photo manipulation by nacrowe
iconic ALTERNATIVE ROCK musician DAVE GROHL of NIRVANA / FOO FIGHTERS fame has been on a bit of a creative streak the past few years, diversifying his many interests into a string of well-received documentaries and HBO specials centered on the role of music and its many facets (production, recording, touring, inspiration) in society. it doesnt seem that far-fetched that the next outlandish GROHL production would be a schlocky HORROR film that effectively parodied his self-perception as the slavedriver of the FOO FIGHTERS.
in STUDIO 666 (ROSWELL FILMS, 2022), whose title is a reference to the band's longstanding BURBANK recording facility STUDIO 606, GROHL is demonically possessed after setting up shop in an old abandoned hillside estate and recording there. again, this conceit is parodying GROHL's recent real-life proclivity for cooking up ever more outlandish concepts for recording albums (i.e. his home on tape for WASTING LIGHT or utilizing studios across AMERICA in SONIC HIGHWAYS, each studio a different song about that city). its pretty funny that its actually conceivable that recording in a haunted house would could probably be the hook or premise of an actual FOO FIGHTERS album (or even recording in space or on ANTARCTICA or in a submarine).
now i will fully admit that i am not a fan of HORROR films, especially the 1970s and 1980s SLASHER variety that thrives on gore and jump scares. its arguably the only genre i avoid. exceptions include early GERMAN EXPRESSIONIST films and the later inspired series of UNIVERSAL MONSTER movies. but in STUDIO 666 i see much less GEORGE ROMERO or TOBE HOOPER and much more HERSCHEL GORDON LEWIS or even MEL BROOKS. in essence the violence is so over-the-top and ridiculously that its beyond hilarious. its very much reminiscent of DRACULA: DEAD AND LOVING IT (BROOKSFILMS, 1995) with regard to how the ultra-violence is interpreted and ultimately perceived.
obviously the real-world passing of drummer TAYLOR HAWKINS a month after STUDIO 666's release makes watching it a bittersweet experience. there has been quite a bit of discussion and controversy over a universally derided hit piece by the ROLLING STONE which essentially stated that HAWKINS was overworked and suffering from exhaustion and was looking to limit the band's brutal touring schedule before and up to the time of his passing. people close to the band have bitterly stated that this is complete utter bullshit, but its still uncomfortable that the subtext of the film's basic plot surrounds the band going along with GROHL idiosyncratic notions despite their own reservations. its just a little unnerving and odd, thats all.
my hope is that GROHL will continue when the time's right and find the proper creative venue for his passion of connecting people through music. its what he does and to me that is what the FOO FIGHTERS legacy very much is about. even this goofy and schlocky labour of love deep down is ultimately about that need to connect and find a sense of community (in METAL!!!!).
sending all my love to the band at this horrible moment.
R.I.P. TAYLOR HAWKINS
photo & text by nacrowe
i was 10 when KURT COBAIN passed away and my initial introduction to the MTV UNPLUGGED IN NEW YORK (GEFFEN, 1994) record was at a friend's house when my family were living in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. we didnt have MTV back then and in fact didnt see the actual show until it came out on DVD in 2007. which i have to say was a pretty surreal experience given that by that point i had long since committed every nuance of the recording to memory.
obviously this record is celebrated for its focus on COBAIN the songwriter in a stripped-back intimate setting. in my openly biased opinion several of these performances are iconic, especially "THE WHO SOLD THE WORLD," "ABOUT A GIRL," "ALL APOLOGIES" and especially "WHERE DID YOU SLEEP LAST NIGHT." its ironic that people use this specific live recording to espouse at length about COBAIN's strength as a songwriter as six of its fourteen tracks are covers by the likes of LEADBELLY, THE VASELINES, DAVID BOWIE and THE MEAT PUPPETS. the original songs they did opt to play were largely deep cuts with the exception of NEVERMIND (GEFFEN, 1991) single "COME AS YOU ARE," which in and of itself is quite a confident statement.
what strikes me about these performances is not COBAIN the songwriter, but COBAIN the performer. in this bare-bones environment what really shines is his voice and his preternatural ability to connect emotionally with an audience. at times his performances are so authentic and so real that they are almost uncomfortable to listen to, as if you are hearing close family arguing. he comes off so vulnerable yet in firmly in command that you really sense being in the presence of a genius. you dont sense any affectation or posturing on his part, as you do other lesser performances by peers in this series (STONE TEMPLE PILOTS, PEARL JAM, etc), with the noteworthy exception being the ALICE IN CHAINS performance in 1996.
obviously the death of COBAIN in 1994 permanently effected the public's memory of this legendary performance. when i hear it i am transported back to my teenage years and it perfectly distills a lot of what i felt back then during that period in SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. that included feeling insecure and a total outsider in a close-minded, often racist ORANGE COUNTY community that i felt little in common with. its funny to me now that i feel that i have more in common with those i met a few years later in 1996 when living in NIGERIA than i ever did back "home."
i wonder if COBAIN felt that way ever. if he ever found solace within a new home or community. to my ears this record sounds like a person profoundly in touch and cognizant of his own vulnerability. aware of his own search.
legendary performance by an iconic performer. well-worth revisiting and further investigation.
photo manipulation by nacrowe
PUNK: ATTITUDE (3DD PRODUCTIONS, 2005) by legendary DJ / MUSICIAN / DIRECTOR and original PUNK ROCK scenester DON LETTS is probably the most comprehensive documentary about the beginnings and evolution of PUNK ROCK, both stateside and in ENGLAND. it includes an exhaustive yet entirely impressive cast of participants, many now deceased, whose insights provide an appreciation for the wide array of interests and backgrounds that led to the formation of the genre. this includes, but not limited to, musicians such as JOHN CALE (THE VELVET UNDERGROUND), JELLO BIAFRA (THE DEAD KENNEDYS), MARTIN REV (SUICIDE), CHRISSIE HYNDE (THE PRETENDERS), DAVID JOHANSEN, SYLVAIN SYLVAIN & ARTHUR KANE (THE NEW YORK DOLLS), MICK JONES & PAUL SIMON (THE CLASH), DARYL JENIFER (BAD BRAINS), POLY STYRENE (X-RAY SPEX), HENRY ROLLINS (BLACK FLAG), WAYNE KRAMER (MC5), PAT SMEAR (THE GERMS), SIOUXSIE SIOUX (SIOUXSIE SIOUX & THE BANSHEES), TOMMY RAMONE (THE RAMONES), CAPTAIN SENSIBLE (THE DAMNED), ARI UP (THE SLITS), STEVE JONES & GLEN MATLOCK (THE SEX PISTOLS), THURSTON MOORE (SONIC YOUTH), K.K. BARRETT (THE SCREAMERS), RAY CAPO (YOUTH OF TODAY), GLENN BRANCA (THEORETICAL GIRLS), KEITH MORRIS (BLACK FLAG / CIRCLE JERKS), ROGER MIRET (AGNOSTIC FRONT), PETE SHELLEY & HOWARD DEVOTO (THE BUZZCOCKS), DEE POP (THE BUSH TETRAS), ALICE BAG (THE BAGS), RICHARD MANITOBA (THE DICTATORS), JAMES CHANCE (JAMES CHANCE & THE CONTORTIONS) and film director JIM JARMUSCH, CBGBs owner HILLY KRISTAL and various managers, writers, artists and photographers.
i think one strong suit of this documentary is its ability to elucidate the long line of influence that followed one band to another over time. how bands like THE DOORS influenced THE STOOGES who influenced THE SEX PISTOLS and BLACK FLAG and NIRVANA and so on. in essence you see how bands such as THE VELVET UNDERGROUND, SUICIDE, THE DEAD KENNEDYS, PATTI SMITH, THE DAMNED and THE RAMONES (among many others) are all linked and part of a greater movement towards challenging, complicating, questioning and, in turn, revitalizing the form of ROCK AND ROLL.
examples provided included the concurrent POST PUNK and NO WAVE that came about after the first wave of PUNK ROCK. both took the ethos of originality and freedom and applied such to the music, creating new takes on song structures and experimented with expanded palette of instruments.
the HARDCORE scene of the 1980s was the opposite of such in that songs got condensed and sped up even faster. scenes that began with first wave PUNK adherents more interested in art and originality were taken over by HARDCORE bands that were largely aggressive and violent. part of that anger was political at the REAGAN administration as well as a feeling that their lives were set to be disrupted by economic uncertainty. that scene begat the ALTERNATIVE ROCK scene of the 1990s, or as JELLO BIAFRA puts it "punk inspired rock bands." as the 1990s dragged on you get bands like KORN and LIMP BIZKIT with their dumbed down break down sections and shocking lack of social consciousness.
there was nothing revelatory about this documentary, but it serves as a welcome definitive statement about a genre for anyone new or interested in the place of PUNK ROCK in music history. it really gets at the core idea of the genre in spite of its many permutations: that being the value being an individual. finding your voice, whatever that may be, and speaking your truth vociferously with an almost disregard for the opposition. thats a healthy sentiment for anyone to learn.
my only gripe with this film is that they spends way too much time talking about THE CLASH and JOE STRUMMER, but that is my own personal bias making itself apparent. i still find that band, despite their influence, to be full of themselves. just my opinion.