Dave Grohl Unleashes Multi-Instrument Mastery of ‘Play’ Documentary
On Aug. 1, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl announced that he had worked on a two-part mini-film called Play, which he made to celebrate the rewards and challenges of choosing a career in music. Now, the film is available online, a day before its originally scheduled release.
"To any musician young or old, a studio full of instruments is like a playground," Grohl begins in the documentary segment of Play. "To me, I'm like a kid in a candy store. Most musicians are usually chasing the next challenge and you never feel satisfied. You never feel like you've completely mastered the instrument that you're playing. It's always going to be a puzzle. It's always going to be a challenge. It's a beautiful mystery, but once it gets its hooks in you, that's when the obsession and the drive really kick in."
Play was filmed in black and white by Brandon Trost. The first part of the project features Grohl talking about the lifelong relationship he has had with music, and depicts children working in a School of Rock-style environment learning how to play in a band and discovering what it's like when exhaustive practice on an instrument begins to yield rewards. The project was largely inspired by Grohl's own children.
“Watching my kids start to play music and learn to sing or play drums, it brings me back to the time when I was their age listening to albums, learning from listening," says Grohl. "When I take my kids to the place where they take their lessons, I see these rooms full of children that are really pushing themselves to figure this out. And even now, as a 49-year-old man, I’m still trying to figure it out ... it’s not something that you ever truly master. You’re always chasing the next challenge, and you’re always trying to find a way to improve on what you’ve learned."
After Grohl finishes talking about his feelings about music and the documentary depicts kids learning how to be musicians, the Foo master switches the subject to his own decision to make a one-man-band instrumental that would challenge him in a way he hasn't previously been challenged.
"The idea of coming in and not only recording a song by myself, but a 23-minute-long instrumental -- multiple instruments, running from one to the next -- just seemed like something I've never done before," he says. "And, honestly, I didn't know if I could pull it off."
As interesting as the documentary segment of Play is, the highlight of the project is the actual one-man-band instrumental that features Grohl on all seven instruments on the track -- all live. Grohl played the entire song multiple times, and performed on a different instrument for each take for the full 23 minutes. Trost used various styles of lighting to accompany to peaks and valleys of the instrumental, which evolves from complex, hard-rocking prog somewhat reminiscent of Rush's 2112 to more atmospheric and melodic passages that will be more recognizable to Foo fans.
In addition to rocking the drums and guitar, Grohl plays bass, keyboards, xylophone, shakers and vibes. "It was great because some of these instruments I don't even play. Sitting in front of a percussion station of vibes and shakers, that's not my natural habitat, but stepping in front of it and making it through those 23 minutes felt really good," said Grohl.
As rewarding as writing and recording Play was for Grohl, it was also frustrating. "There were moments in recording this where I was in the 20th minute and I'd stop and have to start over because I knew that I could do it better," he added.
The online version of Play allows viewers to watch Grohl's phenomenal performance as it was edited by Trost or focus on a sole instrument throughout. Fans can also download the Play sheet music. While Grohl sought to create a new and challenging environment in which to play, he also wanted to shine a light on how inspiring and life-changing it can be to make music. In addition, he emphasized the importance of music education. The online version of Play includes a list of organizations where time, money and instruments can be donated so kids can have the opportunity to discover the transcendent joy of playing music.
"It is a lifelong obsession," Grohl says. "But just like any kid, at the end of the day the reward is just to play."
Check out Play above, and for more information or to purchase the film, check out the following links:
Foo Fighters Albums Ranked
10 Best Foo Fighters Songs