Foo Fighters’ Grohl takes rock ‘n’ roll hiatus to direct

Music for Screens: Fall 2012

It’s not every day that the frontman of one of the world’s most familiar rock bands puts his group on hiatus to direct a documentary, but Dave Grohl is no ordinary rocker. The Foo Fighters’ charismatic leader announced in October that he was taking a break from music to focus on “Sound City,” the documentary about the little-known Van Nuys studio of the same name where he recorded “Nevermind” with Nirvana in the early ’90s.

The film is being distributed by Roswell Films, a division of the Foo Fighters label Roswell Records, and was written by Mark Monroe (“The Cove,” “The Tillman Story”), edited by Paul Crowder (“Dogtown and Z-Boys”) and produced by Grohl, Jim Rota and John Ramsay. The team has been working on it for the past year and plans to release it in the first quarter of 2013, according to Ramsay.

“The thing that’s unique about this project is it’s completely independent,” says Ramsay. “There’s no studio involved, it was completely Dave’s idea.”

The idea for the film came when Sound City owner Tom Skeeter asked Grohl if he wanted to buy the Neve console used to record “Nevermind” and countless other legendary albums including Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ “Damn the Torpedoes” and Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush.” Grohl jumped at the chance.

“We went down to pick it up and Tom Skeeter came over and gave Dave a printout of all the albums recorded there,” Rota recalls. “It was six or eight pages of small type and Dave’s brain started wheeling and said we should put together a Web series. Then he put together a list of people he wanted to interview and it was about 50 people. After some time went by he said we should make a full-length feature.”

Since then, Grohl has interviewed Petty, Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, Trent Reznor, Frank Black and several others who have a connection to the studio, which recently transitioned from a commercial studio to a privately leased facility rented by two producers. Ramsay adds that Grohl plans to release an album to accompany the film, which isn’t a soundtrack per se, but a collection of songs that the artists recorded together during the making of the film.

Ramsay and Rota say the film evolved from focusing Sound City’s legacy to the importance of people getting in a room together to make music. As Grohl said in a statement, “Sound City is a film about the truth, the craft, and the integrity of rock and roll. Like the dark hallways of Sound City Studios itself, it might not be pretty … but it’s for fucking real.”