Producer BOB ROCK Says He Had To Prove Himself 'Constantly' While Working On METALLICA's 'Black Album'

June 6, 2023

Canadian producer Bob Rock, who has been responsible for some of the biggest rock and metal albums of the last 30 years, including all of METALLICA's studio output during the 1990s and early 2000s, says that he had to prove himself constantly when he first started working with the band.

Rock first teamed with METALLICA for the band's self-titled 1991 album (a.k.a. "The Black Album"). The Elektra set debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed on the chart for 281 weeks. Rock helmed METALLICA's subsequent albums, through 2003's "St. Anger".

Bob touched upon his work on "Metallica" in a new interview with CBC News' The National. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "When you make a record, you really don't know how it's gonna turn out. I think what made it different for me is that they were very opinionated and it was really hard to do the record, but they challenged me and I challenged them, and I think we ended up that it wasn't all just happy. Not fighting, but there was that edge through the whole project, and that ended up being something special. And the thing about that METALLICA album that you hear is that James [Hetfield, METALLICA frontman] started singing rather than yelling, and I think it's his most personal lyrics on any record he's made."

When The National's Ian Hanomansing noted that Rock and METALLICA became not only colleagues but also friends, Rock said: "Eventually. It took a while. Yeah, it took a while. I had to prove myself constantly on that album."

Rock, now 69, told Reuters in 2006 that he felt "20 years younger" after his split with METALLICA, whose last couple of studio efforts, 2016's "Hardwired… To Self-Destruct" and 2023's "72 Seasons", were helmed by Greg Fidelman.

During the making of 2003's "St. Anger", a petition that some 1,500 fans signed subsequently was posted online calling for METALLICA to dump Rock, claiming he had too much influence on the band's sound.

"The criticism was hurtful for my kids, who read it and don't understand the circumstances," Rock told Reuters. "Sometimes, even with a great coach, a team keeps losing. You have to get new blood in there."

METALLICA co-manager Peter Mensch argued that Rock "nursed METALLICA out of almost complete collapse on that record. Bob is one of the five best producers on the planet. But it was time to shake things up."

In a 2006 interview with Revolver magazine, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich stated about the band's decision to work with Rubin on "Death Magnetic" after spending 15 years and making five albums with Bob Rock: "In 1990, when we started using Bob, it was because Bob made all the best rock records that were going on at that time — MÖTLEY CRÜE, DAVID LEE ROTH, THE CULT — and he was involved in the engineering of all the BON JOVI records. Everything that was going on in the late eighties was all about Bob Rock. And now, everything that's great about rock — from SLIPKNOT to SYSTEM OF A DOWN to the [RED HOT] CHILI PEPPERS to MARS VOLTA, and even the Johnny Cash and Neil Diamond records — it's all Rick Rubin. The same thing that brought us to Bob 15 years ago is now kind of bringing us to Rick. We want to work with the guy who's got the total finger on the pulse. And Bob was the first one to bless it, to say, 'Look, I don't know what else I can offer you 15 years later.' We finish each other's sentences. We know what he's going to say, and he knows what we're going to say. We made, what, like, five records with him? And he really had been the fifth member of our band for the last 15 years. As painful as it is, getting his blessing first was really important to us."

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