Our conversation took place in a barrel sauna like this.
“It’s [about] getting closer to the source and not being distracted by any nonsense…”
– Rick Rubin
Rick Rubin has been called “the most important [music] producer of the last 20 years” by MTV.
Rick is also revered as something of a Zen master, and he is as deep as he is soft-spoken. He rarely grants interviews, and one condition of doing this one was the setting: his hyper-heated barrel sauna at home.
In this episode, we delve into how Rick helps artists (e.g. Jay Z, Shakira, Johnny Cash, etc.) produce their best work. Not only that, we also discuss Rick’s step-by-step experience losing 135+ pounds. He describes underwater weightlifting stories, training with Laird Hamilton, testing different diets, and much more.
Rick’s resume includes everyone from Johnny Cash to Jay Z. His metal artists include groups like Black Sabbath, Slayer, System of a Down, Metallica, Rage Against the Machine, and Linkin Park. He’s worked with pop artists like Shakira, Adele, Sheryl Crow, Lana Del Rey, and Lady Gaga. He’s also been credited with helping to popularize hip hop with artists like LL Cool J, The Beastie Boys, Eminem, Jay Z, and Kanye West. And that’s just a small sample.
This conversation teaches a cohesive lesson in breaking down complex skills with deep and subtle problem solving.
The sauna caused the microphones to burn our hands and us to nearly pass out. DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME, folks! I think it adds a hilarious element to the whole thing, but it’s not without risks.
[Last but not least, if you haven’t seen my new TV show, which is #1 on iTunes as I write this, please check out The Tim Ferriss Experiment! There are 13 episodes, including ones with surfer Laird Hamilton and “top 10 drummer of all-time” Stewart Copeland.]
- Listen to it on iTunes.
- Stream by clicking here.
- Download it as an MP3 by right-clicking here and choosing “save as”.
Interested in learning more about world-class musicians? — Check out my interview with Amanda Palmer who left her record label and raised more than $2 million via crowd funding. (stream episode below or right-click here to download):
Also, don’t miss Justin Boreta of The Glitch Mob, one of the biggest electronic groups on the planet. In my conversation with Justin, we play their never-before-heard draft versions of their songs and then explore what it takes for Justin to move that draft through 300+ versions to a final version which will knock your socks off (stream below or right-click here to download):
This episode is sponsored by Onnit. I have used Onnit products for years. If you look in my kitchen or in my garage you will find Alpha BRAIN, chewable melatonin (for resetting my clock while traveling), kettlebells, maces, battle ropes, and steel clubs. It sounds like a torture chamber, and it basically is. A torture chamber for self-improvement! Ah, the lovely pain. To see a list of my favorite pills, potions, and heavy tools, click here.
This podcast is also brought to you by 99Designs, the world’s largest marketplace of graphic designers. Did you know I used 99Designs to rapid prototype the cover for The 4-Hour Body? Here are some of the impressive results. Click this link and get a free $99 upgrade. Give it a test run…
QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: Rick Rubin cites “heart work” as critical for creatives. What is the balance of heart work and head work in your creation process? 50/50? 70/30? How did you realize what works best for you? Please let me know in the comments.
Scroll below for links and show notes…
Selected Links from the Episode
- Slow Burn by Stu Mittleman
- Get the app that helped Rubin count calories, MyFitnessPal
- Explore world-class music lists like those Rolling Stone and/or Mojo
- Tao Te Ching translation by Stephen Mitchell
- Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Learn more about the documentary 20,000 Days on Earth
- Learn more about the Wim Hof Breathing Technique
- The story of how Rick Rubin lost 135-145 pounds [7:50]
- Sleep Tools: A process for rebuilding your circadian rhythm for the first time [10:50]
- What does Rick Rubin “do”? [22:45]
- Transitioning into a career of record producing [23:35]
- On letting music be discovered vs. manufactured [24:30]
- What gets in the way of artists producing their best work [26:05]
- Recommendations for contemporary music [30:55]
- How Rick Rubin learned that music was something he could do as a career [34:00]
- Hip-hop to heavy metal and how to approach music with appreciation [38:05]
- Working with artists in different genres: LL Cool J to Slayer [40:15]
- Meditation and managing disruption [42:40]
- Who comes to mind when Rubin thinks of the word “successful” [46:50]
- Lessons learned from time spent with Don Wildman [49:45]
- Most gifted books and favorite documentaries [51:35]
- Managing the experience of overwhelm [54:30]
- About Rick Rubin’s cameo for 99 Problems and Jay Z’s creative process [56:50]
- On being introduced to the sauna/ice-bath combination [1:00:10]
- Underwater weight training and lessons from Laird Hamilton [1:02:15]
- Other exercises: Hyperbaric oxygen and the Wim Hof method [1:08:35]
- How Rubin uses small tasks to help others [1:10:05]
- Advice for his 20-year old and 30-year old self [1:13:10]
- Stu Mittleman
- Mo Ostin
- Dr. Heber at UCLA
- Black Sabbath
- Reign in Blood
- LL Cool J
- Don Wildman
- Laird Hamilton
- Jay Z
- Chris Chelios
Posted on: May 15, 2015.
Please check out Tribe of Mentors, my newest book, which shares short, tactical life advice from 100+ world-class performers. Many of the world's most famous entrepreneurs, athletes, investors, poker players, and artists are part of the book. The tips and strategies in Tribe of Mentors have already changed my life, and I hope the same for you. Click here for a sample chapter and full details. Roughly 90% of the guests have never appeared on my podcast.
Who was interviewed? Here's a very partial list: tech icons (founders of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Craigslist, Pinterest, Spotify, Salesforce, Dropbox, and more), Jimmy Fallon, Arianna Huffington, Brandon Stanton (Humans of New York), Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ben Stiller, Maurice Ashley (first African-American Grandmaster of chess), Brené Brown (researcher and bestselling author), Rick Rubin (legendary music producer), Temple Grandin (animal behavior expert and autism activist), Franklin Leonard (The Black List), Dara Torres (12-time Olympic medalist in swimming), David Lynch (director), Kelly Slater (surfing legend), Bozoma Saint John (Beats/Apple/Uber), Lewis Cantley (famed cancer researcher), Maria Sharapova, Chris Anderson (curator of TED), Terry Crews, Greg Norman (golf icon), Vitalik Buterin (creator of Ethereum), and nearly 100 more. Check it all out by clicking here.