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What Happens When Seven Dave Grohls Take Over A Studio?

Aug 16, 05:18pm

Dave Grohl Releases Epic 23-Minute Instrumental Opus Featuring Seven-Yes, Seven Dave Grohls.
Remember the first Foo Fighters album (the self-titled one)? That album is still talked about today not only because of the quality of the music on it but also the fact that  it was performed in its entirety by Dave Grohl; he played all the instruments and did all the vocals. It was seen as the moment when the man behind the kit in Nirvana got up from his seat and put together a solid, well-written solo project. That was in 1995. Well, it’s 2018 now; he has done something quite similar in magnitude and possibly far more important in the current musical landscape.
 
 
PLAY is a 32-minute short film that essentially focuses on an aspect of music that has largely been forgotten or at the very least pushed to the background: performance. Irrespective of genre, there is a certain learning curve and joy in picking up a skill that results in you creating something of your own that evokes true emotion and generates that frisson (look it up); that moment we all chase that we can never properly explain. That process of challenging yourself, failing a zillion times and always moving towards becoming a better musician is swept under the rug these days, but Grohl seems to always be hungry for new challenges. He likens the experience of making PLAY to children learning music for the first time; that long but always exciting journey any kid takes when they pick up an instrument. An organization ‘Join The Band’ is enabling precisely this in the US, where music is quickly disappearing from school curriculums (here, it was never there to begin with). It teaches music to children, puts them in an ensemble and generally gives them an opportunity to travel down that path that many of us regret not doing. Grohl caps it with an interesting sentence; At the end of it all, the reward is to just… Play. Then he enters a studio and the madness truly begins.
 
Technically, it’s not him. There is a hilarious sequence where seven Grohls walk into the studio one by one and the last one closes the door. They take their position at various instruments, and if you close your eyes, it sounds like normal; music starts and all the members are performing the piece immaculately. But if you keep watching, your jaw will slowly inch towards the floor and your eyes will completely confuse you. The seven Grohls are interacting with each other, smiling and playing their parts seemingly in real time. There is nothing visually to suggest that Dave didn’t just clone himself six times and nailed a live performance of a song that he’d thrown together. It makes no sense.
 
Actually, it does. Grohl did a continuous 23-minute live take of each instrument, pausing after he got it right and moving on to the next layer. He did the drums first (literally walking from one drumkit to another in real time during musical lulls), then walked out of the studio, came back and did the bass (all 23 minutes of it), left, came back and did the guitars (4 different layers of them, by the way), left… and so on. It’s a remarkable feat to do so many uninterrupted takes of such a long song, get them right and somehow generate chemistry with the version of yourself from one instrument ago. It’s insane. What’s more, on this track you see Grohl on things he doesn’t usually play; a vibraphone (!), keys, even percussions of all things (seeing him with a shaker and a tambourine is weird and wonderful all at the same time). He has learnt everything outside his wheelhouse not on a couch at home slowly building his skill, but in a studio doing 20-minute live takes of a song that’s by no means easy to perform. The man is a nut, and he can’t even read music to boot.
 
Oh yeah, the song. It’s interesting. There are noisy passages, not just for the composition but also to provide short musical interludes so that particular Grohls can switch guitars and drumkits during a take. There are brooding synths, dissonant guitars and washy cymbals to build up the momentum before The Grohls crash in together with riff after riff and riff. And boy, are there riffs. You can see a lot of Foo Fighters in the melodies themselves (which is obviously to be expected), but as the song goes on, you come to realize that this is basically the man’s brain at work, laid out for us to see. The drums are pounding and signature Grohl. The bass and guitars and punchy and demonstrate the man’s uncanny ability for writing earworm riffs. The keys and percussions are him exploring new sounds and adding interesting touches to a songwriting output that has always been guitar-drums. It’s fascinating beyond words to see a highly talented musician experience an entire musical journey in 23 minutes and also highly unfair that it sounds this good.
 
The musical landscape of today glosses over the joy and effort that one must put in to learn how to play music and make music. PLAY is a timely and important reminder of exactly that; we can just go home, forget everything, pick up an instrument and journey in that world. We’ll be creators, listeners and better musicians along the way. The quality of Grohl’s music, though, is another matter. Know how no matter what you do, your dad is always better than you at something? Well, Grohl is rock’s current dad, and it’s going to take some doing to top PLAY.
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