“I’m a bit of a careless feminist.” River interview with the voice of Sonic Youth, Kim Gordon, in 1997. From contemporary art studios to the stage, the story of an avant-garde
Although called “the godmother of grunge” for her role as co-founder (with her husband, Thurston Moore) of the group sonorous youth, Kim Gordon insists that she is not really a musician. “I don’t think like musicians”he said, without false humility.
“I grew up as a visual artist”. His father was a dean of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) and his mother, says, “made all these crazy clothes to sell”. An “anti-Californian” girl, she fled the West after art school, in search of New York.
Sonic Youth formed there in 1981 and have become one of the most influential avant-garde rock quartets in the world, inspiring bands ranging from Nirvana to flooringPassing through Neil Young. Gordon has also been known as a ruthless critique of patriarchy, making ferocious feminist statements in the company of Lydia’s lunch, Chuck D of Public Enemy e Kathleen Hanna by Bikini Kill Kathleen. Gordon’s latest album, “Sentimental Education” with Free kitty – the band he founded with former Pussy Galore guitarist Julia Cafritz – is anything but safe.
How did you learn to play?
I never learned to play.
Why did you want to rock?
I don’t think I want to be in rock & roll. I played in a band in college for an art project. There was something exciting, powerful and energetic that was incomparable. When I finally realized that I could too, it was like … an awakening.
I am a relatively shy person, but I like to take on challenges and get out of my comfort zone.
How to manage the affirmation of a genre in music?
It’s an androgynous environment, meaning you can come and go depending on your gender. It is obviously active, but at the same time one can also be passive. Iggy Pop there was talk of this “electric” power. There is nothing else like this. It can be aggressive but also, in a way, very pure. It’s fun to destroy guitars.
During your high school years, did you call yourself a feminist?
I was aware that my brother could do things that I couldn’t.
What do you think of the word “feminist”? You are a?
I’m a bit of a careless feminist. Any ideology makes me a little nervous when it doesn’t take into account the complexity of relationships. I think feminism is really interesting from a historical point of view. It’s a term for me that finds its place entirely in the 1970s.
How do you think feminism affects women in rock?
Well, this whole thing riot-girlrrrl it is obviously the consequence. “Do it yourself” was very inspired by feminism. But there are different levels: women who talk about society (the one dominated by men) and girls who just want to create a group.
You said Neil Young’s Ragged Glory tour in 1991 was your first real experience of sexism in the rock world.
Indeed, England as a whole in the early 1980s was the first experience. I felt really invisible there. But yes, them [l’équipe de Neil Young] we thought we were “monsters”, mainly because I was a woman on stage and I was likely to get hurt. They had a birthday party for someone and there was a stripper on the side of the stage. I remember the stage manager yelling at me to be there: “You’re distracting Neil. Ugh.
They didn’t know how to see you.
It was weird. He reminded me of Joni Mitchell and the “kid’s world” he lived in. He didn’t know any other. It wasn’t much to her, but you can understand why she wrote all these songs [rires].
What’s behind the song “Tunic (Song for Karen)” from Sonic Youth’s 1990 album “Goo”?
I wanted to pay tribute to Karen Carpenter [qui est morte d’anorexie], who played drums and that made her happy. This whole thing about teenagers who get scared, who are anorexic … these girls who are conditioned to please. I’m just curious to understand at what point girls start to have self-esteem, balancing the need to please people.
What do you think of the Madonna?
She was certainly one of the most influential figures of the 80s. What she did for pop music still resonates today, I even think it changed the way people write about women, especially in rock. And she looks smart. I am happy for her – she had a baby. I don’t think she did it to help her career or anything; she just wanted a baby and i think she has everything to be happy.
What music did you listen to when you were little?
My dad had a lot of jazz records: Bessie Smith and Billie Holiday, Stan Getz and Dave Brubeck. I had an older brother who played things that I easily found myself in, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, all of this …
What does Mick Jagger mean to you?
[Longue pause] Reminds me of Anita Pallenberg. She is someone I met recently and I thought she was so cool, she influenced my style. It’s nice to see that she is sober and she still dresses very well. I can’t wait to read her book.
How do you feel about being a model?
I think when you get to a certain point in your life, you should feel part of your responsibility. I see it in a more personal way, like there is someone to give advice to or something.
Any advice you would give?
Don’t let your loves become obsessions.
Who told you that?
Nobody. I just made it up by myself. [rires]
How has your daughter changed your relationship with your job?
I do not know. I have less time, but on the other hand, I often feel more relaxed about certain things. You know what your priorities are, what your battles are. But at the same time, I really feel like I’m still doing interesting work.
Do you and your husband share the education of children?
I have to tell you it’s not the same.
Would you describe him as a feminist?
I think he wants to be, but he doesn’t understand everything. It is very open. I should probably give her some books [rires]. Like a great classic that I’ve never read myself.
What’s the perfect pop song for you?
The perfect song for weed? [Elle comprend le mot « pot », qui peut référer à de la marijuana]
Oh sorry. There is this song that Free kitty resumed: “Teenie Weenie Boppie Boppie” which I really like. It’s about this girl taking LSD and hallucinating to see a man wearing flowers. She suddenly she turns into Mick Jagger, but then Jagger floats down the Thames, dead … and there are all these flowers … but in the end you don’t know what that means!
What is the future of women in rock?
All these young songwriters who are successful today…. I don’t care about mainstream music, unless it’s truly amazing and groundbreaking. Liz Phairs, PJ Harvey… they haven’t sold many records. Women haven’t really explored experimental music. On the other hand, I don’t see the need to listen to my songs on the radio.
This interview is from the 11/27/97 issue of Rolling Stone.