When my boyfriend suggested we watch this documentary I was initially reluctant. A music documentary about a sound studio and a recording board? It seemed like something only musicians would be really interested in. But I settled down to watch it anyway, and found myself transfixed and even a little bit emotional.
Sound City was directed by Dave Grohl, who remembers recording at the Sound City studio in Van Nuys, California with Nirvana in the early 90s. It was their album “Nevermind” that saved the studio from going under. After huge success in the 70s with artists like Fleetwood Mac and Rick Springfield, Sound City began to lose money and bands in the 80s to studios with better technology – i.e. computer “Pro-Tools” technology. Pro-Tools made albums faster and easier to record, and decreased the need for studio time. If a musician made a mistake it could be fixed on the computer. Dave Grohl points out that this results in records losing the feeling of “That’s people” playing those songs. He notes that while computers have enabled more people to make music, the experience is totally different from creating music with other musicians. This is where the real feeling and power of music comes from: live, all-in-it-together-performance. And it’s also where really creative things happen.
Dave Grohl buys the Neve board from Sound City and installs it in his own studio to record an album that has some of the old sound. He records with Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) and finally, one of his musical heroes, Paul McCartney. This was the most powerful and engaging part of the documentary for me: seeing those great musicians jam together and create, and hearing how good it sounded. It reminded me of how wonderful it can feel to create something with other people – especially music, which is such a changing, in-the-moment experience and one that can be so uplifting.
Sound City turns out to be an inspiring film, even for those who know very little about music and sound boards.
Sound City, directed by David Grohl and written by Mark Monroe, was released in 2013.