There aren’t many things we can think of that are more New York than seeing Thurston Moore at Radio City Music Hall with the bigass Christmas tree up (but dark) right down the street at Rockefeller. Actually, getting mugged by Al Pacino with a hot dog would be pretty fucking New York too, but we’ll settle. And Conor Oberst is coming along (or headlining) and he’s a great friend of The FADER as well, if a bit of a hillbilly. Just joshin’ Conor. The doors open at 8pm, and the Christmas tree gets lit up on November 28th. Read our Q+A with Thurston Moore from FADER 49 after the jump.
Twenty six years after founding Sonic Youth in New York City, Thurston Moore is releasing Trees Outside the Academy, a mostly acoustic, melancholy as fuck solo album (his second after 1995’s thrashy Psychic Hearts) which he says was influenced by his walks around Smith College (alma mater of Sylvia Plath) near his home in Northampton, Massachusetts. We rang him at Heathrow Airport while on tour with SY to talk about leaving New York, trying to be selfish and recording with his Dinosaur neighbor.
Was it strange to make another solo album after so many years of collaboration? And why an acoustic album?
I’ve always had the desire to do something that doesn’t involve any democracy. I basically was going to do a record of just me, playing acoustic guitar, and then vocals and that’s it. As soon as I started preparing for it, I started wanting to hear other instruments on it. I wrote all the songs, but I allowed Steve [Shelley, drummer] and Samara [Lubelski, violinist] to create their own parts. I would pretty much give the thumbs up or thumbs down, but it was basically always thumbs up for what they were doing. Then I went in [to J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr’s Bisquiteen Studios] and overdubbed all the bass guitar and I would have J come up every once in a while. He was just downstairs playing guitar anyway. I would call him up on his cell phone, “Do you think you could come up and play on some of these songs?” About five minutes would pass or so, and I would hear him tumble up the stairs. He would pull out these weird off-brand, private made fuzz boxes and just line them up. He’d just be hitting all the different switches, and I’d be like, “Okay, stop. I like that sound. Let’s listen to the song,” and he’d be like, “Eh, just play it.” I’d play it, and he’d just rip through the whole thing, and I was just like, “Dude.” He’s from another planet, that guy.
Do you ever think about the two of you recording stuff?
Well, we’ve known each other for so long. Our trajectories kind of went apart for many years, but we were always friends. J’s a hard guy to get to know. He’s very private. It’s not like we’re fishing buddies or anything.
How did you end up in Massachusetts?
We didn’t move up there because of Mascis, although that was certainly alluring to us. We moved up there because we couldn’t afford any place else in New York City once our daughter started getting older. It was beyond our means. New York became too high-end real estate for us.
Was it hard to leave?
No, not necessarily. I had been there since ’76, and the New York that I had come up in for the most part had vanished. I didn’t really feel that bad about it. I’m never truly going to escape New York or anything, but when CBGB’s got closed down, as far as a personal era for me, we kinda air-lifted out of there.