Robert Jens Rock, record producer, engineer, guitarist, songwriter (born 19 April 1954 in Winnipeg, MB). Bob Rock started out as a recording engineer and enjoyed some success as a core member of the punk/new wave/pop band Payola$ before going on to produce top-selling albums by such artists as The Cult, Mötley Crüe, Metallica, Bon Jovi, Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan, Michael Bublé and many others. Known for a big, muscular, radio-friendly sound, highly-polished production values and an ability to play to an artist’s strengths, Rock has produced or engineered some of the most commercially-successful rock records of all time. He has won multiple Juno Awards and been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
Early Years and Career
Rock was born in Winnipeg but grew up playing guitar in Langford, BC, a suburb of Victoria, where he met English-born musician Paul Hyde. The two high school friends shared a love of British rock ‘n’ roll and a dream of becoming rock stars. In 1973 they travelled to London, England, where they tried, unsuccessfully, to break into the music scene. They returned to Canada the following year and settled in Vancouver, where Rock got an entry-level job at the city’s preeminent recording studio, Little Mountain Sound.
Engineering Career and Payola$, 1979–87
After working his way up to becoming a recording engineer and mixer, Rock produced records by the Vancouver punk bands Young Canadians, The Subhumans and Pointed Sticks. He became a protégé of producer Bruce Fairbairn and worked with him on hit albums by Prism and Loverboy.
In 1979, Rock and Hyde formed their own band, the Payola$. Their second album, No Stranger to Danger (1982) was certified platinum in Canada, and earned Juno Awards for Single of the Year and Composer of the Year for the hit single “Eyes of a Stranger.” The band’s next album, Hammer on a Drum (1983), also went platinum in Canada but failed to do well in the US, necessitating a name change (to Paul Hyde and the Payolas) and a more commercial sound on the next album, Here’s the World for Ya (1985), produced by David Foster.
While working with Foster, Rock and Hyde contributed the title for the Northern Lights charity song “Tears Are Not Enough,” on which Rock served as the recording engineer. After Here’s the World for Ya flopped in the US, the band was dropped by their label, reformed under the name Rock and Hyde, and released Under the Volcano (1987), which earned the band three Juno nominations and yielded the modest hit “Dirty Water.” The band then went on hiatus as Hyde pursued a solo career.
Meanwhile, Rock had been establishing himself as one of the industry’s top engineers. In addition to assisting Fairbairn on three Loverboy albums, all of which went platinum in the US and broke the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, he also worked on Honeymoon Suite’s The Big Prize (1986), Bon Jovi’s breakthrough Slippery When Wet (1986) — the top-selling US record of 1987 — and their equally successful follow-up New Jersey (1988), as well as Aerosmith’s highly-successful comeback record Permanent Vacation (1987).
Rock’s work with Fairbairn attracted international attention. After producing Colin James’ self-titled 1988 debut album, Rock produced The Cult’s Sonic Temple (1988) and Mötley Crüe’s Dr. Feelgood (1989), both of which were huge successes for the respective bands. On the success of Dr. Feelgood, Rock was chosen to produce the fifth album by thrash metal band Metallica. The recording process, documented in the video A Year and a Half in the Life of Metallica, was filled with conflict as the band clashed with some of Rock’s suggestions. When the self-titled album (often referred to as the “black album”) was released in August 1991 it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 Chart, and remained on the chart for more than five years. The album has sold over 16 million copies in the US and an estimated 30 million world-wide, making it one of the highest-selling albums of all time and the record for which Rock is best known as a producer.
Following the recording of Metallica, Rock formed the band Rockhead with former Payola$ drummer Chris Taylor, and produced the group’s self-titled album in 1992. The band toured in support of Bon Jovi and released the singles “Heartland” and “Chelsea Rose,” but the album did not sell well and the group disbanded as Rock returned to producing.
After Little Mountain Sound Studios closed in 1993, Rock relocated to Maui, Hawaii in 1995 and built his own studio, Plantation Recording & Mixing, where the majority of his output has since been recorded. He produced for a variety of groups including Skid Row, Veruca Salt (and vocalist Nina Gordon’s solo work), Bryan Adams, the Moffatts, American Hi-Fi and had additional projects with The Cult, Mötley Crüe and Bon Jovi.
Rock also continued his relationship with Metallica, producing all six of their albums from Metallica to St. Anger (2003). Following the departure of bassist Jason Newsted, Rock performed bass on St. Anger (2003) and received writing credit on the songs. The two-year recording session for St. Anger, which included Rock and the band members participating in group therapy, was documented in the feature film Some Kind of Monster (2004). The album was commercially successful and won a Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance (the band’s fifth Grammy with Rock as producer), but critical and fan reception was mixed. In 2005, an online petition claiming that Rock was having a detrimental effect on Metallica’s sound and calling for him to be fired received almost 20,000 signatures. Rock and Metallica parted ways amicably later that year.
The Payola$ reformed with new material and performed occasionally between 2003 and 2008. Rock continued to produce for Canadian artists including Our Lady Peace, Simple Plan, The Tea Party and The Tragically Hip, as well as for international acts such as The Offspring and Bush. Though best known for his work with rock and metal bands, Rock has produced albums for pop vocalists such as Ron Sexsmith, Jann Arden and Nelly Furtado, as well as jazz/pop superstar Michael Bublé. Throughout his career Rock has produced over 70 albums and engineered or mixed more than 130.
Recording Engineer of the Year (“When It’s Over”/“It’s Your Life” – Loverboy), Juno Awards (1982)
Single of the Year (“Eyes of a Stranger” – Payola$), Juno Awards (1983)
Recording Engineer of the Year (No Stranger to Danger – Payola$), Juno Awards (1983)
Most Promising Group of the Year (Payola$), Juno Awards (1983)
Composer of the Year (“Eyes of a Stranger” – Payola$), Juno Awards (1983)
Best Producer (“She’s So High”/“If You Sleep” – Tal Bachman), Juno Awards (2000)
Jack Richardson Producer of the Year (“Welcome to My Life” – Simple Plan; “Some Kind of Monster” – Metallica), Juno Awards (2005)
Inductee, Canadian Music Hall of Fame, Juno Awards (2007)
Jack Richardson Producer of the Year (“Haven’t Met You Yet”/“Baby You’ve Got What it Takes” – Michael Bublé), Juno Awards (2010)