Friday, March 8, 2013

Sound City

SI mentioned the other day how cool Dave Grohl’s Sound City documentary and now, as promised, a slightly longer review/whatever you’d like to call it.

First of all some background, Sound City is or rather was, a studio in Van Nuys, California that closed in 2011.  Hidden in an industrial area in Van Nuys, California, it was by all accounts, a bit of a dump – think unpainted walls, dirty couches and general scruffiness.  Yet somehow, the artists that recorded there and the studio itself are legendary.  Fleetwood Mac recorded Rumours there and a young Nirvana picked Sound City above all other studios to record Nevermind.  So what was the draw card?  According to Grohl and the rest of the musicians he interviews it was a combination of the sense of family and the Neve analogue mixing console.   

While the documentary does touch on the technical aspects of the Neve Desk it’s more about the people and the stories / music that was made there.  When the studio closed in 2011 Dave Grohl managed to buy the Neve Desk (which cost more than the owners house when it was installed) and move it to his own studio.  Here he sets out to recreate the Sound City vibe by inviting a whole bunch of musicians back to record an album in its memory.  He even gets Paul MacCartney involved in a track including former Nirvana band mates Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic. 

Part of the reason that Sound City closed was the fact that the owners vehemently opposed the switch to digital recording.  Sound City remained an analogue studio until the day they closed the doors.  It made me think about what is lost in the switch from analogue to digital, not just in music but in other forms of media too – books, comics and all the rest.  For me, part of the pleasure of a new album, book or comic is holding a physical object in my hand - the smell of a new book, the feel of paper in my hands or the artwork and lyrics inside the album sleeve.  For the guys who recorded at Sound City, it was the “human element that made the magic.”  
I am not knocking digital media at all.  The advantages are obvious and 90% of my music and all most all my comics are now digital.  Digital formats allow us to access more, faster and easier than ever before and that is great.  I’d just like it a lot more if there was room in the world for both.  I’d prefer not to watch music stores and book stores close down because those places, like Sound City, create communities around art forms that we are all passionate about and for me, no virtual store can ever take that place.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand, Sound City is well worth a watch especially if you are music fan.  Whether you are like Jason who knows the in's and out's of being a musician in a studio or like me who just loves the end product, you’ll find something here that speaks to you.  If you do watch it or already have watched it, let me know what you think.

P.S The album that Dave Grohl produced in his studio with the Neve desk is due out this month sometime and I am really looking forward to giving it a listen.

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