subota, 14. rujna 2013.

Body/Head - Coming Apart (2013)

Kim Gordon iz Sonic Youtha golim zubima osvaja Mars. The Richard Kern napravio je video-spotove za svaku pjesmu.

Body/Head are an electric guitar duo comprised of Kim Gordon (CKM, Sonic Youth, Free Kitten, etc.) and Bill Nace (X.O.4, Vampire Belt, Ceylon Mange, etc.) The pair began working together in various loose formats a few years ago, but the Body/Head concept evolved more specifically in early 2012.
Initially their approach was almost entirely instrumental — lattices of interwoven feedback rainbows, with bits recalling everyone from Heldon to Keiji Haino. They usually performed against a backdrop of slow-motion film projection, creating a dream narrative of undeniable power and visionary reach. Kim’s voice began creeping into the mix soon after, and the vocals now have become an intrinsic part of their musical architecture. They have even started writing and playing “songs” now, compositionally distinct from their purely aleatory origins, but still featuring lots of built-in improvisational space.

Body/Head have also worked with guest artists since their inception. An early session with Michael Morley of The Dead C resulted in the Body/Gate/Head LP ‘Glare Luring Yo’, and live collaborations with Ikue Mori. Ikue has been focusing on electronics as her primary instrument in the decades since the end of her groundbreaking trio DNA, but Kim was able to talk her into trying drums again, and the results have been astounding. Ikue’s percussion grounds the spirals of guitar and vocals with its strong central pulse, allowing everybody to achieve greater heights of musical/visual disorientation.-

First things first: despite their obvious equal billing on Coming Apart’s cover, it is inevitable that Body/Head, the new performing duo of experimental guitar heroes Kim Gordon and Bill Nace, will be viewed and discussed primarily in terms of Gordon. Sure, Nace has his own history as a mainstay of the scene and frequent collaborator with the likes of Chris Corsano and Paul Flaherty, but Gordon is something of a “superstar,” the kind of musician who gets profiled in The New Yorker and makes guest appearances on Girls. To those of us who’ve grown up with Sonic Youth, and even to those who haven’t, it’s hard not to approach Body/Head as “the new Kim Gordon project.”
Indulging that tendency briefly, the most immediately striking aspect of this project is its relative freedom compared to Gordon’s past work. The limited setup undoubtedly contributes to this: just as the removal of the “chordal” piano freed Ornette Coleman from the strictures of harmony, so too did the removal of drums and other elements seem to free Gordon. “Actress” is based on the kind of picked, eighth-note guitar pulse — a recurring motif throughout the album — that used to give Sonic Youth songs such cascading momentum; here though, in the absence of drums or tightly interlocking counterpoints, the rhythm is untethered and promises nothing so constant. Every moment, in fact, appears to offer a free choice of many possibilities, lending extra expressive weight to each repetition.
The freedom extends to Gordon’s voice, which is a revelation. While her familiar confrontational yell does crop up at times, she also seems to take inspiration from a much wider tradition of vocalists, using styles previously only hinted at: purring like Patti Smith at her most mysterious in “Abstract,” jumping octaves like Ari Up in “Last Mistress,” and bending notes like Bessie Smith in “Aint.” The choice of material reflects this, with a couple of standards among the originals: “Aint” is a reimagining of Nina Simone’s “Aint Got No/I Got My,” and “Black” is a gorgeously droning version of the traditional folk song “Black is the Color (Of my True Love’s Hair).”
Nace allows and encourages this freedom, of course, with his varied, elastic playing. For Nace, who is used to long-form jams, these are actually relatively tight forms. Sometimes it falls on him to squeeze his noisy improvisations into small, coherent compositions, and here he proves more than capable through how gracefully “Last Mistress” reaches its climax, how brilliantly his outburst of greasy rockabilly playing illustrates Gordon’s line “I’ve got my freedom,” how unexpectedly pretty the outro is on “Black.” At other times, it’s Gordon’s job to give shape to Nace’s freer sounds, as on “Everything Left,” where the almost unintelligible vocals only highlight the humanity of the guitar playing. In the context of Nace’s work, then, this project represents a new accessibility.
It all comes off as genuinely exploratory, with both players testing their own limits, coaxing one another into strange areas and trying to explore the meanings of the sounds. Gordon’s lyrics play into the same concept: lines like, “Dogs, where they piss” and “I love my lover” are evocative, both personal and political, but their inflected delivery and slow repetition questions, obscures, and alters their meanings, as if the project of Body/Head is to tease the sense out of them. It’s a sort of auditory analogue of Gordon’s visual art, in which single tweets are reproduced in paint, reducing their immediate readability but foregrounding their concreteness, their individuality, their expressiveness. It’s also similar to a technique from Body/Head live shows, where films are projected in extreme slow motion, exposing characters’ microexpressions and forcing the audience to consider every implication of dress, gesture, and mise-en-scène. Where the vocals could easily have become the focal point, here they are shifting and ambiguous, hardly any more meaningful in and of themselves than the squeals of guitar.

Coming Apart might well prove to be a transitional work, given its experimental nature and genesis in improvised live performance. But for the moment, it’s surely a worthwhile project for players and listeners alike, an album of unusual synergy, exploration, and focus that expands both artists’ repertoires well beyond genre constructions to create something both unique and replayable. - 
The musical approach Kim Gordon and Bill Nace chose for their duo Body/Head seems intentionally restrictive. Both play only guitar. Their songs are slow and sometimes static, an effect enhanced by the near-total absence of beats (and, in concert, by the slowed-down films projected behind them). Gordon sings mostly in monotone, spreading her words out in a glacial rap or moaning them in a breathy whisper. The mood is similarly confined, sticking to a strident heaviness through serious lyrics and dirge-like guitar.
This limited palette could feel claustrophobic, or just boring. But on Body/Head’s first full-length album Coming Apart, the duo treat it as a challenge, like the straitjacket a magician dons to prove he can break free. (Not coincidentally, the album is named after a 1969 movie set in a single apartment and shot from a single camera angle). In nearly 70 minutes of music over two LPs, Gordon and Nace burrow deep into their narrow sound, mining it for more variety and emotion than it should rightfully hold. The effect is subtle-- at first the music feels aimless, in search of something vague and elusive. But give Coming Apart a few listens, and distinctive shapes emerge. Eventually, the duo’s dedication to a specific point of view becomes intoxicating.
That dedication shows up most strongly in the conversational guitar work of Gordon and Nace (himself a veteran of many excellent collaborations). Oddly, the duo chose to pan their individual sounds to opposite sides of the stereo space. But rather than making them feel disconnected, that tactic gives their interplay a call-and-response synchronicity. When one of them hits repetitive chords or plucks two-note patterns, the other weaves long tones or dense distortion; at other times, one’s left turn into dissonance inspires the other to find melody in the noise. (The chiming quality of that noise sometimes recalls Evol-era Sonic Youth, but there are many other evocations in the pair’s timbres.) The timing of these actions and reactions makes Coming Apart surprisingly engaging-- though all 10 pieces were mostly improvised, many have an arc that’s thoughtfully song-like.
Even more engaging is Gordon’s singing, which is as expressive as anything she did in Sonic Youth, and often more so. She stretches out syllables, expands phrases, and melts her voice into the rising guitar lava. At times it seems she’s simply exploring the way words sound, treating them like physical objects sliding up her throat and pouring off her tongue. At other points, the concrete meaning of her lyrics is all that matters. So when her simple yell of the title in “Actress” turns urgent, it suddenly sounds like the most important word in the world.
Gordon’s voice also provides an entry point into tunes, which can otherwise be a bit forbidding. But it’s also easy to get lost in them, much the way the most intense work by Jandek or Scott Walker can take on the quality of a dream. As in dreams, time on Coming Apart becomes a moving target, and sometimes seems to disappear altogether. As a result, these songs often feel longer than they actually are-- but this is the rare case where that’s a strength rather than a weakness.
Still, given the music’s endless feel, closing Coming Apart with its two longest tracks is risky. But Gordon and Nace manage to find new ideas in these elongated settings. 17-minute closer “Frontal” is like an album unto itself, gradually moving from distant echoes to the duo’s most aggressive tones. Its predecessor, “Black”, is even more mesmerizing. It’s ostensibly a cover of the traditional folk song “Black Is the Colour (Of My True Love's Hair)”, but Gordon was likely inspired by one version in particular: the radical take recorded by singer Patty Waters and her free-jazz group in the late 60s.
Gordon doesn’t get as frantic or desperate sounding as Waters; in keeping with the album’s tone, her interpretation is darker and heavier. But it’s just as radical. Waiting almost seven minutes before singing, Gordon reworks simple stanzas into zombie mantras, eventually duetting with herself in a chorus of abstract hums. The re-imagining is typical of her career, which has featured more detours than she’s perhaps been given credit for. Count Coming Apart as another fascinating step in that journey, and Body/Head’s musical path as one that she and Nace will hopefully follow for a long time. - Marc Masters

At this point, it’s kind of hard to be surprised or thrown off by anything Kim Gordon does. Or at least, it shouldn’t be hard. But even after more than 30 years of mashing together art school insubordination with cantankerous, pop-savvy noise rock, the ex-Sonic Youth bassist still has the power to upend expectations. With Body/Head, Gordon makes her first official musical statement following Sonic Youth’s impromptu hiatus in 2011, and judging from her bruised sentiments, there’s zero chance of that moniker hitting lineups anytime soon, if ever.
Coming Apart finds Gordon and guitarist Bill Nace delving headfirst into an abyss of irritable guitar noise, and with song titles such as “Last Mistress”, “Everything Left”, and “Can’t Help You”, it’s easy to suspect the source of Gordon’s frustration cuts close to the bone. After an iconic career working alongside her then-husband and bandmate Thurston Moore, Gordon is left to her own devices, and she bleeds cathartically all over the record. When she speak/sings “I can only think of you in the abstract” on the aptly titled, “Abstract”, she’s not in much of a mood for mincing words.
Coming Apart is a sparse exercise in cranky tension, one crafted almost strictly out of angry, feedback-laden soundscapes. There’s hardly any percussion to be found, just a bounty of turbulent guitar fuckery and Gordon’s oft-times barely discernible lyrics. Accessible in the slightest? Not at all. But given Gordon’s fractured autobiographical context, that difficultly feels warranted. At almost 60 years old, Gordon is still pushing the musical envelope, and that in and of itself is something worth celebrating. - Ryan Bray

The thing about experimental noise is that you've got to have the time. A 70 minute double LP like this one is not something you can throw onto your record player to have a quick listen while you do the dishes before work. This album is your work. It demands your concentration, and to be honest, if you don't give it that, I'm not sure what you're going to get out of it.
But don't worry, as chin-scratchy as that sounds, Coming Apart is by no means all "head". The strange architecture built on squalling feedback, hypnotic repetition, fuzzed-out distortion and Kim Gordon's shipwrecked moans will also take your body and make it feel things. Your mind may wander, you may forget when one track ended and the next began but, as was written in the album's accompanying text, when listening to drone music "one starts somewhere – at any point, then responds to it". There is a physicality to Body/Head's music which - also given the length of the album - will cause you to feel mildly exhausted by the end. 'Murderess' is a fine example: a minimal track ostensibly driven by Gordon's familiar off-kilter voice repeating the phrase "by the sea", it's underpinned by a subtle helicopter heartbeat, which stealthily creeps into your consciousness until your own pulse must speed up to match.
It's all pretty intense, but of course that's what you'd expect of a duo such as Kim Gordon and Bill Nace, given their backgrounds in no wave and noise rock. With Body/Head, they're referring back to a rawer, riskier era, creating something wholly unpredictable, based on "scripted improvisation". Gordon has stated that there was very little editing involved in the final product, and while this occasionally manifests in a bit of meandering, they repeatedly succeed in taking their noise somewhere interesting, rather than allowing it to become the chore that some of the Syd Barrett-era psychedelia they were influenced by can be.
Despite its unrelenting nature, I listened to much of Coming Apart while doing mindless data entry in a boring office, feeling lulled by the white-noise distortion towards the end of standout track 'The Last Mistress' (which escalates to a crescendo, before being broken by an ominous tolling bell of fuzz guitar) and the almost pastoral sounding 'Untitled'. The album unravels slowly, hypnotically, an effect doubled in the live arena, when Body/Head perform in front of films slowed to glacial pace.
Kim Gordon herself has said that this is not happy music. Certain themes and phrases rise to the surface in her fragmented, haunted vocals, which are utilised just as much as an instrument as the two guitars. The initial Body/Head incarnation was mostly instrumental, but gradually the vocals began to take hold, and now appear on all but one of the tracks on Coming Apart. Here a dark female psyche is constructed. The personas Gordon speaks through - 'Murderess', 'Actress' , 'The Last Mistress' - evoke love and death and sex and bodily fluids, reflecting both her and Nace's interest in french filmmaker Catherine Breillat.
Interestingly, Gordon has expressed her feeling that Bill Nace has a lot of "female energy" (she seemed to think this would annoy him), and perhaps this is the key to their symbiotic guitar playing. While it would be reaching to call this a "feminist" noise album, gender and sexuality are definite pre-occupations. These are expressed and explored within a maelstrom of distortion, and with neither guitar taking prominence over the other, dichotomies of who is the body and who the head, traditionally assigned female/male notions, become blurred on this challenging but beautiful album. - Melissa Steiner 

Q&A: Kim Gordon On Body/Head’s Coming Apart And Life After Sonic Youth

Few people seem to be having a busier year than Kim Gordon. In the wake of Sonic Youth’s much talked about demise (and the end of her marriage to bandmate Thurston Moore), Gordon has spent the better part of 2013 making all manner of art and music, not to mention touring around the world, dabbling in film work, and quietly working on her memoirs. She’s also been busy making what is shaping up to be some of the most compelling (and some might say, challenging) music of her entire career. Today Matador Records announced the release of Coming Apart, the proper full-length debut from Gordon’s new project, Body/Head. Formed as a duo with guitarist Bill Nace, Body/Head’s debut caps off what has been several years of refined experimentation between the two musicians — a kind of free-form guitar squall that, for Gordon, hearkens back to her more experimental no-wave roots. The record couldn’t come at a better time for Gordon who, having already seen both her private and professional life become a very public topic of discussion this year, seems more than ready to turn a page in her creative life. Having spent the better part of past 30 years of her life working within the confines of one of rock music’s most beloved bands, it sounds as if she is genuinely excited — and perhaps still a little perplexed — about what happens next.
STEREOGUM: How are you?
GORDON: Pretty good. Just a little jet-lagged. We just got back last night from the UK.
STEREOGUM: How was it? You played Yoko Ono’s Meltdown festival, right?
GORDON: Yeah. It was good! One week tours rule. I mean, it was kind of a mix of things — Bill and I were also playing with Ikue Mori, which was a little harder for us. We’re not used to playing with a drummer.
STEREOGUM: What was it like?
GORDON: Well the London show — the Meltdown show — that was a bit of drag, because we got there and realized that they’d set us playing against Iggy Pop and Savages, but then Yoko came on stage and did an encore with us and that was fun.
STEREOGUM: Now that you’re back home do you have a ton of other stuff going on? It seems like this has been an exceptionally busy year for you.
GORDON: Um, no, I mean I’m not doing any traveling. This week I’m doing a shoot for Marcel Dzama who is doing this silent ten-minute film for the Toronto film festival. They’re honoring Cronenberg this year and he asked me to be in this film he’s making for that. So I’m kinda here doing that this week … oh, and another of my friend asked me to introduce the newly restored version of Cassavetes’ A Woman Under The Influence tomorrow at some theater in Williamsburg … so I’m doing that as well.
STEREOGUM: And the Body/Head record release is being announced by Matador this week. Are you going to be doing a lot of promo stuff for that?
GORDON: Yeah I’ll probably have to do some and Bill will have to do some. We’re just going over some promo pictures now. I don’t wanna … I mean I’ve done a lot of interviews in my time, so I don’t wanna do everything. [laughs]
STEREOGUM: How did you and Bill initially start working together?
GORDON: We met up in Northampton … and, by the way he’s not from Boston. You know how some things get on the Internet and you just never get rid of them? He’s from New Jersey, but maybe that’s why he doesn’t mention that either. [laughs] No, he lives in Northampton. He was playing in a band called Vampire Belt with Chris Corsano — he still does, actually — and I think that’s how we first met. There’s a pretty healthy experimental music scene up there and Bill also used to work at the local indie cinema, so he was just kind of around. Thurston actually started playing with him first and then we became friends. A couple years ago we started playing together. We initially played together with other people but a year and half or two years ago we started playing together — just two guitars with vocals. We also played with Michael Morley, which was one of our first gigs. He happened to be visiting and we played a show together. We projected a film in slow motion behind us. Anyway, Bill and I had been sharing ideas — just talking about things that really influenced us — and film something we really had in common. Catherine Breillat films in particular. I was reading this book analyzing her films, and somehow the term “body/head” kind of came out of that. We were also looking on YouTube at early Pink Floyd videos — Syd Barrett era Pink Floyd — and I was so amazed at seeing people basically dancing to noise music, you know? Dancing to long, kinda drawn out songs with psychedelic lights happening around them. That was kind of an inspiration. So we had sort of shared tastes and that was kind of the vocabulary we started with. So basically we played with Michael Morley and we screened this very slowed down version of a Catherine Breillat film — I forget whether it was Fat Girl or A Real Young Girl — but it was playing so slowly that basically that you’d almost think that there wasn’t anything going on. We had two guitars and my vocals through an amp with effects on it. That started it. I guess we kinda see music a little bit like soundtrack music in a way. You know, that sounds kind of pretentious [laughs] but we think of it as very kind of filmic thing somehow. As soon as you take away the drums, it sort of changes the quality of guitar music. So, not long after that we did a cover of the song “Fever” for a compilation that friend of ours at a Belgian label put out. The name of his label is Ultra Eczema. Then we did a cassette, wait, did we do a cassette? No we didn’t do a cassette, we recorded … our first recordings were on a cassette. Anyway, we put out a 7-inch, then we did an EP … and now we’ve done a double album.
STEREOGUM: I’m not a musician — so I can only guess about what it’s actually like — but I would imagine that when you’re making this kind of music, which is so amorphous and free-form, finding someone that you can have this kind of intuitive, symbiotic relationship with as a player must be very difficult.
GORDON: Right. It’s kind of rare, I mean it’s the kind of chemistry thing that happens in any relationship but it’s unusual because it is improve-based music and the lyrics are typically repeated themes, but it’s not the same as simply jamming. It’s almost like a Cassavetes film or something. You play together … but it’s almost like you rehearse because you’re playing together so much, and then you, you know, the music is kind of improvised from there. You know it’s just going to be different every time you play.
STEREOGUM: I’ve seen you guys play three different times and each show felt very different to me. I think a lot of it has do to with the context and the audience. The music sort of shifted to take on the qualities of the room — there was a very experiential quality to it. Does that make sense?
GORDON: Yeah, I think that’s true for most music, but maybe more so for this music because of the acoustics and the…for me, how it sounds on stage always affects how much I get into playing, for sure. I think that can translate to the audience.
STEREOGUM: How does it translate into making a record? Playing this kind of music alone in a studio space must feel very different.
GORDON: Well, we set up in a, kind of a big-ish room, and just played … basically we just played a lot together and then went through and edited things, picked the pieces we wanted to use for the record, and then went back and did some overdubs on some of the songs. I redid vocals on a few songs with a mic that was actually good and then put that through an amp. Actually, there’s very little editing on the final recordings. There are some guitar overdubs but for the most part it was all improvised. It was kind of like lovingly crafted in that way. [laughs] Um, that’s a very Western Mass thing. Lots of handcrafting around here.
STEREOGUM: Were you surprised by the results?
GORDON: Yeah. I mean, it’s kind of intense to listen to in one setting. [laughs] It’s not happy music, you know?
STEREOGUM: That’s interesting, what makes you say that about it?
GORDON: Well, only because … well it’s a double album for one thing so it’s a lot to listen to. I don’t know … my friend came to the show the other night at St Vitus and said he found it really soothing and calming to listen to. I thought that was kind of … I don’t know maybe live it’s just a different thing? [laughs]
STEREOGUM: That’s funny. Who knows, I have friends who listen to death metal as a way to relax, so it’s totally possible. I’ve heard you reference your interest in psychology a lot in the past — specifically the ways that your interest in the psychological has informed your various creative endeavors and your visual art. I was thinking about that in relation to seeing you play this music live. The exchange you get when you play this kind of music for an audience must be a very different experience than the one you get when you are two people alone in a recording studio — the energy is very different. A lot of the pleasure I got from seeing you play as Body/Head came from watching the exchange you seemed to be having with the audience.
GORDON: Yeah, it is different, it does definitely feel different. I really try not to look at the audience because … it’s weird, it’s like you can feel them, you can feel them listening. But recording, I feel like it’s more of a spatial experience, like I’m really making a sound in a space. It’s hard to describe it, but it’s very spatial for me. You know how Kim Deal writes songs? Like her songs are incredibly minimal and she thinks about space a lot. To me that’s what makes her pop songs so interesting. And I’m not saying that – we’re not minimal like that, but there is a certain similar sensibility or something. I don’t know, I feel like she must feel like that too in a way when she writes guitar chords. I don’t know if that makes any sense.
STEREOGUM: It’s interesting to read all the stuff about the 20th anniversary of the Breeders’ Last Splash. Those songs are so much a part of my consciousness that I’ve never really even thought about them in a critical or analytical way, you know what I mean?
GORDON: Right, I know what you mean.
STEREOGUM: And when you go back and really think about them, it’s amazing just how amazingly constructed — not to mention how truly weird — they actually are.
GORDON: Yeah it’s weird and kind of druggy, or at least Pod is a really druggy record. But they are kind of more psychedelic — or cerebral, in a way — than just regular pop songs and I think it is because she really thinks about the space in the songs — it’s so bare and so minimal.
STEREOGUM: You’ve often spoken about your love of no-wave music and how much that scene really inspired you. Does this Body/Head project feel like getting back to your roots in a way?
GORDON: Yeah, in a way. I mean no-wave is what first made me wanna play music … and it’s so free and it’s actually really fun. Still, it’s not like I don’t think about the audience or wonder if, oh, you know, sometimes if there’s someone there I know who’s really critical it can make me feel much more self-conscious. It’s a fine line between not wanting things in the music to go on for too long … but wanting it to continue long enough to go somewhere that’s interesting.
STEREOGUM: When you’re playing music live — when you’re on stage — do you find that that’s one of the places in life where you can feel the most un-self-conscious?
GORDON: Definitely. Especially if it sounds good, you know? Then it’s like writing or anything else; you just get into sort of an un-self-conscious flow — or deep concentration — or something. Yeah, that’s the best.
STEREOGUM: Watching you guys play, the vibe is often super intense — but there’s something euphoric about it as well.
GORDON: Well there’s something about the wash of sound, you know? People use that term, the “wash” of sound, or “bathed in sound” — but when you can make that happen, it does create this feeling of chaos that kind of makes you — as a listener — have to do something with it.
STEREOGUM: Will you guys spend a lot of the rest of this year touring?
GORDON: God, I hope not. [laughs]. We’re gonna do some touring in the States in September and probably play in New York a few times. We’re going to go to Europe for three weeks at the end of October and after that, I don’t know. I’ll be deaf, probably.
STEREOGUM: I know the logistics and the sort of day to day mechanics of being on tour can be a real drag, and not much of a novelty if you’ve done it intermittently for many, many, many years. But is there something about the live experience that if you didn’t do it, you would miss it?
GORDON: Yeah, definitely. I like playing live; it’s just the traveling. Someone said once, “oh you basically get paid to travel not to play” or something. It’s kind of true. The traveling itself gets kind of old — the lugging stuff around, not getting enough sleep, things like that. The endless waiting around.
STEREOGUM: Even when Sonic Youth was still going on you’ve always had a lot of outside projects happening — other musical projects, art projects, writing, acting. Still, it seems like this is a particularly busy time for you.
GORDON: Well, my daughter’s not at home anymore — she’s in college — so I don’t have to be home as much. I’m not missing her at home, you know? I’d just be at home missing her if I were at there all the time. [laughs]. And now that Sonic Youth isn’t playing anymore it frees up my time. I have always kind of had to put art more in the back burner, but now I can finally spend more time pursuing that as well.
STEREOGUM: I read an interview where you were saying that you’d sort of always thought of yourself as a visual artist, first and foremost.
GORDON: Well, yeah. I did go to art school. I mean, I didn’t have any musical training, and I basically, I don’t know I can’t say anything about this without it sounding like some stupid cliché or something like, “I always wanted to be an artist since I was five,” but, you know, it’s kind of true. I just … it’s how I think. Visually. Even the way I think about music is kind of visual.
STEREOGUM: Earlier this year there were several long magazine articles written about you that really dove into not only your personal life, but also your creative life as well. I’m sure it’s both a surreal and kind of bittersweet thing to see your life dissected that way in print, but one thing I thought was kind of great about it — which maybe hasn’t happened enough in the past — is that it really brought to the forefront all the other kinds of work that you do. People that know you primarily as a musician might not have been as aware of your career as a visual artist.
GORDON: Right. Yeah, I mean it’s hard if you’re known mostly for one thing. There are always these art shows where they invite musicians who also do art to be involved and I always sort of tried to avoid that. [laughs]. Mostly because you don’t necessarily have your art in common with everyone else simply because you are all musicians. But, you know, people usually do one thing and it’s easier to be known in that way. I mean I don’t really … it’s such an effort to talk about what one does. I’m not always good at it. I don’t know. It seems odd to me to do interviews about art. It’s kind of funny.
STEREOGUM: One of the things that I was really struck by in regards to all this press about you during this past year was that people really do think of you as a kind of feminist icon. And there was also this huge feeling of support and goodwill towards you that seemed to be generated by those pieces in Elle and The New Yorker. I don’t know if you felt that or not.
GORDON: Oh yeah, I did. Especially after the Elle piece came out. I was surprised, actually. I was really surprised because I normally think of myself as a fairly private person. I’d been doing interviews for music magazines for so many years but it’s not like I really wanna talk about myself — my private self — in those contexts. So, yeah, it was kind of like I was saving that part of myself for most of my career. So maybe people were just curious to hear what I had to say now or what I’m gonna do now … I was surprised.
STEREOGUM: It must be gratifying to hear it vocalized in such a public way just how much your work has meant to people … to other women, especially.
GORDON: It is! Although, because I never really actively pursued that it’s always odd when you get it. I don’t feel like I’ve ever … I was never an activist or anything so I don’t feel like I wanna take credit for anything. But I realize there’s a certain amount of inspiration that comes from seeing somebody do something. I’ve had that experience. It doesn’t take that much actually to be reassured that, “Oh okay, this is the right way,” or “there is someone else here doing this,” and it doesn’t have to be a big gesture, it can be something small.
STEREOGUM: Outside of all the Body/Head stuff, I know you have a slew of other projects happening as well. I know you are prepping for a show of your work here in NYC …
GORDON: Right, at White Columns.
STEREOGUM: What else are you working on?
GORDON: Um, I’m working on this book. A memoir.
STEREOGUM: How’s that going?
GORDON: Uh, it’s going. It’s going good [laughs]. Um, what else am I doing? I’m trying to actually do less, but I’m just also just trying stuff that I wouldn’t normally try — like this film for Marcel Dzama. I don’t know … I wanna be able to focus on my art, but at the same time I just have a lot of stuff going on. It’s really hard. It’s hard. But I don’t have any other shows planned right now. I’m just trying to be patient and really, you know, just take the time to work and not think or worry too much about things like what gallery am I gonna show at.
STEREOGUM: That’s probably a good thing.
GORDON: It’s more like, who am I gonna date? [laughs.]
STEREOGUM: THAT is the question! Also, trying new stuff is always good. It’s healthy. It becomes easier as I get older to say no things just because I don’t want to deal. I hate that.
GORDON: Also when you’ve been in a relationship for a really long time and that comes to an end … you know, so my identity was so tied up with Sonic Youth and my relationship and my marriage and so now it’s also like, who am I? It’s a little bit of, like, going back to the beginning. I mean, I basically feel like I’ve been the same person since I was little, but you know, it does make you really kind of search for who you really are.
STEREOGUM: Yeah, I can only imagine. I mean, the Sonic Youth situation is so complicated because it’s also so tied up in your personal relationship but when you’ve been engaged in that specific creative endeavor for so many years, there must be obviously a kind of deep loss involved when it ends.
GORDON: Oh yeah, totally.
STEREOGUM: Does doing this new project also serve as a way of getting over that?
GORDON: Well, I guess I felt like I had to rebuild from the ground up or something. It’s like starting over in a way. I just needed to create new things.
STEREOGUM: Doing this project is such a good step in that direction, obviously. It must feel good.
GORDON: Oh yeah. It’s great. I mean, Bill’s so great to play with. I mean, not that the other boys weren’t [laughs] but he’s just so open and he really is not … he’d get mad if I say he has a lot of girl energy [laughs] but maybe that’s part of it.
STEREOGUM: That’s not a bad thing.

GORDON: Maybe if I keep saying things like that it’ll make him more inspired to do more of these interviews.

Richard Kern Directs 10 Videos For Body/Head

Richard Kern Directs 10 Videos For Body/Head
All the way back in 1985, Richard Kern directed the seminal video for the Sonic Youth's "Death Valley '69", a hazy and dark dream of a song. In 2013, Kern comes full circle for a series of videos for Body/Head's double LP Coming Apart. A staggering ten music videos have been made for the album, though each consists of short clips looped to form a blurry sort of narrative. It's all in the oeuvre of Richard Kern, now best known for his portraits of nude women, but once celebrated for his attention to filth and his ability to shock. Though simplistic, the videos are subtly, yet deeply unsettling and a suitable accompaniment to a great LP.

You can watch the music videos here

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