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We Sing A New Language: The Oral Discography Of Thurston Moore came out yesterday in the U.K. – delighted. This is my ‘precious things’ shelf for want of a less silly name. That’s my friend Dr Franklin Ginn’s five years in the works volume that I was honoured to get a copy of; the ‘first lines’ volume contains the first translation work of my friend Emily Jones; my brother got Rik Mayall to sign a copy of his autobiography to me a few years ago (great read); Warriors Of Death was the first contact I ever had with an author – Charles Whiting/Leo Kessler when I was about 14 and he very kindly responded and sent me a signed copy. Around that, sure, it’s where I keep copies of neat things people have sent me: Siohbhan Duvall’s music, Damien Binder’s works, the Knifedance complete works, Sleeper Cell, Gravitons, Andrew MacGregor – even a copy of John Lydon’s second autobiography from the ‘evening with’ event at the 100 Club the other year.

London Book Fair tomorrow for the formal launch of the book in the afternoon – going to be fun! Interviews in the afternoon, drinks reception, evening out. Meeting a few people I’m very happy to spend time with.

Why did I think a book on Thurston made sense? Essentially because there’s this vast and expansive discography that has barely been touched by the mainstream; the vast majority of what he’s devoted his time to – and that has been documented – hasn’t ever been considered in depth. Plus, it’s the most detailed portrayal of the evolution of his performing and his musical interests – how they’ve influenced what he does, his own burgeoning confidence in areas where initially he’s tentative, how he is able to maintain this work rate and scale of achievement.

 

 

 

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I always think I’ll just ‘be British’ about things when I finally receive the hardcopy of a book. I’m not one to jump up and down or pump my fist in the air – that kinda thing seems a bit ridiculous usually. But then the postman drops a copy of something I’ve committed a year and a half to through the door…And as soon as it’s open I can’t help but bound around like a dog that just found the perfect stick. It’s a genuine thrill.

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How does it look? Even the cover felt good in my hand – back flap and front flap giving a brief description of the contents, then delving in, viewing the photos, flipping through the entries. This is the moment of truth of course: when I read it in book form and notice things where I go “darn! How did I let that through?”

I’m already aware of two errors, both wholly my own: one is a reference on page 57 to Vicki Peterson of The Bangles – her brother is called Dave Peterson, I managed to drop the wrong name in during a re-edit. The other was deliberate: Radieux Radio spoke with me about working with Thurston recently and we agreed we wouldn’t mention other upcoming releases planned for after Rock N Roll Consciousness…But I didn’t want to lose the discussion of working with Thurston in Paris, so I kept it in the section on Rock N Roll Consciousness because I felt it was still an enjoyable image and description of the man at work in 2016. If those are the only errors I’ll get down on my knees and thank the gods though I was very sheepish and apologetic when Dave Markey pointed out the mistake with the name.

That’s the bittersweetness of this spell: it’s amazing to see the finished object, but after the tens of thousands of emails and messages; after whittling the 300,000 words of notes and interviews down into a coherent work; following the five or six rounds of editing and review by multiple people; after all the myriad small tasks needed to bring a book into the world…This is the time when I’ll hear what slipped through the net; those moments; the two words in 100,102 that aren’t right; or the necessary cut that someone in their heart of hearts would wish I’d left in…But it doesn’t rob the moment of pleasure. Never. In this era of virtual everything, nothing can beat physical reality. A book in hand is worth 12 on the web.

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https://www.waterstones.com/events/the-collaboration-session-with-nick-soulsby-and-daniel-rachel/london-camden

Here’s a fun one coming up – I’m looking forward to meeting Daniel Rachel, I bought his book Walls Come Tumbling Down (https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/sep/28/walls-come-tumbling-down-daniel-rachel-review) at the Louder Than Words music literary festival last year – a great piece of work. Frankly, with the rise of so much insular nationalism and casual dismissal of equal rights for all, its felt like the time to hear about a previous era in which some decided it was time to stand up for something.

The conversation – over booze! Phew! Always the best way to let conversation flow – is focused on ‘collaboration’ in music and life in general. It’s pretty central to the entire ability to create oral history, that it involves a community being willing to participate; a shared experience to speak of; something that people made together – the alternative is merely autobiography and biography.

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For “We Sing A New Language: The Oral Discography Of Thurston Moore”, I wanted to use the experiences and perspectives of the people who have played on the numerous records he’s featured on outside of Sonic Youth, to paint a picture of his development and his interests in music across the years. It’s notable how much of his energies, very early on, were on gaining this wider experience while – since the mid-Nineties – there’s a veritable explosion of effort devoted to other scenes which then feeds back into Sonic Youth in the form of the SYR records, releases with Mats Gustafsson, the presence of Borbetomagus on the Murray Street album, their choices of support acts when touring. There’s even a specific character to Moore’s efforts during Sonic Youth’s peak of commercial success in the early-to-mid-Nineties with Moore evangelising and paying tribute to the underground bands who he felt was important – so much of that era is spend on covers and tributes. It’s that kind of pattern that speaking to the people involved was able to tease out.

The book includes a comprehensive Contributors section in which each of the 170 people involved summarises their personal creative urges and expressions – the hope being that it gives the reader a sense of who they’re speaking to and a starting point for further exploration. Frankly, if you enjoy the work of Thurston Moore then there are a lot of people in here worth finding!

In first name alphabetical order:

Aaron Dilloway, Adam Golebiewski, Adam Kriney, Alan Bloor, Alan Licht, Alan Read (Krayon Recordings), Alex Ward, Amanda Kramer, Ambrose Bye (Fast Speaking Music), Andrew Clare, Andrew Kesin, Andrew MacGregor, Andrya Ambro, Andy Moor, Anne Waldman, Anne-James Chaton

Balazs Pandi, Benoit Bel (Mikrokosm Studios), Benoît Bourreau (Film Maker), Bill Nace, Brett Robinson, Brian Kinsman (Deathbomb Arc), Britt Brown, Bryn Harris, Byron Coley, Byron Westbrook

Campbell Kneale, Carlos Giffoni, Carlos van Hijfte (Tour Manager), Chris Corsano, Chris Gollon (artist), Chris Pottinger, Christian Marclay, Colin Langenus, Cory Rayborn (Three Lobed Recordings), Cris Deison, Cristiano Nunes (ZDB Venue)

Dagobert Sondervan, Daniel Sandor (Producer), Dave Keay, David Markey, David Newgarden (Manager to Yoko Ono), David S. Blanco (Blank Editions), Deb Goodge, DJ Spooky, Don Dietrich, Don Fleming. Dylan Nyoukis

Evan Parker, Frank Rosaly, Frans de Waard, Gene Moore, Giancarlo Schiaffini, Glenn Branca, Greg Vegas, Hal Rammel, Hanin Elias, Heath Moerland (Fag Tapes)

J.D. King, Jim Thirlwell, Jack Rabid, James Nares (Artist), James Sedward, James Toth, Jane Scarpantoni, Jean-Marc Montera, Jef Whitehead, Jeff Hartford (Bonescraper Recordings), Jeremy Miller, Jim Dunbar, Jim Sauter, Jim Sclavunos, Joe McPhee, Joe Tunis (Carbon Recordings), Johannes Buff (Mikrokosm), John Clement, John Corbett, John Howard, John Moloney, John Olson, John Russell, John Tye (Lo Recordings), John Wiese, Jon Forss (Lo Recordings), Josh Baer (White Columns), Justin Pizzoferrato (Sonelab)

Karl Hofstetter (Joyful Noise), Keith Wood, Kevin Crump (Wintage), Kim Rancourt, Kommissar Hjuler

Lasse Marhaug, Lea Cummings, Lee Ranaldo, Leslie Keffer, Lin Culbertson, Loren Connors, Lydia Lunch

Mani Mazinani, Manuel Mota, Marc Urselli, Marco Cazzella (My Dance The King), Marco Fusinato, Margarida Garcia, Martin Bisi (Producer), Massimo Pupillo, Mat Rademan (Breathmint), Mats Gustafsson, Matthew Saint-Germain (Freedom From), Maurizio Opalio (My Cat is an Alien), Michael Chapman, Michael Gira, Mike Gangloff, Mykel Board

Nathaniel Howdeshell (Fast Weapons), Neill Jameson, Nels Cline, Nolan Green, Pascal Hector, Patrick Best, Paul Flaherty, Paul Smith (Blast First), Pete Nolan, Phil Blankenship (Troniks), Phil X. Milstein

Rafael Toral, Rat Bastard, Rhys Chatham, Richard Hell, Richard Kern (Film Maker), Rob Hayler, Robert Meijer (En/Of), Robert Poss, Roberto Opalio (My Cat is an Alien), Ron Lessard (RRRecords)

Samara Lubelski, Sanford Parker, Sarah Register, Sérgio Hydalgo (ZDB), Shayna Dulberger, Sonny Vincent, Stavros Giannopoulos, Steve Lowenthal (Vin Du Select Qualitite), Stuart Braithwaite, Susan Stenger

T. Mortigan (Destructive Industries), Terri Kapsalis, The New Blockaders, Thurston Moore, Tim Foljahn, Tom Moore, Tom Smith, Tom Surgal, Toshi Makihara, Trumans Water

Venec Miller, Vice Cooler, Virginia Genta, Wally Shoup, Walter Prati, Warren Defever, Wharton Tiers, William Hooker, William Winant, Yoko Ono

“We Sing A New Language: The Oral Discography Of Thurston Moore” started, quite literally, right here on this blog. By early 2015, I’d been writing about Nirvana almost constantly, day-after-day, for three years: I needed a break. As an avid collector of the musical works of Sonic Youth and its individual members, I’d begun seeing interesting patterns, trends and connections within the 150+ Thurston Moore records I owed at the time (the collection has continued to swell since then) and so, as a diversion, as something different, as a chance to freshen up my mental landscape, I wrote a series of five lengthy posts gathering together and looking in depth at some of Moore’s works:

https://nirvana-legacy.com/2015/01/05/new-year-new-indulgence-the-solo-discography-of-thurston-moore-part-one/

https://nirvana-legacy.com/2015/01/07/thurston-moores-solo-work-part-2-the-big-rock-era-and-emergence/

https://nirvana-legacy.com/2015/01/15/thurston-moore-solo-part-three-breathing-out-in-studio/

https://nirvana-legacy.com/2015/01/17/thurston-moore-part-four-patterning-the-explosion/

https://nirvana-legacy.com/2015/01/21/thurston-part-five-artnoise-and-radiophonic-addiction/

I was intending to keep on writing these but the run up to the release of ‘Cobain On Cobain’ began to fill the time so, beyond the notes and sketches I’d already made, January 2015 was as far as I got. Checking blog stats one day I was a bit surprised (to say the least) to see that instead of the regular 3-400 hundred hits, the previous day had peaked at several thousand visitors. What tha…?! Luckily for me, a friend wrote saying “hey, did you see Thurston Moore shared your post on his Facebook?” I looked and was rather delighted to see someone had sent the first piece to him – he’d just said “wild!” or something like that.

Across the next month or so the kernel of an idea popped in my head: I was sure, that with a discography this broad and deep, it would be possible to trace the musical development not just of Moore, but of the scenes he’d weaved in and out of, the sounds he’d been a part of. It made such logical sense to me that with several hundred records outside of Sonic Youth – with some years where releases were emerging at more than a dozen-a-year – that it was entirely possible to tell a coherent and cohesive story entirely through oral history and entirely through the records. I bit the bullet; made the connections; contacted the right people and was delighted to be put in touch with Thurston’s PA, Penny, who – for the next year and a half – would be a near constant presence in my life and a thoroughgoing saint when it came to advice, wisdom, contacts, ideas.

Doing something like this, looking in depth at someone, without their knowledge…It wouldn’t have seemed right to me. I was ready to go but until I knew that Moore was cool for me to do it – I couldn’t have started. I had the lists ready of who I wanted to go after; I had an ever-evolving discography spreadsheet which had initially started as something I had been using for a few years when planning music-shopping expeditions and online-purchasing, then became the guiding text of my existence throughout 2015-2016. Every time I turned around during those years, I would find yet another song contributed to a compilation; another collaboration; another record Moore had chipped into on some obscure label out there in the world. It was a source of constant wonder – and sometimes made me feel I was chasing a moving target.

That’s, luckily, where the logic of writing a book took over: there needed to be boundaries, it needed to have pace and readability, it needed to have repeating themes but also shift focus often enough it would keep interest, and it needed to end before it became repetitious. It felt right to stop when it did; to not cover certain songs or releases; to finally halt while the excitement involved in its creation was still so powerful the long nights felt like a pleasure.

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From late 2016 onward I had the honour of receiving the permission of Thurston Moore to create an oral history detailing and describing his vast and extensive discography of collaborations, inspirations and creativity.

The book will be out on March 13 on Omnibus Press (with a U.S. specific edition released in August on Overlook in the U.S.)
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thurston-Moore-Sing-New-Language/dp/1785581368/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1486478776&sr=8-1&keywords=thurston+moore+soulsby

The book is built on interviews with over 170 individuals who have recorded with or performed with Moore over the years – a story of the scenes and sounds he has been a part of, supported, forged and championed over the past three-and-a-half decades. The book is 336 pages including a comprehensive discography and a detailed section on the contributors also.

Over the next few weeks I’ll try to share what I can about the book, it’s content, the motivation behind it and so forth.

https://www.gofundme.com/please-help-dawn-recover-from-cance

If you’re a Nirvana fan, you’ll know the name Dawn Anderson, you’ll recognise the line “Nirvana could become…Better than The Melvins!” Dawn was responsible for the article that appeared in Backlash magazine in the spring of 1988 marking the first interview with Kurt Cobain. If the piece – ‘It May Be The Devil And It May Be The Lord…But It Sure As Hell Ain’t Human’ – wasn’t already so well known it would have been my choice to open the Cobain On Cobain book last year (I wanted to use the word count for something else in the end.)

http://www.livenirvana.com/interviews/8804da/index.php

Dawn is currently in recovery from a run in with cancer. If you have spare change, a touch of cash, anything that might help her toward full health – the link is above and there’s some good to be done in the world.