Posted | 1 Comment
Try Wait: Memories of Dave Grohl in Hawaii
BY GARY CHUN / firstname.lastname@example.org
Before I got a full-time gig at the former Honolulu Star-Bulletin, I was a contributing music writer for the Honolulu Advertiser. During much of that time, from 1992 to 2005, I occasionally helped as a behind-the-scenes volunteer worker for Los Angeles-based concert promotion company Goldenvoice when it still had a Hawaii office.
I take away a lot of great memories from working with a fine bunch of hard-working folk, and a handful of those memories came flooding back to me recently when I attended a one-time screening at the Kahala multiplex of the music documentary “Sound City” on Thursday, as well as eagerly consuming all that is the 20th anniversary edition of Rage Against the Machine’s debut album.
“Sound City” is both the title of a film lovingly co-produced and directed by Dave Grohl, who will go down in rock ’n’ roll history as The Great Facilitator, as evident by his work here, and the recording studio where some of rock’s classic albums were recorded, including Rage’s debut, released in 1992.
I first saw Grohl perform with Nirvana at the first of two shows in February 1992 at Pink’s Garage. I remember being in an elevated area in the back of the house and being amazed at all the audience turmoil and blistering music. It was sheer spectacle. Here are the first two songs played on that crazy night (Cobain would shatter that mirror behind the stage with his guitar after the band ended the show with “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I heard he refused to play it the following night.):
I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Grohl backstage twice when the Foo Fighters played World Cafe on Nimitz Highway, first in 1996 — a year after the band’s heralded debut — and again in 2000, when the Fighters were touring behind “There is Nothing Left to Lose.” Grohl was the opposite of a rock star: friendly, approachable and a nice guy. It obviously translates into his unabashed enthusiasm for music and its creative process, because it’s all over “Sound City.”
The next best thing to seeing it in a theater is to stream/download it from buy.soundcity.com. I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you’re a gearhead, music fan, or musician, “Sound City” is for you. In this age of solo bedroom computer recording, it makes the argument for the collective experience of creating music. It can be hard and frustrating at times, but the rewards are tenfold.
I don’t want to give away too much, but it’s fascinating how the L.A. studio got its well-deserved reputation as a live analog tape studio with the help of acts like Fleetwood Mac, Rick Springfield (who is really quite the rocker at heart) and Nirvana. Grohl has made an engaging film, full of great interviews and music, both old and new.
The studio’s legendary Neve mixing console, combined with its main studio’s “sweet spot” for recording drums, was what brought rock bands like Rage Against the Machine to Studio City. The band was already well-rehearsed when it went in for its recording sessions, and there’s fascinating archival footage of the band in Grohl’s film of them recording live with a studio full of friends watching.
And with the remastered vinyl and CD versions of the debut as part of the anniversary edition, you can hear the walloping difference in Brad Wilk’s drumming. Plus there’s a definite warmth to the sound associated with analog recording. With monster songs “Bombtrack,” “Killing in the Name” and “Bullet in the Head,” and a purposeful second half of album tracks, “Rage Against the Machine” was Made Loud to Be Played Loud.
Other goodies include a CD of the band’s original demos, and two DVDs worth of music videos and performances, where the band always excelled.
Which brings me to my last Goldenvoice memory of the band’s gig at Blaisdell Arena in August 1999 on a support tour for the sophomore “Evil Empire” album. While the band — particularly frontman Zack de la Rocha and guitarist Tom Morello — always kept its revolutionary political message upfront, it didn’t matter to that night’s throng, who just wanted to go aggro and mosh to the hip-hop inflected hard, HARD, rock.
Click here for a literally incendiary performance of “Killing in the Name” from Woodstock of that same year (warning: explicit lyrics).
Gary Chun is a features reporter at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter.