“This all started with one idea: That the environment in which you make a record ultimately influences the end result. Not just the studio but the people and the history.”
This is how Dave Grohl, lead singer of the Foo Fighters, began Sonic Highways debut episode which aired last night on BBC Four. Celebrating the band’s 20-year anniversary, the five musicians decided to create the documentary and its eponymous album which would reflect the musical heritage of eight cities in the US.
The eight-episode documentary presents insightful interviews with the artists who revolutionised the music scene in each city. Starting with Chicago and heading to Washington D.C, Seattle, New York, Nashville, New Orleans, Austin and Los Angeles. Dave Grohl explains the name of the album: “You can tie all these people and places together with these Sonic Highways.”
The Foo Fighters’ journey starts with the city that gave birth to the blues: Chicago. During a week recording there, Dave Grohl recreates the historical background of the city: people coming from the south searching for a better life and career opportunities. Buddy Guy, a former blues musician explains that in between work, people needed a break and an escape which led to the growing popularity of the blues.
Sonic Highways also gives an inside look into the punk rock scene in Chicago. Teaming up with bands such as Cheap Trick and Naked Raygun, Dave Grohl recreates his personal history, along with the city and his legendary career as a musician. He also introduces Steve Albini, whom he met during the recording of Nirvana’s In Utero, and explains how he became the owner of the studio in which the Foo Fighters now record their music.
Using elements from blues and punk rock, the Foo Fighters give viewers a look inside their creative process. They interviewed and collaborated with famous artists such as Rick Nielsen, Pharrell Williams and Bonnie Raitt. The Foo Fighters managed to create unprecedented and distinctive tunes from these interviews and collaborations.
The end of the episode introduces the first song, “Something from Nothing.” Lyrics and sounds that once seemed like an ordinary band’s creation now sound closer to a masterpiece, combining all of the elements previously seen and explained in the documentary.
Older fans of the band can expect nothing less than an outstanding performance from this project. The first episode delivered the goods and has reached the fans’ highest expectations leaving them with high hopes for the next song, released next month. Dave Grohl once again managed to find a memorable way of “making a map of American music,” as he said.
All the subsequent episodes and songs will be released with a similar format. Sonic Highways is available on BBC Four iPlayer in the UK and on HBO in the US. The full Sonic Highways album arrives in stores on 10th November.
Sonic Highways Tracklist:
1. Something From Nothing
2. The Feast and the Famine
4. What Did I Do?/God as My Witness
6. In the Clear
8. I am a River