For the record… no pun intended… I'm on Team Grohl.
I agree 100% with the idea that musicianship should be viewed not only as an art form, but a discipline. As musicians, or creatives in general, we're always striving to be better… and despite how good we are, we'll always hear or see someone better than us, that makes us smile and inspires us to keep learning.
With that out of the way… I haven't seen Sound City yet. I've heard mixed reviews from "It's amazing! It'll change the way you feel about recording… Dave Grohl is a genius!!!" to "It's basically a 2 hour promo for Dave Grohl to start producing albums… oh, and he's also got a boner for some recording console."
I'm cool with the overview my friends have passed along… which is sorta why I haven't watched it yet.
One thing that's evolved from Sound City, is this current movement Dave's spreading about keeping things raw… you know… just getting in the jam space, hacking out some songs, playing loud, and keeping it real! Play from the heart! That's the way it should be! Just go! Just hit record, giv'er, and go!
That's cool Dave… but there's a lot of bands out there who now have this idea that whatever they come up with, if they care about it enough, and work from the heart, it'll get noticed, and should do well. That "keeping it real" is better than that overproduced, co-written (or worse, pro-written) Nickelback garbage on the radio.
Over the last year, there's absolutely been an increase in bands choosing to shy away from production, having no idea what the word actually means.
'Production' - It's basically hair, make up, and lighting for your recording.
Yes, it can be overdone… but typically "overproduced" is the result of someone who doesn't know how to use the tools, and/or abused them and/or chose the wrong production style for the song altogether.
Recording to 2" tape involves its own style of production and if you don't know what you're doing, there's a good chance you'll throw it in the weeds. The right amount of cleaning up and complimentary production style is what separates pro from demo… or worse… the insanely expensive professionally recorded demo. There's an analog equivalent to most of the "studio magic" we can do in digital these days. We can simply do it much quicker in the digital realm. Use the technology as a tool, not a crutch.
Even with Dave swingin' from the rafters shouting "we didn't use Pro Tools! We didn't edit anything! We recorded on tape! We kept it real!!!" There's still a couple crucial things to keep in mind... besides the talent level and experience of the people involved on that last album.
Foo Fighters has done really well. They played by whatever set of rules applied at the beginning of their career and now they can afford to do whatever they want. Foo Fighters have a lot of value. Dave's already made his money.
…a similar case could be made with Radiohead releasing the first really talked about "name your price" album and Beyonce's recently released "overnight, zero promotion, iTunes video album"… these are established artists. They already have a fan base… arguably more to lose if they mess up but more to lose means you had something to start with… again, they've already made their money… and they can still fall back on their old hits if need be.
Back to Foo Fighters… I can remember my brother commenting on how much better The Colour And The Shape (1997) sounded than their debut album (1995). I would've been 13 years old at the time… and I heard the difference in production. But it not only sounded better… it had more, "good" songs.
They say you learn the rules so you can break them. That's this in the real world.
… what a great lead up to my last point about Grohlology!
"because the deep [album] cuts don't keep the mansion running."
I was trying to find the quote I read a while ago where Dave basically said "I only record songs I think are hits… there's no point in recording anything else."
This should kinda feel like a gut punch to a lot bands out there waving Grohlology flags.
Does that mean you shouldn't record those other songs anyway?
... even though they might not be hits?
I still believe if it resonates with you, there's a good chance it will with others. But when Dave says "don't bore us, get to the chorus", and encourages bands to shove their idea in pop structure to start… I'm laughing on the inside when a band waves the Grohlology flag in my face and argues boring pop structure... meanwhile they can't even identify their own chorus… yet they're thinking their song should be a single… and should get them noticed... and help get them signed... and should be able to get on the radio... because it's that good. It's that much better than all the crap that gets played on the radio these days.
I encourage people to read the article above or at least check out the video that's included.
Just to clear things up, yes, lots of music out there is not aimed at radio and is quite successful despite never having a "hit". Music needs to resonate and I think that's what we all love about Dave… regardless what he's doing in music, he radiates the passion... he's giving 100%… or I guess 1 Dave Grohl Unit. Just don't confuse passion and hard work with a ticket for attention and riches. Dave's done well because he came from a great band in a booming pop culture trend that *cough* figured out how to write a hit *cough*, and then went on to figure out the formula to start writing hits for Foo Fighters.
… anybody want to tally up the similarities between Foo Fighter and Nickleback songs… err hit songs?
- Mike :-)
... so I've sat down a couple times over the past week trying to write. Things really picked up before the holidays at the studio... which is rare. December is usually dead once everybody realizes Christmas is around the corner... and their Visa bill is just up the road. An influx of mix projects and a couple EP's have kept me occupied. It takes a while to write sometimes... especially once I get going.
My original plan was to go over some of the things I learned the past year... instead of simply listing the highs and lows. I feel that's what really matters when you look back... regardless of how it worked out, what'd we learn?
I had a list of 13 things I learned in 2013... after reading through it... it was a whole lotta blog... and if I posted it as-is, I doubt anybody would read through it all... and you'd be mad at me for getting blog all over your floor.
I'm not joking. It was long.
... so I've decided to split it up in to individual posts... even at one a week, that gives me 3 months of posts. One of my goals this year is more frequent posts... I do get a lot of compliments on them, and I'm doing my best to make more time for them.
Also, I'd like to talk more about current events as they cross my mind. I often think about stuff on the way to and from the studio... I'm going to try and write whenever inspirado strikes.
... for the time being though... what's the most important thing I learned in 2013?
Well... the order is people, places, and things... always. If you surround yourself with good people who appreciate you, what you do, and why you do it... life is pretty sweet!
I had no intentions of playing in a band again, but I had a blast playing this year because the people involved made it fun. The best projects I worked on last year were also the most fun because of the people involved. The hockey teams I play on are fun because of the people involved... not work but you get the point.
I can almost assure you, if there's any part of your waking life that seems to be a grind and you're asking yourself "why do I even bother...?" Look at the people involved... chances are you might be in the wrong room.
There's that saying... "Never make someone a priority, when all you are is an option." That's the wrong room in a nutshell.
This is an industry built on relationships... it is a business, but you can't starve your friends, and shortchange your family. It's a slower build for those who at least try and keep their hands clean... but in 10 years I've seen how a couple dick moves can catch up to you.
I reached out and talked to around dozen established/successful engineers, mixers, and producers last year about what steps I should be taking next in my career.
First off, they're awesome for taking the time to chat with me... I was a stranger to most of them... I was a little surprised they got back to me and set aside the time. I think I'm doing well but I know the feeling when things start to plateau... this is probably the 4th time in my career which means it's time to change it up a bit, try some new things, and take on some new risks.
The thing that became surprisingly consistent after talking to 3 or 4 people... all older than me mind you... most have been looking for, or at least considering an exit strategy from the business. They have families, houses, other interests/hobbies, records on the walls and awards on the mantel... genuine smiles on their faces... they love the craft and they love music!
... but feeling used and abused, often unappreciated, lowballed on budgets, and ground up by favor after favor... merely an option... we're all just button pushers right? Sitting in front of a computer... just hit 'go'... how hard can it be? The hardware is cheap and the software is free! Have you heard some of the records kids are making these days??
Most people don't know how important creating music is to us. They don't understand the real process... the real amount of time we spend and have spent learning the craft, the real cost involved running our studios... the real toll it has on our personal lives. They don't know how much we beat ourselves up over the tiniest details nobody will notice... and how hard we try to please everyone. For every "problem" someone heroically points out, we've probably already put out 20 fires.
We know we're good at what we do... I know I'm good at what I do... it was just a bit of a shock to hear so many people, with 15-20 years in the business, credits and accolades out the wazoo... talk about feeling unappreciated... and asking themselves why they bother sometimes.
... so now they typically only take on projects they really want to... fun first, money second... they like the people they're working with and those people like them... or... the money was way too good to pass up.
The smart ones understand the difference between cost and value... and they know the value someone can bring to a project... that's what they're paying for... the person.
It seems pretty obvious when you think about it... but I'm glad I can pick my projects for the most part... and I'm thankful of the amount of projects that pick me. I've never had a problem working with the people who want to work with me. Despite a gap in studio projects this year because of touring, I can look back and know most of my year was spent with good people who appreciate me and what I do.
I hope everyone has a great start to 2014 and can carry that momentum throughout. Take some risks, meet some people, set some goals and do your best to follow through on them. Release consistent, quality content. That's the key. We're all going to fail a bunch trying new things... and that's what makes every victory, big or small, so much sweeter.
Mike Langford - Official Blog
Being on both sides of the glass, I get the chance to wear many hats in the music industry. This is a place to share my thoughts, views, predictions, rants, stories and news!