presents: an interview with KIM GORDON


Sonic Youth at the Act IV Lounge in downtown Tampa, with fIREHOSE opening, ah, those were the fucking days, kiddies. I was just starting to 'get into' Sonic Youth, the Evol album was great, their first album on SST records, when SST was THE label. And Kim Gordon was enigmatic, slightly guarded and intimidating. The gig was great, the interview slightly less so, but we had fun.

Sonic Youth came to town again a couple years later on the Daydream Nation tour, and I requested an encore interview (figuring it HAD to be better than the first one,) but the band politely declined. A few years later, the guy who came on before us at WMNF, named Pete Wohelski, had the good fortune to be able to shepherd Sonic Youth around Tampa, when they were opening for Neil Young and Crazy Horse......

Jeff: Alright, I'm talking with Kim from Sonic Youth. Is this your first time in the Tampa Bay area?
Kim: First time in Florida.
Jeff: What do you think so far?
Kim: Um, it's pretty...expansive.
Jeff: Can you start out by telling us how the band got together?
Kim: Well, Thurston (Moore) and I were playing together with a couple other people, and that sorta fizzled out. We sort of got together with Lee (Ranaldo), the project that he was involved with kinda ended, and we'd just kind of seen him around, so we got together.

Craig: Who came up with the name Sonic Youth?
Kim: Ah, Thurston did. I think he said he had a dream when he was, like 15 or 16, about always wanting to have a band named Sonic Youth.
Jeff: The promoter was talking to us a little about your "anti-social behavior towards guitars", the drumsticks and screwdrivers (under the strings) as well as the alternate tunings. Do you have any thoughts or explanations about that?
Kim: Well, I wouldn't really say it's anti-social. Maybe it is in some ways, but in other ways it's...trying to expand the idea of the basic guitar, like what you can do with it. So in a way, it's sort-of...trying to breathe new life into it, from another way.
Craig: What kind of tunings are you using now, is it anything close to standard?
Kim: Some of 'em are. We use one thing we call the 'F Tuning' a lot. We used it in Death Valley 69, and Brave Men Run (In My Family), and a couple of the new songs.
Jeff: What about Death Valley 69? How did that come about, and how did Lydia Lunch get involved?
Kim: Well, we were all reading about Manson, all reading those...passing those books around and stuff....just kinda interested in that period of time, '69. When everything from the sixties kind of just...all the ugliness came out. People romanticize the sixties, and it wasn't that way. And so Thurston had this title, Death Valley 69. And he said "Hey Lydia, can you write some words for this?" (laughs)
Jeff: What about this rumor that you're going to cover the Beatles' White Album for your next record?
Kim: Well, it sort of got postponed. We were gonna work on it this fall, but we ended up doing this movie soundtrack out in LA instead.
Jeff: Do you wanna talk a little bit about that?
Kim: Chris Penn is in it, and Lori Singer, it's like, really bad. (laughs) It's coming out in January, I think. It's called Made in USA.
Jeff: Are you doing all the music for it, or just a couple songs?
Kim: We did the sub-score, and they used Secret Girl (from Evol), that's how it came about, 'cause they first asked us to go to a screening 'cause they wanted to use that in the film. And then they've got a few songs by other people, like Timbuk 3, and this band World Party.
Jeff: Is there gonna be a soundtrack album?
Kim: Well, I think SST's gonna put out the subscore, our music (this was finally released in 1995, on Rhino records, and has since gone out of print). And there was some talk about Chrysalis records putting out a soundtrack record of all the songs, which we have a couple songs on.
Jeff: How'd you get involved with SST records, and how would you describe your relationship with them?
Kim: Um, they just called us up, I guess it was last November or something, and asked us if we were interested. We'd always been interested in being on SST and...We’ve known Henry (Rollins)...and we didn't know Mike Watt that well at the time, but...those were all people that were pushing for us (to be signed by SST).
Jeff: You thought they'd be the best (label) to work with?
Kim: Yeah, definitely. I think they're the best independent (label) in America right now. We also have another record label in England, called Blast First, which has just merged with Mute records.
Jeff: How long have you been on the road, how much longer is the tour, and do you have any plans when you get done?
Kim: I guess we've been on the road...over a week. It's (the tour) like 20 dates in all. And after that we're just gonna...go back to New York, and work on new material, and then record another record, in the spring. We've been away (from New York) for almost six months now. In the spring we went to Europe and England for six weeks, then we did a big US tour for six weeks, and then we went out to California and did the soundtrack.
Jeff: How'd you go over in Europe, did you get a good reception over there?
Kim: Yeah, we do pretty well. We've actually toured there more than we have here, so...somehow it was just easier for us to go over there first. We just had...connections.
Jeff: Have you made any videos? Are you interested in film, besides the movie that you did? Are you interested in doing a film with the band?
Kim: Yeah, sure. We do have one video, Death Valley 69 video that Richard Kern did, this filmmaker in New York. And we've got a bunch of footage from our last tour, we're gonna, at some point, put together a video of the tour. With footage of other bands.... It'd be great to do horror films. The guy who did it (Death Valley 69 video) does these sort-of gore films. (laughs) There's a scene where we're lying with all our guts hanging out...It works really more like sound for a film, than it does as a video.
Jeff: How did you get involved with that Giorno poetry album you were on? (A Diamond Hidden In The Mouth Of A Corpse compilation, also featuring Husker Du, Cabaret Voltaire, and others. This cool compilation is available on import HERE)
Kim: Well, he (John Giorno) lives up the street from us, we see him all the time on the Bowery (a small neighborhood in south NYC), so...he just asked us.
Jeff: Any interest in doing any spoken-word stuff, like Henry Rollins?
Kim: No, not really. I did something, Lydia Lunch is doing a cassette compilation of stories by different people, called 'Stories By The Sexually Insane', and I did something for that.
Jeff: Any particular ambitions or expectations for the band?
Kim: Yeah, keep writing better songs, and becoming better musicians.
Jeff: What's the band's attitude towards drugs, and the psychedelic revival?
Kim: Crack is wack! Taking acid, you mean? I dunno, we don't really do any drugs. I mean, we all did our share of acid a long time ago.

Jeff: Do you consider the band to be psychedelic at all?
Kim: Um, not anymore than Reagan is psychedelic. (she dangles the bait in front of me...)
Jeff: How is Reagan psychedelic? (I totally fall for it....)
Kim: Just by his mere existence. (WHAMMO!)
Jeff: What about Madonna and Sean? (Sonic Youth and Mike Watt were fixated on Madonna at this time. An alternate title to 'Expressway To Yr Skull' on Evol was 'Madonna, Sean And Me.' And Mike Watt later covered Madonna's 'Burnin' Up', and Sonic Youth covered 'Into The Groove' on the Ciccone Youth album.)
Kim: You know, I keep hearing these rumors that they're like, breaking up and stuff. Like he found out that her ex-roommate in New York has AIDS, and...
Jeff: (visibly distraught, or faking it really well) Awwwwww.....
Kim: I know.....And you know, It's a continual (New York) Post headline.
Jeff: Any other media figures you're fascinated with?
Kim: Um...You know, Janet Jackson, she's pretty hot now. And Rick Rubin, he's a big media figure.
Jeff: Yeah, you like the Beastie Boys?
Kim: I like Run-DMC a lot, and LL Cool J, and Schooly D, I like some of that stuff. So what do you think of Miami Vice? Does it affect your life?
Jeff: No, it doesn't affect my life.
Craig: I've been to Miami, it's not like that.
Jeff: Are you playing in Miami?
Kim: Yeah. (and they did, on 11/14/86, at the Cameo Theater, with fIREHOSE and my man Charlie Pickett opening---talk about a GREAT triple-bill.)

Hey, you wanna talk to Ed? (Edfromohio, from fIREHOSE) Ed, talk to these guys.

Copyright 1986 GTO/HoMade/Jeff Schwier/
All rights in your ear sideways with a brick