Los Angeles. The City of Angels. Also known as one of the birthplaces of American Rock and Roll, with streets like Sunset Boulevard housing household names – The Doors, Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe – in Rock history throughout the years. But for the fifth episode of Sonic Highways, Foo Fighters decide to venture outside of Los Angeles and into the vast Californian desert, specifically Joshua Tree.
You could easily split this episode into two parts, Los Angeles and The Desert. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it gives the music scene of California as a whole perspective. Especially in terms of the recognized music scene in LA and the unrecognized, underground Stoner Rock scene out in the California High Desert. Los Angeles is like no other city in America. It’s where a lot of people migrate to ‘make it’; whether that be in music or the movies. It has a warped sense of reality which a lot of people – including Grohl – need to get out of once in a while. As Grohl states in the episode, getting ‘outside of the city [allows] you to get inside yourself’.
Foo Fighters took their gear out to the Rancho De La Luna, a recording studio that according to Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age ‘has all the don’ts for a recording studio. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but forty wrongs sure do’. Rancho De La Luna was founded in 1993 by Fred Drake and David Catching, with Drake’s inspiration of making a relaxing environment for musicians to just kick back and relax, letting the music flow to them rather than being pressurized to write and record song after song in quick sucession. That accompanied with the surrounding desert, inspirational sunrises and sunsets and a studio filled with vintage instruments collates to a haven for its founders and musicians. Sadly, Drake died in 2002 leaving the Rancho to Catching, who has since made sure that Drake’s spirit resides within the studio and the musicians that decide to record there. And an electic mix of musicians have spent their time there, such as Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Masters of Reality, Eagles of Death Metal and The Arctic Monkeys.
This episode focuses on two prevaling scenes with the California/Los Angeles music scene, Punk and Stoner/Desert Rock. As Grohl says in the opening to Pat Smear, ‘this is your episode’. Due to his time in the legendary Punk band The Germs, who inspired musicians such as Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses to play and record music. Then there’s the famous desert scene in the early 90s, which found its beginnings through generator parties in the middle of the desert as it was the only place ‘where you could get fucked up’ and not be caught by the cops. The environment started to impact the music, with bands tuning their instruments down extremely low to produce a gutteral, earth shattering sound. Through this scene were the beginnings of stoner rock bands such as Kyuss, and later on Queens of the Stone Age.
For the recording of the song ‘Outside’, Foo Fighters hired the help of legendary musician Joe Walsh, of The Eagles and The James Gang. Foo Fighters collectively are huge fans and admirers of Walsh, more specifically Taylor Hawkins who couldn’t seem to hold it together throughout the entire episode. I would have been the same. And boy, does Walsh add his signature sound to the track. When it gets to the bridge and his visceral guitar lick kicks in, you know you’re in for a Walsh contribution straight away.
Words by Sophie McEvoy.