If you’re any kind of rock fan, you’ve likely seen Sound City – the 2013 rockumentary that marked the directorial debut of Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl about the infamous LA studio of the same name where countless classic albums were made, including Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Now the producer of that landmark 1991 grunge masterpiece, Butch Vig, could be getting his very own Sound City-style doco on the influential recording space he founded Madison, Wisconsin: Smart Studios.
Long before Vig came into contact with Nirvana, or was even got his high-profile gig as the drummer for Garbage, he was one of two teenage music obsessives that founded Smart Studios – a modest studio set up in the basement of his good friend, Steve Marker, in 1983.
For nearly three decades the Midwestern facility eked out its legend as the likes of Smashing Pumpkins, Against Me!, Fall Out Boy, Everclear, Death Cab For Cutie, Jimmy Eat World, Archers Of Loaf, L7, Killdozer, Tar Babies, and of course Garbage and Nirvana (who recorded demos for Nevermind), passed through its doors before Vig and Marker eventually closed the studio in 2010.
The influential music and many tales that echoed within its walls is the focus of a new crowdfunding campaign for a feature-length documentary that’s set to do for Smart Studios what Dave Grohl’s feature did for Sound City, as Canadian blog A Journal Of Music Things points out. …a feature-length documentary that’s set to do for Butch Vig’s Smart Studios what Dave Grohl’s feature did for Sound City.
In close association with Butch Vig, local filmmaker Wendy Schneider is the brains behind the film project, and has started a Kickstarter campaign to get The Smart Studios Story completed, focussing not only the history of the warehouse space’s importance in the Midwest American town, but in the way it influence rock history and “typified other underground, ‘satellite’ scenes around the US which defined early ‘80s independent music.”
Schneider’s already done a lot of groundwork on the film – including interviews with a long list of A-list rockers and music figures about what the studio meant to them.
Among those offering their experiences and thoughts on Smart Studios already captured for the proposed doco are Dave Grohl, Billy Corgan, Garbage’s Shirley Manson and Duke Erikson, Death Cab For Cutie’s Chris Walla, Laura Jean Grace of Against Me!, Donita Sparks of L7, Elektra Records President Jeff Castelaz, plus members of influential noise-rockers Killdozer, and many more.
Touted as “the story you never knew you didn’t know,” The Smart Studios Story also covers Butch and Steve’s own efforts to promote local band and shows “with community radio airtime and cassette compilations that paralleled those of other regional, indie music disseminators,” such as legendary Seattle indie label Sub Pop, Touch And Go, and Caroline – to name a few.
The Kickstarter campaign has already reached US$ 21,548 of its US$ 120,000 goal, from pledges from 161 backers, including one über-fan who’s put US$ 10,000 towards the project – making them a VIP Producer to The Smart Studios Story and earning them an audience with Butch Vig and Steve Marker as well as invitations to screenings.
Other rewards for pledges range from getting getting credits or digital downloads of the film (for just US$ 10 or US$ 25 respectively) through to actual memorabilia from the recording facility, including a “salvaged moldy relic from the famous studio flood of ’96 AND a Smart Studios skull cap!” (for $500 pledgers).
View the official trailer for the doco below and donate to the Kickstarter campaign here.