“Left to my own devices, I made music.” – Dave Grohl from the 2013 SXSW Music Keynote
Mr. Grohl uttered these words as he approached the guitar and table pictured above. This was one of the best moments from the keynote for me because it really hit home as a kid who did the same thing! Dave mentioned before he figured out how to work a cassette tape recorder he had pillows set out as a drum set. He continued, “I played them to the music until sweat was dripping off my Rush poster on the wall.”
Dave then discovered the magic of two tape recorders. He grabbed that old acoustic guitar and recorded the rhythm guitar. Then he played that as he recorded on the other tape recorder a drum beat from the body of the acoustic guitar. Now he had the drums and guitar ready for a vocal pass on that handy extra tape recorder. There you have a picture of a kid recklessly into a passion for recording the feeling music gave him. Left to his own devices…he made music!
Dave went on describing his musical journey from a punk kid to an adult who wrote significant pages in the history of music movements. As any good communicator, he kept coming back to the theme of “left to my own devices, I made music.” This was exactly what he did to cope with the suicide of Kurt Cobain which led to the sudden end of Nirvana.
Dave found himself in a place of pain from the very thing that gave him the most passion and pleasure. The music had betrayed him. After a season where he walked away from anything with music, Dave found his way back in the studio. He banged out 14 songs by himself, playing every instrument including the “coffee pot,” that fueled the process. It was therapy and passion colliding in his world….left to his own devices, he made music…again!
Dave made some tapes to pass out to friends and family, carelessly writing “Foo Fighters” on them as the name. Some tapes eventually ended up in an A&R guy’s hand, and the call was made. They loved it. They wanted to sign it. The only problem was there was no “it.” At least not in band terms, it was all Dave, “left to his own devices.”
I love that story I got to experience today with my fellow SXSW’ers and Dave. I was that kid who grabbed a tennis racket, tied a shoe string on as a strap, queued up 12 tapes to my concert playlist, jumped on my bed….and went crazy…until the sweat dripped off my Ozzy, Iron Maiden, and Judas Priest posters. I was that kid who fashioned a microphone off a pool stick and a shabby radio shack microphone. I was the kid who had the tape recorder….although not smart enough get two cranking for multi tracks.
I love the stories of beginnings. I love the passion that resonates through the commitments to “make music,” no matter the devices. That’s why I love working in the music industry, because we all have those stories of the moment our passion became reckless abandonment for anything else.
No matter the side of the stage your vista point is, if you love music…I mean really love it…then we all have those stories. Some may be a karaoke machine and a mirror, while others are a pillow or tennis racket fashioned as an instrument. We all, left to our own devices, make music! What’s your story?
Breathe In & Smile Out,