More Thurston Moore

What a Sonic Youth guitarist does in Northampton
By MATT ASHARE  |  August 30, 2006

THURSTON’S WAY: “Whenever I put out more sort of pop records, I’d get a lot of heat from certain quarters of the avant-garde police.”

Just as R.E.M. will forever be associated with Athens, Georgia, Sonic Youth will always bring to mind downtown NYC. That it’s been eight years since Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon left New York for Northampton to raise a family hasn’t changed that any more than Peter Buck’s presence in Seattle for the past decade has. But for Moore in particular, the move has done little to slow down his extracurricular musical activities.

“It’s a single-main-street sort of college town,” he says of Northampton when I catch him at home on break from Sonic Youth’s current tour in support of their new Rather Ripped (Geffen) — a tour that hits Avalon this Sunday. “And I think people just take our presence here for granted. We’re not the Chili Peppers or Pearl Jam or anything like that. And we certainly didn’t come here with any sense of entitlement. We bought a big-ass house here because we could afford it and we’d been stuck in a small apartment. Sonic Youth can rehearse in our basement, and we actually do perform around here quite a bit. We play these shows at the Flywheel, which is sort of a community center, and we’ve done benefits, things like that. But I’m not sure what kind of impact we’ve really had on the music scene except that it’s probably exciting for some people that Kim and I are here.”

And outside of Sonic Youth? “I play with a lot of noise improvisers around here. To me this was always J and Lou’s town [Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis and Lou Barlow]. So it already had that kind of vibe to it. We keep a fairly low profile. I play in a lot of basements and kitchens and doughnut shops. I have two or three projects with a lot of these Hampshire College sort of people, like the Northampton Wools. It’s a community of psychedelic folk noise or whatever Wired magazine called the ‘New Weird America’ in that cover story. There’s a lot of that here.”

Getting out of NYC has also given Moore time to focus on Ecstatic Peace, the label he launched in the early ’80s to release cassettes by friends like Lydia Lunch and Swans leader Michael Gira. “There really weren’t a lot of cassette-only labels at the time. And right now, those are my favorite releases. Half of what I write about are cassette-only releases from the underground.” He’s referring to the music column he co-authors with Byron Coley for Arthur magazine. “I think the sound quality is as good as if not better than vinyl.”

Ecstatic Peace has also cultivated a more accessible side over the years, with releases like the debut album by the New York indie-pop trio Guv’ner. “It was never apparent exactly what the æsthetic of the label was. And whenever I put out more sort of pop records, I’d get a lot of heat from certain quarters of the avant-garde police. But with my touring and family schedule, it became this thing that would sleep for periods of time.”

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Related: Moore on the fringe, Boston in Austin, Post-punk pantheon, More more >
  Topics: Music Features , Lou Barlow, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr.,  More more >
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