The singular universal truth that Ross Robinson has continually rediscovered is that nothing stays the same. Not our bodies, not this earth, not this galaxy, none of it will last as it is right now.
"I can depend 100% on my ideas, thoughts and opinions changing," Robinson says, taking a momentary breather from capturing another raw performance at his home / studio. "I'm basically a constant liar because if I think I know something, I'm lying, although at the time, I really believe it."
And thus Robinson has arrived at what may be the pinnacle of recording music and perhaps life itself: the moment. Ross is in constant fluid motion, working feverishly to get musicians to lose themselves in the moment. To forget whatever might be on their mind, to lose focus in order to gain focus. It is, frankly, what Ross is known for. "I'm constantly trying to get people to not think," he explains.
"A lot of times, I'm doing radical things when they're not expecting it to take their mind away. During The Cure, I would throw things across the room into the wall, or in the middle of a take grab a whole cymbal stand and chuck it on the ground."
"On the first Slipknot record, [drummer] Joey [Jordinson] would plant things for me to throw to see if I'd do it. But I can't do it without it being spontaneous. If the isn't totally on fire, I feel like I'm not doing my job so I'll try to do something extreme to try to bring them home."
It's that intensity and total involvement that has made Ross one of the most talked about and coveted rock producers of the modern era. The performances he elicits are of a caliber that can not be copied nor contrived, leaving marks upon the musical landscape with genre-defining (or sometimes career reinvigorating) albums from top-tier talent, including Korn, At The Drive In and Tech N9ne.
The bands Ross has worked with to expose their potent inner essence comprise a diverse group of artists spanning styles, but they are all united by a sense of purpose and intention, which Ross expertly captured.
There's the tribal, primal ferocity of Sepultura’s rhythmic Roots; the bone-rattling raw, naked honesty of the Korn’s eponymous debut, followup album and Korn III; the seismic emotive power of At The Drive In's beloved Relationship of Command; the critically acclaimed art-attack of Blood Brothers ...Burn, Piano Island, Burn; the droning dark melodic beauty of The Cure's 2004 self-titled album. And of course, who can forget Slipknot's self-titled debut and their sophomore set, Iowa.
It's all many paths leading to one destination: the truth.
Music is absolutely a portal for something beyond the body, in Robinson's eyes, and he acts as a sort of mystic shaman to help artists find their purity of intention and channel it all forward.
"It could be the silliest lyric but there's always something that's so sweet, so perfect, the feeling behind it. Say if you're singing about something you really don't like or somebody who did something to you. It always leads back to, 'I want them to love me.'"
Ross can usually uncover how the artists aren't loving themselves. Think of Robinson as the surgeon and his methods as his scalpel – all the while simultaneously acting as teacher, healer, student.
"When I can slice through that shield -- through the face of 'the liar' -- and capture that feeling tone of the true self, the reality of the person, the song clicks into a completely different mode. It turns into a life force, an actual living, breathing being of something invisible. If that intention is correct, if it's really exuding that vibe, it’s the only thing that will always stay the same. Your body is gone, the earth is sucked into a black hole, and the galaxy is gone. It all changes. But if that song and copies of it can stay in some format, that essence will always glaze through without changing.
"It's like capturing a genie in a bottle," he adds. "Or you can use the word 'God.' It's an expression that's pure and clean through even the most gnarly or most beautiful of music. If I'm able to capture that correctly it will remind somebody that listens to it of what they are. The ear inside your heart and not your head hears it."
And as millions of fans across the globe can attest, the ears inside millions of hearts have heard the familiar chords of musical honesty and artistic integrity enraptured inside a Ross Robinson recording. His very name has become synonymous with "intense" and yet, Ross continues to plug away with new artists and focusing only on the here-and-now rather than any sort of legacy. Just as he doesn't consider a band's commercial viability when choosing whether to produce them, he doesn't think about how many plaques he can amass on his wall or what someone may write.
"I never expected anything to leave a mark, or a legacy or whatever. It's so down to when I'm looking in the eyes of the artist I'm working with and just trying to get that person to open up. The more he or she can wake up the more I get to wake up and I'm craving that like crazy. That chill factor, that invisible thing." He pauses excitedly, perhaps feeling its call once again and remembering it's time to get back to capturing the truth. "It's not ears. It's that chill."
Robinson is too humble to admit it but he is a visionary. His visionary talent is his zeal, passion and overall complete commitment to bringing out the purest truth of an artist's own vision and capturing it for the rest of us. That is what makes Ross Robinson one of the most important producers of our time. And that is what makes a Ross Robinson recording something for the ages.