Movie review: ‘Sound City’ is a tribute to recording studio equipment

Lively, emotional and funny, “Sound City” is, of all things, a mash note for a machine. Not just any machine, however, but one that has helped change the face of rock’n’roll.

This piece of equipment, the Neve 8028 sound card, was the crown jewel of Sound City in Van Nuys, a complete dumping ground for a recording studio whose neglected vibe and warehouse complex location do not did not prevent him from producing more than 100 pieces of gold and platinum. records, including period works by Neil Young, Tom Petty, Pat Benatar, Cheap Trick, Rage Against the Machine, Fleetwood Mac and Nine Inch Nails.

“Sound City” the movie wouldn’t exist if Foo Fighters rocker-director Dave Grohl hadn’t shown up there in 1991 with his fellow bandmates Nirvana to record their groundbreaking album “Nevermind”. “We were just kids with nothing to lose,” he says in the film’s opening voiceover. “We had no idea that the next 16 days would change our world forever.”

Due to Grohl’s rock star status, he managed to convince an impressive number of famous musicians to sit down for interviews in front of the camera, including Young, Petty, John Fogerty, Trent Reznor, Stevie Nicks and Rick Springfield.

But because grungy Sound City was the kind of place it was – Barry Manilow says it was “more family than any studio I’ve ever been in” – some of the most memorable stories in the world. film involve less famous people like unfazed studio directors Paula Salvatore and Shivaun O’Brien, ace producer Keith Olsen and co-owner Tom Skeeter, who enthusiastically insists he was only there for the money.

The best stories in the film cluster around the studio’s most famous event, its central place in the formation of Fleetwood Mac.

Buckingham Nicks, created by the romantic duo of Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks, had been the first group to record in Sound City, and when Mick Fleetwood came to the Van Nuys premises in search of a place to record, he heard one of their tracks. . Fleetwood thought of Buckingham when he needed a new guitarist and was told, “If you take him, you’ll have to take his girlfriend too.” He agreed, and in 1975 the resurrected group recorded in Sound City.

A little unsure of the new sound, producer Olsen recalls in one of the film’s many tangy interviews, was band member John McVie. “He said, ‘It’s a bit far from the blues.’ I told him, ‘It’s much closer to the bank.’

It was the determination of Skeeter and co-owner Joe Gottfried to attract the best bands that led to the purchase of the soundboard in 1973. Designed by Rupert Neve, now in his 80s and interviewed in the film, c was one of the four in the world and the only one ordered to measure. Skeeter remembers it cost $ 75,000 at a time when he bought his house near Lake Toluca for half that amount.

“Sound City” strives to explain why the Neve is so good at what he does, highlighting how expert he is at recording the human voice and the drum tracks that are central to the success of the rock. Guitars sound pretty much the same everywhere, says famed producer Rick Rubin, but the drums change from room to room, and Sound City’s sound was some of the best.

The film (which was written by Mark Monroe and edited by Paul Crowder) is also an education in how the music industry works, which isn’t always in the warmest and most humane way. Being a producer, for example, is described by Olsen as “putting creativity on tape in a way that is accessible to the market”.

The most emotional parts of “Sound City” involve Springfield breaking down in tears as he opens up about his regrets about the way he handled his breakup with Sound City partner Gottfried, one of the world’s most influential men. responsible for its success.

“Sound City” also explains in detail how the shift from analog recording on two-inch tape (the bread and butter of the studio) to the digital way of doing things sounded the death knell for the Van Nuys establishment.

While Neve technology had made its success possible, the rise of easy-to-use Pro Tools equipment outweighed its benefits and led Sound City to close its doors and sell its legendary console to Grohl, who moved to her own Studio 606..

This purchase prompted Grohl to consider a 12-minute short on the Neve for the web, which turned into this awesome feature. The final half hour of “Sound City’s”, which features Grohl jamming with other musicians, including Paul McCartney, for an upcoming Neve tribute album, is less engaging than what came before. But the filmmaker is so attached to this plank of boards that it is difficult to blame him for this pleasure.

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