I’m always interested when top label musicians and bands ditch the traditional recording studio and make an album in their homes. A while back I highlighted three pro bands who recorded at home (including these guys), but today I want to highlight Dave Grohl, frontman and founder of the mega successful rock band, Foo Fighters and his decision to record their 7th studio record in his own garage.
Turning Plastic Drums Into Led Zepplin
As many bands do, Foo Fighters demos all of their songs before actually going into the studio. Grohl had demoed many of their hit songs on pervious records in his personal garage and (as he likes to do) he would track every part of the song, drums included. In a recent interview Grohl mentions that he used a plastic Toys R’ Us drum kit but in that garage it sounded like a Led Zepplin record! He liked the big, nasty, aggressive sound of that garage so much that he decided to actually do this whole album there.
They actually have access to their own full featured pro studio where they typically do all their albums, but he really wanted to get out of that element and go for a different sound. You and I may not have the luxury of choosing our garages over a high end studio, but that’s not the point. The big idea is that it’s possible.
All Analog = No Fixing In The Mix
The other unusual departure for the band for this album was the choice to record all analog. They used NO digital recording or mixing at all. They had 24 tracks running through an old console which dumped out to half inch tape. This means a couple of big things: 1) you have to record it right the first time or punch in till you’re satisfied. There’s no chance for complex editing other than physically cutting tape with a razor blade for simple comps. 2) you have to mix it live to tape with no automation or fancy plugins.
Grohl mentions each mix down being somewhat of a “performance” in that each mix sounds somewhat different due to the human variants in trying to keep things sounding good. If the drums were getting to hot half way through the mix you’d have to just make the adjustment for the remainder of the song. It sounds crazy to us digital guys to this. Even many analog studios still record to a DAW to combine the best of both worlds. Not these guys.
Take A Listen
Below is the music video for their first single of the soon to be released album Wasting Light. Watch it and take a listen. See if you can tell that it was all tracked in a garage and mixed in his house with no digital help. Pretty impressive stuff.
“This room shouldn’t be the kind of place you make a record…but that’s why we did it.” And that really sums up part of the recording process in my mind. You have to have a sound in mind and then just go and defy all odds. Do you have great songs? Are you talented? If not, I can’t really help you, but if you feel that you have something special, then if you work hard enough you can make killer recordings in an unconventional space.