Rick Rubin Regrets ‘Weird’ Time Working on AC/DC’s ‘Ballbreaker’
Rick Rubin looked back on the “weird” experience of producing AC/DC’s 1995 album Ballbreaker, saying a “dream-come-true” moment had dissolved into disappointment.
Rubin, a massive Beatles fan, compared the Australian group favorably with his British heroes, making it even more regrettable that a disagreement over working environment meant the partnership didn’t fulfill all its potential.
In a recent episode of Talk is Jericho, he recalled that everyone had been happy with “Big Gun,” a track written and recorded for the movie Last Action Hero, leading to the idea of continuing onto a full-length project. “Honestly, it was weird,” he said. “My favorite group post-Beatles was AC/DC, and I think they're the best rock band in the world, of all time. They're a perfect band [although] they don't have the breadth and depth of songwriting that the Beatles have. But for a straight-up rock, AC/DC is perfection. So it was another dream-come-true scenario that, I will say, was a difficult process.”
He admitted to bewilderment over why it had been so difficult, but suggested they’d “got off to a bad start” by setting up in a New York studio he’d always wanted to use. “I was excited… but it never sounded good,” he said. “We did a million things trying to make it sound good – nothing worked. And I remember saying to Malcolm [Young] at one point, like, 'Maybe we should just move somewhere else?’”
Young rejected the suggestion, saying they’d behaved the same way while working with producer Mutt Lange in Europe, and insisting: “We're staying here; it's a very good studio,” Rubin continued: “So then we stayed for another few weeks, and the guy said, ‘You know what – let's just go to the studio you like.’ And then we ended up going to L.A. to a studio that I worked in a lot, and it got better.”
But Rubin felt the damage had already been done. “I think those, I don't know, five or six weeks of trying to make the album in this bad-sounding space took a lot of the spark or just the good vibe out of it, which is a shame,” he reflected. What made things worse was that Ballbreaker featured the return of AC/DC drummer Phil Rudd – a “big deal” for Rubin “because I thought he was a key component.”