The Hype Magazine: “ANCHOR Reeperbahn Festival” Judge Bob Rock On Decades As A Top Music Producer & More
July 6, 2019
Since its Hamburg debut in 2006, the Reeperbahn Festival has grown to become one of the most important meeting places for the music industry worldwide. The Reeperbahn Festival recently came to New York City thanks to the festival’s “Sequence Tour,” a part of Wunderbar Together, which is a yearlong celebration of U.S.-German friendship across the United States featuring German-inspired events in all 50 states. Wunderbar Together also coincided with A2IM’s Indie Week conference.
Reeperbahn’s three-day event culminated at Rockwood Music Hall to reveal the ANCHOR Jury, a board of artists and music industry executives who will convene in Hamburg to award The ANCHOR, the Reeperbahn Festival International Music Award. Some of high-profile jury members on-site at New York’s Rockford Music Hall last month were producer Bob Rock, multi-faceted musician Peaches, actress and singer/songwriter Kate Nash, and producer Tony Visconti. Performing artists included Yes We Mystic, ORI, Mira Lu Kovacs, Leoniden, Surfbort, GURR, and Renata Zeiguer.
In my humble opinion, Bob Rock needs no introduction. But for those who do not read liner notes, Bob Rock was the producer of Metallica’s self-titled album — also known as The Black Album — and Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood. He has also worked with the likes of Bon Jovi, Aerosmith, Michael Bublé, Bryan Adams, 311, The Cult and David Lee Roth. He has received 17 Juno Award nominations, is a Canadian Music Hall Of Fame inductee, and is inarguably one of rock’s all-time top producers.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Rock by phone, thanks to the Reeperbahn Festival team, and highlights from that chat are below. As he does not appear to have an official website or social media accounts, more info on Bob Rock can be found on the Internet with a simple Googling of “Bob Rock,” while more on the the Reeperbahn Festival is online at www.reeperbahnfestival.com.
When I interviewed Paul Dean from Loverboy a couple of years ago I asked him, “Is Loverboy heavier than we realize? Or is Metallica softer than we realize?” As someone who has produced both bands, which one do you think it is now?
Bob Rock: That’s an interesting question… Loverboy, I mean they’re a heavy band but on top of it’s pop, it’s commercial. Metallica has always been heavy — and kind of the album that I’ve been most known for is The Black Album — it’s a lot heavier of an album than people believe it is. That’s what I would say.
Paul had a similar answer when I spoke with him, so I’m glad to see that you agree with him. I of course love your resumé. You have a lot of albums in there that people don’t really talk about as much from The Cult and Blue Murder and David Lee Roth and all that, but I’m curious what was your sign or your transition in going from an engineer to a full-blown producer?
Bob Rock: My relationship with Bruce Fairbairn had run its course… We had a lot of success and we were a good team. But eventually just things happened with Slippery When Wet and Aerosmith’s Permanent vacation. There was a couple of things that just happened… In terms of making a career I had to go to the next step, you know? And I definitely was nervous about it. But it was the best thing that I did. Sometimes the things that you think are kind of scary end up being the best thing you ever did. And it was definitely the best thing I ever did.
Another facet of your career that I find very interesting is about 15 years or so ago when I interviewed Stacy Jones, he told me the story of how he wound up making the American Hi-Fi album on-spec, where you said to him, “You have to make this album.” Now Stacy of course has found success as an A&R guy and as a music director and all that. I’m curious how you knew or when you knew that that guy was a star in the making.
Bob Rock: Yeah, I guess it was during the Nina Gordon record. They were partners, and you know Stacy, you can’t help but become friends with Stacy. Such a great guy. It’s so funny because he played the song “Flavor Of The Weak.” He said that he and Jamie [Arentzen] wrote it for a Japanese kind of girl band. I said, “No, you’re going to record it.” So Nina was finishing up the album then he brought all his friends into Maui and they rehearsed in my warehouse while we were finishing the record… He’s just a very hard worker and he’s such a talented drummer. He’s talented in every way. Great guy.
Not everybody realizes the success you had as a musician before your engineering career took off between The Payolas and Rock & Hyde and all that. Is it true though that in Hawaii that you had a country band that was playing like once a week at a local bar?
Bob Rock: Yeah, I did… That was from being in Vancouver, in the punk scene… You played an instrument that you didn’t really play. So I played drums in that band, it was just a way to play. I didn’t know too many people in Maui, so it was just fun. It was supposed to be kind of a secret… But then people caught onto what I was doing and then it became no fun (laughs). Because people start judging you, etc., it was just supposed to be a way to play, you know? Anyway, that’s surprising you found that out.
Well who else was in that band? Anyone of note that you can reveal?
Bob Rock: Not really. It was just my brother-in-law, just people that worked with these people that I found. It was really no big deal. We just played some covers and we had some fun… I love to play. I love music, it’s my life. So that was just that was something to do.
Have you ever encountered the drummer named Bobby Rock?
Bob Rock: I know of him, this kind of stuff, because of the name similarity. I’ve never met him… I’ve heard of him. He’s got curly hair .
That is correct. So ultimately when people when they think of Bob Rock of course, they probably think of these gigantic albums that you hear the music of every single day of your life. A lot of the people realize, “Oh that’s a Bob Rock thing.” But ultimately do you want people to know something else about you? Is there something that you wish more people knew about Bob Rock?
Bob Rock: No, I’m fine with the way it is. (laughs) The only thing is, I guess, that there’s a lot of stuff that I’ve done that’s great music, besides the big bands. I’m proud of all the things I’ve done… There were also a lot of great projects that didn’t get really the the look that they should have… Hopefully I’ll get to make records for another 20 years.
So in closing, any last words for the kids?
Bob Rock: If you get into the music business, or I should say for music for a career, if you love it and you don’t get it for just the money… Be passionate about it. I didn’t plan anything that happened to me. It was just being there and constantly working and living in music. That’s what you’ve got to do.
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