No drummer jokes here, even if the set-up practically begs for one. Instead, what do you get when a drummer directs his first movie? The answer: one kickass soundtrack.
For those music fans who haven’t yet heard, and that number must be pretty small given the media blitz that has surrounded the project, former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters front-man Dave Grohl has directed a film which focuses on the history of the California recording studio Sound City, and specifically the “magic” of the facility’s custom analog Neve recording console.
Grohl himself, along with the rest of Nirvana, recorded the seminal album Nevermind at Sound City. And a virtual who’s-who of rock legends also passed through the studio’s doors to lay down their own contributions to music history straight to tape. Unfortunately, with digital technology becoming ever more the norm, Sound City’s commitment to old-school recording techniques made it an endangered species and the facility closed in 2011. But luckily Grohl was there to rescue the Neve and have it installed in his own studio, Studio 606. And that’s where the idea for a film began.
In the documentary Sound City: Real to Reel, Grohl attempts to give viewers a sense of the many hit songs and records that were recorded at Sound City as well as the power making music live in the studio holds compared to the process of piecing tracks together on a computer. To accomplish this feat, Grohl tracked down many of the artists who spent time at Sound City in the past and invited them to reunite at Studio 606 to write and record songs on the fully-restored Neve console.
Watch the official trailer for “Sound City Real to Reel” here:
Rick Springfield, Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks – these musicians and more showed up to jam, and the resulting movie soundtrack (out today) is nothing short of special. Perhaps the most high-profile appearance on the album is that of McCartney who joined forces with Grohl and former Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear to knock out the wild rocker “Cut Me Some Slack.” The song had its official live debut during the “12-12-12” concert to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims, but amazingly took only three hours to create and record.
Elsewhere, the album-opening cut “Heaven and All” features Black Rebel Motorcycle Club members Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been attacking their instruments while Grohl pounds away on his drums. And Trent Reznor shows up to help craft the meditative finale “Mantra” with Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme. In between these two tracks, listeners also get treated to appearances from Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, Fear vocalist Lee Ving, and the rhythm section of Rage Against the Machine - drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford.
The number of stars on hand for one record is almost enough to make one’s head spin. But somehow, just like in the film, Grohl pulls it off. Sure, not every moment is a bona fide success. But the simple fact that an artist of Grohl’s stature is willing to look back into the past for inspiration, when so many others in the music industry today have their eyes constantly scanning the horizon for whatever high-tech recording toy is coming next, is a sign that classic rock ‘n’ roll can still be found, even if its spirit lives in a recording desk Neil Young once called “the Enterprise on steroids.”