At 54 years of age, over 30 of those spent in the rarely forgiving music industry, Thurston Moore has seen it all. And he’s evolved with a noted precision. Just don’t expect him to elaborate on it.
As a member of the famously public-shy noise-rock innovators Sonic Youth, Moore routinely let the band’s music do the talking, as it did for 30 some years. Yet when in 2011 it was announced that Moore and Sonic Youth bandmate Kim Gordon would be separating after 27 years of marriage, the future of the New York pioneers was rightfully put in doubt. The band announced an indefinite hiatus in October of 2011.
“No one in Sonic Youth has yet to use the word ‘breakup’,” Moore says, giving little in the way of hope to the band’s legion of fans. “We are taking a breather though.”
The announcement of Sonic Youth’s hiatus came just five months after the release of Demolished Thoughts, Moore’s third full-length solo release. If the timing and title of the record seem premeditated, the solemn and sombre tone of the orchestral arrangements had many believing Demolished Thoughts wasn’t just a coincidence.
Sure enough, when pressed about both the timing of the release and his relationship with the album currently, Moore is reluctant to open up.
“I don’t play it live hardly at all anymore as it brings up memories of a time of heartbreak and confusion,” notes Moore. He won’t go into detail any further. It’s quickly established that Moore, a man of few words, would still prefer to let his music speak for him. “(Demolished Thoughts) is also about newness and reformation, so I acknowledge it,” he continues.
Like fellow influential ‘90s rocker Stephen Malkmus, Moore looked to Beck to produce his latest record. And according to him, Beck’s understanding of the record’s vibe helped bring the tracks to life. “The songs were very minimal with 12 string acoustic, which tends to be orchestral, and violin and harp,” says Moore. “Beck mixed the record in a way that accentuated the orchestral vibe, which I was fully into. The emotion was one of loss and love and was already inherent in the songwriting.”
As noted however, Australian fans shouldn’t expect to hear much of the album. Instead, Moore is ready to move on and let the world in on his latest musical path.
“Lately I’ve been touring with all new songs on electric guitar with a band called Chelsea Light Moving, which I’ll be playing at the Australian shows,” he says, elaborating, if only slightly, on his upcoming touring plans.
It would, of course, be slightly short-sighted to assume that Moore would do anything but continue upon the evolution which has seen him be a part of 90 releases, from textural dark metal to harshly experimental noise to the delicate and the sublime.
One might believe that, perhaps with his age, Moore would be interested in slowing down and focusing his efforts. Not so, however.
I asked Moore, somebody who’s never been one to limit himself sonically, what he’s been listening to as of late. His answer wasn’t surprising, in the least.
“I’ve been listening to ‘Fado’ music,” he says “An indigenous music of the Portuguese working class; music of love and sorrow and simplicity in the face of an overcomplicated world.”
It’s never been easy to chart Moore’s sonic evolution in a linear manner. He subbed in on R.E.M’s rollicking (and admittedly, straight up) 1994 magnum opus, Monster. 2006-2010 saw the crafty veteran release a number of experimental noise and drone records, while last month saw the release of Yokokimthurston, the confusing and distancing vocal-fuelled collaboration with Kim Gordon and Yoko Ono.
And the list doesn’t stop there. His work with everyone from Mark Ibold, Elliott Sharp and Kommissar Hjuler only fortifies his reputation as one of the more diverse musicians in recent memory.
Yet it his time in Sonic Youth, one of the most fundamental and influential acts of the late 20th Century with which Moore is most often associated with. Consistently writing, he insists his approach to songwriting does not differ with circumstances.
“I write songs the same way, regardless of the forum, be it Sonic Youth, solo or with a new band lineup as the one I have now.”
Chelsea Light Moving, the act Moore is currently fronting has been touring sporadically throughout the year, proliferating what Moore calls “The sound of Wild Boys looking to jack hypos of core passion into their veins.”
At once driving and deviating, Chelsea Light Moving finds Moore turning up the dial after Demolished Thoughts. If there were ever any preconceived notions of how a record Thurston Moore is associated with should sound, Chelsea Light Moving makes quick work of said notions. But of course, Moore wouldn’t pay any attention, anyway.
“I don’t think of there ever being preconceived notions and I certainly don’t feel the need to go against anything as such,” he says. “I just play how I feel regardless of what’s expected or what’s in fashion.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE