It all started with an obsession over a Neve analogue console. Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer, has managed to capture the nostalgia surrounding the beloved control box and its home (and film’s title) Sound City.
“That no frills, no effects, no place to hide, everything coming out of an amp or everything coming right out of a speaker or right off a microphone — that approach, that was Sound City,” says Jim Scott, producer and recording engineer, on Sound City.
Scott is describing analogue recording, the backbone of Sound City, a recording studio opened in 1969 by Joe Gottfried and Tom Skeeter in Van Nuys, California. Sound City was the home of one of four custom-made Neve consoles. “That (Neve) board totally changed my life,” says Grohl in the film.
Sound City, directed and produced by Grohl, features interviews with artists like Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Rick Springfield, who made it big thanks to the studio.
Fleetwood Mac formed at Sound City and Rick Springfield ended up marrying one of the studio’s receptionists. Nirvana recorded Nevermind there. So, when Grohl found out that Sound City was finally closing its doors after years of combating the digital sound takeover and the subsequent death of expensive and cumbersome analogue recording, he purchased the studio’s Neve and moved it to his Studio 606.
Grohl then went about contacting old friends of Sound City. Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, the Foo Fighters and Nirvana-sans-Cobain reunited with the Neve that helped make them famous. What came out of Grohl’s star-studded gathering was a soundtrack, Sound City: Real to Reel, released March 12, 2013.
“It’s the sound of the records that were made at Sound City,” says Grohl.
The last part of the film features epic jam sessions between the likes of Nirvana and Paul McCartney and Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) with Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Grohl.
Studio City, above all else is one of the best rock history films and manages to tell a rock and roll story free of the distractions of drugs, alcohol and sex, opting for the real meat of what it meant to be a rock musician from 1960 onwards. And like everything else Grohl touches, his enthusiasm for music is contagious.