Earlier this week, we gave The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou a second chance. We watched it in the theater over Christmas a couple of years ago. I was prepared to not like it as much as The Royal Tenebaums, which is my favorite. But after a conversation with a submarine navigator who was not curious about seeing what was outside of his windowless vessel, it was time to pull the DVD off the shelf.
This time, watching it with no expectations, Henry and I both agreed that it was great. Totally worth the second chance. Watching it I realized that Steve Zissou reminded me a lot of a couple of artists who had fallen out of the limelight, yet resurfaced with the help of record producer Rick Rubin. Zissou’s quest to find the Jaguar Shark was his last chance to salvage his career. However his perserverance resulted in the pinnacle of his career. The team’s discovery of the shark was quite remarkable and awe-inspiring.
Just a few days before, I saw Neil Diamond perform on Oprah. He has just released 12 Songs, which has been hailed by everyone as his best work ever. And guess who produced it. Rick Rubin… The same can be said of Johnny Cash’s last box set of his career Unearthed, a fabulous box set. Coincidentally I also listened to a Fresh Air interview with Johnny Cash last week. He said that Rubin came in and just asked him to play his favorite songs – a mix of covers, hymns, and prison songs. If you don’t own it, you need to run out and buy it immediately.
I don’t know much about what it means to be a producer. But from what I can surmise from recent press, Rubin pursues artists that he loves and respects and allows them to do exactly what they love. No pressure for marketing pitches or predeterming a target audience. Just create what you love. In the Post article, he said, “My goal is to just get out of the way and let the people I’m working with be their best.”
Rubin allows the creative process to happen. It’s more about the process than the product, which is the first thing that you learn when pursuing creativity. Rubin said, “I never have a preconceived idea. I think that’s one of the secrets of doing it, is not having any expectation of what it’s supposed to be. You just let it take on a life of its own. Our job is to pay attention and watch and know when it’s good. We just wait for those moments and try to capture them.”
I am so pleased that Team Zissou was able to capture the image of the Jaguar Shark, as well as Rubin’s helping us to rediscover Cash and Diamond by producing their great collections.