Within the city limits of Van Nuys, California lies one of the most famous recording studios in the world. You wouldn’t expect it as the area of Van Nuys it is in is quite run down. The building itself is quite dilapidated. But the more you watch and listen you will learn that this very studio changed the face and sound of music.
Studio City opened its doors in 1969, but it wasn’t until Fleetwood Mac came to record their huge seller Fleetwood Mac there in 1975 that it came onto musicians’ radars. The tiny studio began then to attract big names in music. Through the interviews with many of the musicians that recorded there we discover that they found the place to be a dump as well. What kept them coming back was the Neve Console.
Designed by Neve Electronics beginning in the 1970s this hand wired analog sound board was what all wanted to work with. It could produce a sound that others couldn’t. It was very natural and organic sounding. Soon artists like Rick Springfield, Tom Petty, Johnny Cash, Metallica, and The Grateful Dead started turning up at Sound City to record.
When Dave Grohl found out that the console was going to be destroyed as the studio was going to close he bought it and brought it to his own home studio. It was not an easy thing to do as he had to have it dismantled, transported, cleaned, and then put back together by hand. Then he invited back those who had recorded at Sound City and set about recording songs with them. This section is wonderful as it shows you what wonderful musicians these people are and how collaboration can make music even better. You really get to see what it means to be a musician.
A sad fact that the documentary brings up is that a studio like Sound City is likely to never exist again. With the advance of digital technology like Pro Tools for recording it is unlikely that handmade sound boards will ever come back.
Dave Grohl as a director?!? I know the guy can sing, play guitar and drums, but direct? Well, colour me wrong as the Foo Fighters frontman proved that he can direct with this documentary. He is so obviously passionate about music and it comes through in every frame of the one hour and forty-eight minute film. Through his passion he constructs a story of the fabled recording studio that teaches the viewer plenty about the history of music.
Fans of different genres of music will be thrilled to see various musicians like Lindsay Buckingham, Neil Young, Rivers Cuomo, John Fogerty, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Stevie Nicks, Paul McCartney, and Neil Giraldo.
The first part of the film is constructed primarily through interviews with people who worked or recorded at the studio. For the last half hour or so Dave Grohl records music at the studio with various other musicians. In this section you really get an insider’s view into how songs are recorded and the collaborative effort making music is.
If you are a music fan then this is required viewing.