An Interview With Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore
As part of the experimental, "No-Wave" music scene, they played an integral role in the formation of a new music genre. Sonic Youth changed the landscape of the music world, contributing greatly to the beginnings of what became the "alternative" genre.
Sonic Youth is wild. They express a dynamic, psychedelic sound with novel utilization of feedback and instrument modification. Many of their songs are lengthy, gracefully gliding back and forth from light and sweet guitar, to violent and insane synthetic hard-core.
At 43, with a seven-year-old daughter, lead singer Thurston Moore is still making waves.
Moore ventured from suburban Connecticut to New York's then decrepit Lower East Side in 1977. By 1981 he was performing at Radio City Music Hall in his band Sonic Youth.
The Spectrum had the opportunity to ask Moore about his feelings on the Sept. 11 tragedy after his Thursday night performance at Buffalo State College's Rockwell Hall. The following are selected excerpts from the conversation.
Spectrum: There seems to be such a myth with people our age, like 20, 21, about what the Lower East Side scene was like back when you moved there. When you moved to the Lower East Side were you upset that punk was dead?
Moore: I moved there in '77, so it was heyday.
S: What do you think about the myth about it now?
M: Whenever there is a change in culture and subculture there is also a sort of myth in its history.
S: Is New York still a cool place to live?
M: I haven't been there in a couple weeks so I really don't know. It's always been a place that's catered to people who could live on the cheap and be artists and writers in this creative environment that was infused by European culture. That sort of changed a lot in the last 10 years when there was a real real-estate boom and it became very professionalized.
S: So, you have a home in New York and one in Massachusetts?
M: Yeah, Kim [Gordon] and I have an apartment on Lafayette and Houston. It's sorta downtown near Chinatown.
S: Have you guys been able to get back to your apartment?
M: Oh, we can get back to our apartment. It's our studio that we can't get back to in the ground zero.
S: Do you have any opinion on what should happen? At this point, what should we do?
M: I think that we should be aware of what information is out there, and what information is not being...ahh... I mean there is so much shared information going on right now that its like you're not getting to the main stream, it [information] is rampant now with the Internet.
It's unprecedented, there has never been a crisis of this magnitude where you have people connected as such. People are completely connected.
During the Vietnam War there was the mainstream media and there was sort of the underground media which was like the hippie newspapers, the liberation news services. And the mainstream media always portrayed it as this kind of lunatic fringe. And it was kinda its fault, it set itself up for that. But I think society now is quite different. We can't really look at people who sort of spread through the more liberal wrap. I mean a lot of it is sort of professorial. A lot of it is coming out of the universities. And that's really interesting to me, in a way. But for the most part it's really hard to say what we should do.
S: What do you think we should do as a nation?
M: What we should do? I don't know. To me it seems like everybody is victimized and everybody is innocent in a way, except for these kinds of extremely radical factions and political warlords.
S: You mean Bush's family?
M: Yeah, you know, these radical holy war people.
And like all of the sudden it's in the backyard. It's the kind of thing that's been happening to foreign countries, to them its nothing new. To us it is completely insane. Completely insane. Especially with the dynamic of our country which is so separate from the rest of the world, and set as this kind of materialistic thing.
S: Do you agree with Bush's reaction?
M: Bush's reaction? I can't even figure out what his reaction is. He's so illiterate. You know I can't even understand what his reaction is. It's like he's hiding a hunting jacket behind his desk. You know, it's so complicated and what he's saying certainly isn't going to explain it all.
S: Your lyrics and your music are incredibly free and loose, not restricted at all. I'm wondering if [writing] was always like that for you or if you had to learn to open up and let go.
M: There is a sort of restriction to it in the sense that there is structure to it and in the sense that I like the way words and rhymes look on a page. It's a little deceptive to read. It's a very visual construct and to read it you sort of lose a sense of visual shape. I realize that reading work to an audience is sort of misleading.