BYLINE: Laura Burgoine
American musician, artist, fashion designer and actress Kim Gordon spent almost three decades as alternative rock group Sonic Youth’s vocalist and bass player. Following the dissolve of her marriage to the band’s guitarist and vocalist Thurston Moore in 2011 and the subsequent break-up of the band, Kim has moved onto musical collaborations, solo work and art. After performing at this year’s Meltdown, she talks to the Weekender…
You’ve just performed at Yoko Ono’s Meltdown as part of your experimental duo Body/Head with Bill Nace. Tell us about this collaboration…
Normally Bill Nace and I play as a duo with two guitars and vocals but this time we have Ikue Mori playing drums and electronic percussion. She’s someone I’ve known since the early ’80s; I used to see her play drums with DNA and she was one of my inspirations for wanting to play music. After DNA broke up she started playing electronic percussion and that’s what she’s been doing since then. She’s one of my favourite drummers. I always wanted to play with her and I turned 60 this year so I asked her to just come and play drums.
Have you played with Yoko Ono before?
We went in the studio a couple of years ago and basically improvised a record. I’ve played live with her at a gig in New York. She’s fun to play with, a good improviser and very game. She knows what’s she doing, she’s used to listening to people and just really natural.
You played with Sonic Youth for almost 30 years; what’s it like to experience that kind of longevity as a band?
It makes it both harder and easier. You have years of practice together and years of developing a musical style, but it’s harder in the sense you have to pretend that you’ve never played together in order to come up with new things. Nothing can go on forever. It was like a family, we had a sort of security and a language that develops in a non-verbal way.
Sonic Youth has been described as ‘no wave’ an underground punk sub-genre. Would you agree with that label?
It wasn’t no wave. It was very minimal and dissonant. We were post the Beatles. Like the Beatles but different. We were just kind of about deconstructing rock and then rebuilding it.
In the post Sonic Youth era you’ve embarked on more art projects; do you like the departure from music?
I’ve always done visual art, now I’m just more full-on with it. After years of being in a band it’s nice to not do collaborations. You feel more vulnerable when you go out on your own but this is what I feel I know.
Sonic Youth toured with Nirvana and later you appeared in Gus Vant Sant’s film Last Days about Kurt Cobain’s death. What was working on that film like?
It was really fun but so incredibly strange. Having never done an interview about Kurt, suddenly I was doing this film but I really trusted Gus. I felt it was a more poetic and removed piece of work about Kurt. It was very intimate, often only three people in the room and I made up a lot of my own dialogue.
What have you got on the pipelines at the moment?
We’re doing our EP, a Body/Head double album, which will be out in the States in September. Then we’ll be doing some touring in the fall in Europe and America.