On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds

Sound City

2013/ USA

Director: Dave Grohl

Starring: Dave Grohl, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Mick Fleetwood, Lindsey Buckinhgam, Stevie Nicks, Krist Noveselic, Tom Petty, Rick Rubin, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Rick Springfield, John Fogerty, Paul McCartney

This film is basically a huge labour of love that comes directly from the most humble man in rock music… Dave Grohl legendary drummer of Nirvana and front man of The Foo Fighters. The purpose of the film aside it was literally a process of collecting his friends and musical heroes in one place to celebrate the process of real music.

Grohl begins by recounting the story of the famous’ Sound City‘ music studio and goes chronologically through every band and performer that recorded in its hallowed walls. We travel through 1970 to the early 2000’s from bands like Fleetwood Mac to Nine Inch Nails. Basically if you have any kind of reputable music collection you can bet there will be at least one record in there that came from ‘Sound City’.

Grohl also credits the studio and its legendary ‘Neve Recording Console’ as the sole reason for his career’s success. The film is also a recount of a journey of a small band called Nirvana who traveled from Seattle, Washington to make ‘Nevermind’ one of the seminal works of music to ever exist in history.

Sadly though with the rise of the digital age, early music recording techniques have died and ‘Sound City’ died with them, one of the last records to be recorded there interestingly was Arctic Monkey’s ‘Suck it and See’. Grohl decided that he needed to save the legacy of ‘Sound City’ and so purchased the Neve Console and transported it to his own personal recording studio.

It got to the point in the film that I genuinely felt bad for watching this film on a laptop and for owning CD’s… you begin to feel personally responsible for the death of this once great institution.

However, what Grohl does next is bring back every performer he can that was affiliated with ‘Sound City’ and records an album, on the Neve, before our eyes with the likes of Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield and John Fogerty all making excellent cameos. It is a celebration, musicians accept these days the value technology has in recording but by sticking to the basics they also show how great it was to record in the real sense of the way with tapes and a big fuck off console.

There are two really standout scenes in this last section. The first being a nearly ten minute piece with Grohl, Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) all sat around composing a song together. At one point Reznor hands his bass over to Homme and asks him to try and work out a nice riff on the bass guitar, three minutes later the song they are writing begins to come to life. There is something quite magical about seeing a collective of your musical idols all on screen being real, it sends shivers down your spine.

Secondly, in the last recording segment Grohl assembles the accumulated living members of Nirvana to record a song and standing in for the deceased Kurt Cobain is none other than Paul McCartney. It speaks volumes about the influence Cobain had on all of them and it’s poignant that the only man they’d accept as his replacement would be a former member of The Beatles.

If you like rock music in any form you will love this movie. There really is something for everyone in this film. It’s also enlightening to see the reflexive process behind each of these classic records, we see how they were made, how bands and artists came together and fell apart and we see real music being made as it should. It’s like a rock and roll dream unraveling before your eyes…

4/5

-Josh Senior

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