Fans expecting Paul McCartney and the surviving members of Nirvana to bust into "Smells Like Teen Spirit" or "Come as You Are" at last night's "12-12-12" Sandy benefit concert were a little surprised when the unlikely supergroup played a new song called "Cut Me Some Slack." It turns out the tune is from the forthcoming album Sound City – Real to Reel, which is essentially the soundtrack to Grohl's Sound City documentary.
Grohl has been quietly working on the film, which is slated to premiere at Sundance in January, over the past year. It traces the history of Sound City, a Los Angeles studio where countless famous albums were recorded, including Nirvana's Nevermind, Neil Young's After the Goldrush, Fleetwood Mac's Rumours and Tom Petty's Damn the Torpedoes.
"The place is a time warp," Grohl recently told Rolling Stone. "A tape-based analog studio. Nirvana did what everyone else had done there: You plugged in, hit 'record' and that room brought out the sound of your band."
Grohl directed the film, which features interviews with Young, Petty, Rick Rubin, Fleetwood Mac and many others. For the soundtrack, Grohl jammed with many of the legends that worked in the studio. "I can't give too much away," says Grohl. "Because it gets really good there. You're talking about some of the most legendary musicians of all time, doing their thing. And you're seeing it in a way you've never seen before."
Most of Grohl's collaborators have been kept under wraps, but word has leaked out that they include Rick Springfield, Josh Homme and Slipknot's Corey Taylor. "For me to sit down and jam with someone like Rick Springfield was really exciting," says Grohl. "When he sits down with a guitar it's like he's 14 years old. He rips. We basically wrote and arranged a song in a day. It's fucking great."
Grohl was excited to work with such a wide array of artists. "Why shouldn't Rick Springfield be on the same record as Lee Ving [of Fear]?" he says. "When I was a kid, I'd listen to Steel Pulse as well as Slayer. When you think about all of the people who recorded at Sound City, it's like a virtual jukebox. To put all of these people together in different configurations and make music all together, it's pretty cool."
The goal was to cut a song in a single day. "It was a challenge and an experiment," Grohl says. "We had a few test jams and then we started going for it. It's tricky. It's like herding cats, trying to get them in the same room at the same time. I don't know how they did 'We Are the World.'"
It's unclear what role (if any) McCartney plays in the movie, but a new website for "Cut Me Some Slack" shows a "Final Master" reel-to-reel tape with the names McCartney, Novoselic, Smear and Grohl written on it. The song clearly stems from the movie project.
Plans are somewhat in flux at the moment, but Grohl would love to stage screenings of the movie around the globe. "After each premiere we could have a show with musicians," he says. "They'd not only play music from the film, but from their catalogs as well. We could do it in a Hammerstein or Roseland and pack the bill with the coolest bands in the world . . . We aren't far away from this. Pretty soon, everyone will hear what our big plan is. We've been planning it for a long fucking time."
Additional reporting by David Fricke