Sound Arguments

I finally got a chance to catch Sound City, the documentary by Dave Grohl about an old recording studio and the many bands who recorded there. I was sure there’d be some correlation between the subject and photography, and I wasn’t disappointed.

“In this age of technology, where you can simulate or manipulate anything, how do we retain that human element?” - Dave Grohl

The focus of the documentary is the approach to recording the older bands had in the studio. They recorded to 2-inch tape, as live as possible, with a fixation on perfecting the songs through hard work and repetition.

Among the bands who called Studio City home for some of their best albums: Nirvana (“Nevermind”), Rage Against the Machine (“Rage Against the Machine”), Fleetwood Mac (several), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (several), Rick Springfield (several), Weezer (“Pinkerton”) and Metallica (“Death Magnetic”). There’s really too many to name.

The studio was taken down by the wave of software-based recording systems that promised just the opposite: anything could be slapped together, fixed afterward and sound like a pro had done it. But were the songs any better?

“The further back you go in time, the less technology you had, and, consequently, the better records you had.” - Brad Wilk, drummer, Rage Against The Machine

Much like those who swear by shooting slide film, the musicians were in love with the idea that once a song was recorded live to 2-inch tape, it was all over. The moment was captured, imperfections and all. They were forced to commit to the song and move on to the next.

With digital, we are never “done” and we never need to commit. Is it any wonder why we have difficulty moving on to what’s next? Is it any wonder why we settle for the quick and easy, to “process” in the future, instead of thinking in the present?

Imperfections have become something to fix, instead of the quirks that make our favorite songs/photos unique.