Film & Music: Sound City (2013)

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On March 17, 2013
Last modified:March 17, 2013


Dave Grohl's loving homage to a great recording studio

Sound City - the story on one of America's most famous recording studios


Is there a nicer man in rock than Dave Grohl? Charismatic, charming and for a guy with some serious hard rocking credentials, he seems amazingly together.

He is perhaps the only person who could helm this documentary, charting the rise and fall of LA’s Sound City recording studio. He manages to pull together many of America’s finest musicians, to reminisce on the recording of some of the most seminal albums and music of the last three decades.

Split into three distinct eras, the first a roll call of rock royalty, including Lindsay Buckingham, Stevie Nicks, and Mick Fleetwood, who recorded both 1975’s “Fleetwood Mac”, and the block busing follow-up,”Rumours” at Sound City. Tom Petty, Neil Young also recorded some of their most important albums here. After this first golden period, by the 80’s, the studio began to feel its age, and bookings from premier acts fell away.

All this changed however, after a new, unheard of band, booked a 16 day session at Sound City in 1991. “Nevermind“, by Nirvana, became a massive seller, quickly rising to the top of the Billboard Chart, and a whole slew of newer musicians, including Nine Inch Nails and Metallica began to once again book Sound City.


The Neve 8078 consol

While this rock end of the music spectrum isn’t totally my bag, but the recording process and alchemy that came together in this dingy, un-glamourous place is fascinating. The star of the show, centre stage, is the Neve 8078 consol, a recoding desk talked about with deep reverence by the most of the musicians.

Designed by a British engineer, the Neve was considered the Rolls Royce of analogue mixing desks. In the film, Dave Grohl meets Rupert Neve, the genius sound designer behind it, but he may as well have been from Mars. This is a seriously brilliant guy, and Grohl is amusingly lost within a few minutes of meeting him.

Sadly, Sound City is no more. The film documents the rise of digital music, and in particular Pro Tools, which has almost as much functionality as the Neve, but in a device the size of a Mac, but arguably, with none of the soul.

Sound City, either out of a philosophical dedication to analogue, or more likely, the lack of funds to invest in a digital rig, closed it’s doors several years ago. The Neve 8078 lives on however, lovingly shipped to Grohl’s personal studio, where it’s still used. The last third of the film sees the same musicians from it’s past glory, re-unite once more, to make full use of the rich analogue recording ability of a piece of rock history.

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