|07.21.2008, 12:30 AM||#5|
Join Date: Mar 2006
Remembering a Wave That Was More of a Ripple
By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 20, 2008; M04
Alternative-rock godhead Thurston Moore wasn't part of New York's "no wave" music scene in the 1970s. But he was on the periphery, and there's photographic evidence to prove it: a black-and-white shot featuring some of no wave's central figures -- including Lydia Lunch, James Chance, Diego Cortez and Anya Phillips -- gathered outside CBGB, with Moore's Volkswagen Beetle parked across the street.
The picture, taken by punk-rock photographer David Godlis, appears at the front of a new coffee-table book, "No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980." Compiled and written by Moore and music journalist Byron Coley, the book is part essay, part oral history and part visual documentation of no wave, an ephemeral, extreme, experimental punk-rock subgenre that bubbled up in a seedy section of downtown New York in the late 1970s and evaporated almost as quickly. (Moore and Coley will appear July 29 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art for a discussion and book signing.)
Beginning in 1977, when Moore moved to Manhattan from Connecticut as a teenager, he would follow his avant-garde impulses in various bands, from the Coachmen to Sonic Youth, which remains a vital art-rock force nearly 30 years after its formation.
But while he had noisy aesthetics in common with no-wave acts such as Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, DNA, the Contortions and Mars, all of whom were major influences on Sonic Youth, Moore says he was squarely on the outside of no wave, which came and went without the mainstream ever catching wind.
"I was living in New York on East 13th when no wave started happening," Moore says in a telephone interview.
"Walking around the streets of New York, this filthy slum of a town, I would see those people. We lived in the same neighborhood, and we'd be in the same clubs. But I wasn't intersecting that community in an active sense. I didn't hang out with those people, because I didn't know them.
"And I certainly wasn't going to see their bands. I didn't have any money -- and if I did, I [initially] didn't want to see them. Nobody did, except maybe their friends and a couple of New York rock writers. I'd be saving my money to see the Ramones."
The Ramones were punk rock. The no-wave bands were something else entirely: something more cacophonous, more confrontational, more contemptuous.
Moore recalls reading interviews with several no-wave artists in SoHo Weekly News in which the musicians, such as they were, attacked Patti Smith, Television and other figures on New York's burgeoning punk scene and then scoffed at the notion that making music even mattered. Says Moore, who became a convert: "It was amazing and shocking, because we had just gotten into these punk bands wiping out everything that came before them."
Singer-guitarist Lunch -- who founded Teenage Jesus and multiple other no-wave bands, all of them short-lived -- writes in the new book's foreword that "the anti-everything of no wave was a collective caterwaul that defied categorization, defiled the audience, despised convention, [defecated] in the face of history, and then split."
No wave lasted little more than four years, according to Moore and Coley's definition of the scene (others have cast it more broadly), and it was a localized "little blip," Moore says -- even with Brian Eno producing a genre compilation, "No New York," in 1978, and David Bowie listening closely from afar.
But its commercial impact was negligible. In fact, Moore jokes that there might be more no-wave books on the market now, between his own and Marc Masters's "No Wave," than there were no-wave record sales during the scene's existence.
"Nobody bought those records," he says with a laugh. "And then it was over. As soon as anybody plays any semblance of rock-and-roll or gets involved in any traditional aspects of musicmaking, that scene implodes."
Still, no wave's influence lives on in younger acts such as Liars, Wolf Eyes, Erase Errata and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (along with just about every band that's performed at D.C.'s Velvet Lounge over the past year).
And, of course, it continues to inform the music of Sonic Youth -- though the echo has grown faint over the years.
Moore was reminded of this two years ago when Sonic Youth's self-titled debut EP, from 1982, was reissued with a series of bonus tracks, recorded live in 1981. "The guitar playing sounds so much like Mars or DNA," Moore says. "I'd forgotten how much that was completely our thing."
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|07.21.2008, 12:05 PM||#6|
invito al cielo
Join Date: Mar 2006
follow-up story to Moshe's last post
Six (More) Questions With ... Thurston Moore
President for life in the daydream nation.
Thurston Moore is in full-fledged flogging mode, making the rounds to talk about his new book, "No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980." He called recently for this story - but after 40 minutes of chatter about no wave's cacophonous, confrontational music and players, we moved on to some other topics.
Here, then, is the no-no wave interview with Moore, indie-alternative icon, record collector, label dude, Starbucks compiler, Facebook member and all-around tall guy.
There's another new book on my desk right now, "Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth." Is it on your recommended reading list?
I read the galleys but I haven't gotten the real book yet. I did see it in the bookstore and saw the photos; that was amusing, to see the way we looked in 1980. I'm flattered that anybody would do a book on us in any capacity. When David Browne approached us with the fact that he had a deal to do this book, we were like: "Cool." He seemed like a nice enough guy; we'd done interviews with him before. He really wanted to do a very detailed book on us and we gave him many, many hours.
But it's a little hard for me to read about our history, because there will always be these kind of episodic gaps. "This happened and that happened." But I have yet to read anything about us that talks about the kid of intellectual atmosphere, the intellectual life that we have with each other, that connects with the contemporaneous culture that we involve ourselves in. It's sort of there in that book, which gives some perspective to it. But it doesn't really. It's hard to capture something like that, which is such an abstract.
You seem to spend a fairly incredible amount of time on discovery and exploration - not to mention reading. How do you find the time to actually write and record new stuff?
Oh, I don't. I get some things done, but basically I don't get most things done. But I try not get too hung up on things I can't do. I do what I can do, and that's it. I try to have my priorities straight, which are my family and myself before music and anything else. It's all intersected with my personal life - most people I know are musicians or artists, and I have a fascination with so much of the lifestyle. I try to keep a sane head about it, but I do tend to sort of overbook myself.
You're turning 50 this year. What does that mean?
It's the beginning of the end. It's all downhill from here as I start crashing into middle age. I might start acting out maybe, destroying everything I've built. (Laughs.) I try not to think about it, really. But I'm into it in a way. It's kind of radical.
Let's talk about commerce. Some of your fans went ballistic when news came out that Sonic Youth was doing a Starbucks compilation, "Hits Are for Squares." Not very indie of you, etc., never mind that you recorded for Universal Music. Explain, please.
I was basically looking for different avenues of distribution. The reality is that nobody's going to record stores anymore - but they're going to Starbucks to buy teas and coffees and donuts. It's just another store for God's sake. I know a lot of people apply a lot of issues to Starbucks and say they have some kind of nefarious business. I don't know anything about it; I'm sure there are some young radicals who can set me straight on that. But I kind of like the absurdity of it, the [expletive] you of it. I appreciate that people are watching us, but whatever.
We put together this compilation of our songs chosen by people in the public eye who we knew were fans - actors, writers, musicians, artists. And it came out pretty well. Our original cover idea was a picture a friend of ours took in a Starbucks in New York. A homeless guy had his head down on stained copy of the New York Times, and there were some college kids in the picture, which looked like a bombed out Starbucks waiting room. We sent that in and they said: "No!" (Laughs.) Even though it's the interior of a real Starbucks. Our friend then took a picture of a yuppie wearing white headphones, which we used. And it's kind of subversive really.
At least you're still buying music, which I know because you bought a live Peter Brotzmann and Sonny Sharrock LP from a friend of mine on eBay last year.
Yeah, but that's all very intermittent. Once in a while, I'll go on eBay and do some trolling and all the sudden go for it. But I try not to. It's certainly not a daily routine for me as it was through the '80s and '90s. I'm more into archiving underground stuff than I am buying records now.
Do you think Sonic Youth will ever be voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Do you care?
I have no problem with awards or awards ceremonies. I don't take issue with them; what it means is that people are celebrating your work in some capacity. But the Hall of Fame - whatever. It's a certain cabal of people who created this institution. It's not like real people are voting. It's like the Grammys. Very rarely does something win that doesn't have to do with sales of the record or the lobbying of the record label or management. It's the same thing with the Hall of Fame. You start lobbying your artist a decade early and the cabal votes. But that was before the Sex Pistols got in, so who knows?
By J. Freedom du Lac | July 21, 2008; 8:44 AM ET Interviews
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|07.21.2008, 04:22 PM||#7|
invito al cielo
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: in yr fotobukit
"You're turning 50 this year. What does that mean?
(...) It's kind of radical."
Greed Recordings bandcamp
~The Rex~, stalkin' yr shit since 2008.
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|02.18.2009, 07:21 AM||#11|
Join Date: Mar 2006
BehindtheBeat: Nasty, Brutish and Short
Valley authors Byron Coley and Thurston Moore pen a book on the New York No Wave scene.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
By Matthew Dube
No Wave is a music scene of which even many ardent music fans have no knowledge. The movement—a collision of art, punk and avant-garde—lasted for only a short period, and was a self-contained and highly localized phenomenon, confined exclusively to New York City and its surroundings. While extraordinarily brief, it burned brightly, and offered a blueprint for many artists and musical aesthetes to follow.
No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980. was penned by two locals, musician Thurston Moore and music critic Byron Coley, both avid archivists and students of popular culture. The coffee table-worthy book is an obvious labor of love, and shines a light on this scantly-covered nexus of art and music, serving as a snapshot of a moment in time and space that could not and did not last.
Musically, No Wave focuses on the bands featured on the seminal, Brian Eno-curated No New York compilation—the Contortions, DNA, Mars, and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks—who epitomized this amalgamation of noise, avant-garde, experimental and atonal sounds. These bands and their contemporaries set a template for bands like Liars, Erase Errata, and Moore's own Sonic Youth.
No Wave's vanguard also sought to shake up a culture that was stuck in a malaise. As scene luminary Lydia Lunch states in her introduction, "Post-Suicide, pre-Sonic Youth New York was the devil's dirty litter box. No Wave was the waste product of Taxi Driver, Times Square, the Son of Sam, the blackout of '77, widespread political corruption... and a desperate need to violently rebel against the complacency of a zombie nation dumbed down by sitcoms and disco." The very name of the movement was antithetical and reactionary, playing upon the perceived pop nature of New Wave.
The scene was populated and fueled by members of various disciplines, not just musicians; there were representatives from the worlds of dance, theater and visual art. While surveying the major movers and shakers of No Wave, the book also touches on some of those who intersected the scene, from Debbie Harry and David Byrne to Jean-Michel Basquiat and Jim Jarmusch.
No Wave is rife with beautifully stark black-and-white photographs of the dens and denizens of this inherently New York phenomenon. The city serves as one of the book's main characters and inspirations: its subways, rooftops and diners all take turns at center stage. The venues featured within its pages are varied and gloriously degraded; the reader is placed squarely in filthy basements, apartments and clubs.
To accompany the candid and live photographs, Moore and Coley distilled hundreds of hours of personal interviews into an illuminating and cohesive oral history. The recollections are naked and honest, and the book bristles with the ecstatic energy characteristic of the scene itself.
The Advocate asked Coley to talk about the genesis and goals of his latest creation, and to expound upon the legacy of No Wave.
Valley Advocate: What was the objective when you set out to write the book?
Byron Coley: Well, it was to tell the story of a scene we had both enjoyed, albeit from the sidelines. We wanted to just lay out the connections and the personalities and let people talk. We also thought it was very important to not get into the new bands who refer to No Wave as an influence. We just wanted it to be the first and second generation bands—the No New York core, plus the SoHo bands, plus the ones that don't quite fit anywhere. But because we were dealing with Abrams as a publisher, we knew the basic idea would be to do an image-driven book rather than a text-driven one, so that was a factor as well. We also wanted the book to remain affordable, so that kids could pick it up and get some idea of what the actual scene was like.
You and Thurston Moore have collaborated on many projects—how did your working relationship begin and develop?
Thurston and I were both fanzine guys. He knew my work, I knew his. When he started putting out records with Sonic Youth, he sent me one with a note, and we started corresponding a bit. We met when I was living in L.A. in the early '80s and got along pretty well. When I moved back east, I got involved with restarting a moribund hardcore fanzine called Forced Exposure. The co-editor and I talked, and we agreed that the best band for the cover would be Sonic Youth. We went down and did some long interview segments, this would have been in '84-'85, and that started to be the place I crashed when I'd go down to the city. Our interests followed a lot of parallel lines—weird science fiction and noir fiction, hardcore punk, free jazz, electronic music, fringe folk music, underground literature and poetry. A lot of times it was just calling the other guy up to see if he had some money to kick in on an interesting project. It all just sort of goes from there.
How would you define No Wave as a scene? Was it an immediate reaction to New Wave?
Well, it wasn't really imagined as a scene until it was over. It was more a group of bands, many of them featuring untrained musicians, several of whom were friends of each other, all of whom existed in the far downtown reaches of Manhattan—meaning below SoHo—in the late '70s. They would have sounded very different if the New Wave bands had not happened, but there was a wide gulf between Patti Smith and Teenage Jesus in most ways. Still, they were more similar to each other than Patti Smith was to Journey, so you can read that however you want.
What about the importance of women in No Wave?
Well, it was unique, because it was the first scene that was thoroughly integrated in terms of gender, and one of the early ones in which there was no big deal made about women performing in purely musical roles as opposed to being "chick singers" or something.
Why do you think No Wave burned out so quickly?
Because it was music by non-musicians, or by musicians playing with non-musicians, it was not really identifiable as rock 'n' roll music in any standard sense. It had a functional artistic quality to it, which meant that it wasn't really designed to evolve. It was a head birth in many ways, born as fully formed as it could ever be. As players learned how to play their instruments more and more—and there are exceptions to this; some of the people were musicians of long-standing—their impulse seemed to be to move toward more standard forms. As soon as they did this, they were no longer really No Wave. They were No Wave-inflected rock.
Thurston Moore hosts a multimedia presentation and book signing for No Wave: Post-Punk. Underground. New York. 1976-1980. March 3 at 7:30 p.m. at A.P.E. Gallery, 126 Main St., Northampton, (413) 586-5553, www.flywheelarts.org. Donations accepted to assist Flywheel in the renovation of their new space at the Old Town Hall in Easthampton.
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