‘There are very few bands where people work together and live together’

2014-10-27 Brooklyn NY, The Thurston Moore band perform to a sold out crowd at Rough Trade NYC. (opener:PCPC) Photo: Greg Pallante

2014-10-27 Brooklyn NY, The Thurston Moore band perform to a sold out crowd at Rough Trade NYC. (opener:PCPC) Photo: Greg Pallante


Listen to a stream of Thurston Moore’s new album,

The Best Day (not available in the US)

There is a significant tranche of alternative-minded music lifers for whom the break-up of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon – and the dissolution of their seminal band Sonic Youth in 2011 – verged on the traumatic. It was like your beloved parents getting divorced, only worse. These people were far cooler. They understood. They knew that the ineffable was in reach, and they flailed for it, in minor key, with detuned electric guitars.

Alongside REM and hardcore punk, Sonic Youth created the very idea of “alternative” in the pre-internet US, infamously paving the way for bands such as Nirvana. They elevated awkward, restless music to a status that made it necessary for the arts sections of broadsheet newspapers to cover it. It’s hard to over-emphasise Sonic Youth’s role in shaping the cultural landscape we take for granted.

Since the split, both former Youths have released records – notably, Moore’s gnarly Chelsea Light Moving and Gordon’s uneasy Body/Head projects. But none fill the hole left by Sonic Youth quite like this one does. Both comforting and discomfiting, The Best Day recalls prime Youth, when their tense experimental attitude dovetailed with often sour but instantly accessible pop melodies.

It’s a madeleine of a record, with Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley providing the carbohydrate. Tape, which starts as a run of meditative eastern-sounding arpeggios before acoustic guitars take the reverie somewhere dusty and American, is about that most retro of concerns, mixtape compilations, a subject on which Moore wrote a book. “Ego and love” is what they always were about, reckons Moore in the song. The title of Germs Burn nods to punk band the Germs, but the oldest school reference point here is probably Moore’s childhood Catholicism.

Despite the black-and-white cover shot, of Moore’s mother and her dog, The Best Day feels distinctly new too. Inspired in part by Moore’s adopted London neighbourhood of Stoke Newington, a place that, before gentrification, was once a hotbed of political dissent, it finds him replenished, feeding in years of development into his instantly recognisable templates.

Clearly, Kim Gordon is not playing the sullen Gordon-esque bassline on the 11-minute, shape-shifting love song Forevermore. That job now belongs to Deb Googe from My Bloody Valentine. Guitarist James Sedwards of the noise band Nøught provides Moore with nervy counterpoints. Speak to the Wild starts as they mean to continue, with guitars interlocking and parting, and Moore letting fly a guitar phrase he’s used a few times before. “Remove your rings,” it goes, “and meet us near the fire.” Detonation celebrates political agitation via the medium of post-punk, the two noise guitarists egging each other on bar after taut bar, their restraint all the more significant when you consider the squalling they could unleash.

Although Sonic Youth’s year zero no wave sound brooked no antecedents, the Velvet Underground were in their DNA; echoes still surface here. More surprising, though, is Moore’s penchant for Led Zeppelin. The expansive Grace Lake – an instrumental named after the pseudonym of Angry Brigade member and poet Anna Mendelssohn – is Zep-style pastoral folk-rock, but refracted through the New York 70s.

According to Moore, “composure, love and safety” are the qualities of the cover shot that he wants this fine record to transmit. He’s in a relationship and, it seems, happy. This could sit ill, if you’re the sort for taking sides. But if painful divorces can have silver linings, The Best Day seems like a particularly shiny one.

Welcome back TM

Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore: Moving on from the Chaos



Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore


Thurston Moore is starstruck.

“I don’t even know what I’d say,” he admits with a shrug. Moore’s girlfriend, Eva Prinz, encourages him to introduce himself to Diane di Prima anyway, but another audience member steps in front of him just as he turns around. Moore recoils. “I got usurped.”

The 80-year-old woman we’ve come to see is a beat poet, known for her striking poetic voice and her personal recollections of her friends and their relationships during the 1960s in San Francisco.

We’re in the lower level auditorium of the San Francisco Public Library — a bright, illustrious cultural hub in one of the city’s most blighted neighborhoods — where di Prima has been commissioned by City Lights bookstore to recite some of her recent work.

We listen to her read through some of her poems for an hour. Even in her old age, she’s irreverent and witty, like Moore.

“Live close to the edge and love it,” di Prima recites. She looks right at him when she says it. Moore shifts in his seat.

After the show, Moore is still nervous about approaching her. “Thurston, here’s your chance,” Prinz whispers. He hesitates for a second. Before he scuttles away, Moore wants to be sure Prinz autographs his copy of her recent collection, The Poetry Deal. di Prima is something of a legend in poetry circles. The San Francisco Poet Laureate has made a career of speaking candidly about personal love, loss, and coping with the changing world. She is an artist who enunciates principles of verity, faith, introspection, and artfulness.

Despite Moore’s apprehension in speaking to di Prima, he has undoubtedly gotten used to his own fame by now, or at least the attention, instead searching for solace between stanzas of poetry.

“My interest in literature was always concurrent with my interest in music from a very young age anyway, so it wasn’t a radical jump,” Moore tells me after the reading. “I think when I got more interested in the history of it — and people like Diane di Prima — I started collecting poetry books like I collected records.”

But his interest in poetry is far from casual. Moore not only teaches a poetry workshop at the Allen Ginsberg-founded Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado; it is his modus vivendi for inspiration across all his creative endeavors. “[Poetry] is either academic, or it’s really personal. I like the balance of the two. Sonic Youth was kind of like that — we had these academic ideas about playing music, but we also had these kind of unorthodox personal things. That had no real precedence before us, so it was kind of exciting in that way.”

That openness to setting the precedent has followed him everywhere for decades: through dozens of records and side projects, during a lifetime of live shows, in and out of marriage, and after it ended, facing backlash from the press.

Following last year’s announcement of his separation from longtime wife Kim Gordon and the subsequent dissolution of Sonic Youth, Moore faced media hellfire. He all but confessed to seeing Eva Prinz for years before he and Gordon called it quits, and his actions did not go unnoticed. Following Gordon’s infamous claim that Moore was “carrying on this whole double life with her … like a lost soul,” his personal life drew endless side-glances from the likes of Elle, Brooklyn Magazine, Flavorwire, and Jezebel, who penned the aggressive “Thurston Moore Confirms He’s a Dick”. To Moore, the world might have looked mighty dark, indeed, were it not for Prinz.

Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth

Earlier this year, Moore spoke out on his relationship with Gordon through the now defunct UK magazine The Fly. “I’m involved in a really sweet relationship and it really does make me happy, it truly does,” he said. “But I’ll always have that experience of sadness that a separation brings, especially one that was as important, not just to me but everybody around us.”

The fallout with Gordon was not without casualties or distress. “It’s humiliating. It affects people close to me in certain ways – my family, the woman I’m in love with,” he told The Guardian this week. “It can be really degrading, and I try to be philosophical about it.”

And he is very philosophical. At the poetry reading tonight in San Francisco, Prinz is young and chic, dressed in all black and gray. She is genuine and polite as you might expect an art book editor to be. She is friendly and accommodating, as you might expect a man like Thurston Moore’s girlfriend to be. She is also a fan of di Prima’s and took note of the unlikely relationship between the poet and her ex-husband, fellow beat poet Alan Marlowe. “They were so independent,” she says. “It’s hard to picture them together.”

Ironically, you can draw many parallels between the relationships of di Prima and Marlowe and of Kim Gordon and Moore. Both helped breed the other for success, and in the case of Gordon and Moore, they cemented their respective places in rock history by perpetually outdoing each other in and out of Sonic Youth.

Nevertheless, it was time to move on, and one way Moore did so was by using a life outlook and poetic direction like di Prima’s as a model for his writing on The Best Day.

“It has a certain sense of liveliness or humor to it, and there’s certainly a craft involved,” he says. “It’s trying to extol ideas of virtue — acceptance of existences and things like that. In a way, she’s sort of exemplary for me in the lyric writing that I do right now for a record like The Best Day.”

Thurston Moore – “The Best Day”



Band Members: Thurston Moore, James Sedwards, Debbie Googe and Steve Shelley


And The Best Day is very lively. The record’s aesthetic, inspired by a photo Moore found of his mother on a serene trip to a nearby lake (which now serves as the album’s cover art), is a bit unlike his previous solo efforts, though it actually didn’t start out that way.

“In a way, [the photo] was sort of the catalyst for what I wanted the focus of the record to be. It was personal, it was intimate, it was familial, and it denoted this quality of being in a place of safety and serenity with a sense of calm to it.”

Initially, the album was to be called Detonation, based on one of the record’s tracks about political unrest in London in the 1970s brought on by radical poets and writers. “In those days, there was a lot of energy around retaliation, but it wasn’t about hurting people but rather about hurting things like buildings and systems.” Moore tapped transgender poet Radiux Radio, an unpublished, underground London poet (and neighbor of Moore) to author a few songs, including “Detonation”. However, when the album began to wrap up, he opted for a softer album feel.

“I wanted the record to be this potpourri — this wild kind of grab bag of everything. I was going to call it Detonation because I wanted it to have this energy that was kind of explosive, but I wasn’t really that sold on that idea.”

Thurston Moore Band – Detonation



Published on Aug 15, 2014

Cafe OTO – August 14th 2014  –  Thurston Moore – Guitar/Vocals


Recording with Sonic Youth’s Steve Shelley, Deb Googe of My Bloody Valentine, and James Sedwards, an English guitarist, guided the album towards a more serene energy. “Hearing what it sounded like then, I was so excited by it. I just thought, ‘That’s what I want this record to be.’”

Moore even took the opportunity to revisit the punk uppercut “Germs Burn”, formerly a B-side to January’s 7” “Detonation”, which was originally meant to be more of a meeting of rough and euphonic elements. “It’s a weird song because it’s these things rubbing against each other. There’s a lot of friction in that song. There are these melodious lines and also that punk rock energy, just trying to meet in a weird way.”

Other elements emerge on the record as well. The album contemplates a primal energy in lyrics for tracks like “Speak to the Wild” and “Forevermore”, though it wasn’t necessarily a deliberate theme. “I noticed that there were some animal references going on in the record, and why that is I don’t know,” Moore says. “I think I got into the idea of animals being representational of a life force … I find them replete with poetry.”

It’s a theme that rears its head periodically during the album. In “Forevermore”, there are “animals that will adore you”; Speak to the Wild” is something of a warning against barbaric forces; and the Jazzmaster’s intro to “Vocabularies” even sounds a bit like bird sounds.


Thurston Moore – Forever more (live at Pukkelpop 2014)



“Usually when I write, I just start writing, and I let it come to life for me. Whatever internalized state or emotional ideas I have is coming through in the language. I’ll refine it as soon as I see what’s happening.”

For The Best Day, it seems that some of those emotional ideas stemmed a bit from the urge to draw that serenity from chaos. “A lot of the times, I’ll see there’s a lot of these kinds of really personal truths that happen, and I think that’s the magic in writing. In music, you can be more anarchistic, more messy with it and then reign it back in because it just evaporates — because it’s sound. It just disappears. It’s ephemeral.”

Moore has come a long way (in many aspects of the phrase) from his time with Sonic Youth, but particularly with his writing. At the Naropa Institute, he can devote considerable work towards thinking about the impetuses for his writing. “In a way, it has become more interesting to me now, where I feel like I can sit down and look at the work I did with Sonic Youth, which was very collaborative, as well as my own process within that collaboration as a democracy,” he says. “I feel like I can write about [all of it] as an experience and talk about it now.”

These days, finding serenity seems to be the most important thing to Moore, and The Best Day appears to be his avenue to peace.

Later that night, Moore addresses the crowd at the Great American Music Hall, recounting the reading we watched at the Library. “Diane di Prima is a very important poet in my life, and she had a lot to do with the thoughts for the positive, forward, and bright sounds that went into this record. I’m dedicating the next song, ‘The Best Day’, to her.”

But despite the reigned-in nature of The Best Day and of the prologue before his dedication, Moore can’t help but fall into a dissonant wormhole during his live show. Chaos is in his nature. He might long for serenity, but that’s not really what suits him best.

“Live close to the edge and love it,” as di Prima says. Peace and euphony, in both life and in music, doesn’t come easily after all.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2014 Induction Ceremony at Barclays Center


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Nirvana Reunite, Kiss Remain Civil at Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Evening wraps with Lorde, Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and Joan Jett all fronting Nirvana

Prior to the performance, Nirvana was introduced by R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, was was a close friend of frontman Kurt Cobain. “This is not just pop music, he said of the band. This is something much greater than that.” He continued, “Nirvana were artists in every sense of the word. Nirvana tapped into a voice that was yearning to be heard. Nirvana were kicking against the mainstream. They spoke truth and a lot of people listened.”

Grohl gave the first and longest of the acceptance speeches, using it to commemorate the four other drummers who played in the band, while also recognizing the D.C. punk band that inspired him as a musician. “For whatever reason, I got to be the luckiest person in the world,” he said.

Novoselic took time to remember Cobain.”I wish Kurt could be here,” he said. “His music meant so much to so many people.” He also thanked Sub Pop Records, the Melvins’ Buzz Osborne, and Steve Albini, among others.

Kurt Cobain’s mother spoke on her son’s behalf. “He would be so proud, he said he wouldn’t, but he would be,” she said.

Courtney Love provided the final remarks, saying, “I have a big speech but I’m not going to say it. I just wish Kurt could have been here.” She kept things civil, even giving a hug to Grohl.

Watch the full speech below.



It was exactly midnight when Joan Jett walked onstage with the surviving members of Nirvana and tore into the opening chords of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” By that point, the capacity crowd at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center had witnessed a long evening full of miraculous moments only possible at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony: A beaming Peter Criss threw his arms around his supposed sworn enemy Paul Stanley during Kiss’ peaceful reunion, Cat Stevens led an arena full of Kiss and Nirvana fans through a sing-along rendition of “Peace Train,” Courtney Love embraced Dave Grohl in a huge bear hug after 20 years of nasty accusations and lawsuits and Bruce Springsteen played with two founding members of the E Street Band for the first time in 40 years.

But nothing could compare to the thrill of watching Joan Jett, Kim Gordon, St. Vincent and Lorde take turns fronting Nirvana. Dave Grohl, Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic hadn’t played a Kurt Cobain-penned song together in public since the frontman killed himself 20 years ago, and it’s quite easy to imagine they never will again. Jett kicked things off with a wild, thrashed-out “Smells Like Teen Spirit” that had men in tuxedos dancing on their chairs. Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon kept the energy high with a faithful rendition of “Aneurysm” and Annie Clark (St. Vincent) belted out “Lithium.” It wrapped up with Lorde’s gut-wrenching take on “All Apologies.” She was born two and a half years after Cobain died, but she somehow had the wisdom and confidence to deliver those agonizing lyrics.

The evening began a little after 7:00 PM with a speech by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Chairman Jann Wenner. “We are thrilled to be here tonight in Brooklyn,” he said. “As Keith Richards has said so often, at this age we’re thrilled to be anywhere. We’re here to celebrate our youth, our music and that which keeps us forever young. Rock and roll offers hope and passion and joy and courage and love, a way to understand the world around us, and for so many of us, a way of life.”

Peter Asher handed out the first two awards of the night to Beatles manager Brian Epstein and Rolling Stones manager/producer Andrew Loog Oldham. “These are the first two managers ever inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he said. “Each of them managed one of the most important ensembles in music history, let alone just rock and roll. And each of whom guided his band from anonymity to global stature, though in very different ways.” Epstein died in 1967 and Loog Oldham opted to skip the ceremony, so nobody was on hand to accept their awards.

Next up was Peter Gabriel, who delivered a hypnotic rendition of “Digging In The Dirt” before Chris Martin walked out to induct him. “He brings together sounds from all over the world,” said the Coldplay frontman. “At times it feels like he releases music at a snail’s pace. But one looks back now and sees this amazing cathedral of song. It was worth the effort and the time that it took. He’s always been an innovator and a seeker. He’s a curator and an inspirer. He also helped John Cusack get his girlfriend back in the movie Say Anything.

A very grateful Gabriel hoisted the award above his head Cusack-style before his acceptance speech. “Watch out for music,” he said. “It should come with a health warning. It can be dangerous. It can make you feel so alive, so connected to the people around you, connected to what you are inside. It can make you think that the world should and could be a much better place. It can also make you very, very happy.” He then sat at the piano and duetted with Martin on the 1992 obscurity “Washing of the Water” before bringing out surprise guest Youssou N’Dour for a long, euphoric “In Your Eyes” that brought everyone to their feet.

The vast majority of press leading up to the Hall of Fame centered around the never-ending drama of Kiss, so it was a little surprising to see their big moment come and go so early in the evening, though it did make sense because they were the only inductees in the house that decided not to perform. Longtime Kiss superfan Tom Morello gave a fiery induction speech for his heroes. “Kiss was never a critics’ band,” he said. “Kiss was a people’s band…The first Kiss concert I saw was the single loudest, most cathartic two hours of music I’ve seen to this day.”

Ace Frehley, Peter Criss, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley walked onstage together to thunderous applause, and each of them looked a little choked up by the moment. Simmons spoke first, and, against all odds, was the most concise. “We are humbled to stand on this stage and do what we love doing,” he said. “This is a profound moment for all of us. I’m here to say a few kind words about the four knuckleheads who, 40 years ago, got together and decided to put together the kind of band we never saw onstage, critics be damned.”

After speaking kindly about his two former bandmates, he yielded the microphone to them. Peter Criss thanked everybody from the group’s former managers to their truck drivers, while Frehley rambled a bit since he had trouble reading his own notes without his proper glasses. “I was 13 when I picked up my first guitar,” he said. “I always sensed I was going to be into something big. A few years later, there I was. I experienced the Summer of Love.”

Stanley has been the most vocal critic of the Hall of Fame in the long buildup to this ceremony, and he used the opportunity to take some parting shots. “The people are speaking to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame,” he said. “They want more. They deserve more. They want to be part of the induction. They want to be a part of the nomination [process]. They don’t want to be spoon-fed a bunch of choices. The people pay for tickets. The people buy albums. The people who nominate do not.”

Any hopes of a surprise Kiss performance were dashed when they walked offstage and Art Garfunkel stepped out to induct Cat Stevens, who now goes by the name Yusuf Islam. “If Paul and I hadn’t split up around 1970 there’d be no room on the charts for Cat Stevens to take over,” he said. “‘Bridge Over Troubled Water had to go away so that Tea for the Tillerman could arrive.”

Cat Stevens gave a long speech where he name-checked everybody from Bach to Bo Diddley to Leonard Bernstein and Bob Dylan, even pausing in the middle to ask for a glass of water. He won the crowd right back when he picked up an acoustic guitar and delivered a flawless “Father and Son.” He’s 65 years old, but since he’s taken decades off from touring and lived a very healthy lifestyle, he sounded absolutely amazing. Paul Shaffer and his band then came out for “Wild World” and a rousing “Peace Train” where they got some help from a large choir. It served as a nice preview for the American tour that Yusuf is supposedly plotting for sometime in the near future.