With less than a month to go until broadcast of the first episode of ‘Sonic Highways’ we now have a pretty good idea of the order of broadcast and which cities feature in each episode. The series will be airing over 8 weeks starting October 17th, exclusively broadcast in the United States on HBO at 11pm, 10pm central. Each episode will focus on one single city in the States, focusing on their musical history and heritage as well as the recording sessions by the band, recording a track in each for their upcoming eighth studio album. Thanks to a few sources we now have a good idea which city will focus in each episode as well as the songs recorded in each. If you consider this information a spoiler and would rather not know, stop reading now!
Episode 1 – Chicago (Premiering October 17th on HBO)
The first episode will focus on the Windy City with a mixture of interviews and discussions about the musical history of the city and behind the scenes of recording the first track from the album, ‘Something From Nothing’. The band visited Electric Audio in January of this year, the recording studio owned by Steve Albini, known to most fans of Grohl as the producer for the final Nirvana studio album, ‘In Utero’.
Unsurprisingly this first episode is heavily previewed in the trailer for the series with the recorded track playing in the background throughout and many snippets of interviews and in-studio footage. Steve Albini himself is seen and heard as is producer Butch Vig expressing his concerns for how complex this first song was. Also seen towards the end of the trailer is Rick Neilsen of Cheap Trick fame, recording a guitar track for the song.
Episode 2 – Washington D.C. (Premiering October 24th on HBO)
The second episode will switch the focus to the US Capital, Washington D.C. February 2014 saw the band visiting the legendary Inner Ear Studio in the district and again we see a few previews of this episode in the trailer with short snippets of interviews featuring Trouble Funk bassist Big Tony and none other than President Obama himself.
Big Tony mentions Go-go in his brief interview snippet and it’s likely the funk sub-genre will be a large part of the episode as well as the hardcore scene that Grohl himself was a part of in the late eighties. Nate is briefly heard in the trailer mentioning that Inner Ear was the studio he was most looking forward to visit, noting that the records and posters on the wall were like the walls of his bedroom as a teenager.
The track recorded at Inner Ear was ‘The Feast And The Famine’ and in what is likely to be a running trend through the series the full track will be debuted at the end of the episode. Guesting on the track are reportedly members of Bad Brains.
Episode 3 – Nashville (Premiering October 31st on HBO)
The first two episodes we know are absolutely correct thanks to a confirmation from someone lucky enough to have seen an early preview. For the following episodes we have to make an assumption they will continue to air episodes based on the order of the tracks on the album. ‘Something From Nothing’ is the opening track, ‘The Feast And The Famine’ is track two and track three is ‘Congregation’.
Thanks to a snippet of information from Nate in an interview we know the third track was recorded in Nashville, giving us the location for our third episode.
At least one interviewee for this episode is seen in the trailer, country legend Dolly Parton. Guest musician Carrie Underwood is also seen in a brief glimpse.
The band visited Nashville in March 2014 and recorded at the Southern Ground Recording studio in the city. Whilst the studio has only operated under that name since 2012 it has a rich history, opening as Monument Studio in 1968 with many country stars recording there including Kris Kristofferson. The studio went through several owners and names through the 70s, 80s and 90s before closing down in 2010. Two years later it was purchased by Southern Ground, the label owned by friend of Grohl Zac Brown and continued operating as a recording studio.
Episode 4 – Either New Orleans or Austin (Premiering November 7th on HBO)
The fourth episode is currently still a mystery. Track 4 on the album is ‘What Did I Do?/God As My Witness’ but currently no band member or studio has revealed where this track was recorded. Through process of elimination (see below) there are only two possibilities however, New Orleans or Austin.
The band visited New Orleans in May 2014 with a well publicised week at the legendary Preservation Hall and were in Austin, Texas in March, recording at Studio 6A on the University of Texas At Austin campus, the former home of TV show ‘Austin City Limits’.
As soon as we know more on these two episodes we’ll let you know.
Episode 5 – Los Angeles (Premiering November 14th on HBO)
Back on track and the fifth episode will centre around the band’s current home, Los Angeles. A slight anomaly however is that the recording studio the band visited, Rancho De La Luna, is some 130 miles east of the city in Joshua Tree. The episode is therefore likely to feature both the long history of that studio, most well known as the location for recording of the Desert Sessions, as well as the larger studios and music cultures of the wider LA area.
The twitter account for Rancho revealed that the fifth song on the album, ‘Outside’, was recorded at the studio. Continuing the trend the track features a guest musician, Joe Walsh joining the band on this track. Walsh can be seen in the trailer with the band and a photo of he, Grohl and Taylor was released on twitter around the time of recording, April 2014.
Episode 6 – Either New Orleans or Austin (Premiering November 21st on HBO)
As per above this episode will feature either New Orleans or Austin.
Episode 7 – Seattle (Premiering November 28th on HBO)
The penultimate episode will see us returning to the self proclaimed home of Grunge, Seattle. Grohl is of course extremely familiar with the city as is the rest of the band, particularly Nate and Pat. Dave visited Seattle recording studio Robert Lang Studio on October 17th 1994 to record what became the first Foo Fighters album and the date of that session is obviously key to this whole series, the premiere beginning on that exact same date, the 20th anniversary of their conception, if you will.
It came as no surprise then when the band re-visited the studio in May of this year to record a song for their 8th album. The song in question was revealed by the studio to be the seventh on the album, ‘Subterranean’.
Butch Vig, Jack Endino and Grohl were pictured outside the studio during recording with the caption ‘Mount Grungemore’ and it seems fair to believe the Seattle episode will have a heavy focus on the grunge scene and of course Nirvana in particular. The guest musician on the track however will not be a face from the past, ‘Subterranean’ instead featuring Death Cab For Cutie lead singer Ben Gibbard.
Episode 8 – New York (Premiering December 5th on HBO)
The final episode in the series will focus on The Big Apple, New York. Well, that is if a Rolling Stone report is to be believed and the final track on the album, ‘I Am A River’ was recorded there. Given that the city is surrounded by the Hudson river it certainly seems plausible.
The band visited the city way back in February 2014, laying down the track at the Magic Shop Recording Studio in the city. Nate was seen laying down his bass in a posting to Instragram at the time of recording.
So, that is that. Whilst we’re still not sure on two of the episodes that should give you a brief preview of what to expect over the eight episodes of ‘Sonic Highways’. Thanks go to Paul of FooArchive.com for spotting many of the details given in the post. Be sure to visit his site and follow him on Twitter for up to date info that we may have missed!