Here's what it is; Sound City, the mini-series
Episode 1 is the story of the legendry Sound City studio, presented as talking head interviews and linking footage. It's good, some interviews are better than others, and you know before you start that it's a Tragedy because it works inexorably towards the studio selling-off all its gear and closing. And it's all the fault of Pro-Tools! Bastards!!
Episode 2 is the story of the famous Neve desk, claimed to be THE reason that Sound City recordings sound so good and responsible for Dave's launch into superstardom (and consequently, I guess, Kurt's death). It covers Dave's purchase and installation into his own Studio 606 West. Lovely.
Episode 3 is a bunch of folks recording in the studio (that's Dave's studio, not Sound City), including some scouser bloke who was once in a popular English beat combo back in the '60s.
And that's it. All very nicely done, all a bit disconnected but well filmed and well worthy of a watch or two.
There's a bit of an agenda apparent, as much in what isn't said as in what is. The overall tone of the film suggests that progress killed this nice little mom & pop operation where great music that we all love was made; specifically in the shape of the heartless monster that is Pro Tools.
- Keith Olson and Butch Vig made great and successful records at Sound City. They have also made great and successful records at any studio they've deigned to use. Personally I'd rather have an hour of their time on my record than any desk ever made.
- I've searched my CD collection - there's a LOT of Sound City in there. It doesn't ALL sound great.
- A lot of those folks who mourn the passing of SC now have their own private studios, like, oh, Studio 606 West. Hell, Dave even cheated on his own studio by building another-one in his house! This is significant because they don't have to turn profit from their private studios, they can recoup from music sales (yes, even now some folks do make money from selling records).
- It's amazing how many great engineers appear to have great desks. Eric Valentine built his own desk, though oddly the tracks he cut before he had it also sound pretty damned good. Think about that one for a moment. The best engineers use the best sounding desks just like the best guitar players use the best sounding guitars, but the gear can't ALL be "The Best"? Hey, perhaps part of it's down to the engineer or the player?
- The owners of Sound City spent $75K on a custom-built Neve desk and must have dropped $30 - 50K on a tape machine, but couldn't be arsed to paint the walls or clean the toilets?!?
And here's the clincher (for me). I finished the movie with the horrible certainty that Sound City failed because of The Machine that is the music industry and that it must by now be a second-hand office furniture emporium. Wrong - it's now a - RECORDING STUDIO! It's run by Kevin Augunas who sold-off much of his vintage gear (ex Abbey Road EMI desk , Fairchild, Pultec etc) because he believes that people shouldn't put too much expectation on the magical capabilities of a specific piece of gear! I suspect that Sound City actually closed because the value of the assets outstripped the management's interest in the business. It's a good story, and for the record I love Dave Grohl - he's one of the very few Rock Gods I'd actually like to meet, but in this case, it's not all about you!
Note - the picture on this page is, can we say, "borrowed". Copyright is acknowledged.