Six years ago, Dave Grohl released his documentary Sound City on January 31, 2013. The film was not only notable for its exploration of the famous Van Nuys studio’s history, but for its soundtrack. In some instances, the Sound City soundtrack tied into work that was created in the studio. In others, it was just an excuse to bring legendary performers together.
Some of the musicians included Paul McCartney, members of Nirvana, Stevie Nicks, Corey Taylor, Rick Nielsen, and Rick Springfield. The result was an album of scattered brilliance: Sound City: Real to Reel.
My favorite track on the album is “Mantra.” The song stands out for reasons beyond its amazing sound. It is also a rendezvous of three of the most outstanding musicians of the Nineties alt-rock generation.
Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, and Josh Homme sat in on the session for “Mantra.” With the exception of Beck, it is hard to name more talented and productive rock musicians of the last thirty years.
The result was magic.
The song begins with a simple intro. Grohl’s steady drumbeat is complemented by Reznor and Homme’s keyboard and bass. As it progresses, the trio play a steadily rising tempo that reaches an explosive crescendo five minutes in.
In “Mantra” there is a beautiful set of lyrics from Grohl, but the way the vocals are distributed amongst the three is unusual. Grohl begins the song as the primary voice with backing from Homme. As it progresses, Reznor gradually bleeds into the song before taking control of the vocals.
It sounds more like a Nine Inch Nails track than the Foo Fighters or Queens of the Stone Age, but the collaboration is incredible regardless of whose style broke out. It is rare to find a supergroup that balances all three members’ talents relatively equally.
Sound City released a DVD extra without vocals that shines a light on the instrumental portion of the track itself, but there is also a clip from the film that spotlights the creation of the song with all three superstars in the Foo Fighters’ Studio 606.