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Film

The documentary that inspired Dave Grohl to be a musician

In addition to being one of the most iconic musicians of our time, Dave Grohl is an accomplished filmmaker who is known for his projects such as the 2013 work Sound City. Earlier this year, Grohl released another documentary titled What Drives Us, a film about touring in the music industry which comes across as yet another example of his undying passion for the industry.

Throughout his career, Grohl has worn his influences on his sleeve and has often referred to the music used in cinema as some of his favourites. Among those was Ry Cooder’s divine soundtrack for Wim Wenders’ magnum opus Paris, Texas which moved Grohl so much that he decided to make the acoustic album In Your Honour and called it one of his top three albums of all time.

However, there was one particular documentary that had the most direct impact on Grohl’s life and convinced him that his purpose in life was to be a musician. Grohl has maintained that the soundtrack to Penelope Spheeris’ 1981 masterpiece The Decline of Western Civilisation inspired him more than any other work. The film chronicles the landscape of punk rock in Los Angeles during the late ’70s, often cited as the greatest documentary on the subject.

“It’s so raw and gritty and real, it totally captured the vibe of that era and that genre of music,” Grohl revealed. “I think I was like 12 years old when I heard it, and I had the soundtrack first. I didn’t see the movie for years! So I fell in love with the record first.” He felt that he was destined to be a musician because of his innate musical abilities that were evident even in his early years.

Grohl added, “It’s awesome, what film can do for music. Everybody appreciates what music can do for film, but what film can do for music” while talking about the amplified narrative possibilities of the union of music and cinema. The Decline of Western Civilisation’s soundtrack was made up of songs by bands such as Black Flag and Alice Bag Band, iconic works through which Spheeris painted a comprehensive picture.

In a recent interview, Spheeris reflected on 40 years of The Decline of Western Civilisation and spoke about why she felt the need to document the punk scene. She insisted that what was going on in Los Angeles back then was unique and she could feel it whenever she visited all the underground clubs. “I felt instinctively there was historical importance to it,” Spheeris declared.