The Lessons A Producer Can Learn From Bob Rock In “Some Kind Of Monster”

james_hetfield.jpg

Anyone who has ever seen Metallica‘s embarrassment of a movie Some Kind Of Monster walks away being amazed a band can be so lame. It is mind boggling that a band would pay to make a documentary to show how lame they are! While many people see the band as the star of the movie, I would argue Bob Rock is the real character to watch in this movie. After the jump we are going to discuss what you can learn from him and admire his amazing skill!


1. Paitience 

I will start off by saying my general impression after seeing Bob Rock in A Year In The Life Of Metallica, was the word douche. He also came off as a pompous asshole anytime I saw an interview with him. However, after seeing this movie you come to understand he has the toughest job ever. Dealing with a huge band is much different than dealing with a band that has sold a ton of records or no records. The top bands in the world have ego and indulgence issues that are a unique situation, much like none you will have to deal with otherwise. The level of indulgence a band like Metallica has experienced is unexplainable. Their every indulgence and whimsical thought is fulfilled and taken seriously. This means that when it comes to their “musical needs” they are going to expect above and beyond the normal treatment or else you are going to be fired.
The biggest illustration of this idea is when you see the bullshit Rock has to deal with when they start to record from noon to 4 PM each day. Nevermind recording vocal tracks with a kid in your lap, dealing with the moron psychologist (with a priceless haircut), pausing the record for rehab trips and indulging the most irrational thought processes ever seen on film. 
You most likely will never deal with a band as unreasonable and annyoing as Metallica. This is all the more reason that you should always be cool and collected even when indulging the stupidest of requests from your “rockstar” clients. 650+ days into a record and dealing with the worst personalities imaginable, Bob Rock still cracks jokes and keeps a smile. He does not snap at them and claim to be an all knowing force. He indulged every stupid musical idea these guys had, not because they are Metallica, but because that is what a real Producer does. He does not get self indulgent and brag that his record sales far outweigh theirs, thinking he is a genius and they should listen to his every word. Instead, he knows that trying out everyone’s ideas is what makes a great record.
2. Stepping Up To The Plate
Since Jason Newsted had left the band shortly before the recording of St. Anger, the band was left without a bass player. Mr. Rock knew bringing another creative outlet and opinion into the band could slow up the already stalled creative process. They also had to deal with the other new member of the band THE RINGY SNARE (j/k j/k)! Nevermind the hurdles of getting to know a new person during the writing period of a record. Instead he makes the wise decision of getting in there, taking over the Bass duties, which in turn gets him more in the room with the band during the writing.
3. Getting The Vibe On The Vocal
James Hetfield complains throughout the movie that he has lost inspration, and is not feeling creative. He complains about everything someone could possibly complain about. In order to make it so the process is as effortless as possible for Big Baby James, Bobby makes it so he can do a vocal on any creative whim, always having a Shure 57 or SM 7 ready to go to lay down a vocal. Just like The Black Album, he does most of his vocals without Headphones so he can be comfortable performing at all times. 

4. The Most Poisonous Idea 
Early in the film it is disclosed that Lars and James were not allowed to comment on each others’ performances on previous records, leaving Bob Rock to mediate the creative disputes between the two of them. We have already discussed how this is the most poisonous philosphy to a band’s songwriting. Rather than letting the songwriting go to hell, B. Rock intervenes and works out every dispute till the part is right, instead of letting each member have their way with their own parts, destroying the composition of the record. 
5. Positivity
When Big Baby James returns from rehab the band sits down to jam again. Hetfield worries he may not enjoy playing music anymore and doesn’t know if he wants to continue Metallica. The second James get on guitar, Bob comes over to him and asserts, “The best sound I have ever heard in my life is you playing guitar in here”, giving him a burst of positivity and showing how grateful Bob and many Metallica fans will be to keep hearing James play music. After they finish playing he immediately interjects, “See feels pretty good doesn’t it?” This positivity is essential for a creative environment to flourish and keep the ship moving forward. Bob Rock’s 20+ years of experience shows in these instances by playing each hand perfectly!
6. Philosiphy
“I have been making records for a very long time and it comes down to how much effort and time you put it into it.” – Bob Rock

While this saying can be argued to death, the man does have one hell of a track record to argue with! He has hit after hit and obviously something is working for him and this philosophy is part of his governing force. If he didn’t believe it I am sure he would not have stuck around for 2 years to make this record!

Jesse Cannon is the editor of Musformation. He produces records at his studio Cannon Found Soundation. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseCannonMusF. For more info please visit his website.

  • danny

    never thought of it that way. great post

  • Anonymous

    This made me laugh, love the humor!

  • Dirt

    2 years of retainer pay on top of whatever the initial agreement from a band that big would make ANY producer happy. no matter what.