Dave’s SXSW Keynote

Via MetalSucks, here’s Dave Grohl’s SXSW keynote speech.

I learned a lot about Dave’s story, from growing up, to Nirvana, to starting the Foo Fighters, that I hadn’t known before. (And I follow the Foos pretty closely!) But what was best, and most affirming, was his twin themes of “Do it yourself” (DIY) and developing your “voice.”

On the first, it’s how I’ve always understood punk; not a sound, not an era, not an aesthetic, but an attitude or stance or philosophy. “Don’t wait, don’t get permission, don’t be dependent on commerce, just make whatever you want happen. Do it yourself.” Really, more than just punk, too, it’s the original spirit of rock & roll; kids making music independent of the mainstream cultural/commercial power structure. I love that our biggest rock star is preaching independence and DIY from a pretty big stage.

Artistic “voice” is related to DIY, but not mutually inclusive with it. (Imagine a culture with a highly developed infrastructure for identifying and supporting artists as they develop, and some kind of stigma or punishment for those who try to work outside of the system.) Voice includes your style, your choice of subjects, your medium, your distribution, your creative process, and more. It’s your being-as-an-artist. It should be the most interesting, most important thing about you-as-an-artist, and so it should receive most of your attention and effort. We ought to talk about it more, and less about sales, industry stuff, and how cool or not an artist’s listeners are. I do a bit of this at MR|Review, and Dave does more in his keynote.

SXSW gave him a platform and Dave made the most of it, talking about some vital-but-often-overlooked aspects of music when we’d have been happy just to hear some road stories. Good man.