I obtained some groceries, some peanut butter
To final a few days.
— Speaking Heads, “Life Throughout Wartime”

This isn’t how I imagined my dialog with Kim Gordon. I first reached out in early January 2020, anticipating a gradual response as a result of Kim appeared busy: she had just lately launched a brand new report, began a tour, and was actively campaigning for Bernie Sanders. Then, the unfold of COVID-19 quickly accelerated and the potential for doing an interview dwindled even additional. When South by Southwest was cancelled, I obtained a well mannered observe that Gordon was unavailable.

Murphy’s regulation then swung into motion and the state of affairs solely worsened. The virus shut every thing down. Remoted in my residence, I wrote to Gordon’s publicist, “I’m social distancing and determine that, as a contract author, the most effective factor I can do is to have conversations with artists I love and get them revealed. However I fully perceive if Kim passes.” I obtained a fast response: Gordon would do the interview.

I meant this genuinely. At this second of utmost anxiousness — amid the latex gloves, N95 masks, and existential dread — Gordon, 67, appeared like a super artist to speak to. As a performer, she initiatives an unflappable air, a dwelling embodiment of the punk ethos that nothing — not a stage diver, heckler, or technical meltdown — will cease the present. Her 2019 album, No Residence Document (Matador), seems like a voyeuristic have a look at trendy life from afar. Even after I began listening to Sonic Youth, as a child, she gave me the sense that nothing might faze her — an imperturbable cool, that additionally comes off as stalwartness.

The night time earlier than we spoke, I pulled a number of books from my cabinets: Gordon’s 2015 memoir Lady in a Band, Jimmy McDonough’s Neil Younger biography Shakey (Sonic Youth is mentioned), and a e book known as Easy methods to Write About Music, which I purchased on an impulse, simply because the title amused me. The joke was on me: after I flipped to the “Easy methods to Interview an Artist” chapter, the pattern interview supplied was with … gulp, Kim Gordon.

Our dialog befell the next day, by telephone, over the course of an hour. Working from residence, like most everybody, I went out to my storage and sat in a closet, balancing my laptop computer on my knees and my telephone in my fingers (I didn’t wish to wake my sleeping 13-month-old). Gordon spoke to me from her residence in Franklin Hills, the neighborhood sandwiched in between Silver Lake and Los Feliz.


ALEX SCORDELIS: How are you doing proper now?  

KIM GORDON: I don’t know. [Pause.] I simply did a web-based yoga class.

Had been there different individuals patched into the category, or was it only a one-on-one?

It was on Instagram. Truly, it was sort of annoying, as a result of it’s already onerous to see the display screen, what the teacher is doing in your telephone, after which individuals’s names saved popping up [as they logged in]. I couldn’t work out how you can eliminate that.

That is the brand new actuality. Sadly.

Yeah, that is the brand new actuality.

I wish to speak in regards to the previous few weeks — you’ve ping-ponged from canvassing for Bernie Sanders to acting at Zebulon right here in Los Angeles, to performing overseas in Europe, to now dwelling within the period of social distancing. What has it been like for you?

The Bernie marketing campaign has been a thread by means of all of it. Then it switched from the politics to the virus. It’s been unusual. I really obtained sick in Europe which, after I journey, I just about all the time get sick. I by no means had a fever or cough, however I nonetheless don’t really feel completely proper. I used to be simply dizzy through the yoga class. I truthfully don’t know why that was, perhaps a abdomen factor, or who is aware of. Perhaps I’ve leukemia. I’m a hypochondriac. However I’m feeling so much higher. However I don’t know. It’s simply very unusual. I can really atone for issues. I assume, like lots of people, I’m going to attempt to be taught Spanish now. And I can all the time make artwork. I don’t know who’s going to purchase it.

What’s it like creating artwork on this second of disaster?

Nicely, I haven’t even actually began. I did one thing yesterday, some drawings that I needed to do for some individuals. It’s onerous to concentrate on something proper now. However in some methods, it’s like being on tour alone, or when you must journey for work alone. Whether or not it’s to do an artwork exhibition or promo … you’re sort of alone. So in a bizarre method, my typical exercise is just not that completely different from social distancing. It’s simply what it’s like if you’re on tour so much.

I watched an interview with you on YouTube, and the interviewer known as your new album a “solo report,” and also you stated, and I’m paraphrasing, “It’s a solo report, however I had a neighborhood of artists round me who got here alongside.” On this second, how is your neighborhood of artists coping?

Simply texting. FaceTime. Mainly, everybody has just about the identical worries, and watching completely different movies or TV reveals or individuals suggesting, “Oh, let’s do like a … I don’t know, digital movie membership or one thing.” I don’t know what that’s. I assume simply watching the identical film after which speaking about it.

I really feel like individuals are likely to devour artwork like consolation meals in moments of turmoil. What’s been your expertise consuming artwork through the previous week?

This buddy of mine who is likely one of the two individuals who I’ve seen, one is my niece, who lives with me, and the opposite, he brings over information and artwork books. Like after I was sick. And it’s social distancing, however we nonetheless get to share tradition collectively. He has a variety of nice artwork books; we had a day of simply tradition.


Nimble and prolific, Gordon has punctuated her submit–Sonic Youth profession with shock twists: artwork reveals at Gagosian, performing activates Womenand Portlandia, wild electrical performances and albums from her noise band Physique/Head (with collaborator Invoice Nace), a 2015 memoir known as Lady in a Band, and in 2019 No Residence Document, the primary album launch beneath her personal title.

Regardless of this flurry of public exercise, she stays considerably mysterious and unknowable. In 2016, there was an web account devoted to posting photographs and tales a few run-in between Kim and a coyote within the car parking zone of the Silver Lake Complete Meals 365, an absurd “Paul is lifeless” delusion for millennials. And but, it appeared so unlikely that it may need really been true. Gordon has managed to keep up an elusive air regardless of having her personal energetic social media presence. In truth, simply the day earlier than, I had observed an change she’d had with Pavement’s entrance man. 


I noticed on Twitter that Stephen Malkmus ranked the songs on Led Zeppelin IV, and then you definately responded, “My fave!” I believed you have been simply being good, however this morning I watched your Amoeba Data “What’s In My Bag?” video, and you obtain Zeppelin IV and stated, “It’s my favourite.”

 Yeah, it’s my favourite of their information. I like III, additionally.

It dawned on me that you simply really are a baby of L.A. within the ’70s, and I used to be curious
to listen to your ideas on how Zeppelin manifests itself in your work.

I did a present a very long time in the past, like in 2003 or 2002, about L.A. I had this bizarre curiosity in Jimmy Web page’s curiosity in California. , just like the music “Going to California.” It was a diaristic kind of present, and it had these texts I’d written about rising up in L.A. and being into Joni Mitchell. On one wall, I did this airbrush portray of Joni Mitchell from the Girls of the Canyon album cowl. It was that iconic define of her. After which on the opposite wall was Jimmy Web page. I had this idea about how he’d been influenced by her, then I learn an interview the place he stated that when he listened to “Music for a Seagull,” her guitar taking part in made him cry.

At that present, I additionally had a video of driving round L.A., up into Laurel Canyon, that I put to the music “Tangerine.” Or was it perhaps “When the Jetty Breaks”? I neglect which one. [Note: she probably means “When the Levee Breaks.” But I didn’t correct her. Her use of “jetty” immediately made me think she’s someone who spends more time thinking about Robert Smithson’s Spiral
Jetty than Page and Plant.]

I wasn’t initially into Led Zeppelin. I believed they have been too macho or one thing. So I got here to them later. Truly, what obtained me was seeing a clip on YouTube, this early clip once they performed on the BBC. They did “Dazed and Confused,” and seeing Web page use his violin bow to play the guitar solo, that basic clip, I used to be like, “Oh my God, it’s wonderful.”

I all the time affiliate Zeppelin with the ’70s, however I believe that clip might be from 1969.

Proper, proper. I really feel like a variety of the ’70s was really within the ’60s … Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett … simply swathes of simply experimental noise music happening, with psychedelic lights and folks dancing. I’ve seen clips like that, too. It’s fairly wonderful. After all, everybody’s on medicine.


Gordon talked about that she begins most days by watching The Hill’s Rising with Krystal and Saagar, a political information net present. On her social media platforms, Gordon has documented her help of Bernie Sanders, and has inspired her followers to get out and vote for the senator within the Democratic presidential primaries. She has telephone banked, canvassed door-to-door, and even made a humorous video, “Cooking with Kim,” by which she blends “elements” like Medicare For All, Inexperienced New Deal, and Ladies’s Rights. The result is a sheet cake with Bernie’s brand. Gordon additionally joined Artists4Bernie, an artist-led marketing campaign that helps Sanders. As of early April, practically 4,000 artists have signed a letter of help for Artists4Bernie, together with Gordon’s tourmate from the ’90s Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and writer Rachel Kushner, who has written about Gordon’s Bernie help for Artforum.

Gordon advised me that she was first impressed by Sanders when she lived in western Massachusetts and would hearken to him communicate each Friday on the now defunct Air America radio community. “These are usually not radical concepts that he has,” she stated. “It’s sort of ridiculous, nowadays that individuals assume they’re.”


You’ve been an ardent supporter of Bernie Sanders’s marketing campaign. Sanders has positioned himself as an “arts president.” As somebody who’s toured in international locations the place the humanities are extra valued than they’re right here, what about his platform appeals to you?

Just about every thing. His concept that America wants excessive financial restructuring, after which all these different issues are interwoven. Medicare For All, Inexperienced New Deal. When you’re going to inform individuals, no extra fracking or oil or no matter, then you must have another technique of placing individuals to work, and coaching individuals. The working class is already in disaster, and now there’s this [COVID-19] disaster. And it simply actually reveals what’s mistaken with the system, and mistaken with actually the Democratic Occasion, and the institution. Mainly, they don’t actually care about staff, really, of their insurance policies.

I noticed a submit of yours on Instagram the place you point out that you simply’ve all the time supported anti-establishment, radical politics. How does Sanders match into the spectrum of what you’ve supported politically through the years?

Other than girls’s rights and supporting that, I haven’t been overtly concerned with radical politics. Solely in my head — my concepts, or how I really feel. I’ve all the time been anti-establishment. Rising up within the ’60s, that knowledgeable the way in which I see the world. I all the time noticed homogenized tradition as an evil type of capitalism. I’m not saying that I believe communism is nice or anything. Even in international locations which can be democratic-socialist democracies, their cultures might be simply as homogenized. All of us have H&Ms, Starbucks.

I wish to speak in regards to the music “Hungry Child,” off the brand new album. Listening to it, I believed again to after I was a younger teenager and I learn an article, most likely in Rolling Stone, the place you talked about touring with Neil Younger, and also you known as out his highway crew for sexist habits. As a child, that was the primary time I’d heard a girl name out sexism.

Thirty years later, you’re nonetheless utilizing your artwork and your platform, in songs like “Hungry Child,” to name out sexual harassment, violence, and abuse. The place do you see the struggle of girls’s rights standing now, and the place do you see it going from right here?

I assume perhaps the way in which all of the grassroots actions are, girls’s rights actions have all the time been having to hold the mantle themselves. And I believe our greatest hope is … it’s crucial that now we have to vote towards Trump. As a result of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is just not going to final one other 4 years. I hate to say that, however you already know … And Trump’s already loaded up the courts. I assume that basically is what now we have to do, is simply assist to help progressive individuals, get the Senate again, hold the Home, and attempt to get Roe v. Wade and abortion rights into everlasting regulation. I sort of grew up considering partly that it was [already law].

To arrange for this interview, I pulled my copy of Lady in a Band off the shelf. Once I flipped it open, the primary phrase that I noticed was Trump’s title. You point out him in describing the “ugly sheet of Trump buildings” that line the West Facet Freeway, that they’re a monument to city corruption. You wrote that earlier than he was a presidential candidate.

Oh yeah, he’s all the time been gross. I bear in mind, we did this picture shoot as soon as, uptown by Trump Tower. There was this huge big key, golden key within the foyer. I bear in mind posing subsequent to it. It was humorous.

In all of your years in New York, did you ever cross paths with him or his household?

Truly, unusually, somebody seated him subsequent to me at a Marc Jacobs trend present. I had simply occurred to have introduced my good buddy [the critic] Byron Coley, who couldn’t be extra worlds other than anybody going to a trend present. And he was sitting behind me, and I used to be speaking to him. I noticed this look on his face, squinting in sort of disbelief. And I circled, and it was Donald Trump strolling towards us. And he had full orange make-up on. Marc didn’t have a catwalk, so Trump stated to me, “Aren’t they alleged to have a kind of issues?” And like, “They should be costly to construct.” He’s such a fucking fool. I believe his daughter should’ve been modeling or one thing.

However there was an image in Leisure Weekly of the entrance row [at the fashion show]. There’re two individuals who have their jaws jutted out, and sort of leaning ahead. One is Trump and one is Byron. Byron has simply probably the most quizzical look on his face.


I noticed Sonic Youth play for the primary time in the summertime of 1995. I had simply graduated from the eighth grade. Gordon and her bandmates headlined Lollapalooza that yr. I caught the roving competition at Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. The venue, with a capability of 22,500, was offered out. Many of the bands and artists on the invoice carried Sonic Youth’s stamp of approval: Gap, Pavement, the Jesus Lizard, Beck, the Soiled Three, and Mike Watt, to call a number of. As a child recent out of a Catholic junior highschool, it was an eye-opening day. An outdated man supplied me and a buddy a joint (pretty much as good Catholic college youngsters, we politely declined). There have been cubicles for Rock the Vote and Rock for Selection. I noticed Mike Watt play bass with an egg whisk. To an unworldly child, Lollapalooza within the ’90s felt just like the epicenter of underground tradition. However trying again, the annual competition was extra like a roving head store. The amphitheater stank like dangerous incense and low-cost weed. A horde of youngsters dotted a sprawling garden consuming cheese fries, ingesting jumbo Cokes, and watching Cypress Hill carry out in the course of the day.

In my thoughts, the reminiscence that stands out is Sonic Youth. They have been shredding at an ear-splitting quantity, with Gordon thrashing away at her bass. Sadly, I might solely watch the primary few songs of their set as a result of by that time, my mother was already ready to choose us up within the car parking zone. She had arrived at 9 o’clock sharp.


I used to be 14 after I first noticed Sonic Youth play. At the moment, it appeared like there was a aim inside the band to convey underground tradition to suburban youngsters like me. Was {that a} acutely aware determination?

Yeah, completely.

It seems like a revolutionary act.

If you’re speaking to the transformed on a regular basis, it’s not … [pause] we simply wished extra distribution. After some time, if you happen to’re making one thing you want, you need as many individuals to listen to it as doable. And it’s extra radical to attempt to do one thing completely different inside the mainstream, quite than to function in a ghetto.

To that time, you have been bringing individuals from the underground to the mainstream with you. Was that one thing that you considered on the time?

What do you imply, like having completely different bands open?

Yeah. Lollapalooza 1995, as a 14-year-old, it felt such as you have been curating a present for a suburban child like me. To be like, “You must learn about these things.”

Nicely, it’s simply a lot extra enjoyable to play with bands you want, that you simply really feel like you may have some neighborhood round, quite than that you simply’re simply all lumped collectively since you’re performed on various radio. That was when various radio, to us, was all of a sudden like, “Whoa, wait a minute. We’re not like this.” It was sort of a pretend neighborhood, you already know?

I used to work at Paper Journal, and in 2012, a few my coworkers interviewed you for an oral historical past about your ’90s clothes line, X-Lady. I bear in mind them telling me, “Kim appeared baffled that we wished to speak to her about this.” What’s your perspective about trying again at your personal physique of labor?

I don’t know, it simply actually stunned me that individuals have been so taken with X-Lady, as a result of the garments weren’t that nice. Truly, I shouldn’t say that as a result of Mike Mills did graphic design for us, and the T-shirts have been nice. It was onerous to get the garments to suit correctly. However there wasn’t anything happening at time in
downtown streetwear for ladies. We didn’t actually generate profits from it until we offered it. I most likely made more cash from that than I made in Sonic Youth, which is sort of unhappy. However after we began Sonic Youth, we weren’t considering industrial success. We have been identical to, “Let’s make one thing cool.”


In the summertime of 2011, I revealed a profile of the band Wild Flag. After it ran, their publicist put me on the checklist for a present they have been taking part in with Sonic Youth on the Williamsburg Waterfront. I went on my own as a result of a plus-one wasn’t supplied. Once I arrived on the gate, I found that I wasn’t really on the checklist. I texted the publicist however didn’t hear again so I walked residence. Thirty minutes handed and I obtained an apology textual content and a assure that I used to be now on the checklist. I circled and went again. I had missed Wild Flag’s set, however I’d nonetheless get to see Sonic Youth. I’m sharing this story, so that you get a way of how moronic and banal life as a music journalist is. It’s like being a minor character in a particularly low-stakes Kafka story.

And but, that night time, Sonic Youth unleashed a ferocious set. The band performed with focus and fervor. Gordon stood heart stage, plucking an electric-blue bass. There was little interplay between the band onstage. At one level, Thurston Moore took the mic and stated, “Later tonight a large rattlesnake goes to rise over Manhattan and introduce us all to 2012. And it’ll spray LSD that can sprinkle down on us, and we’ll all flip into girls.” I do know he stated this at 9:02 p.m. as a result of I really wrote it down. I additionally snapped a photograph of the band that’s nonetheless on my telephone. I took it as a result of there was a full moon rising instantly above the stage as they performed, and many of the songs they carried out have been off their 1985 sophomore album Dangerous Moon Rising. It was an uncommon transfer for Sonic Youth, a band that in any other case spurned nostalgia.

That ended up being the final Sonic Youth present in North America. A pair months later, Gordon and Moore introduced their separation. That they had been married since 1984. The band performed 5 extra reveals later that fall in South America, to meet an obligation, after which like Gordon and Moore’s marriage, Sonic Youth dissolved.

I didn’t ask Gordon about her divorce. It’s a topic she lined in her memoir and within the interviews she gave on the time of that e book’s publication. Her e book has an all-time final line, proper up there with “Isn’t it fairly to assume so?” Within the memoir’s closing scene,
Gordon is returning residence to L.A. after a visit to New York (the place she was singing instead of Kurt Cobain with Nirvana at their 2014 Rock and Roll Corridor of Fame induction). She parks in a automotive in entrance of her Echo Park residence and makes out with a man. “I do know, it seems like I’m another person fully proper now,” she writes, “and I assume I’m.”


How would you describe your childhood in L.A.? 

Boring. For elementary college, I went to the Lab Faculty at UCLA. I be taught by doing, which is why, perhaps, I wish to work in several mediums. Nevertheless it was simply completely inventive, after which I needed to cope with public college after that, which I actually didn’t modify to. I actually hated suburban L.A., the banality of it. I felt like, after I learn that e book [Jean-Paul Sartre’s] Nausea, I used to be like, “Oh, yeah. This describes how I really feel as a youngster.” Highschool was higher than junior excessive. It was sort of actual. I used to be beginning to go to demonstrations, issues like that.

In the identical method that Sonic Youth was a gateway for suburban youngsters to modern artwork, have been there sure works that have been a gateway for you?

Oh, yeah. My brother took me to see this Godard film after I was like 14 or 15, Pierrot le Fou, which actually, actually blew my thoughts. I assume that was perhaps the largest factor. And simply listening to information just like the Velvet Underground and music from that point. Neil Younger. After which simply a variety of free jazz. I listened to the Artwork Ensemble of Chicago and Archie Shepp. My dad had an enormous jazz assortment, extra mainstream, however that was extra my early childhood, listening to stuff like that. Billie Vacation. Are you able to maintain on a second?

For certain. 

I’ve to textual content someone that I’m supposed to satisfy for a stroll. Can I name you again later?

After all. Ought to we arrange one other time to talk?

Yeah. Like round one or one thing?

That works for me. Thanks.

Okay, nice.


I stepped out of the closet in my storage and paced round. It was midday. Gordon can be calling again in an hour. My years within the trenches writing music journalism gave me a intestine feeling: she’d give me 10 extra minutes. Not more than that. I appeared over my questions. I wished to ask her a few picture of her and Kurt Cobain that she’d posted on Instagram on Tremendous Tuesday. However she may be irritated by that. I wished to ask her in regards to the alleged (however positively fictitious) coyote assault at Complete Meals. I additionally wished to ask her a bunch of nonsense lightning spherical questions. The world is teetering on the sting of oblivion, why not ask one thing lighthearted about how she takes her espresso or what her favourite dance transfer is? I known as a few pals and ran my questions by them. They stated I needed to ask the Kurt query and the lightning spherical questions. Gordon’s publicist texted me Kim’s quantity and stated to name her again.


Your new report got here out in October of final yr, and has a really trendy manufacturing high quality. It’s each experimental and would match seamlessly on a playlist between Cardi B and Ariana Grande.

I labored with Justin Raisen, who’s labored with Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira. I met him by means of his brother, who does a variety of hip-hop and stuff. I simply figured no matter I dropped at him, he would make right into a music, like he would make it sound that method. We did the primary music collectively, “Murdered Out.” That took place by accident. And was like, “Oh, okay, you get me.” It’s sort of trashy. And it had this playful component to it, which I appreciated. Mainly that’s why I made a decision to work with him.

I’ve yet another Bernie-related query. On Tremendous Tuesday, you shared a photograph of you and Kurt Cobain on Instagram in an try to get out the vote for Bernie Sanders. Cobain was an in depth buddy of yours, however he’s additionally develop into a logo. And his picture is highly effective. I used to be curious what impressed you to share his picture in that context?

[Pause] Actually, I used to be simply making an attempt to get individuals’s consideration. However I believe he would have accredited of Bernie.

Lastly, I’ve three or 4 lightning spherical questions for you. I noticed a health care provider from UCSF submit that singing is excellent in your immune system. Do you ever sing through the day, and if you happen to do what do you sing? 

I don’t. However after I was making an attempt to memorize these lyrics for my tour, I’d hear on my iPod to them and sing alongside. However that’s as shut as I get to singing aloud. I’ve lyrics going by means of my head, however nothing comes out of my mouth.

In what museum on the planet do you’re feeling most at peace?

 Oh, I don’t know. At peace?

It feels most like residence. Or, I assume, that you simply take pleasure in going to probably the most.

The museums hold altering and increasing their properties. I actually just like the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, however I haven’t been there shortly. I’ve seen wonderful reveals on the Beaubourg [Centre Pampidou].

What’s your morning espresso setup?

These days it’s been having a cup of rose Darjeeling tea with honey whereas I watch Rising.

You’re a bodily performer. What pop star do you take pleasure in watching dance probably the most?

Tina Turner. She is likely one of the most wonderful performers ever.

And to go off that, do you may have a favourite dance transfer of all time? 


Gotcha. Okay.

I imply, waving my arms round, I assume.


After we stated goodbye, I hung up and walked out of the storage closet I’d been sitting in. It was a aid to speak for an hour about something that didn’t cope with demise and illness. I felt considerably silly ending on these frivolous questions, however this was all new to me. I’d by no means interviewed an artist at first of a world disaster.

With Gordon, I by no means anticipated to get each reply I used to be looking for. She’s all the time let her artwork do the speaking for her. There’s an eerie Richard Prince portray on the quilt of Sonic Youth’s 2004 album Sonic Nurse that encompasses a nurse, whose face is partially obscured by a surgical masks — the sort everyone seems to be now carrying at Dealer Joe’s. Regardless of the masks, the nurse appears to be making direct eye contact with the viewer. There’s one thing of Kim Gordon on this picture: even when she’s baring her soul — like she does on her new album, and in her memoir — Gordon stays obscure. Generally this obscurity is literal — scanning outdated interviews on YouTube, Gordon often solutions questions from behind a pair of outsized sun shades. Just like the nurse on the album cowl, Gordon by no means lets herself be totally seen, although she might be heard, fully, loudly and with out restraint.


Alex Scordelis has written for Billy on the Road, and Troublesome Folks. His writing has appeared in New York, Rolling Stone, Playboy, Esquire, and The Believer


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