Friday, April 30, 2010

It Might Get Loud

A few days ago while taking an hour and half bus ride from the airport to the hotel I booted up my laptop and watched the Davis Guggenheim documentary "It Might Get Loud".

The film brings Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), Jack white (The White Stripes) and the Edge (U2) together to talk about their influences, their sounds and their guitar techniques.

This movie totally blew me away.

As a huge Led Zeppelin and White Stripes fan, and a (not very good) guitarist myself, I was so excited to see this movie when I first saw the trailer on the 37 signals blog that I added it to my netflix queue right away.

To watch Jimmy page air guitar to songs that influenced him as a child and see the stairwell that John Bonham recorded the drums to "When the Levee breaks" on Led Zeppelin IV, it made me break in to a smile.  But to see Jack White and the Edge smile like little children was great to watch.  Here are two guitarist that are two of the most famous guitarists in the world, so to see them as humble fans is nice and really demonstrates that Jimmy page is truly an icon.

Hearing Jack White talk about his approach to music and the guitar was not much of a surprise to me.  He gained his fame playing in a two piece band that used minimal technology to make it sound larger than the 2 piece they were and they played mostly simple, blues-based rock songs.  So, there were no surprises to hear him say that "technology is the destroyer of emotion and truth".  I know what he means as I have seen it first hand....but more on that in a different post.

I have never been a huge U2 fan and the Edge's approach to creating music is the one that I had the hardest relating to.  He is at the absolute opposite end of the spectrum from White when it comes to technology. He crafts his guitar parts with the technology leading the way. It seems like if his equipment, which Davis Guggenheim said arrived in a truck and took a day to set up, didn't arrive he wouldn't be able to play.

On the other hand the movie opens with Jack White at what I am guessing is his home. He is on the porch and a bunch of scattered materials are in front of him. He takes an old 2x4 that is around two feet long and nails a few nails into it. He then suspends a guitar string between two of the nails and wedges a glass coke bottle under the string to add tension. He nails a pick-up onto the 2x4, plugs it in and proceeds to play a blues lick. He turns it off, takes a drag from his cigarette and says "who says you need to buy a guitar"?  He can create music with the minimum of equipment you can get away with.

Jake White seems to me to be a rare treat in this day and age.  He can sit down with a guitar and bang out a song that has soul while the Edge seems to need to spend hours crafting a sound before he can play.  Neither approach is more right or wrong than the other I just relate to Jack Whites a little more.

I have always been a fan of less technology. Funny considering I worked in a recording studio and now work in IT. But I feel that if you can express yourself with a guitar and vocals it is going to resonate with the listener more than a song recorded with a ton of tracks and effects and edited to death.

Write a good song. Play it well. That is all that is needed. No amount of technology will fix a poorly played part or badly written song. This movie reminded me of that.

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