Detroit, Michigan-based indie folk/rock/electronica recording artist, Sufjan Steven’s former manager recently took to Twitter to air out an alternate timeline where a collaboration between Stevens and famed music producer, Rick Rubin, could have occurred. Stevens released his eighth full-length studio album, the self-produced electro pop effort The Ascension, this past Friday September 25, via Asthmatic Kitty, an independent record label Stevens and Lowell Brams founded back in 1999.
As previously reported on Stereo Gum, Daniel Gill who briefly managed Stevens back in 2002, shed some anecdotal tidbits via his PR firm’s Twitter, “Around the time of Illinois, Rick Rubin was actively trying to work with him but Sufjan wouldn’t even meet with him. But just imagine Sufjan working with a producer like Rubin! Would still love to hear what that would sound like.” Rick Rubin was seen in a picture posted last year, on Instagram, with hip hop duo Run The Jewels. It was believed that he would have lended his production assistance on the hip hop duo, comprised of rapper Killer Mike and rapper/producer El-P, Run The Jewels’ fourth full-length studio album, RTJ4, which was released back in June.
still love to hear what that would sound like. Also around this time, Gary Gersh, who famously signed Nirvana to Geffen, was actively trying to sign Sufjan to his Strummer label (Mars Volta) but Sufjan refused to even meet with him. I do think he made the right call maintaining..
— Force Field PR (@forcefieldpr) September 25, 2020
What was also made clear was Stevens’ reluctance to promote his albums performing via major syndicated late night talk show appearances, according to Stevens former manager. According to the above source, Gill also shared Stevens’ stance on performing as a musical guest on TV shows furthered in, “A Ringer feature last year identified Gill as the architect of the attention-grabbing ruse known as the 50 States Project, for which Sufjan would supposedly record an album about every state in the Union. In that same feature, Gill recalled Sufjan’s unwillingness to perform on TV shows like Letterman and Conan: ‘He didn’t want to do it. He thought it was crass or something to play on TV.'”
Another interesting take away from Gill was a chance for Stevens to sign with a major record label. According to the aforementioned source, “Per Gill, a similar snub was awarded to the guy who signed Nirvana: ‘Also around this time, Gary Gersh, who famously signed Nirvana to Geffen, was actively trying to sign Sufjan to his Strummer label (Mars Volta) but Sufjan refused to even meet with him. I do think he made the right call maintaining control of his catalog but I also wonder what it would have been like if he ever had a major label marketing budget / radio push behind him. Anyways there’s an alternate timeline where he signs to a major, works with Rick Rubin and does not release a sprawling 80 minute self-produced album like the one he released today.'”
As of late, Stevens has actively released recorded material from his latest musical offering, such as the 12-minute long protest song “America” and the 10-minute long non-album track “My Rajneesh.” Stevens also released a music video for his second lead single “Video Game” that features teenage viral dance star Jalaiah Harmon.
Photo credit: Sharon Alagna