Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth have separated after 27 years of marriage and now the future of the band is unknown. Their record label released this statement last Friday:
Musicians Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore, married in 1984, are announcing they have separated. Sonic Youth, with both Kim and Thurston involved, will proceed with its South American tour dates in November. Plans beyond that tour are uncertain. The couple has requested respect for their personal privacy and does not wish to issue further comment.
It feels kind of gross to discuss this news. (And not just because the couple requested privacy.) It’s weird to think about their separation because Gordon/Moore were not just the biggest couple of the alternative generation but because they were also the most respected. To the outside world, they had the perfect relationship. They were in love, married with a talented daughter, and together they were one half of the greatest indie rock band in history.
But they never flaunted their bond. They weren’t always holding hands in band photographs or anything like that. In fact, in the beginning of the band, they seemed to make a point to stand apart from one another. Because of the careful, private way they carried their love, they seemed untouchable. And strong. They were held up by admirers as the perfect rock and roll couple, an example of how cool love and marriage could be.
Fans and journalists alike were respectful of their relationship. I’ve interviewed both of them, and I never had the balls to ask either of them about the other. In our conversation a couple of summers ago, Gordon brought up Moore and was very complimentary about him. She also spoke about her daughter, but it still felt inappropriate to ask her too much about her home life. It felt like prying — like if I got her to talk about it that I would be tricking her into doing something that I knew she didn’t want to do.
And, really, there was no reason to ask about her home life. Both Gordon and Moore are prolific musicians, writers, poets and artists. There’s plenty of interesting ground to cover. Together and separately, they are both workaholics, releasing a staggering amount of art in various formats. One of their accomplishments together is the release of seventeen studio albums in the bands 30-year career.
And any fan who has listened to the last few albums could have made predictions of this breakup. It would be a mistake for any outsider to claim that that these songs are autobiographical, but there is a definite story arc from “I Love You, Golden Blue” through to “Turquoise Boy” then “Antenna” and “Massage the History” on the bands last release, The Eternal. The last few albums seemed more somber, more contemplative.
Combine that with the fact that the other Sonic Youth band members, Steve Shelley and Lee Ranaldo, seemed to be actively building other lives for themselves outside of the band, and the potential demise of Sonic Youth doesn’t seem too shocking. Shelley is all set up as the drummer for Chicago-based band Disappears, and he’s been touring with them for a while. It would be easy to change the category on the Disappears from “other” band to “primary” band. And Ranaldo is suddenly everywhere. He’s started an official Facebook page, he’s making music and his website has become increasingly active- most notably with his photojournalistic endeavors. Ranaldo’s posts his photos on his website and it has become one of the best sources for his on-the-street documentation of the Occupy Wall Street movement.
Gordon has been absent lately. Laying low, one would suppose. Moore had a personal blog where he would post his writings, photos of his daughter, tributes to poets he admired, etc, but the blog was deleted over the weekend. Moore is still active publicly, even conducting a thoughtful, funny interview with Henry Rollins about his new book on the day of the announcement.
Yes, the separation is hard on the fans, too. And that’s unfair to Gordon and Moore, but it’s the truth. It’s a lot of weight to put on one couple. Before, fans would think to themselves: Maybe my parents got divorced, maybe I just got dumped, maybe my marriage is a disaster, but Kim and Thurston were still together- so true love exists! Now admirers must accept that Gordon and Moore are just like us. Not an infallible supercouple, but two people who also have to deal with the consequences of unraveling love. (And if you think your ex won’t go away, try being together for 30 years, being known world-wide and having to deal with nosy journalists and fans.)
But perhaps Gordon and Moore can still be our role models. But instead of being part of the relationship that we most glorify, they can be an example to show us how to handle even the biggest, messiest, most heart-breaking of breakups with dignity.
And while they are unique in their place in fans’ hearts, but there have been quite a few other separations between couples who made music together. Below we explore some other famous inter-band rock and roll relationships with breakups and the outcome of each.
4. Jack White and Meg White of the White Stripes
These peppermint-colored cuties hit the scene in the late ’90s as a catchy throw-back garage duo. Back then they claimed that they were brother and sister, which was believable enough given their shared look — alabaster skin and black hair. As it turns out, they were husband and wife. They’d been married for a few years and actually divorced in early 2000, just as the White Stripes were getting super-popular. Jack later said that he invented the sibling story (and a few other fake back-stories) so that the press would focus on their music rather than their relationship. It was the opposite of Fleetwood Mac. Instead of exploiting their relationship, they denied it altogether. This, of course, just made fans all the more curious and throughout their career their exact relationship was the source of much speculation. The White Stripes officially disbanded early this year, but the Whites seem to have an okay relationship. Both had remarried and Meg even had her wedding ceremony in Jack’s backyard. Just this summer Jack announced his divorce from his second wife, model Karen Elson, but relationship downers don’t seem to put a dent his productivity. Jack’s latest band is alt-rock supergroup the Dead Weather and he continues to play with the jaw-droppingly talented Brendan Benson in the Raconteurs.
3. Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham of Fleetwood Mac
This is easily the most famous rock and roll breakup in classic rock. Fleetwood Mac, as a band, built its whole career on relationship turmoil. The classic album Rumours is a product of that turmoil, and in this case the lyrics were certainly autobiographical. In the band, there were two couples breaking up — not just Nicks and Buckingham, but also Christine McVie and John McVie. This charged atmosphere created some of the best SoCal tunes of the decade. It also resonated with listeners: Rumours has sold 40 million units worldwide. Back in the day, those songs really held a lot of meaning — both sadness and contempt. Buckingham’s “Go Your Own Way” was particularly harsh on his former lover — it basically called her a slut (Which is debatable, honestly, since she slept with drummer Mick Fleetwood after the breakup with Buckingham). In any case, it was a scathing song that accused her of being a heartless skank. But it was a hit, so Nicks had to sing it on stage with Buckingham every night. Still, once the bitterness blew over, this is the one case where a serious breakup actually aided the longevity of the band. Now, whenever they’ve come together as Fleetwood Mac, they take every opportunity to play-up their former relationship, knowing that their old lady fans just love the sexual tension. Just watch the second half of the video for “Silver Springs” from 1997’s The Dance. The on-stage theatrics are out of control. And the fans love it. Since their heyday, all parties have had varying degrees of success in their solo careers. And if it’s broken down into a competition between Nicks and Buckingham, it’s hard to say who would win. Nicks is more well known but Buckingham is still mighty handsome and talented.
2. Ike and Tina Turner of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue
Ike Turner is credited as one of the inventors of rock and roll. In fact, he’s included in the short list as one of the dudes who (possibly) released the first rock and roll record. Yes, he was also a major jerkburger, but his musical pedigree cannot be stepped to. Ike met and hired a teenage Anna Mae Bullock as a background singer in the late 1950s. He gave her the stage name of Tina and the two began both a very successful career and a shit-tastic marriage. Ike was widely reported to be a controlling, easily angered woman-beater. Tina finally left him in 1976 and the divorce was finalized two years later. Ike got to keep all of the money, and Tina famously asked the court for one thing only: her name. They didn’t make music together again. Following their separation, Ike didn’t really exercise his talent. He spent some time in prison as a result of his drug addictions, and died in 2007 of a cocaine overdose. Tina, however, went on to build an impressive solo career on the merit of her distinctive voice, sexy legs and survivor status.
1. John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Even though everyone always hated on Ono, she was Lennon’s main musical partner in his life after the Beatles. She was also his partner in life. Like it or not, the two of them had one of the biggest, most well-documented romances in rock and roll history. She was an artist before she was even with Lennon, and she brought her vision to what they produced together. Against all odds, their partnership and love flourished. They lived as two halves of one whole, and Lennon wouldn’t do much without her by his side. What people forget, though, is that they separated for a while in late 1973. The couple had been under a lot of stress. Lennon was being skewered in the press for abandoning his nice, blonde, white wife and child for his weird, yelping Japanese artist. He was also facing deportation from a McCarthyist American government, who despised him for having a voice. When he spoke out against injustices or war, people listened, and he was considered a threat to national security. Also, Lennon had fidelity issues.
Faced with all of this pressure, the couple needed a break and Ono requested a separation. Lennon historians call this time period “The Lost Weekend,” but the separation really lasted for nearly a year and a half. During this time Lennon spent some months living in Los Angeles, hanging out with scenesters at the Troubadour and drinking far too much. When he was in LA, he was, by all accounts, a hot mess. Eventually Ono took him back, after which he seemed slightly broken, but happy in his relief. He had shed some of that famous Lennon ego and become a more humble, sensitive man. They were older, calmer, and they finally settled down together. And just when it seemed as though Lennon and Ono would live happily forever together in the Dakota, their time together was ended forever by Mark David Chapman and four bullets. The legacy of this relationship will live on in perpetuum as the rock and roll Romeo and Juliet. Ono has continued her own music career, and was recording an album with Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore just earlier this year.
- link: Riverfront Times
Yuck released one of the best albums of 2011. The London band’s self-titled debut encompasses everything great about ’90s indie rock all squished into one album. It contains melody, distortion and a tons of volume. Unfortunately, these distinctive qualities have earned Yuck a reputation in the music media as grunge revivalists. This label has divided the press, with authors either claiming that Yuck is recycled and derivative or ambassadors of the next alternative generation.
Either way, there’s no getting around it: Yuck sounds like ’90s rock — but only the best parts of really, really good ’90s rock. Shit, it’s not like the band is being constantly compared to Limp Bizkit or Matchbox 20 or even Bush. Yuck only gets compared to legendary, groundbreaking bands like friggin’ Teenage Fanclub and GD Dinosaur Jr and Sonic MFing Youth. It’s a compliment, really.
Still, the group’s sound extends beyond these comparisons. It also balances My Bloody Valentine-esque scorchers with a whole host of sweeter sounds, like that of Pavement or Neil Young or bits of the great C86 bands. These comparisons are especially impressive considering that all of the band members in Yuck are in their early 20s. They didn’t witness the rise and fall of alternative rock — they were still toddlers when Nevermind came out. Still, the kids in Yuck reference their indie forefathers with great maturity and skill.
Part of this competence comes from experience. Yuck’s two main songwriters, Daniel Blumberg and Max Bloom, have been in bands together since they were teenagers. A couple of years ago, Blumberg and Bloom quit the (relatively successful) Brit band Cajun Dance Party to form Yuck. With the addition of bass player Mariko Doi (of London via Hiroshima) and American drummer Jonny Rogoff, the lineup was complete. And the band wasted no time making their mark: it’s already played SXSW, recorded a Daytrotter session and toured with Times New Viking, Tame Impala and its heroes, Teenage Fanclub. Yuck is even scheduled to perform on the much anticipated Weezer cruise.
Despite a few disparaging reviews by out-of-touch rock critics, the band has been entirely embraced by audiences. They dig it. And it’s the fans who have pushed the band to the top of the indie underground. Yuck’s debut was released early this year on the righteous Fat Possum label and it’s been so well-received by the public that it’s being re-issued this month with six bonus tracks.
Check out Yuck for yourself this Tuesday at the Firebird with White Denim and Porcelain Raft.
- Riverfront Times – link
About twenty years ago, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore asked his friend, filmmaker Dave Markey, to document the band’s short European tour, including its performance at the massive Reading Festival.
Markey (best known for his underground classic Desperate Teenage Lovedolls) left with his passport, a camera and a suitcase full of Super 8 film. When he returned he had nine hours of raw footage and the makings of the best visual documentary of 1990s indie rock before the grunge explosion. The film features many indie bands in their prime, including Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr and Babes in Toyland. It’s sort of the video companion to Michael Azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life.
1991: The Year Punk Broke existed for years as an out-of-print VHS with a cult following, but it was finally released on DVD last week. The DVD release contains the original documentary and a shit-load of extra features, including more than an hour of interviews, bonus footage and rough edits.
Lovingly described by Moore as a “home movie,” TYPB is gritty, shaky and absolutely perfect. Live concert footage is spliced with scenes of the bands shopping, eating, exploring various cities and just kind of hanging out. Sonic Youth serves as the main subject of the documentary, with Moore emerging as particularly hammy and entertaining. (See: Thurstonitis)
To truly understand TYPB, viewers must first watch Madonna’s Truth or Dare. Madge’s classic black and white tour doc had just been released at the time and it was a major moment in pop culture. There are many skits and inside jokes included in TYPB that reference Truth or Dare. (Including a brilliant scene where Kurt Cobain plays the role of Kevin Costner.)
In the two decades that have passed since 1991, grunge took over and indie stopped meaning anything. But what has all this change wrought on the specific bands featured in 1991: The Year Punk Broke? We check in on some of the featured personalities below:
The doc was filmed one year after the release of Goo, but still before the release of Dirty. In the film, the members of Sonic Youth come off as just a little bit older, cooler and more harder-working than their peers. This has never changed. Sonic Youth will forever be populated with people that seem like cool older brother/sister-types. And they’ve become even more prolific: the band has released nine studio albums since the documentary, and the members have embarked on countless solo projects ranging from music to books to photography to art to fashion. Sonic Youth has always been a band that stood on a well-earned mountain of cred, and this has only become more true over time. Still, it is totally shocking that the band is still as well-respected and, well, as good as it was twenty years ago.
Babes in Toyland
The Babes were fresh off of a tour with Sonic Youth and seemed to be extra feisty. The band only had one song featured on the video, but it was the tribal and violent “Dustcake Boy.” This song is one of the better examples of singer Kat Bjelland’s trademark angry leopard-like yelps. Babes released its biggest album, Fontanelle, in 1992 and had a couple more albums after that before calling it quits. There have been a few reunion shows, but the most interesting story to come out of the demise of Babes in Toyland is what happened to Kat Bjelland. Anyone familiar with Bjelland’s work would should not be surprised to find out that she began to suffer from multiple personalities and was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 2007. She spent a year under medical mental care and came out just as stubborn and creative and badass, releasing albums with her new band, Katastrophy Wife.
Mr. Cole was not in a band included in TYPB, but it is fitting that he was included in the film. Cole was known as a roadie for Black Flag, the best friend of Henry Rollins and was a cheerleader for seemingly every band on the SST roster. He can be seen in the background many times, and there is one long shot of his face, watching a band from the side of the stage, radiantly happy with his arms around his girlfriend, Michelle Leon of Babes in Toyland. Tragically, Cole was shot and killed just a few months after this summer in a random act of violence in Los Angeles. Sonic Youth, Henry Rollins and Hole all dedicated future works to his memory.
We all know what happened with Nirvana. Mere milliseconds after Markey wrapped filming, the whole world fell into Nirvanamania. The little band would soon eclipse its heroes, becoming the biggest thing that happened to popular music that decade. Amazingly, Markey manages to capture a side of Nirvana that the general public would never know: the happy side. In TYPB, the band members are still relatively unknown. They are wide-eyed and playful, with frequent smiles and passionate stage show. But that levity was lost when the fame came along. The band would only release one more studio album, In Utero, before singer Kurt Cobain committed suicide. Drummer Dave Grohl went on to form the ultra-successful Foo Fighters and bassist Krist Novoselic expanded his interests from music to politics, even running for office in his home state of Washington.
Miss Love can be seen in the original doc (and in the extra footage) trying to get the attention of cameraman Markey. Her role in the video is very small- she wasn’t performing, she was in England to hang out with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins. Of course, she went on to marry Cobain of Nirvana and the two became the Sid & Nancy of the ’90s. Love’s band Hole was also on the verge of fame, having released its debut album, Pretty on the Inside, in August of ’91. Hole went on to release a few more albums, including the highly successful Live Through This in 1994. Love went on to become a famous disaster and the topic of much tabloid speculation.
Dinosaur Jr was always bigger in Europe, due to constant touring of the Continent. This is most apparent during on of the most beautiful, chill-inducing moments of the film. The band is playing “Freak Scene” and at the very end of the song, the whole dang audience sings along to the all-important line “Cause when I need a friend it’s still you.” Dino went on to release five more studio albums and the band is still active today (with years of breaks in between). The members have also put out solo albums and they remain some of the mostly highly respected individuals in indie rock.
Though his band, Mudhoney, wasn’t featured in the film, Mark Arm can be seen in several scenes in TYPB. His little blond mop is always bopping around, accenting a goofy smile. Mudhoney was kind of Nirvana before Nirvana was Nirvana, and it certainly had a longer career. The band has put out ten studio albums in its career and is still active (and awesome) today, mostly playing large international festivals.
The Ramones were included in The Year Punk Broke, but the band’s time in the film was so short and so stiff that it seemed like the Ramones were more included as a tribute to punk elders than as a viable band. Still, the Ramones had one of the most interesting careers in music history. In 1991 the band was already 27 years into its career and it would be another five years before it officially disbanded. After TYPB the band put out three more studio albums, but it didn’t much matter. The Ramones were already considered the greatest American punk band.
Gumball is the only band included in TYPB that never quite achieved any level of mainstream success. Despite releasing 1991’s Special Kiss (featuring both Thurston Moore and members of Teenage Fanclub), Gumball never really caught on with indie audiences and was dropped from its label in 1994 due to disappointing sales. Gumball disbanded shortly after that, but the band members went on to have very successful individual careers. For example, frontman Don Fleming is a noted producer and participated in many other musical indie ventures, including Half Japanese, Dim Stars and The Backbeat Band.
Sun., September 25, 8:00pm
Pig Slop Studios The Firebird
By Jaime Lees
Shoegaze is one of the few music genres where being a weak little pussy is actually sought after. Many shoegaze bands fall flat because of mumbly vocals and feeble beats; resulting in songs that just drift off into sprawling, boring nothingness. Tennis System ain’t tryin’ to roll like that. The Los Angeles based band takes the genre and blows it up, expanding on the customary wall of guitars with gorgeous vocals and a proper beat. It creates loud, structured-yet-psychedelic dream-pop compositions that sound like the ringing reverb of My Bloody Valentine mixed with thumping, Evol-era Sonic Youth. Watch for its sophomore release, Teenagers, due out this fall.
A Prediction: This show will be criminally underpopulated. Did we mention that the band members are floppy-haired and adorable? Just sayin’.
Pazz & Jop 2009
37th Annual Village Voice Critics’ Poll
“Pazz & Jop is an annual poll of musical releases compiled by American newspaper The Village Voice. The poll is tabulated from the submitted year-end top ten lists of hundreds of music critics. Pazz & Jop was introduced by The Village Voice in 1974 as an album-only poll, but was expanded to include votes for singles in 1979.”
Sonic Youth 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 17.
Live on the Levee, under the Gateway Arch. Free.
Electric Youth: Sonic Youth and Kim Gordon continue to age gracefully with a new LP, The Eternal
By Jaime Lees
In their 28-year career, indie-rock godfathers Sonic Youth have experienced unprecedented success — and had unparalleled staying power. Credit this longevity to the band’s stability: Guitarist/vocalist Lee Ranaldo, drummer Steve Shelley, bassist/vocalist Kim Gordon and guitarist/vocalist/her husband Thurston Moore have launched numerous side projects, completed countless world tours and released copius rarites and studio albums.
The band’s Matador Records-released latest, The Eternal, marks its return to an independent label. (It had been with Geffen since 1990’s Goo.) But Eternal is the perfect extension of the Sonic Youth catalog, a hybrid of resonant guitar textures and jammy, jazzed-out, free-form experimentation. The album evokes Daydream Nation‘s unpredictable explosiveness and the near-psychedelic, extended harmonies of Washing Machine, but it isn’t a musical progression as much as it is a lateral move. That in particular is Sonic Youth’s trademark: Although each new album the band releases might contain heavier guitars, additional harmonies or more noise, they all maintain that nebulous Sonic Youth quality. There’s something special about the dreamy pop blasts that the band creates together; instead of their dueling talents triggering a compromise, it feels as though collaboration enriches the Sonic Youth sound.
As Sonic Youth’s bassist and one of its songwriters, Kim Gordon has long been an inspiration to younger musicians. As one of the few females in a respected, long-running rock band, Gordon is thought of as the cool, MILF-y matriarch of indie rock. But unlike many women, she’s praised as much for her musical input as she is for her good looks and hushed, lusty voice. Her contributions to the band have rarely been as pronounced as they are on Eternal, on which she sings lead on several tracks, and her imposing bass lines sweep boldly through the din.
A prolific visual artist, Gordon is also accomplished in many other disciplines — including painting, drawing, writing, producing and organizing both art and music events. She’s also fronted two successful fashion lines, X-Girl and the new Mirror/Dash, which is sold at Urban Outfitters. On the eve of Sonic Youth’s current tour, we spoke with Gordon about how she balances her multiple interests with life on the road. She has a reputation as being private — even aloof — in interviews, but we found her to be inviting, engaging and downright giggly.
Jaime Lees: You have so many different projects. How do you decide what you’re going to work on? Is it deadlines?
Kim Gordon: Yeah, deadlines. Exactly. Well, with the art stuff, some things you have to create [on deadline], either projects with someone or sometimes you get asked for a show. I work on ideas and stuff, but when it really comes down to it, it’s all about a deadline.
Do you complete your art first and then look for a show for it, or do you hear about an interesting show and want to create something for it?
It’s kind of a little of both. Right now I’m in this show in Graz in Austria, a group show. I don’t usually like group shows, but this one was interesting. I like the curator [Diedrich Diederichsen]. He’s a writer before he’s a curator. [Along with] my friend, Jutta Koether, who’s an artist, they asked us if we wanted to do a collaboration.
So how can you spend half of your life on the road and still be painting?
Well, this has been a really busy spring, but generally we just tour around a record. We’re not one of those bands that goes on tour for a year or something. We have a daughter, and Lee has kids so, you know, I try and tour around her school schedule. We’ve been gone a lot this spring already, so it’s hard. And I think it’s actually harder for moms to leave their kids. I know some people say, “How come people don’t make a big deal about asking fathers what it’s like to go on the road?” It is hard for them, too, but I think it’s easier if you have one parent at home that’s taking care of it.
Do you bring her [daughter Coco] with you on tour?
Sometimes. But as she’s gotten older she’s been able to stay home with someone. And she prefers to stay home. [Laughs]
When you’re out touring and you get to each new city, do you have something you like to do there? You know, like some people like to find the city’s best restaurant or used bookstore or whatever.
Oh yeah, we’re totally into picking out good restaurants. And actually, Mark [Ibold, of Pavement fame], who is playing bass with us now, he’s really great at looking up food websites, and he always knows about places to try. But when we first started touring, it was always like, “Where’s the good barbecue place?” [Laughs] So when we get to a city, sometimes we’ll get day rooms at a hotel. We usually have a few hours during the day to hang out before we do sound check, and sometimes we have interviews.
So you have sound check and then you go do your dinner thing before the show?
Sometimes. I mean, you have to eat a certain amount of time before the show. Steve, our drummer, won’t eat if it’s less than five hours before our show.
Does he get barfy?
[Laughs] He just plays better. And you do play better if you’re not full. Nothing like a whole lot of barbecue and then having to go onstage! [Laughs]
So do you get any of your other work done on tour? I mean, it’s not like you can paint on the bus…
It’s hard. Some people can do a lot of stuff on tour. I can’t because I have a perpetual state of exhaustion because I don’t sleep on the bus very well. Like, Lee seems to always have little projects he’s working on, but I’m not so good. I’m going to try and seek out, like, yoga classes and things like that to offset the barbecue. [Laughs] It’s a little anxiety provoking, actually, to have to go away for six weeks. In fact, I’m in the middle of packing right now.
I know, like, how many shoes do you bring? Who knows?
Yeah, it’s like, how do I pack all these vitamins? I always over-pack. But you’re basically living out of a suitcase for six weeks. It’s like, you buy all these clothes [at home], but then you kind of have to say goodbye to them. [Laughs] It’s hard to go away during the summer, actually. But it’ll be fun once we get going.
Is it easier for you guys when you’re touring with another band, because then you have more people around to hang out with? Or is that just annoying?
[Laughs] Well, it can be. You’re together all the time, and sometimes you sort of create a distance, because otherwise you would really be irritated all the time. [Laughs] Twelve people on a bus is kind of hard. But anyway, God, it’s nice to be asked other questions than normal, you know? I mean, we get tired of the same questions all the time so it’s going really well so far. You’re doing a good job.
Well, thank you. I’m bored with reading the same questions all the time. So, do you ever have free time? Do you ever have a time where you’re at home, and you don’t have any huge projects staring at you?
Um, pretty much never. But last summer, we only did a little bit of touring, but that was the first time in maybe twenty years where we hadn’t toured in the summer. I mean, it was kind of shocking, actually. But when I’m home I procrastinate about doing things so I can hang out with my friends. Like now, I should be getting my things done, but I’d rather see my friends before I go, so…
So what are you doing when you get back from tour? What’s your next big thing?
Well, Mirror/Dash, the clothing line, is kind of an ongoing thing. But for the next project, I have a book I’m working on, my paintings, and I’m sort of working on another painting series. But we’re going to do a bunch of touring in the fall, so I’m kind of keeping my schedule as open as I can. I don’t want to be too…pressured. But as busy as I am, Thurston has many more projects than I do. I don’t know how he does it, really. But it’s energizing if you get stuff back from it.
Folk Meets Noise Meets Whatever
Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore on Nashville’s noise scene
by Jaime Lees
Sonic Youth play Friday, 25th at City Hall w/Leslie Keffer
As a singer and guitarist for America’s preeminent indie rock band, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore has devoted the better part of three decades to engaging and electrifying the alternative underground scene. A life-long booster of punk rock and punk ethics, Moore believes in doing it all (and doing it all by himself). His many projects include scoring film soundtracks, playing in other bands, releasing solo work, running his own label, guesting in documentaries and writing and editing books.
With the recent album releases of Sonic Youth’s spectacular Rather Ripped and Moore’s own deliciously lo-fi Trees Outside the Academy, he has been roundly praised as being at the top of his game. His small record label, Ecstatic Peace!, has found success with quite a few Nashville bands, most notably with the noisy garage rock of Be Your Own Pet. Moore enthusiastically describes BYOP as “totally hot” and elaborates, “I remember thinking, who are these kids? When I was 17, I was just mowing lawns and being very afraid of girls and stuff. And these guys were on the road, punking-out across the world.”
Moore claims roots in McKenzie, Tenn., and therefore, good “Tennessee radar,” so it’s no surprise that he’s tuned in to regional acts, or that Nashville is one of only five show dates for Sonic Youth in April. Between Moore’s fondness for Grimey’s New & Preloved Music and deep, historical knowledge of the Nashville underground music scene, he could easily pass as a lovably weird local noise dude.
We caught up with Moore over the phone last week, and his passion, humor and laid-back boyish charm clearly translated across the wire.
Scene: So aside from Be Your Own Pet and Turbo Fruits, who else on your label is from the area?
Moore: Well, Leslie Keffer moved to Nashville from Ohio, and she makes harsh underground noise music. She sets up her own sort of idiosyncratic kind of noise gear with radios and cassette tapes and stuff. And there’s a certain kind of pure sound that she deals with, you know? She kind of filters radio signals into this kind of noise wash and I thought it was good stuff, so I kind of reached out to her. She’s a huge Be Your Own Pet fan and we were putting their records out. And she sort of hooked up with Angela Messina—there’s this whole Nashville noise underground of bands and [Messina] was in a bunch of them, like Taiwan Deth, Tan as Fuck, The New Faggot Cunts and I think she was in Vegan Brand. [laughs]
Scene: Those band names are all…uh…poetry.
Moore: [laughs] She’s kind of an artist and poet. And she’s been on the scene for a while and she’s great. There’s also this other guy in Nashville that I really like. His name is Derek Schartung, he’s in the underground Nashville noise scene [also in Taiwan Deth] and plays really good stuff. Then there’s bands like Cherry Blossoms. They’re really great. They had a record out that was really happening. [It was] open-ended, kind of beautiful folk meets noise meets whatever.
Scene: How are you finding time to get all of the stuff done that you get done?
Moore: I’m kind of trying to figure that out myself, you know? Sometimes it gets really overwhelming and I start having anxiety attacks and I just sort of want to climb under the covers and escape it all and hope it all goes away. But the thing is, I’m so enamored by this stuff. I love it. I always wanted to be in a position where I could actually make records and make books and make cassettes and make films and write and play music…. That was my ambition as an adult…to be able to do that.
Scene: What are you doing with your down time, if you ever have any?
Moore: That doesn’t include getting together with some people doing cross-country improvised noise music in basements, which is what I really want to do? Or starting a black metal band and like completely disguising myself as a black metal guitar player in a nefarious, bleak and dim black metal band, which is also what I would love to do? Do you mean, how do I step away and what do I do? [laughs] Hmm…. I guess I sort of do what any normal person would do—I’d start watching successive episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer!
Scene: Are you doing anything today for Record Store day?
Moore: Record store day is today, isn’t it?
Scene: It is!
Moore: I was gonna come down to Grimey’s and sort of totally hang out and drink beers and get into the groove of the day, but you know what? It’s not gonna happen. I’m here and I’m babysitting my 13-year-old. Not babysitting, I’m child-rearing.
Scene: So, you produce a lot of limited-edition cassettes and LPs on Ecstatic Peace!…
Moore: Nobody buys records anymore. So it’s hard to do things on any level. It’s really super-duper slumped right now. Nobody buys records. I mean, that’s why, in a way, for me, it’s more rewarding and more fun sometimes to make real boutique edition stuff of real subterranean artists.
Scene: So about this show on Friday.
Moore: I hope people show up.
Scene: I don’t think that’s a problem for you.
Moore: Yeah, well, it’s kind of a big place. You hope people show up and have a good time. That’s all we can say, it’s gonna be a good time in a sonic way.