June 19, 2018

Sound City is Alive and Kicking



<i>Sound City</i> is Alive and Kicking

Director Dave Grohl (left) interviews musical engineering icon Rupert Neve for his documentary Sound City. Some of the most iconic rock music was mixed on the Neve 8028 Console, foreground.

Dave Grohl keeps analog alive in the digital age.

Love doesn’t even begin to describe the tone of Dave Grohl’s debut documentary, Sound City. Given the impact the studio had on rock music and Grohl’s life, reverent is probably a good place to start.

Buried deep in the heart of the San Fernando Valley, amid the myriad ranch-style housing and faceless machine shops, lived Sound City Studios, which, coincidentally, made some of the greatest rock records ever. Even though the premise has a fairy tale quality, the studio’s demise was brought on by the hard economics of the ever evolving music industry.

Grohl’s two-pronged storytelling prevents the film from appearing remotely self-aggrandizing.

The commentary is similar to 2012s Side By Side in that we’re only beginning to examine the artistic (and financial) ramifications of digital vs. tape and how artists create and fans interpret said art.

Neil Young and Trent Reznor provide interesting arguments for each medium while Grohl focuses on the craft of songwriting from riffing to recording.

Where to begin with the human element? Grohl has no problem interjecting his story into the film, and rightfully so. The director states how 16 days spent recording “Nevermind” altered his life forever. It’s a story that’s also shared by Neil Young, John Fogerty, Tom Petty, Fleetwood Mac, Queens of the Stone Age, Nine Inch Nails, Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana.

The final third of the film reveals the legacy and remains of Sound City: the custom built Neve 8028 Console that can only be described as “magic.” Rather than archive the console, Grohl purchased and installed the Neve into the Foo Fighters personal recording studio.

There, we see the band create “Sound City—Real to Reel,” the film’s soundtrack, featuring the artists associated with the studio, in an effort to pay one last tribute.

It’s a revelation seeing acclaimed artists, underneath the veneer of hype, just being people; musicians working at their craft, sharing ideas and memories. Catch the film if only to see Paul McCartney take songwriting notes from producer Butch Vig.

Sound City very much resembles its namesake studio as both are filled with great tunes, heart and bare-bones authenticity.