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Geezer Butler on Working with Rick Rubin on Black Sabbath’s 13: “I Still Don’t Know What He Did”

"It was a weird experience"

geezer butler rick rubin black sabbath 13
Geezer Butler (photo by Raymond Ahner) and Rick Rubin (courtesy of Herfitz PR)
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    Geezer Butler is still confounded about Rick Rubin‘s production work on Black Sabbath‘s 2013 album 13.

    In a new interview with Eddie Trunk, the Black Sabbath bassist offered up a less-than-thrilled recollection of working with the acclaimed producer on what remains the band’s final album.

    “Some of it I liked, some of it I didn’t like particularly,” Butler said (as transcribed by Blabbermouth). “It was a weird experience, especially with being told to forget that you’re a heavy metal band. That was the first thing [Rick] said to us. He played us our very first album, and he said, ‘Cast your mind back to then when there was no such thing as heavy metal or anything like that, and pretend it’s the follow-up album to that,’ which is a ridiculous thing to think.”

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    The producer is known for his “hands off” approach in the studio, but it sounds like Rubin was perhaps exercising too much influence on the heavy metal legends. Butler recalled one incident involving Ozzy Osbourne repeating vocal takes for seemingly no reason.

    “I still don’t know what he did,” Geezer said of Rubin. “It’s, like, ‘Yeah, that’s good.’ ‘No, don’t do that.’ And you go, ‘Why?’ [And he’d say], ‘Just don’t do it.’ I think Ozzy one day went nuts ’cause he’d done, like, 10 different vocals, and Rick kept saying, ‘Yeah, that’s great, but do another one.’ And Ozzy was, like, ‘If it’s great, why am I doing another one?’ He just lost it.

    He continued: “And that’s the way it was. Tony [Iommi] wasn’t happy with some of the stuff he was trying to make him play. He was making Tony get 1968 amps — as if that’s gonna make it sound like back in 1968. It’s mad. But it’s good for publicity and it’s good for the record company. If you’ve got Rick Rubin involved, then it must be good, kind of thing.”

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    The remarks contrast with previous comments made by Butler in the official 13 documentary, where he was more complimentary of Rubin’s production.

    “It’s great with Rick Rubin in charge. He’s got a great track record and he comes up with some great ideas,” Butler said at the time (2013). “Some work, some don’t, but it’s worth trying.”

    Last year, Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi was asked by Spin if he learned anything from working with Rubin. He responded, “Yeah, I learned how to lie on the couch with a mic in my hand and say ‘Next!’ … It was just different, the way he works.”

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