Six (More) Questions With ... Thurston Moore


President for life in the daydream nation.

Thurston Moore is in full-fledged flogging mode, making the rounds to talk about his new book, "No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980." He called recently for this story - but after 40 minutes of chatter about no wave's cacophonous, confrontational music and players, we moved on to some other topics.

Here, then, is the no-no wave interview with Moore, indie-alternative icon, record collector, label dude, Starbucks compiler, Facebook member and all-around tall guy.

There's another new book on my desk right now, "Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth." Is it on your recommended reading list?
I read the galleys but I haven't gotten the real book yet. I did see it in the bookstore and saw the photos; that was amusing, to see the way we looked in 1980. I'm flattered that anybody would do a book on us in any capacity. When David Browne approached us with the fact that he had a deal to do this book, we were like: "Cool." He seemed like a nice enough guy; we'd done interviews with him before. He really wanted to do a very detailed book on us and we gave him many, many hours.

But it's a little hard for me to read about our history, because there will always be these kind of episodic gaps. "This happened and that happened." But I have yet to read anything about us that talks about the kid of intellectual atmosphere, the intellectual life that we have with each other, that connects with the contemporaneous culture that we involve ourselves in. It's sort of there in that book, which gives some perspective to it. But it doesn't really. It's hard to capture something like that, which is such an abstract.

You seem to spend a fairly incredible amount of time on discovery and exploration - not to mention reading. How do you find the time to actually write and record new stuff?
Oh, I don't. I get some things done, but basically I don't get most things done. But I try not get too hung up on things I can't do. I do what I can do, and that's it. I try to have my priorities straight, which are my family and myself before music and anything else. It's all intersected with my personal life - most people I know are musicians or artists, and I have a fascination with so much of the lifestyle. I try to keep a sane head about it, but I do tend to sort of overbook myself.

You're turning 50 this year. What does that mean?
It's the beginning of the end. It's all downhill from here as I start crashing into middle age. I might start acting out maybe, destroying everything I've built. (Laughs.) I try not to think about it, really. But I'm into it in a way. It's kind of radical.

Let's talk about commerce. Some of your fans went ballistic when news came out that Sonic Youth was doing a Starbucks compilation, "Hits Are for Squares." Not very indie of you, etc., never mind that you recorded for Universal Music. Explain, please.
I was basically looking for different avenues of distribution. The reality is that nobody's going to record stores anymore - but they're going to Starbucks to buy teas and coffees and donuts. It's just another store for God's sake. I know a lot of people apply a lot of issues to Starbucks and say they have some kind of nefarious business. I don't know anything about it; I'm sure there are some young radicals who can set me straight on that. But I kind of like the absurdity of it, the [expletive] you of it. I appreciate that people are watching us, but whatever.

We put together this compilation of our songs chosen by people in the public eye who we knew were fans - actors, writers, musicians, artists. And it came out pretty well. Our original cover idea was a picture a friend of ours took in a Starbucks in New York. A homeless guy had his head down on stained copy of the New York Times, and there were some college kids in the picture, which looked like a bombed out Starbucks waiting room. We sent that in and they said: "No!" (Laughs.) Even though it's the interior of a real Starbucks. Our friend then took a picture of a yuppie wearing white headphones, which we used. And it's kind of subversive really.

At least you're still buying music, which I know because you bought a live Peter Brotzmann and Sonny Sharrock LP from a friend of mine on eBay last year.
Yeah, but that's all very intermittent. Once in a while, I'll go on eBay and do some trolling and all the sudden go for it. But I try not to. It's certainly not a daily routine for me as it was through the '80s and '90s. I'm more into archiving underground stuff than I am buying records now.

Do you think Sonic Youth will ever be voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Do you care?
I have no problem with awards or awards ceremonies. I don't take issue with them; what it means is that people are celebrating your work in some capacity. But the Hall of Fame - whatever. It's a certain cabal of people who created this institution. It's not like real people are voting. It's like the Grammys. Very rarely does something win that doesn't have to do with sales of the record or the lobbying of the record label or management. It's the same thing with the Hall of Fame. You start lobbying your artist a decade early and the cabal votes. But that was before the Sex Pistols got in, so who knows?

By J. Freedom du Lac |  July 21, 2008; 8:44 AM ET Interviews
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Comments

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Hate to say it, but Sonic Youth have earned the right to release a Starbucks Greatest Hits disc. In a world where even Bob Dylan and Clash songs are on TV, I think SY's "transgression" is pretty minor.

Next step: a new My Bloody Valentine album available exclusively at Seattle's Best Coffee locations. The Pitchfork partisans will have massive anxiety attacks.

Posted by: Turquoise Boy | July 21, 2008 9:59 AM

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