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Nirvanan, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl Helps SXSW Crowd “Find Its Voice”

March 14th, 2013 · Tags:Arts



Dave Grohl said he wasn’t the world’s best drummer and probably wasn’t even the best guitar player in the room at his SXSW Keynote Speech during the festival’s music week. But, along the way to superstardom he was left to his own devices and found his own voice.

This “voice” planted him in the Seattle punk band Scream at 17, after years of multi-track taping his own music in his bedroom as a teen. Respectfully, he credited the white wizard of Houston blues rock — Edgar Winter — with first compelling Grohl to devote his life to music.


The legendary Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighter nucleus then went on to do a vocal scat on the stage at SXSW, emulating The Edgar Winter Group’s monster hit instrumental from 1973 – “Frankenstein.” Grohl picked up a 1975 K-Tel compilation album, featuring the hit.


“Dom dom dom duh dom dom dom … ” You get it.


He encouraged the crowd of music enthusiasts and musicians to find their voice and to remember “the musician comes first.”


He described the early years with Nirvana, hammering out songs over and over and over until they were perfect — rehearsing in an old barn every day and every night.


But it paid off and soon after Grohl joined Nirvana, the band took over the world. They went from punks who rejected the system to the biggest band in the world at the time … owning the system.


And of course then it all crashed to the ground, after flying so close to the sun … with leader Curt Cobain’s suicide.


As Grohl paused to reflect on his despair with the lost of his friend and bandmate, the room fell so silent, one could have heard a guitar pick fall in the gray convention hall carpet. … A very solemn moment in a presentation filled with humor and personal anecdotes and real time demonstrations.


Grohl used two antiquated, cheap cassette recorders to demonstrate how he experimented with multi track recording in his youth — first recording a small guitar riff into one recorder. Hitting playback on one recorder, and hitting record on the second, to add some rhythmic drumming on the body of his acoustic guitar. Then he played back the second tape to demonstrate how he began mixing his first music. Crude … but creative.


Repeatedly he alluded to how in the early days he could record all the music — all the instruments — himself, book the tour dates, write the songs, make the coffee and screen print the t-shirts.


After the death of Nirvana, as catharsis and therapy, he found himself in a studio alone again and laid down a bunch of tracks in a week. He said he thought he had a demo real, circulated a tape, and as it spread through the grapevine, the suits of the record companies beat a path to his door. They thought he had an album.


He threw out a name so that people would think there was a band, instead of him playing all the parts. And The Foo Fighters were born.


Early in his discussion — a talk littered with a generous helping of F-bombs as is “so cool” when anyone in entertainment takes the microphone nowadays — he told the audience that choosing a name is key.


“Finding the band name is the hardest [eff-ing] part. Foo Fighters is a terrible name,” he laughed, pulling up his reading glasses for the occasion, sporting near-shoulder length dark hair and beard …. and a plaid shirt … that with a little bit of imagination, one might pretend it was the flannel uniform of the grungesters.


One of the best keynotes I have ever seen … after all the years at Consumer Electronics Show, COMDEX, SXSW and a host of other trade shows over the years.


In addition to the keynote address, Grohl was in Austin making and selling screen printed t-shirts for his film “Sound City: Real To Reel.”


Just kidding …


He was promoting … The film marks Grohl’s debut as a feature documentary director/producer. SSR2R focuses on the history of the California recording studio where legends such as Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Fear, Johnny Cash, Nirvana, Rage Against The Machine, Queens of the Stone Age, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Weezer have laid down some of their best art. Grohl’s personal connection to Sound City dates back over 20 years, to the 1991 recording of “Nevermind,” which sold over 30 million copies worldwide.


Before Grohl took the podium, a great band featuring some hip hop moves, one of the most energetic drummers ever and not one but two guys on violins warmed up the crowd. Their only fault? Little self promotion. Say your name! Was it Black Light? I just know they were good … very good.


Know what I sayin?