Given Thurston Moore’s dizzying productivity and the diversity of his creative output, adding “Sonic Youth” to his name as a descriptor is too restrictive. From launching Ecstatic Peace Library, a book publishing wing of his Ecstatic Peace record label, to co-writing No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980 and contributing words to Grunge and Punk House: Interiors in Anarchy, Moore is an avant-rock renaissance man. He’ll be playing at the First Unitarian Church Chapel this Saturday with guitarist Bill Nace, violinist Samara Lubelski and Philadelphia-based harpist Mary Lattimore. We caught up with him via email to chat about his recent activities.
The volume was low during your panel discussion with Jim Jarmusch at All Tomorrow’s Parties. Did I hear correctly that you opened a record store?
Well, I’m in cahoots with a record store. There are two fellows here in Western Massachusetts who have a small experimental music and art label called Feeding Tube and they decided to open a used record store in Northampton, Mass., which sorely needs one. They asked Byron Coley and I to partner with them knowing that we had access to a very sick amount of insanely amazing vinyl. Now that Byron and I are old men we are primed to unload and unleash a few hundred boxes of killer plastic. People who go into the store, which is called Feeding Tube, walk out in a daze, and usually with emptied wallets.
In April you gave a talk called “A Dissertation on White Noise” as part of the Avant Garde Preschool in New York City. What was the reaction from the kids?
It was at a storefront in Manhattan run by Andy Spade, where he presents interesting events and sells items he picks up from around the world that spark his collector mania. He had asked if I wanted to do something at this series for children and I said “Hell Yeh Mister Spade Dude.” I had been asked years prior to do a parent thing at my daughter’s middle school so I did a talk about experimental music, showed some of that cool clip of John Cage on What’s my Line?, and performed a 10 minute prepared guitar duo with Bill Nace. Then I asked the kids what they thought. One of them said it sounded like water. So, anyway, I told Andy I would do the same at his thing but just the talk and the playing—again with Nace—and we did it. Then we had cupcakes, and all hell broke loose.
How’s your upcoming Matador album coming along?
It’s called Benediction, recorded in Southern California at Beck’s home studio with him producing. Beck sings and plays a little bit on it. Samara and Mary both play on it quite extensively and very, very beautifully. Beck really put them through the paces.
If I remember correctly, the last time you played Philly was for the Jack Rose memorial. What’s your fondest memory of Jack?
Jack used to sit in my kitchen here when he’d play around Northampton and commune with my dogs. One of my pups was named Chime and he got run over and died, but right before he did, he hung out with Jack. The last photo I have of Chime is him sitting on Jack’s lap.
How did the lineup for this Philly show materialize?
When Samara and Mary were recording with me in Cali, we talked about doing a gig together including Bill Nace, who I’ve been playing duo gigs with a lot lately under the aegis Northampton Wools. When Bill and I played at the White Noise dissertation for preschoolers, Mary was there playing harp near the entrance to the store.
What’s Sonic Youth up to in 2011?
We are starting off by playing a New Year’s Eve gig in London with The Pop Group. Then we go to Chile end of February for a week. That’s it. We’re laying low and preparing to record some secret sides.
Thurston Moore, Mary Lattimore, Bill Nace and Samara Lubelski perform Sat., Dec. 18, 6pm.
Sold out. First Unitarian Church Chapel, 2125 Chestnut St. 215.821.7575. r5productions.com
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PW's Music Issue 2014