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Dave Grohl's SXSW Keynote Speech: The Complete Text

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I found a studio down the street. I booked six days. Loaded all of my gear into the car, bought some good, strong fucking coffee, and got back to work. Fourteen songs in five days, with one day to mix. I played every instrument, running from the drums, to the guitar, to the coffee maker, to the bass, to the vocal mike, to the coffee maker, back to the drums, back to the coffee maker . . . here I was again, left to my own devices, with no one to tell me right or wrong, the same one-man band 20 years later, multi-tracking all on my own. Though, long gone were the two-cassette recorders and songs about my dog, my bike, and my dad . . . I was singing songs about starting over. And, maybe a few about my dad ...

I dubbed 100 cassettes. Gave it the name "Foo Fighters" so that people would imagine that it was a GROUP, rather than just one strung-out coffee junkie scrambling from instrument to instrument. I gave them to friends. I gave them to relatives. I gave them to people at gas stations. I was . . . starting over.

It wasn't long before I got the call. An A&R guy. The tape was getting around. Those six days that I spent alone in the studio that I considered to be a demo, I considered it an experiment,  I CONSIDERED IT TO BE FUCKING THERAPY, FOR CHRISTSAKES! They thought it was a record! I didn't even have a band! I called my brilliant friend and lawyer, Jill Berliner, for advice. Know what she told me? The musician comes first.

I started my own label, Roswell records. Yes, that's right, ladies and gentlemen, you are staring at the president of a record company.

After all that had happened, deep down I was still the same kid that, at 13 years old, realized I could start my own band, I could write my own song, I could record my own record, I could start my own label, I could release my own record, I could book my own shows, I could write and publish my own fanzine, I could silkscreen my own T-shirts . . . I could do all of this myself. It may have been an entirely different world now, but once again, there was no right or wrong . . . because it was all mine.

From day one the Foo Fighters have been fortunate enough to exist within this perfect world. WE write our songs. WE record our songs. WE make our albums. WE decide when the album is the album. WE OWN the album, and we'll license it to you for a little while, but you gotta give it back. Because it's MINE.

Because I am the musician. And I COME FIRST.

I have to imagine that the reason I am here today in front of you all is exactly this. Am I the best drummer in the world? Certainly not. Am I the best singer-songwriter? Not even in THIS fucking ROOM! But I have been left alone to find MY VOICE since that day that I heard Edgar Winter's "Frankenstein" on that public school turntable in my bedroom.

Recently, I directed a full-length feature documentary about the recording studio that Nirvana recorded Nevermind in over 20 years ago: Sound City. In the movie, we not only tell the story of this magical shithole, but we also explore technology and what we refer to as the "human element" of music. How do these things coexist?

Q&A: Dave Grohl on His 'Sound City' Doc and Taking Risks in Music

There is no right or wrong. There is only, YOUR VOICE. Your voice screaming through an old Neve 8028 recording console, your voice singing from a laptop, your voice echoing from a street corner, a cello, a turntable, a guitar, serrato, a studer, It doesn't matter. What matters most is that it's YOUR VOICE. Cherish it. Respect it. Nurture it. Challenge it. Stretch it and scream until it's fucking gone. Because every human being is blessed with at least that, and who knows how long it will last . . .

It's there, if you want it. Now, more than ever, independence as a musician has been blessed by the advance of technology, making it easier for any inspired young musician to start their own band, write their own song, record their own record, book their own shows, write and publish their own fanzine (although now I believe you call it a "blog"?) . . . now more than ever, YOU can do this, it can be all yours. And left to your own devices, you can find YOUR VOICE.

Recently, I came home with the new Beatles vinyl box set. It's amazing. It's the size of a fucking Tumi suitcase, it weighs 50 pounds. As I walked into the house, my daughters Harper who's three, and Violet who's six, looked up and gasped, "WHAT IS THAT????" I said, "It's all of the Beatles' RECORDS!!!" Now, I have already spent hours brainwashing them with Beatles songs . . . they're cool. But this was vinyl! They had never seen that before. I set up the turntable in their room, opened the box, and started showing them how it's done. "Ok . . . you take the record out of the sleeve, here are the songs on this side, here are the songs on the other side . . . carefully place it on the turn table . . . gently put the needle down . . . CAREFUL!" They were absolutely BLOWN AWAY. I left the room, came back half an hour later, and there they were, dancing to "Get Back," album covers strewn all over the floor . . . sound familiar? We have all been there.

And, as a proud father, I pray that someday that they are left to their own devices, that they realize that the musician comes first, and that THEY find THEIR VOICE, and that THEY become someone's Edgar Winter, THEY become someone's Beatles, and that THEY incite a riot, or an emotion, or start a revolution, or save someone's life.

That THEY become someone's hero.

But then again . . . what do I know?

Thank you very much for your time.

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