Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon Talks Divorce From Thurston Moore, New York’s No Wave Scene, Pussy Riot and More

kimgordon Sonic Youths Kim Gordon Talks Divorce From Thurston Moore, New Yorks No Wave Scene, Pussy Riot and More

When Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore announced their split, it felt like a dissolution of indie rock itself. If the long-time king and queen of the no wave movement, New York City, and Sonic Youth couldn’t make it work, then who could? After a lengthy silence on the details of their break-up, Gordon finally opened up in an extensive interview with Elle Magazine.

Sadly, the details behind the demise of indie rock’s most spectacularly unique couple are highly ordinary, even typical. But the real story here isn’t the cheating, the divorce or their marriage, but Kim’s impact on the art and music scenes of New York City.

On her breakup with Thurston:

“I can understand people being curious. I’m curious myself. What’s going to happen now? We have all these books, records, and art and are getting it all assessed; that’s what is taking so long. It’s just weird. I can’t tell what’s normal. We seemed to have a normal relationship inside of a crazy world, and in fact, it ended in a kind of normal way—midlife crisis, starstruck woman. Thurston was carrying on this whole double life with her. He was really like a lost soul. We never got to the point where we could just get rid of her so I could decide what I wanted to do. It did feel like every day was different. It’s a huge, drastic change. Rap music is really good when you’re traumatized.”

On being a part of Sonic Youth for so long:

“When you’re in a group, you’re always sharing everything. It’s protected,” she says of being in Sonic Youth. “Your own ego is not there for criticism, but you also never quite feel the full power of its glory, either. A few years ago I started to feel like I owed it to myself to really focus on doing art.”

On experiencing the No Wave scene in New York:

“When I came to New York, I’d go and see bands downtown playing no-wave music. It was expressionistic and it was also nihilistic. Punk rock was tongue-in-cheek, saying, ‘Yeah, we’re destroying rock.’ No-wave music is more like, ‘NO, we’re really destroying rock.’ It was very dissonant. I just felt like, Wow, this is really free. I could do that.”

On growing up in Los Angeles:

“I remember when we were young, playing on these huge dirt mounds that became freeway on-ramps. And my mom pointing to Century City, saying, ‘There’s going to be a city there.’ I have a lot of nostalgia for Los Angeles at a certain time—just the landscape, before it was overgrown with bad stucco and mini malls and bad plastic surgery. It wasn’t like I was happy. I don’t want to be back in that time, but it felt a lot more open.”

Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill/Le Tigre) on how Kim affected her musically:

“She was a forerunner, musically, just knowing a woman was in a band trading lead vocals, playing bass, and being a visual artist at the same time made me feel less alone. She invited my band to stay at her and Thurston’s apartment. As a radical feminist singer, I wasn’t particularly 
well liked. I was in a punk underground scene dominated by hardcore dudes who yelled mean shit at me every night, and journalists routinely called my voice shrill, unlistenable. Kim made me feel accepted in a way I hadn’t before. Fucking Kim Gordon thought I was on the right track, haters be damned. It made the bullshit easier to take, knowing she was in my corner. I loved so many kinds of art besides music, and it sometimes made me feel torn, but Kim seemed very comfortable doing whatever she felt like at the time.”

On playing the relationship between music and other forms of art:

“I never really thought of myself as a musician. I’m not saying Sonic Youth was a conceptual-art project for me, but in a way it was an extension of Warhol. Instead of making criticism about popular culture, as a lot of artists do, I worked within it to do something.”

On Pussy Riot and feminism:

“Women make natural anarchists and revolutionaries, because they’ve always been second-class citizens, kinda having had to claw their way up. I mean, who made up all the rules in the culture? Men—white male corporate society. So why wouldn’t a woman want to rebel against that?”

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(Elle)