“Smart Studios is a link to one of the biggest genre shifts in rock history.”
Wendy Schneider, Director of The Smart Studios Story
Musical documentaries are having a moment, and there is certainly a vast and varied history worth telling. However, some stories are simply bigger. After watching this film and sitting down with Wendy Schneider and Butch Vig, The Smart Studios Story is easily one of them.
“The link between Madison and Nirvana, and the link between Nirvana and Killdozer, is not something that people recognize,” said Schneider. “But if the work that Butch did with Killdozer did not land on Jonathan Poneman’s desk from Sub Pop… Sonically there was an impression made on Jonathan. So much so that he recommended bands in Seattle go all the way to freaking Madison, Wisconsin to record with Butch. What that led to was monumental for the rest of the world.”
Indeed, it was. This documentary plays like a musical museum, carefully curated by Scheider. Her attention to detail, and dedication to archiving both intangible moments and physical artifacts should bring joy to any fan of music.
Another aspect clearly reflected in The Smart Studios Story was the value of community within the studio space. The easy creative flow between projects and bands, influenced everything that was produced.
“Anybody can go into a building and set up a drum kit and record drums,” said Vig. “But I think it was more about the people who went through [Smart Studios], and you see that in the film – all the crazy personalities and all the crazy music that they brought in.”
It is fitting that the documentary premiered at SXSW, given that Vig and Smart Studios co-founder Steve Marker, attended in the late 80s and early 90s, walking the streets and handing out promotional cassettes. The film will screen once more during the festival (Alamo Ritz/Friday/ 11pm), and I highly recommend experiencing this snapshot of history on the big screen.
“Steve [Marker] and I feel immensely proud of having a 30-year run. When we closed our doors, I wasn’t that sad, because we burned hard… and nothing lasts forever,” Butch Vig.
“The Smart Studios Story” shows again on Friday, March 18 | 11:00AM – 12:30PM at Alamo Ritz as part of SXSW.
[Editor’s Note: Very in depth review & coverage to come. GO SEE THIS FILM]