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Dave Grohl’s ‘Sound City’ rock-doc commemorates famed music studio

February 1st, 2013 Posted in Arts and Life

Story & Photos by Ben Hansen
Special to The Hard News Café

“We are on a mission. We wanted to make something that will inspire kids to go to a yard sale and buy a crappy old guitar. Start a band with your friend, you do it in your garage … you sound like crap … and then you become the biggest band in the world. That’s Nirvana, or that’s the Beatles.” —Dave Grohl

PARK CITY—Five-time Grammy Award-winner Dave Grohl gathered an all-star cast of musical talent for his directorial debut movie, “Sound City,” which screened last week at Sundance 2013. The film is about the legendary Sound City music studio in Southern California, with a specific focus on the studio’s incredible analog mixing board.


For Dave Grohl, making a movie about Sound City was an act of love.

“It honestly was more like a keg party with a camera than making a Hollywood film,” he told the Associated Press.

Sound City was a place where artists were appreciated and respected, where the human element of music was always embraced. Legendary artists like Paul McCartney, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, and Nirvana recorded some of the most revered albums in rock-and-roll history at Sound City, which closed in 20112. The run-down building in Van Nuys, Calif., seemed the least likely of places where such musical gems would have been born, but the space had a certain magic. True to the end, the studio focused on the analog recording in a music world where sound recording is now primarily digital.

The Sound City studio boasted one of the greatest analog sound-mixing boards ever—the Neve console. The custom sound board, one of four in existence, was the reason bands chose this studio. As Grohl described it, it created, “a bigger, better version of you…something that was natural, something that wasn’t manipulated and was real.”

Sounds not possible elsewhere could be captured through this feat of engineering. With the closure of the studio and liquidation of Sound City’s assets, the board was a highly-coveted commodity.  Because of his contributions to the studio’s success—he recorded the album “Nevermind” with Nirvana there—Grohl won the bidding to buy the board.

He was elated. “I thought that this board was going to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he said. “I feel that board is responsible for the person that I am today. Without that board, who knows what that album would have sounded like?”


Dave Grohl’s film “Sound City” premiered at Sundance 2013. BEN HANSEN photo

Grohl wasted no time putting the board to use, crafting a soundtrack to his movie with many of the artists who recorded at Sound City over the years. Chronicling these recording events—a potent mixture of various rock forms—makes up the final portion of the “Sound City” movie.  One of the highlights is a track named “From Can to Can’t,” a unique combination of Grohl on drums, Corey Taylor (Slipknot and Stoned Sour) on vocals, Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) on guitar, and Scott Reeder (Kyuss) on bass.

The artists who contributed to the soundtrack showed up in droves at Friday’s premier—Grohl, Taylor and Nielsen, along with Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac), Rick Springfield, Krist Novoselic (Nirvana), Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age), John Fogerty (Credence Clearwater Revival), Lee Ving (Fear), Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters), and many others.

It was a special night for rock fans, as those who had contributed to the movie, aptly named Dave Grohls “Sound City Players,” played a very exclusive concert to a sold-out crowd at Park City Live. All these musicians contributed to a set that stretched far beyond the film’s soundtrack, including “Dreams”by Fleetwood Mac, “Bad Moon Rising” by Credence, “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield, and “Surrender” by Cheap Trick.

“Each musician … their imperfection is what gives them personality,” Grohl said. “When you get that certain combination of people together, that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

“That’s magic.”


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