Exclusive Interview with Kim Gordon

MP3: This year you're celebrating the 25th anniversary of the group and looking back to the first Sonic Youth release, the Noise Fest cassette, back in '82. Did you in any way anticipate all the success that has followed?
Kim Gordon: No, I mean, of course not, but at the same time, things have moved pretty gradually. So, it's not like Nirvana or something outlandish. I mean, we've lasted so long and all that.

But everything has been so gradual that it's sort of all come from, just hard work and basically being at it.
MP3: Do you think, had you actually become, say, an overnight success similar to Nirvana, it would have had a completely different impact on the group itself?
Kim Gordon: I'm sure it probably would have. I think that really f**** with people.


MP3: Since the beginning of the new millennium, the Sonic Youth doesn't seem to have slowed down at all. There have been four major releases and a few one-offs. From a fan's perspective, it seems as if you all could really go on forever. Do you feel that could actually be true--that Sonic Youth could record forever?

Kim Gordon: Well, no. I mean, you know, at the same time it's just not something we think about. It's like sitting around thinking about how long you're going to live. I don't know. I think it all just happens. Something will happen, or we'll just--it'll be logical, like, well, no one wants to do it any more or something. But, you know, it's like you don't sit around thinking about it, so--.


MP3: I guess, just from an outsider's perspective, it seems really incredible that a group of musicians could continue to record incredibly gorgeous and valid music for such a long period of time without seeming like you might tap the well, so to speak. The forthcoming album, Rather Ripped, it seems that you're getting back to just the four core members of the group, and I'm curious about the departure of Jim O'Rourke for this project, and also was it a conscious decision to go back to the four of you?
Kim Gordon: Well, it was kind of accidental that Jim started playing with us, although it wasn't sudden...we hadn't really looked around to think who could be a fifth member. At the same time, we knew he probably would be passing through, and we were surprised he stayed as long as he did. But, so we weren't suddenly like "OK, but who else can we get?" We just basically, well, it was just natural that we would start working again as a foursome. Having said that, Mark Ibold is coming on tour to play bass with us, but he wasn't involved with this writing or recording or anything.

MP3: Was it difficult to make the decision for a touring bassist? I'm sure many, many people would have loved to have filled that spot.
Kim Gordon: Well, Mark Ibold was the only one I could really think of...because I had played with him before and, I could play a part like very complicated. And I didn't want somebody who was too much of like a conventional bass player, you know, something, someone more kittenish.

MP3: Right. Like Les Claypool probably would have not been a good fit.
Kim Gordon: Yes...and Mark is just so pleasant to have around, and everyone knows him, more or less, so it was actually kind of inspiring--inspirational idea on my part--if I don't say so.

MP3: Well, I've had the album for about 24 hours now, and I've listened to it repeatedly. And two of the songs--
Kim Gordon: You're sick of it already? MP3: No, no, no. Two of the songs on the album really caught my attention lyrically, and one is your song, "Reena," and the other song, "Do You Believe in Rapture?" What was the motivation behind "Reena"? Kim Gordon: I was sort of inspired by this book, Reena Spauling, who is kind of a fictional character. It's a collaborative piece of writing by a bunch of people. It's a fictional character about this fantastic kind of girl creature who makes her way in the art world, art fashion world, in New York. And she kind of reminds me of people that you meet who seem fascinating, but they're crazy. And you don't know why they're fascinating, and it just could be in simple things they do or some mystery. It's kind of like one of those gross friendship crush songs, because I just thought I had never written a song about that. And it's also--the name of this became the name of this gallery where I've shown. So, I kind of wanted to continue the myth of Reena Spauling.

MP3: And then, the other song I mentioned was "Do You Believe in Rapture?" which I know you don't sing on the album, but I'm just curious if you could give any insight into that particular song?
Kim Gordon: Well, I don't know. I guess there are lots of interpretations. I mean, I think it's--I think Thurston probably wrote it because of all the leanings toward religion and Christianity and, you know, that are on the political landscape right now, and Bush has really fractured the country in that way by representing the Right, extreme Right, fundamentalist Right. But "Rapture" is something else, it's more--you see it in paintings as just kind of ecstatic and more erotic sort of state. But I kind of see that as an alternative to the fundamentalist religion. You know what I mean?
MP3: I do.
Kim Gordon: Posing that as an alternative to religion, MP3tian, conservative, fundamentalism, or something, in terms of a pursuit of rapture in art or ecstatic experience in music or something.

MP3: Over the years, Sonic Youth has proved to be a huge supporter of relatively obscure acts, and being from the Bay area, I've been very impressed with your decisions to tour with the Erase Errata, to play with Deerhoof, with Wolf Eyes and, I believe, even Rubber O Cement. Does your label ever get frustrated by your decision to not tour with major acts?
Kim Gordon: Well, I mean, I don't think they care about that sort of thing. I mean, we are actually this summer doing some dates with Pearl Jam. But, I mean, we've done things like that in the past. I don't think they care what we do. You know, we have our own audience, and it's not like--they just know we're not going to do certain things.

MP3: But these relationships seem to have really--I mean, like I said before, the Erase Errata or Deerhoof, they seem to really keep Sonic Youth in the minds of younger people that are getting into various new and experimental music. Do you yourself sort of spend a lot of time listening to what's bubbling up from the underground?
Kim Gordon: Oh, sure. I mean, most of it is probably more obscure and just more noisy than either of those two bands, but Thurston has stuff all the time that he's involved with that is fairly obscure and experimental. And there are local bands that we're into that are like that. Yes, I guess I listen to more of that than I do whatever, the Clap Your Hands, Yeah Yeah Yeah, or Yeah Yeah Clap Your Hands, you know, those bands, who I've never heard. People ask me what I think of them, and I don't really have access to them, because I don't listen to radio...or they don't play them on the radio stations I listen to.

MP3: Over the years you've been involved in a few side projects and, obviously, your own art and experimental performances. Can we, your fans, ever expect to hear a true Kim Gordon solo album?
Kim Gordon: Maybe, yeah. MP3: Have you ever thought about that? Kim Gordon: Yeah, I have. I mean, the trio record started out as that but that was the trio record. And then, I was thinking of doing a record just like starting with voice, because I did this one song that was just kind of a cappella, and I did it for this art piece I did where people could come and play music to go with a voice. And it's in this big tent, kind of, it's a black-glitter tent that I made. So, I was thinking of making a whole record kind of like that, but I haven't yet. But I probably will do something like that.

MP3: Oh, I would look forward to hearing that. I had a question here that was submitted by a coworker. They wanted to know what kinds of music your daughter listens to and how her taste has evolved? And is she at a stage yet of listening to music that would piss you and Thurston off?
Kim Gordon: She's beyond that right now. I mean, she listens to Beatles, and the Ramones, and the Kinks. She likes Blondie, Fiona Apple. You know, she's actually kind of open to music right now...So, she has pretty sophisticated tastes right now. She actually has a band that she started with a couple of friends.

MP3: Really?
Kim Gordon: Yeah. They're doing their second gig this week.

MP3: Is it a little odd for you seeing your own child going into music?
Kim Gordon: Oh, I don't think it's odd. I see it as more of a teenage activity than, you know, she's only 11, but you know, I think it's great that she knows so many girls who want to play music. And I see it more as a teen activity than I do as going into music.

MP3: Right.
Kim Gordon: It's great. You know, it's just a way for them to express themselves. And they're more interested in that than learning their instruments.

MP3: Well, genius lies in amateurism.
Kim Gordon: Yeah. Kim Gordon: I mean, I never learned--you know, it's just in the vein or...they're more punk rock, I guess.

MP3: Were you just saying that you never learned to play?
Kim Gordon: Yeah. I mean, I don't even think of myself as a musician, really.

MP3: What would you consider yourself then?
Kim Gordon: Kind of more visual artist...because that's where my training was. I just happened to start playing music for the conceptual ideas.

MP3: Well, that's what I would call a very successful happenstance.
Kim Gordon: So, you live in San Francisco?

MP3: I do, actually, yeah.
Kim Gordon: I think we're playing one show there...at the Fillmore, but I'm not sure.

MP3: Yeah. I actually saw you there on the Murray Street Tour. Kim Gordon: Oh, OK.

MP3: And it was a really fantastic performance.
Kim Gordon: That was a fun--fun record to play.

MP3: Yeah.
Kim Gordon: The last two records I liked playing a lot.

MP3: Yeah. They're really, really beautiful pieces of art.
Kim Gordon: Oh, thanks.

MP3: How do the new songs translate live?
Kim Gordon: I don't know. We haven't--well, actually, half the songs we have played live. Mostly, all the ones Thurston sings. And we played in a small club in Paris and did a radio show, concert. And we played six of the new songs. Some of the other ones are really unknown at this point. I mean, in the basement they sound fine.

MP3: Well, I look forward to seeing how they work out...
Kim Gordon: Hopefully, by then, we'll know how to play them and everything.

MP3: OK. Well, unfortunately, I have to go, as I'm sure you do.
Kim Gordon: Yes.

MP3: But it was wonderful speaking with you.
Kim Gordon: Thank you. MP3: And have a good day. Kim Gordon: OK, you too. Bye.

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