In case it’s been a while since you’ve involuntarily thought to yourself, “Man, Dave Grohl is so rad!” there’s this. It’s a new documentary directed by Grohl titled Sound City, about him and a bunch of his most famous rock star friends, all in the recording studio together, jamming and laying down tracks… okay, no that’s not what it’s about but that’s in there. That premise might have already won you over, but the film is actually about a very special music studio and an extremely heavy piece of recording technology.
Sound City Studios was the legendary Los Angeles recording space that fostered Nirvana’s Nevermind – which should give you an early indication as to why Grohl might have a soft spot for the place – but it’s also where Rage Against the Machine’s debut album was recorded, and After the Gold Rush, and Rumours and records by… well… Metallica, Mastodon, Grateful Dead, Tool, Rancid, Weezer, Arctic Monkeys and all of these other artists.
But that was back then. Now, digital technology advancements have brought about a sonic shift in the way music can be recorded, meaning that in May 2011, Sound City, a relic from a bygone era, was going out of business.
The big soundboard everybody used back in the day – in Sound City’s “Studio A” – was an extremely rare, custom-built Neve 8028 recording console. Back then, the brown shag carpeting on the studio walls was still in style, and Mick Fleetwood-sized piles of cocaine covered about every available horizontal surface. The thing was built in 1972, so by no stretch is it a high tech device (or the most mobile for that matter). But even so, heavyweight engineers and artists swear by its analog engineering, and it’s tough to argue with the list of hits that were laid down there.
With the studio about to close its doors, and with nobody stepping in to save the console, the building’s new owners would have had no use for the Plymouth-sized rock ‘n’ roll artifact and it would probably wind up being unceremoniously dumped off at the side of the road somewhere in Van Nuys, Los Angeles.
Dave Grohl could not stand to let this happen. The machine was moved to Grohl’s personal recording studio and, in tribute to the legend of Sound City Studios and that console, he made a documentary detailing their shared history. He’s joined in interviews and in the studio by the likes of Tom Petty, Neil Young, Krist Novoselic, Josh Homme, Brad Wilk, Trent Reznor, Paul McCartney and a whole lot of others too.
In a recent episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast, Grohl hinted that another part of this project (that already encompasses a documentary that was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and an album of collaborations) will be a tour made up of a cadre of musicians from the film… and not just a few dates around the American Southwest either, as he’s mentioned locations in Europe and Australia as possible tour stops.
So, after topping the charts as a member of Nirvana, and then with Foo Fighters, and then Them Crooked Vultures, and then Foo Fighters again (somehow), Dave Grohl has re-invented himself once more. Man, that guy is so rad.
Dan slaps a mean bass and will be at Grohl’s keynote at SXSW 2013. Follow him – @danielkrankin