Saturday, July 01, 2006

"You don't want to be defined while you feel you're evolving"

There's plenty of interest in the Sonic Youth interview in the latest issue of The Stool Pigeon, not least Kim Gordon's admission that she "hated" the V Festival last year - to which Thurston Moore protests: "But we got to hang out with Robert Plant! You don't get to hang out with Robert Plant every day"...

It wasn't until very recently that I discovered Jim O'Rourke, a full-time member of the band for Murray Street and Sonic Nurse, had left - the reason being that he relocated to Japan to study "film and language and culture studies". Apparently former Pavement and Free Kitten bassist Mark Ibold is going to be contributing both bass and guitar for their forthcoming American shows as a means of plugging the gap.

Naturally there's much talk of new LP Rather Ripped, which I still haven't got but which features like this just make me salivate even more. Moore claims it's heavily influenced by The Beatles, much to Gordon's surprise. "I've listened to The Beatles more in the last year than I ever have in my life", he says - not least because their daughter Coco loves them, and particularly Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ("the most significant rock album in the history of rock!").

I'm guessing Rather Ripped still sounds like a Sonic Youth record though - as the article's author Natalie Moore begins by pointing out, it's always been the case with them that they are fascinated by both "high brow" art and "low brow" pop culture, and that both influences are absorbed, refracted and reflected while there remains at the core a sound that is distinctively and undeniably Sonic Youth.

Moore is often taken to task for his ceaseless gabbling about, and referencing of and endorsement of other bands (as well as artists and authors), but his response to the interviewer's point "You've always had a strong commitment to other bands and the underground music community" is that of a genuine fanboy who just happens to be in a hugely influential band:

"I don't ever see it as a commitment. For me, I just really like to see bands play. It's funny because I know most musicians don't so much. Sometimes I don't really have an interest in socialising or being in a situation with a lot of people, I just really like seeing a band. It's inspiring seeing what's going on withthe performance. I like to see how people actually PERFORM. Sometimes it's not even... I mean, it certainly is the music that draws me to a band, but sometimes I'm also drawn by personality or whatever is being physically presented on stage".

The interview concludes with Gordon's thoughts on a Gabriel Garcia Marquez quote, "In the end, it is impossible not to become what others think you are":

"I remember doing interviews years ago and somebody asking us what our record was like, or being kind of mad because somebody would describe or pigeonhole a song, or pigeonhole us in a certain way, but then, as time goes on, you kind of understand why they do that and why something becomes important or is analysed in a certain way. And you don't want to be defined while you feel you're evolving. But, at the same time, there is a point now where it is weird - you do get glimpses of, 'Well, maybe I AM that!'"

For someone like me on the other side of the fence from Gordon and Moore, it's really refreshing to hear someone in a band concede that pigeonholing is inevitable but also understandable and not always a negative thing. And at the same time I can appreciate that it must be frustrating to feel yourselves constrained by the labels those on the outside impose on you which you either don't think fit at all, or which don't fit any more because you've moved on. It sounds as though they've more or less stopped being concerned about the issue altogether.

Incidentally, this was the first issue of The Stool Pigeon that I've come across (in Fopp), and very impressive it is too: loads of good interview features including Arctic Monkeys, Mudhoney, TV On The Radio, Frank Black and Bobby Gillespie, plus news, a live section, comment and analysis and pages dedicated to other art forms. And all for nowt, too. If only they can resolve the issue of the serious quantity of ink it leaves on your fingers...

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