Far Out catch up with Thurston Moore to discuss art, politics and his new solo album
Thurston Moore is a busy man and, at 58 years of age, he seems to have little intention of slowing down. So far this year the former Sonic Youth man has released his latest solo album Rock n Roll Consciousness, as well as extensively touring it with the Thurston Moore Group. He’s worked on and performed in The Can Project – an event dedicated to the legendary Krautrout rock band in which he led the second act with original Can vocalist Malcolm Mooney – and now he’s curated the first of two upcoming exhibition at London’s Red Gallery. All the while finding the time to fly back to his native America for some political activism. His response to me when I ask him about maintaining this momentum of work: “we keep busy!”
The exhibition in question is in support of a new book entitled ‘Musics: A British Magazine of Improvised Music & Art’, comprising the issues of the cult bi-monthly British zine of the same name, ‘Musics’, which ran from 1975-79 and focused on the activities of sound art, field recording, free improvisation, live electronics, 20th century composition, and audio culture and featured artists such as John Cage, Cornelius Cardew and K. Stockhausen. It was pioneering in its coverage of both indigenous and non-European music.
“Last year my partner Eva Prinz became absolutely obsessed with London’s F.I.G. (Feminist Improvising Group),” Moore explained about how the project came about. “They were an experimental ensemble in the 1970s consisting of members such as Maggie Nicols (whom just played the Ecstatic Peace Library Conference at Cafe OTO) and Lindsay Cooper, Georgie Born and many others. She found some archival recordings and photographs of them and starting asking all our friends on the improviser’s scene about them,” he explained with a new excitement. “One night while I was out-of-town Eva popped into the St. Mary’s Church on Stoke Newington Church Street, she said because there were lights on late at night and a chalkboard sign outside welcoming refugees in and crazy music coming out of the side door. It was the London Improviser’s Group. She immediately recognised our friend Steve Beresford. After the show Eva and Steve stayed up all night talking about F.I.G. because Steve knew them all. He mentioned Musics in their conversation and Eva set up a date to visit his own archive and the next thing I know we were scanning every issue to put them back into print.”
The book was published by Ecstatic Peace Library, Moore and Prinz’s publishing company, which in recent years has been an outlet for a number of their publications, exhibitions and creative outputs, on EPL Moore expanded: “Eva has worked in publishing houses, Taschen, Rizzoli, Abrams since she was a teenager, and she loves it, but now we can pick and choose what we feel is most important in our hearts to put into print.”
Topics for works have been very varied, from illustrated biography of Necrobutcher a member of the Black Metal band Mayhem to an exhibition of James Hamilton’s photography and collections of Moore’s own poetry. “We are communitarians, listening closely to ideas from our scenes,” he explains on the freedom of running the outlet themselves allows.
Continuing on topics close to his heart, Moore has been understandably vocal in regards to the recent state of politics and social affairs in his America. When asked on his stance on the importance of people such as himself with a level of influence speaking out, he responded emphatically: “It’s time to be vocal”. Although now residing in London for the past four years, the time away from home has done little to distance himself from the cause, something that became instantly clear when explaining his passion to speak out: “we have visited a half-dozen times this year, protesting,” he said with new enthusiasm.
This year has also seen the release of Rock and Roll Consciousness – a record out under his own name – Moore pointed out that the album was recorded with members of The Thurston Moore Group which consists of Sonic Youth’s drummer Steve Shelley, My Bloody Valentine’s bass player Deb Googe and local guitarist James Sedwards – musicians he has been playing with in different capacities for many years, and who are currently touring the album. It was recorded by Paul Epworth who Moore enjoyed the experience of working closely with at his Church Studios. Epworth has had an extensive and varied career in music but is most widely known for his work with artists such as Adele and Florence on the Machine. However, when questioning whether these pop sensibilities may have had a contrast with his uncompromising approach to recording, it seemed I put my metaphorical foot in it: “we were introduced through the Pop Group – due to producing them, which I wouldn’t necessarily classify as pop,” he told me as I began to squirm slightly in my seat.
With a work rate that is second to none, a thirst for success that has thrived since he launched a rock band in New York City 36 years ago, Moore’s ability to continually balance his creative flair with a true passion for implementing change and voicing his opinion is laudable. Before we said our goodbyes I wanted to rescue our chat from the pop influence debacle by touching again on his fervour for the changing state of polity and social affairs in his home country with an influence of the modern trends. “In an age where you can become an influential figure from reality TV or social media, do you think this could have a detrimental effect on the voice of the people?” I asked, tentatively.
“Sure, but we don’t really follow that world,” he answered with a reassuring sense of understanding… and he’s right.