Guess we hit a nerve when we called out Dave Grohl for his anti-EDM Grammy Awards acceptance speech.
Besides tons of hate mail (our favorite told us to ” … go eat a bag of dicks”) and some support (Moby's former manager noted we were there when that real punk rocker went electronic in the early 1990s), lots of folks noted Grohl has uttered similar comments in the past as part of his spin for the Foo Fighters' latest album, Wasting Light, which he has said was recorded with all-analog equipment (but which went digital post-production). Sure, that was his spiel, but the timing was pointed. It was the most “electronic” Grammy Awards ever.
Feeling the heat, Grohl today issued a clarification of his comments, made during his acceptance speech for Best Rock Album at last weekend's awards:
Now, what kind of self-respecting rocker would clarify a speech he claimed to have made from the heart?
Anyway, Grohl says:
I love music. I love ALL kinds of music. From Kyuss to Kraftwerk, Pinetop Perkins to Prodigy, Dead Kennedys to Deadmau5…..I love music. Electronic or acoustic, it doesn't matter to me.
He claims that his words weren't aimed at the most dance-music-oriented Grammy show (Deadmau5, Katy Perry, Chris Brown and David Guetta all performed as part of uptempo numbers) in a generation, but rather at the “great advances in digital recording technology” that results in “a lot of music that sounds perfect, but lacks personality.”
He goes on to say that “unfortunately, some of these great advances have taken the focus off of the actual craft of performance.”
But then he pointedly adds:
I try really fucking hard so that I don't have to rely on anything but my hands and my heart to play a song. I do the best that I possibly can within my limitations, and accept that it sounds like me. Because that's what I think is most important. It should be real, right? Everybody wants something real.
I don't know how to do what Skrillex does (though I fucking love it) but I do know that the reason he is so loved is because he sounds like Skrillex, and that's badass.
Maybe he really is railing against robotic digital perfection and not the new kids who create it, but Grohl still sounds like an anti-EDM Luddite to us, no matter how hard tries to focus his attention on the “human element.”
Electronic dance music actually often tries hard not to sound human. In the homophobic backlash to disco in the late 1970s, some critics railed against dance music as “robotic.” It all sounds too familiar. In many ways, being robotic is the point. While the genre, like most in pop, comes from soulful black music, it has a long history of reaching outside the boundaries of acoustic humanity.
The Jonzun Crew hit that tone in 1983 with “Space is The Place,” and techno pioneer Juan Atkins and Richard “3070” Davis used robotic vocal effects to praise outer space in “Clear” the very same year. In the mid-1990s LTJ Bukem returned to space with Logical Progression, perfecting a drum 'n' bass sound that has found its way into the bass lines of artists such as Skrillex.
There wasn't a guitar or garage-based microphone in any of those recordings. So what? They brought us forward. EDM and DJ culture long have presented a new aspect of performance that includes sampling and live remixing. It's not hitting the right chord at the right time. It's pushing the right button at the right time. But it's still about surfing the sound waves and feeding a crowd. The only difference is that the crowd feeds the artist too.
The point is that there's nothing wrong with going outside the boundaries of traditional musicianship. Just look up John Cage or Karlheinz Stockhausen. For many in EDM, that's the way forward. While Grohl praises personality and individualism, what he continues to say is that you have to sound familiar and “human” for him to regard what you do as making real music. Even if he's blaming the process and not the genre, it's impossible for us not to take it as an anti-EDM insult, which is all about process and sample-heavy performance.
And it's not as if plugging in a guitar, sucking fossil fuel-burning electricity off the grid and repeating a 40-year-old sound created by many before you is exactly pure, Dave.
He has a point about over-produced, over-edited, over-compressed pop music, however. But bad music is bad music. No need to blame technology. Good studio producers have always been able to mask bad takes and even make flat bands “pop.” Phil Spector's “wall of sound” was a process that went beyond the players in-studio. Would Grohl call out the Beatles' Let It Be or the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds for amazing, hyper-edited studio wizardry that took the recordings to new dimensions (sans digital processing, we should note) beyond the musicians' individual abilities? There are many tales of cut-and-splice production from decades' past. What tools they use doesn't really matter.
What really matters, and what Grohl doesn't really address, is that pop needs to move forward. An EDM-focused Grammy Awards show was long overdue, and few doubt that pop is going in any direction other than digital. Guess that would leave Foo Fighters in the dust.
Grohl professes that he just wants purity in pop, but what he really wants is a rockist world free of unfamiliar technological advances. He boasts about how pure and garage-rock the Foo Fighters' album is, yet he proceeds to edit himself when it comes to his own Grammy comments.
Way to remix it, Dave. Welcome to our world.
Read his whole clarification below.
Oh, what a night we had last Sunday at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards. The glitz! The Glamour! SEACREST! Where do I begin?? Chillin' with Lil' Wayne…meeting Cyndi Lauper's adorable mother…the complimentary blinking Coldplay bracelet…..much too much to recap. It's really is still a bit of a blur. But, if there's one thing that I remember VERY clearly, it was accepting the Grammy for Best Rock Performance…and then saying this:
“To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what's important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do… It's not about being perfect, it's not about sounding absolutely correct, it's not about what goes on in a computer. It's about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head].”
Not the Gettysburg Address, but hey……I'm a drummer, remember?
Well, me and my big mouth. Never has a 33 second acceptance rant evoked such caps-lock postboard rage as my lil' ode to analog recording has. OK….maybe Kanye has me on this one, but….Imma let you finish….just wanted to clarify something…
I love music. I love ALL kinds of music. From Kyuss to Kraftwerk, Pinetop Perkins to Prodigy, Dead Kennedys to Deadmau5…..I love music. Electronic or acoustic, it doesn't matter to me. The simple act of creating music is a beautiful gift that ALL human beings are blessed with. And the diversity of one musician's personality to the next is what makes music so exciting and…..human.
That's exactly what I was referring to. The “human element”. That thing that happens when a song speeds up slightly, or a vocal goes a little sharp. That thing that makes people sound like PEOPLE. Somewhere along the line those things became “bad” things, and with the great advances in digital recording technology over the years they became easily “fixed”. The end result? I my humble opinion…..a lot of music that sounds perfect, but lacks personality. The one thing that makes music so exciting in the first place.
And, unfortunately, some of these great advances have taken the focus off of the actual craft of performance. Look, I am not Yngwie Malmsteen. I am not John Bonham. Hell…I'm not even Josh Groban, for that matter. But I try really fucking hard so that I don't have to rely on anything but my hands and my heart to play a song. I do the best that I possibly can within my limitations, and accept that it sounds like me. Because that's what I think is most important. It should be real, right? Everybody wants something real.
I don't know how to do what Skrillex does (though I fucking love it) but I do know that the reason he is so loved is because he sounds like Skrillex, and that's badass. We have a different process and a different set of tools, but the “craft” is equally as important, I'm sure. I mean…..if it were that easy, anyone could do it, right? (See what I did there?)
So, don't give me two Crown Royals and then ask me to make a speech at your wedding, because I might just bust into the advantages of recording to 2 inch tape.
Now, I think I have to go scream at some kids to get off my lawn.