Rick Rubin’s ‘To Do’ List: Audioslave, Peppers, System, Cash

Plus Slipknot, Weezer, NIN, (International) Noise Conspiracy and others.

The occasional Andrew Dice Clay album aside, Rick Rubin tends to have a hand in producing some of the most-anticipated releases each year. In 2003 alone, he contributed to Jay-Z’s The Black Album, Limp Bizkit’s comeback attempt Results May Vary, two Johnny Cash albums and Joe Strummer’s swan song, among others.

As impressive as his résumé already is (it also includes the Beastie Boys, Tom Petty, Run-DMC, Slayer, LL Cool J, Rage Against the Machine and many others), the coming months look to be one of the producer’s most prolific periods, with no less than eight albums in the pipeline.

These include two more comeback attempts, for Nine Inch Nails and Slipknot (see “Slipknot Ready To Unveil New Masks, Subliminal LP” ), the fifth album from Weezer (see “Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo A Wellspring Of Songs, Rick Rubin Says” ), a compilation of peace songs (see “Audioslave, Chili Peppers Play For Peace On Rick Rubin Compilation” ), and lots more. Here’s a rundown of what else the producer has on his plate:

System of a Down

The band has been in writing mode for months and plans to go into the studio with more songs than ever before. Rubin has made frequent visits to System’s rehearsal space and likes what he’s heard. “It’s hard to know where it’s gonna end up, but I heard a lot of things that were really wild and exciting,” he said.

System have been outspoken about the war in Iraq (see “New System Clip Features Cast Of Millions, Cartoon Saddam” ) and continue to support a movement for increased awareness of the Armenian genocide (see “System Of A Down Plan Benefit For Genocide Awareness” ). Rubin expects to hear that passion in the music.

“You can’t help but write about that stuff when you have such strong emotions,” Rubin said. “I don’t think it’ll come out in an obvious way. System has a great way of taking the realities of their lives and things we see in the world and twisting them into these odd little puzzles. You don’t know necessarily what they’re talking about, ’cause they create this kind of surrealistic picture.”

Audioslave

Chris Cornell and the former members of Rage Against the Machine are also still in the writing phase (see “Audioslave ‘Surprised’ By Adventurous New Songs, Morello Says” ), and although Rubin hasn’t heard much, he has high expectations for the band’s second album.

“I get [two-way] pages from the guys on a pretty regular basis after rehearsal and they’re like, ‘We were good at work today, you’re gonna be so excited,’ so that’s nice,” Rubin said. “What’s exciting to me about this album is, they weren’t really a band when we made the last album. They had never done one show. And now they’ve done a lot of touring and they’ve really become a band. They’re so much more comfortable with each other now; they got along fine before, but it was so new. The potential is off the map. I think the last album is good, but I think we could do better than that.”

The Red Hot Chili Peppers

The Peppers have done some writing for their new LP but plan to buckle down after a European tour in June.

“We did some recording to get the new songs for their greatest-hits album, and that was fun,” Rubin said (see “Red Hot Chili Peppers Record 15 New Tracks With Rick Rubin” ). “We recorded a bunch of stuff and got our feet wet again. I don’t know what the time frame’s gonna be, but I look forward to making another good one with them.”

Johnny Cash

Rubin plans to finish the legendary country singer’s acclaimed American series with the posthumously released American V.

“Since the last album we put out, we recorded about 60 songs, and I think about 25 of them are in a state that his performance is together enough to be on an album,” Rubin said. “I’ll be working on those songs over the next few months and it’ll probably come out at the end of the year, and that’ll be his final studio album.”

(International) Noise Conspiracy

Rubin has taken an executive-producer role with the Swedish rock band’s major-label debut, Armed Love, due June 29 on Island Records via Rubin’s American Recordings.

“It’s very punk-rock, Rolling Stones-y, with a political vibe,” Rubin said. “They have an incredible live show. You’ve gotta see it.”

Dan Wilson

The latest signing to American Recordings is none other than Semisonic singer Dan Wilson. “I’ve never heard Semisonic, but I have a feeling this is radically different,” Rubin said. “I don’t think of him as the guy in Semisonic; I think of him as really a new artist.”

Rubin was turned on to Wilson by Sheryl Crow and has been recording him off and on in recent months.

“I heard his music and loved it,” Rubin said. “He had a lot of the album done before we met, and we’ve just been kind of brainstorming and finishing it off together. It’s beautiful, emotional singer/songwriting. It has a real kind of timelessness and sophistication in the writing. I like every song on the album. It sounds like songs you could’ve heard on the radio while you were growing up, but at the same time not in any way derivative.”