which you’ll not be the same person and so i’m nervous about like the ultra marathon running

world i have to talk to you about johnny cash i mean when people ask me what my

favorite musical thing is of all time i’m

you know it’s a very difficult question to answer of course but i’m pretty quick

if i’m not allowed to pick anything by tom ways i’m pretty quick to say hurt by johnny cash

the performance the whatever you call it whatever the heck that is because that’s

not just a song covered by an artist that’s a human being at the end of their life

that the rawness of that the i mean just the there’s also a music video which for a lot of

people adds a lot to it uh for me just the music alone is i mean the guitar every choice on that

see the the few things i’ve heard about it it seemed like almost accidental i mean like little

subtle choices here and there can you maybe comment on that um to to the degree i i think

you had a huge role in sort of bringing johnny cash back from from a different part of his life

it’s like bringing something out that wasn’t there before and it was it was it was incredible

it was a celebration of a really special musician and a totally new kind of celebration now hurt is

just one of the songs that’s that’s a that’s an amazing celebration of johnny cash but hurt is

like at the at the at the peak of that so what was that like putting that song together okay maybe

maybe uh it might be nice to listen to it because i freaking love that song and as a guitarist

i just the simplicity of it uh it seems like every choice contributes to the greatness of the song

simple it’s crisp but it’s dark too

i hurt myself today it’s one of the greatest opening lines of any song

to see if i still feel yeah i’m talking about the lyrics i don’t even mean the performance the words

but those words out of Trent Reznor are not the same they have a different meaning

coming out of johnny cash’s mouth

try to kill it all away but i remember everything

what have i become what have i become my sweetest friend

written probably for a young man i think he was 20 when he wrote it

the way the guitarist played the choice of instrument the layers there

the uh the freedom to give him to use the voice that’s um fading it’s not fading it’s changing

maybe he’s losing some aspects of his voice and it’s it’s almost like shaking a little bit

and it’s a little bit out of tune in parts

uh how much of that was deliberate how much was like how do you give johnny castor freedom to

to do that how do you find that together is there any insights you can give i think it’s a it’s a

case almost of like the right pairing the right role with the right actor you could say the the

song lyrics that the reason we chose the song was because the lyrics purely about the lyrics

and at that point in time both johnny and i would send each other songs of possible

ideas to record and um that was one that i sent him and he didn’t respond to initially i sent i

would send him see at that time we would burn cds and i would send him like cd of 20 songs or 25

songs and then and he would send them to me he burned a cd for johnny cash and you sent him

uh of different songs of like songs to consider recording yeah um and we would send these back

and forth and then that i had hurt on one of the ones that i sent him and he didn’t respond and

usually if he didn’t respond we didn’t go back to it you know and that one i remember i sent it

again and i put it first on the next on the next cd and um and when when we spoke about when he

listened to cd again he didn’t respond i said check out that first song and i really feel like that one

could be good what did you see in that song it’s the lyrics it’s the lyrics because i feel like

nobody there’s very few people in the world that would see these lyrics in johnny cash’s mouth and

think this is a good idea including for president yeah i know that trant was trant had trepidations

in the evening um but if you listen to the words if you forget the music and if you get what if

you forget what nine ish nail sounds like and you just read it like a poem and then you imagine

a 70 year old man reading these lyrics it’ll be it’ll be profound it’s profound so that was the

based on lyrics that started the journey and then at this point in time johnny was not in great

health and uh sometimes i would go to nashville and record with him at his house sometimes he

would come to california but he was coming to california less regularly and because there was

there were so many songs we wanted to try he would start sometimes recording just a straight

acoustic version like you’d have someone play guitar he would sing and they would send those

to me and we would discuss like is this one to build on um and that was when we said i don’t

want to record this one until we’re together i feel like we should do this one together

so on the next trip to california we recorded it at my at my old house


i mean all the songs we recorded felt special so i can’t say this one felt special

but lyrically it just it’s more the the lyrics have such a profound

sense of regret what have i become yeah and to hear when you’re 20 years old talking about regret

yeah it’s heartbreaking but it’s heartbreaking in a different way because you have your whole

life to figure it out when you’re looking back over your life at the end of your life with regret

it’s brutal yeah it’s brutal so that was the initial spark of doing it and then we when we

recorded it i believe it was um two guitar players if i remember correctly maybe even three um smoky

hormel matt sweeney and mike campbell i believe and ben montench was playing the piano in my living

room as we were doing it and we cut the basic track and with johnny singing and then johnny

probably sang over that basic track a few more times and then we comped his vocal and then

built up the drama and you didn’t get to the part but at the end of the song it gets very loud the

music gets very loud it’s subtle because it’s not anything that takes your ear and the vocal is so

powerful that you don’t really think about what’s going on but it’s building the whole time it’s

building and it even gets distorted at the end it gets really uh like over overpowering and that’s

part of the emotion of it you know it’s uh i hear almost anger and frustration

and it just rings out the clean vocal i mean it’s so simple so incredible and it’s interesting to

have a young man’s lyrics in in an old johnny cash voice and heart and mind i had um are you

a fan of tom waits of course uh tom waits when he was younger had his this is a song called martha

but there’s a bunch of songs he’s written when he was young it’s like how does a young man

have that like melancholy wisdom the song martha is about uh an older man calling a woman he used

to love that she’s now married and he’s married and they’re having that conversation they haven’t

spoken for 30 years and they realize that there’s still love there and it could have been a different

life a different world where they could have been together and here’s like a 23 year old tom waits

writing so beautifully about something that’s very uh i’ve had a lot of people like tell me how

real that uh as an older person looking back at that love that you had and realizing it wasn’t

it was really it’s still there inklings of that love are still there i think there’s a um

when a young person writes a sad song

they almost seem more willing to go to a more hopeless place

because they have they have a so much time ahead and older artists tend to want to look at the

bright side of things which which also i think comes from the wisdom of aging it’s it’s a more

realistic position so it’s not uncommon for younger people to write i think even in the

beatles you’ll see like they’re very heavy lyrics um middle to late era beatles which is still you

know they’re in their 20s you know early 20s i guess wow that’s hard to think about so much

accomplished unbelievable and they they went through the full journey from fun to darkness

in the span of a few years uh you mentioned lyrics um so you’ve obviously produced

albums with incredible lyrics i think you’ve mentioned the interesting characteristics of

hip hop of rap is that you’re writing poetry to rhythm versus writing poetry to melody so

that’s like one way to think about it and i’m a fan i mean tom waits let it go i’m a fan of

poetry period is there something um about highlighting the poetry of it the power of

words as you did with with heart if uh like if i have to play it again it’s one uh a tom waits song

that’s like less than a minute long that i always go back to it’s one i really love and

has just a few lines it’s called i want you and all it is is him saying i want you

i want you this is a 22 year old Tom Waits

all i want is you

give you stars above

the sun on the brightest day

giving you all my love

if only you would see that i want you you you

you all i want is you you you and then he hums for 20 more seconds beautiful so so

simple man that young man like low and but for people who don’t know tom waits you should

definitely listen to him and his voice sounds very different now and it’s interesting to see

the evolution of a human voice the the artist over time because that’s a young like boy like voice

hopeful less clever less witty more simple that simplicity is there and he’s not i mean that

takes guts to be so simple i would say lyrically and uh musically is there um sort of laying that

out on the table is there ways to that you like to highlight the voice the lyrics or there’s no one

rule so do you what is the thing that makes music special is it the rhythm the melody the

uh or is ultimately the lyrics are always there or the idea you just asked me five different

questions i don’t care i’ll just get that it’s not about you you don’t want the answers i’ll listen

uh i look forward to your comments the internet okay uh you have the greatest producer of all

time in front of you and you can’t shut the hell up that’s right friends uh is but you do value

lyrics is there a way to celebrate lyrics i value lyrics if the lyrics are important i’m not a lyric

person i’m very much uh whatever the thing that makes the thing good is the thing that i’m drawn

to for me um for a long time lyrics meant very little i would say from me really yes yes from

the earliest days for your right to party beastie boys yeah it was it was fun i thought they were

good lyrics but it wasn’t what was important i mean it was in a in a almost a novelty way

not in a serious way early in my career i was much more focused on the rhythm first the rhythm

and i would if the lyrics weren’t good enough i would be aware of it but it wasn’t the driving

force for me and eventually over time then melody became an important piece which it

wasn’t in the beginning and then uh lyrics became more important over time but it’s always been a

always changing what what draws me in and one of the things i found as it relates to lyrics that

that can give a lyric a different power has to do with rhythm where if there’s no drum

um the lyrics tend to mean more

so earlier what you were saying about if it was just acapella

you felt you felt marvin gay in a different way hearing the acapella

can you comment on i mean in terms of one of the greatest albums ever why does it sound so raw

her voice she’s just a great singer but this is that you’re not doing anything else you’re doing

the uh there’s there’s there’s strumming and then there’s just a single beat

and then it builds

starting in my heart

this gets simpler but it feels like it’s a giant orchestra

we almost had it all the scars of your love they leave me breathless i can’t help feeling

there’s backing vocals

the anger i love it

i just there’s something about uh such a powerful voice and the instruments not getting in the way

i mean the same with the with hurt and johnny cash it is there um why does it sound so

like raw it’s the same as hurt there’s a it feels like you’re in the room with them it feels like

they’re not even singing they’re like uh they’re literally freshly mad and angry i think those are

the things that make great singers sound like great singers it’s not it’s not anything that

that’s happening in the studio i mean we’re i would say the only thing that us in the studio

can do is kind of get out of the way and not not ruin it you know it’s like that’s that’s

what comes through of these these people i should also before i forget there is a lot of song choices

on that cd i would love to see the full options on the cd that you sent to johnny cash that i love

so solitary man is one of my favorite choices made there uh is it is that a neil damon song

it’s funny you talk about them as songs because i tend to i tend to listen more to albums than

songs so if you really you’re that’s what you’re doing your head you’re pulling up the album

essentially no i’m like i’m going to that song but i don’t know i’ve never listened to that song

but i know that when that when that song comes up in the sequence of the album

um it has a really powerful effect in me let’s see what it does if you just started

if you could read my so interesting wow

i could tell just like an old time movie about a ghost from a wishing well in a castle dark

or a fortress strong with chains around my feet you know that ghost is me

and i will never be set free as long as there’s a ghost that you can see

that’s beautiful such a beautiful choice beautiful melody such a beautiful melody

and haunting words sung so simply i i have to um i mean so uh i was born in the soviet union

when when you when you’re growing up uh there’s a few bands that kind of i mean they’re probably

forbidden still but they seep in and you get like uh bootlegged and and they somehow take over the

culture of the young of the young folk such as myself so uh on the metal side it was metallica

and iron maiden and uh on the i don’t know what you call them but beastie boys i remember hearing

uh fight for your right and it was just like for some reason that stuck as it did for a lot of

people in russia it’s like wow america is when you get to say fuck you to the man the rebellion the

freedom um i probably heard it uh a few years after it was released because it kind of it

dissipates to the culture you get the bootlegged i mean it’s hard to get your hands on but i just

remember me i i wanted to kind of bring that up because it was such a personally important song

to me and yet probably you didn’t even think of that you probably thought of it as its role in

the culture here in the united states like in terms of musically but i was you know 20 21 years old

and we just well you were that kid too right we’re just making fun songs for our friends there was

no there was no uh expectation that’s just a fun song yeah no one thought we never imagined anybody

would like any of it one of the greatest albums ever yeah i have to it’s i love this so much i

just remember this is america i didn’t even know i didn’t even understand the lyrics to be honest

and the lyrics are ridiculous

so hearing that and hearing metallica master puppets i was like i knew i’m gonna have to end

up in america one day i mean maybe now that i’m more mature or maybe a little bit more mature i

realized like that was kind of the longing for freedom it felt like at least at the time if this

is allowed that anything is allowed yeah and i think that uh the rebellion of it the uh is i

guess it’s also fun i just i just loved it is there if you look back to that because you’re

you’re uh uh i mean you were that person not just the producer it feels like yes and no like it was

even to us then it was still like satirical you know it wasn’t oh absolutely but isn’t like music

in part like you’re dancing in the line is part satirical part serious in in the sense like you’re

losing yourself in the satire like when you have anytime you go over the top isn’t that part of the

or is this is it explicitly satirical you make it fun i mean girls there’s a lot of

ridiculous songs in that album i don’t know i just think it’s it was definitely to make each

other laugh like we were trying to make each other laugh we weren’t trying to make a point we’re

trying to make each other laugh but that person how’s that person different than the person today

in you the the person that produced that i wouldn’t say so different it’s like it really is

that that um i like things that make me laugh you know i like ridiculous things it’s the same person

still i think so that is a strange just how many incredible i mean i wouldn’t i don’t think i would

make that today but i understand why we made it when we did it’s uh in the vocabulary of of um

ridiculous that would make sense to do you know for the right artist today could make something

ridiculous and gives you that feeling i mean there’s just a sense when you make so many

many different albums then you look back at that creation and it can feel like a different person

created that but you’re making it seem like if you travel back in time or maybe do a memory replay

you’ll be able to hang out with the with a teenage and the 20s recruitment i think yeah i i don’t

i don’t think i was so different honestly that’s hilarious it’s funny i ran into someone um recently

in costa rica who i hadn’t seen in a long time and who i knew from the new york days when

those days and um and we spent a couple of hours talking and she said you’re exactly

the same person that you were then so i have a short you know a recent confirmation that that’s

the case that’s beautiful was it tim ferris asked you about like who’s the most successful person

you know that’s the definition of success i would say it’s exactly the same person you haven’t lost

yourself and or rather you found yourself early on i would say there there are aspects of me that

have changed for sure um but i but i can’t say that it’s that it’s necessarily better it’s

different um at that i would say at that time i was more confident than i am now and i’m very

confident now but then i had an unrealistic um confidence and i think now it’s a little more

um based in reality at that point in time i had never been depressed and then once you go through

a depression you well some people i know in my case and when i went through depression afterwards

i was a different person than i was before and i and i feel more um grounded now than i did then

and i probably relate to the artists who so many of the artists i work with suffer so many artists

suffer because that’s part of what makes an artist great is their level of sensitivity

that this the same thing that makes uh an artist uncomfortable other people don’t feel at all

people don’t feel at all the time you were depressed what was the darkest moments of your

life what took you there how did you get out it was triggered by a person making a comment about

something to do with work that didn’t matter you know it was like uh to anyone else they would

hear that and it would just be like okay we’ll deal with it next week whatever but for some

reason i took it in a way that um i felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me even beyond

the rational part of it of understanding you know even after the problem that came up was solved

it somehow undermined something in me and made me feel very vulnerable in a way that i hadn’t felt

before and it spiraled how did you get out i did a lot of different kinds of therapy i did um

starting with alternative therapies i was seeing i would say between seven and eight

doctors and or therapists a week um acupuncture uh talk therapy um herbs or any any possible

modality tried everything for a long time and um and and nothing seemed to have an impact and then

finally um i’m wary of taking any western medicine i’m not a drug taker and or drinker

partier in any way and um i found a a psychopharmacologist who was a psychic

but because she was a psychic i was okay to see her because she’s like i’ll i’ll do i’ll listen

to a psychic yeah but i’m not going to listen to a psychopharmacologist but the fact that she had

the the psychic uh that made her fit into my world view and um and she recommended antidepressant which

went terribly wrong in the first night that i took it and then i that set me on a journey

of looking for the right antidepressant which was a long and painful process heck of a journey

every one that i took made me sick everyone and then finally i don’t know five months later six

months later i found the magic one that worked for me and it um it shifted me out of the depression

i took it for my camera was six months or a year and then weaned off and was okay and then i had

another event some years later i think i took it again for a short period of time and got out of it

and i’ve not needed it since were you able to kind of introspect the triggers that led to the events

is there something or is it random events of life i think it’s more that um

because of the way that i grew up i never had to deal with much controversy

ah and um when i when i was challenged i didn’t have any ability to deal with it

it’s like um you know jonathan hight talks about it’s like that so you’ve actually also mentioned

like business sometimes gives you stress so these this was business related stuff yeah

it was a business related thing it just made me feel bad it’s one of the sadder things about art

and music is that it’s often interleaved with business folk i suppose that’s the way of the

world if you have a capitalist system but it makes that business folks rubbing up against artists

um can sometimes destroy a fragile mind and soul like uh to me like one of the best representations

of an artist honestly johnny i have the designer from apple and he’s just so fragile with his

ideas and you talked about like when he has ideas he really wouldn’t show it to steve jobs or anybody

except for a small design team because he was so nervous that it would it would break let’s give

it a chance let it give it a chance to grow and it seems like the outside world uh business people

pr people people kind of um have not lost themselves in the passion of creating but instead

of kind of representing or like making deals all that kind of stuff they they can kind of trample

on those little ideas and it’s it’s sad to see yeah it’s really it’s really heartbreaking to

see because you know how much trampling there’s going on it’s one of the main jobs my jobs as a

record producer is to um keep the keep the voices away from the artist from all the people who are

really on their side but don’t know you know like the uh whether it be people um anyone on the

business side who doesn’t make things they’re excited to do their part you know they’re excited

if when you deliver the thing the the art that you make to me then we can start the project yeah um

but there’s nothing to sell if the art doesn’t happen in the right way and it has to be protected

and it can’t happen on the same kind of a timetable that um that business can it’s just a

different thing it doesn’t art doesn’t come in a quarterly way and that doesn’t apply just to music

or it applies to art it applies to all creative pursuits like this is generally the case like at

mit it’s just there’s the administration and then there is the professors and students and the

professors students are the creative folk yeah they create stuff they dream they have wild ideas

that go on tangents and so on they they uh they have hopes and they they go with those and they

get like on these weird passionate pursuits and then the administration can often just trample on

that um and they they set up bars on all kinds of in all kinds of ways that you think you’re not

actually hurting um but you really are and you know i won’t mention why but because this happens

to everybody and i have a large amount of leverage at mit now but even i get a little bit of pressure

in such stupid ways to like don’t like be careful be careful like we really want your career to

succeed be careful and that little pressure to an artist you know do you want to go acapella

do you want to go do you want to do a country record like be careful like you’re already a

superstar be careful yeah and then in that way you kind of push people like flock of fish into

one fish tank where they’re all the same and it’s it’s sad to see and it’s obviously in the modern

world there’s nice mechanism to protect to let artists flourish a little bit more because they

get to put themselves to the world and get a little bit more confidence maybe different funding

mechanisms all that kind of stuff but tremendous problem that the the voices that don’t understand

interfering with the process is huge the other side of it is in success there can be a lack of

there can be a lack of reality where all of the people around the successful person just tell

them everything they do is great and then they they don’t have anything to bump up against anymore

have a realistic uh sense of what’s what how things work or how how it how the how things measure you

know um so both sides are really important both both avoiding the voices getting in the way

and having a trusted group of you know a sangha a group of people who can say you know i don’t

know if that’s as good and you can still you know say i don’t care what you think that’s fine

but it helps to hear it you know it helps to have if someone who you respect tells you something

isn’t good enough it’s helpful when you know it comes from a place of love when it comes from a

place of wisdom 100 percent and not from a place of fear not from a place of oh this doesn’t sound

like it’s going to do as well as your last thing that’s yeah that’s not the point the point is on

this uh quest for greatness are you living up to your ability by the way is there something

interesting to say about your world view because you mentioned psychic and instead of the ways

we can be healthy the ways we can grow and how much maybe medicine or science or has

um has the answers is there is there some interesting way to describe that world view

i would just say i’m open mind i believe anything’s possible

and if i was going to trust in any practical information it would be something thousands

of years old there’s wisdom in that history yeah well it’s it’s more tested it’s not always right

but it’s at least it’s been somewhat tested so science is also tested the thing i’m a little

bit skeptical of sometimes is just the hubris that often comes with the modern with the latest

the newest the this this feeling like you figured it all out everything that’s been done in the past

has no wisdom and uh we basically solved every problem uh you know there’s nothing else to be

solved this i mean that’s the defining characteristic of any age is like we’ve

solved all the problems there are we have the final answers and our parents are all stupid

that kind of energy yeah and that you have to be extremely extremely careful with that when it

talks about when you think about something as complex as the human body or the human mind

you have to be very very very we know close to nothing yeah exactly close to nothing that’s about

anything about anything about anything that place of humility is a good place to start to figure

to figure it all out and in the end we’ll still know almost nothing yeah i don’t think we need to

know it’s like we need to see what works and we need to see what works for us it’s interesting to

know i i know on the art side knowing how it works isn’t what makes it work you know isn’t the magic

of it isn’t how it works the magic is the magic and the magic happens in a way that’s intuitive

and accidental at times or uh incidental where you’re trying many things all of a sudden something

works and um and you don’t know why and it’s okay not to know why it doesn’t matter it doesn’t

really matter why as long as it does the thing that you want it to do whatever that is yeah

that’s so weird when you know the components you don’t you still yeah the magic what’s the magic

where’s the magic like we know the components for stuff i care about artificial intelligence we know

the components of a powerful computing machinery where does consciousness come from what is that

uh where does the uh brilliant moments of insight come from what’s that when uh even in simple games

of chess or in simple where do those breakthrough ideas of taking the big risk that doesn’t make any

sense and then all of a sudden it becomes something beautiful yeah we don’t need to understand why it

just happens it just happens and often the things that end up breaking through don’t break through

in the way we thought or turn out to be a third iteration of something that we thought was an

entirely different thing or we don’t know you know it’s and i i think it’s if we embrace that not

knowing we’ll have a healthier experience going through life you made a lot it’s not just music

everything rearranging the chairs the furniture as well you’ve done like i said the documentary

i guess you would say with paul mccartney and um you’ve done a podcast yourself uh broken

record podcast and just you’ve done conversation too so what have you learned from that process

about the art of conversation and also maybe what advice would you give to this uh to me about how

what to do with conversation like what is interesting to you about conversation one of the

things that i i like is to not feel like it’s there is any stakes or that it’s actually almost

that it’s not happening like the fact that when i came in you were setting up cameras made it less

good from for me i knew that that would impact the conversation in a negative way the best version

of it would be if we didn’t see the cameras and if we were and we didn’t see any technology

and we didn’t see any technology and we were just sitting at this table having a conversation

maybe even if we were miked beforehand would be okay if it was necessary but then we were just

sitting here having a conversation no people in the room nothing and feeling like we’re just

having a conversation i feel like it would get closer to um closer to the relaxed feeling same

thing we do in the studios like you know you’ve heard of red light fever you know when uh artists

get nervous when like they play a song great and then the tape starts rolling and they can’t play

it and it’s we’re all we’re all to some degree like that when you were with paul mccartney i mean

you’re did were you cognizant of cameras we had the room black everybody who was working there

was dressed in black everything was invisible that we were lit in a way where even though

there were probably 20 people between 12 and 20 people working in the room within three minutes

of starting the conversation paul and i were alone in the room so it that was the the feeling

on occasion you’d hear a noise and it would be weird people we also had nobody was allowed to

wear shoes because it had to we were trying to create this intimate space and and i know from

in the recording studio when we’re recording if even one person is there that’s just watching

and not working you know like does like there’s usually i’m usually there and an engineer is there

technically making it happen if anyone else is in the room it’s different because then it goes from

this moment where the person’s doing a performance to the sense or where the person is

is feeling something internally and we’re capturing it to the the other version is

they’re performing for someone it’s so interesting so like to push back in the alternatives here so

one about the third person not to make people self conscious but i find that i’m so torn on that

because sometimes when that person uh like um so evan is in the room here he’s been in the

room before he’s a huge fan of yours by the way uh so he’ll he’ll nod yeah he’ll get excited he’s

like and you can see that nodding and for some reason for me he’s like yeah yeah you get it like

yeah you get excited together i mean that’s that third person can be like a really special so

having an audience uh when it’s a friend or somebody that has that love in them it depends

on the performer right yeah some people really thrive in front of an audience and you’re saying

you like that simple intimacy well i like the reality of it not being i want it to be as far

from a performance as possible got it and if if someone i’ll tell you a story a story that just

happened and it was viewed as kind of a it seemed uncool in the moment to the person that it happened

to it wasn’t at all um we were recording the new chili peppers album which is coming out i think

any day now like uh i don’t know what today’s date is but within the next it maybe by the

time this airs it will be out and um the band was playing in the studio and it was ripping

because they play they’re incredible and um one of the members walked through the control room

after a particularly great performance and um the engineer said wow that solo is really great

and the person who heard this said please don’t say that and walked away it’s like it it was

not it it just changed yeah this feeling of we’re in this place where we’re doing this thing and

there’s there is no outside world yeah you know we’re doing this for us we’re going as deep as

we can for us and as soon as there’s an acknowledgement to someone else in a way

it breaks the concentration of being inside of it that’s so well told and but it’s something

about saying wow that’s always great is is uh shows the it reminds you that there’s an outside

world but i feel like there’s a way to enter the inside world as an audience so you just have to

do that so it matters what you say it matters how you look it matters uh so there’s like these

generic compliments not generic but they they sound in the way an outside world would interact

as opposed to in that creative thing where you’re dancing around the fire together or something

it was actually i can tell you there’s another interesting one that happened to me and i didn’t

know this until i saw the film of it which was a strange one um we were recording with the avid

brothers and um the song was called no hard feelings and it was this recording of no hard


when my body won’t hold me anymore

it finally lets me free well i’ll be ready

when my feet won’t walk another such a great voice so beautiful

kissed goodbye will my hands be steady when i lay down my fears my hopes and my doubts

the rings on my fingers and the keys to my house with no hard feelings

when the sun hangs low in the west and the light in my chest won’t be kept

hell today any longer

when the jealousy fades away so bright so hopeful so lighthearted

and it’s just hallelujah and love involved love in the words

love in the songs they sing in the church and no hard feelings

Lord knows they have it done

much good for anyone kept me afraid and cold

with so much to have and more

when my body won’t hold me anymore it finally lets me free

is he sound as good as good, yeah? yes, every bit

of snow from the heavens will i join with the ocean blue or run into the savior true

and shake hands laughing and walk through the night straight to the light

holding the love i’ve known in my life and no hard feelings

Lord knows they have it done much good for anyone kept me afraid and cold

with so much to have and more

under the burning sky i’m finally learning why

it matters for me and you to say it and mean it too

life is loneliness

it’s loneliness

good as it’s been to me

i have no enemies


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