Interview questions for Thurston Moore
By Kristin Angelique, autumn shade fanzine
thurston moore, northsix, brooklyn
photo credit: kristin angelique
This interview took place via e-mail around December 2004.
1. Where were you born and where did you grow up as a child?
Born in Coral Gables, Florida - kinda lived there then upstate Florida and then northwest Tennessee and then back to Florida, this time south Miami all this before I was even ten - and then to New England - Connecticut until I moved to NYC in 77. My dad was a school teacher that's why we moved around.
2. What are some early musical experiences that you consider significant - for any reason, but for example - one which made you first think, "Music is cool"?
Hearing Louie Louie by The Kingsmen and then hearing about the Beatles and then hearing about the Monkees - they were probably the most exciting cuz they had a TV show and we kids in the neighborhood related to them more cuz they were more like USA fun and , hell, they had a TV show every week - cool songs.
3. What was the first record you remember buying?
I had my mom buy it for me - it was the In A Gadda da Vida LP by Iron Butterfly - there were a couple of singles before that like Get Together by the Youngbloods and In the Year 2525 by Zager & Evans.
4. Please list, in any order, some of the bands you have especially liked when you were first really getting into music.
I like the Dave Clark 5 cuz I'd see them on this show called Where the Action Is and they had outfits and were rocking and having fun. I dug the Monkees as I said. I was into The Archies too even though they were fake. I liked the fake bands like them, the Hardy Boys (they had an LP) and the Harlem Globetrotters (awesome). When I got older I got into more heavy stuff like the Beatles and the Guess Who and then of course Kiss and Iggy and the New York Dolls and then forget it...
Since I was at least 6 - I've had this record by The Archies, "Everything's Archie" (I think). I used to sing to it all the time; it has "Sugar, Sugar" on it - which is a great song - but I also really liked "Bicycles, Roller Skates and You."
I couldn't hear so great, but that night at Northsix when we were both watching To Live and Shave in L.A. - I think you said, "This is better than The Bay City Rollers." I used to watch their show every Saturday. They were cool and fun, too. I never knew The Hardy Boys had a band; sweet.
5. How did you come to play an instrument and what was your first instrument? When did you first begin playing guitar?
I played flute in grade school and got an A+ but I quit when they said I had to wear a bow tie at the concert - I got a guitar but couldn't figure it out but my brother did so I learned watching him. I really got into playing electric guitar after hearing Sex Pistols and Ramones and I could actually sound like them and I totally dug the way they sounded.
6. When did you start writing music? What was the first song that you remember writing - lyrics and/or music - and how old were you?
I started writing about 1976 - 77 when I got into punk and some of the riffs were used in the first band I was in called the Coachmen
7. Were you in any bands before Sonic Youth and/or were you doing any solo stuff before Sonic Youth?
Yeh the Coachmen - we existed downtown NYC in 1977 - 80. Then I started playing with Kim and this other girl named Ann and we had a couple of different names before SY.
8. As briefly or at as great a length as you are willing - please tell me about the history of your band - how and when you first got together and when and where you played your first show and made your first recording and who all the members have been...
Omigod - I've done this so many times - I think maybe you can crib this off some SY site somewhere - I don't have the sanity to type it out right now...
9. How would you describe what Sonic Youth were doing musically when you first started?
We just wanted to play the most avant-garde rock because that was the scene we were way into in NYC but we also wanted to not get too far from classic rock ideas like a lot of the artist bands had been doing
10. Was experimentation part of your vision from the beginning or is this something that you just found yourself doing and it evolved from there? Please describe - at any length - how you came to love guitars and experimenting with noise.
After the Coachmen I had the idea that the guitar could just be a wild sounding tool and songs could be anything you say they are - it was a weird epiphany and I started to employ it by just crashing around the guitar - it was confusing to people I was playing with at the time - but it turned into SY.
11. I remember the day I was at Second Avenue Records in Portland, Oregon (circa 1996) and joyfully discovered that you had released a solo album - a vinyl double album - "Psychic Hearts" - which I bought and took home and fell in love with. I especially love the (title) song "Psychic Hearts", which I've replayed at least 500 times in the last 8 or so years. I made a cassette copy of your album for my Walkman and I would listen to it all the time when I was skateboarding. Oh and I love the artwork for the album cover. I will always love records the most. Your record is a good example of why (I especially love the green vinyl). Have you released any other solo albums where you also sing like you did on "Psychic Hearts"?
There are other songs from around that period that have existed on spurious b-sides and comps and some that were never anywhere - I've been planning on releasing them as Psychic Hats. I'm doing a new solo LP in February with Vincent Gallo producing.
That's so fucking killer. I am so psyched
12. Your song - " The Diamond Sea" - is one of my very most favorite songs ever. For me, it's significant that your lyrics feature the words "looking glass girl" - words that I once wrote in one of my poems circa 1993 (which evolved into a monologue for my movie and even became the film's working title for 6 years). But as personally cool as this is for me, the most special thing is having seen you perform "The Diamond Sea" live in 1995 (at the Roseland, in Portland). Your never-ending-like performance of that song totally blew my mind and it was quite possibly the most awesome musical moment I have ever witnessed. I don't know whether you have a story or not about writing that song or what it means to you - but I would love for you to tell me anything about it.
We haven't done that in a while - it was our big closer on the Lollapooza 95 tour. It's basically a song in dialogue with a woman as she falls in love with a man and its right at that magic moment - with all the evocation that surrounds such a momentous happening.
13. Although I am a fan of yours and of Jack Rabid's - I actually first heard of Even Worse because I was in the process of learning about Jesse Malin's first band - Heart Attack (which was when he was like 13-years-old) - who, to the best of my knowledge, released the first NYC "hardcore" 7" (in like 1981). [Oh - and I know that once when I was talking to Jesse about Heart Attack that he mentioned that they had played (at least once) on the same bill as you. Do you remember this, too?] I actually only recently learned that you played for a time in Even Worse and at some point, so had John Berry (Beastie Boys). Who else was in the band when you were? Please tell me anything about your experience as a member of Even Worse.
I was into the new hardcore scene at the time but I was a little older but I met Jack and Tim Sommer and they were doing Even Worse and they needed a guitar player and I said I would play - this was at a Nihilistics show.-- so I learned the tunes and we played a few gigs - I liked playing with them because it got me into gigs free to see bands like Minor Threat and Faith who I totally liked. But it was short lived. - I thought Heart Attack was the best NYC band and their 7" was the best of its time NYC style - it really inspired me - still does.
I loved The Faith. I never saw them, but I have their split LP with Void (Dischord). I also never saw Minor Threat (or Fugazi either), but I've always been a big fan of Ian's. Because they share the same last name, I have always assumed Ian and (?) were brothers, is this the case?
14. I think there's a 7" with "Leaving" / "One Night Stand" that Even Worse recorded live in 1983 (released or re-released in 1988?) - that I unfortunately don't have and have never heard Is there anything else that Even Worse recorded and do you have any advice for tracking this stuff down?
The 7"s by Even Worse are kinda lame maybe - the one I'm on is where its live and I don't think I'm really on it as I was stuck in California - but I'm listed - there may be a later one that I am on - some live jive.
I was forgetting about it before, but there's this great ROIR compilation "New York Thrash" with a lot of cool bands on it. It was originally a cassette but I got it on CD when it was reissued. It has Heart Attack and Even Worse and Beastie Boys and Kraut I did get to see Kraut, when they toured through Colorado in like '83 or '84. I have only seen Beastie Boys once and it was in like 1987 when they opened for Run DMC.
15. I don't think I know all the correlations between Sonic Youth and Beastie Boys - only that you both come from New York City and formed in the early 1980's, that both you and John Berry were once members of Even Worse and that you and Mike D. collaborated for a group called Puzzled Panthers. Are there any other coincidences like this? How did Puzzled Panthers form and what has become of this band?
I saw Beasties when they were a hardcore band and then they started going rap and that was kinda funny - no one thought it would hit big - Cookie Puss was great but even still -- but then Rick Rubin put em into the context of new hip hop which he had his ear on and it was perfect.. -- they blossomed into real artistic freaks. -- I kept in touch with Mike D. -- I interviewed him right after Cookie Puss came out for my fanzine I had called Killer. -- they became huge - they had SY play a few dates with them after they aligned themselves with our management team out west - the same ones that had done Nirvana -- -- Puzzled Panthers was the ad hoc group I threw together in order to record a Germs song for this Germs tribute LP --- I was in cali and got together with Mike and Mike Watt and Kira and Dave Markey - fun time --- plus I always thought Mike sounded like Darby Crash early on.
What is this LP called? Is it still in print or has it been reissued? I really need to hear this. The Germs ruled. Rocked and ruled J
16. What are some other side projects you have been involved with in the past and currently? Please tell me some things about these projects.
oh god - again - so many and I can't even begin to lay it out.
17. I was telling my friend Bob how excited I was that I was going to interview you and he mentioned Arthur Magazine and how you are a regular contributor and that I should ask you about this publication and your involvement with it. I haven't tracked down any issues yet (I did go to the website) but I am interested in what you have to say about this project. Also, I purchased an issue of what I think was a Sonic Youth fanzine, last January at St. Mark's Books in NYC. Unfortunately, it's packed away in storage right now and so I can't really reference it, but I mostly remember that it featured art, pictures and poetry and I think a nude photo of Debbie Harry. I also recall that you wrote an "Op/Ed" for the New York Times (April 08, 2004 is the one I am aware of). I think that all these writing and publishing projects sound cool and I'm interested in learning more about any or all of them and also I am wondering what other publications you have contributed to and/or are involved in.
Yeh I get asked to write all the time - I was brought up as a writer and have always entertained the notion of being a writer but rock n roll got in the way.
18. Backing up for a moment to further comment on Jack Rabid, mostly because it feels remiss not to mention The Big Takeover I just want to say that I think The Big Takeover is such an admirable and meaningful project and probably the coolest music magazine there is. It's pretty amazing to me that Jack's been putting this out for more than 20 years. I guess if you were playing in a band with Jack in 1983 that you've probably known each other for a pretty long time. Just because you used to be in a band together doesn't necessarily make this a good question for me to ask you - but I was wondering if you had anything to say about Jack Rabid and/or The Big Takeover.
Jack is awesome - I hardly ever see him - but I respect the hell out of the dude.
19. It's not often that I get to talk to someone who was also a part of that scene let alone someone who was in an awesome band that was hugely significant to that era as well as peers with all the great bands making music then. There were so many! I have so much nostalgia for that time but also - it really was an amazing time. I wasn't as discerning as some of my friends and I liked anything I liked whether it was really deep or super silly. Also, I'm less critical of bands that others may criticize for being imitators vs. innovators; but at the same time, I've always appreciated when someone is doing something really special and/or different that sets them apart from those that are pretty much all doing the same thing. Your band deserves a lot of credit for creating sounds and writing songs that are very unique and while you weren't the first band to use distortion - your way with distortion and creating art out of noise is brilliant and you have been incredibly influential on so many bands and a whole generation of music fans 10 years ago and now 20 years later For along time now, you've been both an observer of and a contributor to rock 'n' roll history and there are probably at least a thousand specific questions and/or thoughts I might ask you - and I am interested in all of your ideas and perspectives - and I realize that in a way it may seem like I am asking you a thousand questions disguised as one, but I'm just hoping you will say some things - anything - about your reflections on both the early days of punk rock and music in general over the last 25 years.
punk is soul power vision rock
20. Are there any bands from the last 10 years that you consider especially innovative and/or likely to be influential on the future of music and/or whom you just really like a lot.
thurston moore, northsix, brooklyn
(o: have you seen this :o)
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Interview conducted/written by Kristin Angelique.
Copyright Kristin Angelique and Thurston Moore.