Ever since I saw Dave Grohl, legendary Foo Fighters frontman and drummer for Nirvana once upon a time, talking about his new film that he directed, I was intrigued. Grohl has such a great personality and I could imagine him making a great documentary. Especially after seeing the Back & Forth documentary about the history of Foo Fighters. It’s obvious Dave is a music fanatic to his very core. I want to see his excitement put to use in a film.
Sound City Studios existed in Van Nuys, California from 1969 until its closing of its doors in 2011. At that time, Dave Grohl purchased the custom Neve 8028 Console from the main Studio A, to have installed in his own home studio, 606 Studio. This documentary is a love letter to all of the music that was recorded in that time using this studio and this console. This weaves together a timeline that starts with how Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks met a lost directionless Fleetwood Mac through the people of this studio. It follows with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Rick Springfield, as much of their early popularity came from recordings and situations that happened around Sound City Studios. The story then takes us through the 80s and the battle between analog and digital studios, and gives us a glimpse of how early digital recording worked. Despite its popularity, many artists still chose to record in analog.
The next chapter is the part dear to Dave Grohl. Nirvana recorded their album Nevermind at Sound City. The album and experience not only changed the band forever, but brought new life back to the studio. This prompted 90s artists like Rage Against the Machine to also record here. But as the story winds down to a sad ending, digital recording became the norm. people can now make albums in their bedrooms on a laptop. Sound City just couldn’t compete enough to stay in business.
But the sad ending takes a happy twist. Dave Grohl bought the Neve console, the heart of the sound in the studio, and had it moved to his own 606 Studio. Wanting to start a new chapter to the story, Grohl invited many people to his studio to collaborate on new music. Not all of the music on this album, entitled Sound City: Real to Reel is covered in the film. But we see the spark of what happens when artists collaborate. Grohl records some really lively and energetic music with Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, members of Fear and Kyuss, historic session players, and then the big cherry on top. All of the surviving members of Nirvana record a song with Paul McCartney. Not only is the song really good, but watching someone create music out of the spontaneity of being in a room with one of their idols is an inspiring thing to see.
This is an extremely well put together film, and it really gets across why it is important not to lose the human element of music creation in an increasingly digital world. Even when speaking about Trent Reznor, who uses all kinds of digital electronics in his music, the point is made clear about how important it is to have skill and emotion as a solid foundation so that the tools are tools but not crutches. I definitely have to commend Dave Grohl on such a wonderful job making this film. It’s fun to watch a documentary when the maker of the film has a real passion for the subject like Grohl does here.
Or the soundtrack on CD, MP3 or Vinyl here:
Check out a clip from the film:
and the trailer: