Thursday a week ago Dead Neanderthals (awesome Dutch outfit), Jessica Moss and Zu (Italian rock awesomeness) came to town and played a mere 4 minutes from my front door. I was particularly delighted to meet Jessica and Massimo (from Zu) given I’d interviewed both of them previously and it’s always good to put a face to a voice on the phone.

In the mid-to-late nineties, in the aftermath of alternative rock, it final felt there were expansive, politically and socially aware, alternatives to mainstream rock values cropping up: that alternative rock didn’t die, it just moved back into the underground and sparked a dozen intriguing wells of inspiration. This led me to embrace post-rock, which led me to encounter Constellation and their welter of absorbing acts: Godspeed You! Black Emperor, A Silver Mt Zion, Do Make Say Think…

The label is still thriving in 2017 and I think that’s down to the very clear vision and identity, the obvious care and precision taken with each release (the label foreshadowed the enhanced packaging and artwork values adopted by outfits like Joyful Noise), the supportiveness and connection between the various artists on the label and the ability to simultaneously have a recognisable ethos emerging in a wide-range of sounds and styles.

Jessica’s first full solo album certainly caught my ear and I made sure to have cash to hand to grab a copy on vinyl (and Zu’s Jhator too!¬† I’m not usually a format junkie but I do appreciate my money going direct to musicians and into the hands of those who create elements that enhance life.




A small piece from the Smithsonian Folkways rather impressive volume on Lead Belly. So, in case you were wondering, in 1994 the guitar Cobain stated he was considering buying was donated as an exhibit to the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame And Museum.

So…Chris Cornell. I’ve been asked a few times in the four weeks since May 18 why I hadn’t put up a post or whether I’d be game to do a brief article for this place or that…And I shrugged and said no thanks. It’s not because I was dismissing the sadness of Cornell’s death, or his meaning to his fans, or the reasonableness of the request.

Death is simultaneously universal and solitary. We will all undergo the transformation and when we do – no matter how many people are around us – we will communicate nothing of it to those around us, even the most basic confirmation “I am dead,” will be beyond us. That moment in time will belong to you, or I, alone, forever. Similarly, the observation of that moment will tell a spectator little beyond it’s basic unpleasantness; the arrival of ‘absence’ within a body; the mutual private sadness of those still living who stand or sit watching us watch. We can watch and confirm what happened but not feel its significance to each of us.

In its aftermath, those left will be able to recount their grief and touch us with its tangible impact…But we take only so much of their pain inside us – it is their private interior feeling and is ultimately incommunicable to us. The weight that comes with someone’s passing, cannot be handed onto anyone else’s shoulders; nor can we measure our weight against theirs – we each bear it alone, in our own way, work through it alone.

In some ways I find that a comforting thought: that in an over-observed, over-communicated, hyper-mediated world there is something of such ultimate and inescapable significance that it remains inarticulate to all who feel it. That’s why I had no great desire to comment at the time: the point of death is there is nothing to say.

So, sure, I don’t disrespect the flood of obituaries; video clips; tributes; top tens; photo selections; encounters; in memoria op-eds that emerge in the aftermath of any musician’s death. It’s the business of music journalism to report the events of music: it’s an impersonal machine with no moral right or wrong. I didn’t find the repetitive quick summaries of his career enlightening; I didn’t flinch much at the over-egging of Soundgarden’s influence (as opposed to relative popularity); I already have all the albums and enjoy them sporadically as the mood takes me. It was simply another conversion of emotion into product – there’s no harm in that but it is a conversation of the living withh the living, it has nothing to do with the deceased.

The only pieces that resonated with me were one making an initial inroad into reckoning with a historical musical movement that has, ultimately, seen the untimely deaths of a remarkable core of its premier exponents – the ‘death rock’ image of whatever was ‘grunge’ gains yet more reasonable support. The other was a piece reiterating the point about depression and its effect on an individual’s perception of what is normal or rational or sensible. Again, however, in both cases, it meant Cornell became an example for some other narrative or story someone wished to tell: conversion into an intellectual element, again, is a way around the incalculable hole left by a death.

A friend of mine, currently, has endured a tragic loss. I have no words I can give to him that cover the occurrence or provide comfort. Presence, when wished for, is all anyone can give in the end. I believe strongly that death takes something from those left behind. Once age has weakened us sufficiently, seeing/hearing that our friends and loved ones are gone, wrenches the body and mind until eventually we know we’re just waiting for our own without anything left to fight it. Seeing the death of our loved ones and the pain of others when we’re young, again, reminds us that there is no discussion to be had and that the clock is ticking.

But I believe our loved ones, if their deaths are worth anything to us, are worth the giving of a little bit of our own peace of mind; our own comfort; our own spirit. They’re worth a private pain that never gets better though it fades and the memory of it grows dimmer – at which point we feel dissatisfied with ourselves for how frail is human retention of a feeling and a moment.

So I’ve got nothing to say about the death of Chris Cornell. His experience of it was his alone; the feelings of his friends and family remain inside them; your feelings as a fan or casual observer are yours and I have no knowing of them. Death is that one moment that belongs to no one else. I would feel disrespectful in trying to pierce something so ultimately private with any words at all.

April is always holiday time. Birthday in March so always a good moment to pause, a third of the way into the year, see if there’s anything I need to remember for the next two-thirds… But plenty on.

A lonnnnnng Thurston Moore interview here: worth kicking in the background – around 1 hour, 47 he chats a bit about the book which is really sweet of him – while reading other things (there’s another piece here too: I was lucky this past month to interview Arto Lindsay:

And then spent a very pleasant couple hours with Dylan Carlson and Kevin Martin at the Ninja Tune HQ in London:

A couple of reviews of We Sing A New Language came in, very good and fair stuff:

And, around it, listening to Thor & Friends; the new Seabuckthorn LP; the Bug Vs Earth record…



An edit of the early portion of the “We Sing A New Language” book surveys the spell where Thurston Moore was embracing the opportunities to play in NYC and was invited to become a member of The Coachmen: their ‘official teenager’ as JD King, the band’s founder, calls him.

Biographies focused on Sonic Youth (an amazing band and worthy subject of study) underplay the extent to which Moore used his early years in the city, extending on into the first couple years of Sonic Youth, to experiment, learn, take part in whatever was going on at the time. He played in The Coachmen (art rock); Even Worse (art punk); in a variety of one-off combinations with artists like Stanton Miranda, Ann Demaranis, Elodie Lauten; as stand-in bassist for SWANS; as part of Lydia Lunch’s In Limbo band; as part of Glenn Branca’s symphonies and touring band; as part of Rhys Chatham’s Guitar Trio outings. It’s a fertile and intriguingly varied period of time that I couldn’t help but spend a lot of time focused on: life is fascinating when it hasn’t yet assumed a single shape.

…But that’s what’s most fascinating about Moore’s trajectory: the multifaceted and expansive nature of those early years, the embrace of music as a social experience and a creative pleasure, has never ceased. That’s why I’ve found myself such an avid follower of his works and why I actively wanted to spend nights and weekends for a year-and-a-half hearing people talk of their part in it. It wasn’t about ignoring Sonic Youth for aesthetic reasons: it was about providing an extended vision of Moore as a complete artist, assuming the reader knew Sonic Youth, then giving them a window into this wider world they might only have seen slim parts of.

The stereotypes are “oh he only plays noise”, or that it’s all improvisational: that’s a deeply reductionist vision of what emerges. In the early years (1978-1984) he’s mainly a part of other people’s musical visions, lending his own talents to what they want to hear, sometimes unrecognisable as the guitar player he would become. The mid-eighties are dominated by busy years for Sonic Youth leading up to Daydream Nation around which time, the four members having firmly established themselves as artists, each feels ever more able to step beyond the band, play in other contexts, bring ideas back to the fold.

The alternative explosion sees another curious spell in which Moore (and the other members of Sonic Youth) spend extraordinary energy on cover songs and tributes and drawing attention to the music of the underground that the mainstream utterly ignored: a lot of the world acted like ‘an alternative’ only came into existence with Nirvana’s Nevermind. The focus on U.S. hardcore is visible both in the solo discography and in Sonic Youth’s output around ’92-’93.

The improvisational urge, the fascination with free jazz had been percolating for years and – after Barefoot In The Head in 1988 – there’s an explosion from the mid-nineties. There’s a decisive moment where it would have possible to just go on chasing the mainstream zeitgeist; celebrity guests; MTV appearances…And instead the mature artist dives back into learning how to play in new ways and new forms.

Moore’s work trails vines all over the most exciting new sounds of the era. He’s engaging with remix culture in a full-on way few rock artists were quite ready for; he’s working within the illbient scene quite readily; the internet’s potential is embraced with DATs and files flying across the world; he’s playing in the Nemocore ‘scene’ in which the rules are no acoustic instruments, no drums or simulations of drums; his celebrity leads him to working on soundtrack material (and ends up with the resurrection of The Stooges amazingly enough); he’s working with visual artists and in gallery spaces at a time when that kind of cross-channel approach wasn’t yet an established norm in the art world let alone among musicians. The nineties may be when it became most difficult to keep up with Moore’s release schedule but it was one hell of a fertile growth for a guy formerly known only for working with the medium of rock.

The 2000s are when, increasingly, Moore works with artists who can – in some ways – be considered children of the scenes he’d been a part of in the eighties. The noise scene, the free folk/freak folk/whatever movement, the continuation of experimenting with the potential of the guitar as a solo sound source or as a component within other terrain – it’s all there. And, in an era where ever more talk was focused on the irrelevance of the physical and/or ‘place’ in music (nonsense by the way!) Moore (and Byron Coley, Chris Corsano and a variety of comrades) forge a music scene of their own in Western Massachusetts playing at local art spaces, creating venues (Yod), setting up record labels and record shops, staging mini-festivals and art happenings, inviting touring bands, funding releases by other musicians…

And what of now? Moore in the 2010s could be forgiven for slowing down or for it being a decade of ‘more of the same’. Instead it’s been a case of adding more to an already wide-ranging muse. The importance of Moore’s poetic works, writings and performance thereof cannot be understated: it’s been a significant part of his output both in the form of limited edition volumes, his time teaching at Naropa School of Disembodied Poetics, numerous live performances, musical backing for poets like Anne Waldman or Steve Dalachinsky, pieces published in magazines like Sensitive Skin magazine (, numerous appearances documented on Fast Speaking Music ( Similarly, his long-held support of black metal led to the Twilight album (a new highlight), to a spoken word appearance with Krieg, to the Offerings 12″ of 2016 – long may it continue: the textural assault and twisted approach to rhythm and style embodied in black metal is a perfect new home for Moore.

There’s so much going on out there, never forgetting his continued enjoyment of playing in a full on rock band mode: Rock N Roll Consciousness (capital N tribute to Lou Reed’s Rock N Roll Animal), as a title, for me, evokes Moore’s nature: rock n roll was meant to be about rebellion, youth, making something anew – that relies on people who want it to go on growing, mutating, providing a home for the creative freaks and the charming madmen. Moore may have set his sights far beyond the confines of rock music but, in doing so, I can’t think of anything more rock n’ roll in its defiance of expectation.



Really looking forward to this event – I have two of Daniel Rachel’s books on the shelf: ‘Isle of Noises: Conversations With Great British Songwriters’ and ‘Walls Come Tumbling Down’ which I purchased at the Louder Than Words music literary festival back last year. Great stuff – so despite the gloriously pugilistic poster I’m naturally thinking if I can haul both volumes (they’re pretty chunky) from Bristol to London to get him to sign them up for me.

It’s an intriguing topic – think there are a lot of ways to tackle in so I’m curious what directions the chair wishes to go in. We’ve each taken a very different path in terms of life, music, approach to oral history and what we’ve wanted to achieve by using it.


Second track from Thurston Moore’s new album Rock N Roll Consciousness came out today – quite an atmospheric piece, poetry. Lots of echoes of past pieces therein.

Plus, if anyone didn’t see them, there are two new Nirvana live shows on YouTube courtesy of Mike Ziegler – the Tallahassee video is real good and Miami is pretty interesting:

On the book front, someone kindly pointed out to me there’s a site doing free book shipping worldwide – pretty convenient for those outside of the U.K. who might find the Thurston Moore book interesting:




Entering the London Book Fair 2017 and realising that the Omnibus Press stand was dominated by a 9 foot tall Thurston Moore was pretty wicked.

The London Book Fair is, essentially, a giant trade fair for publishers, agents, print houses, ¬†anyone involved in the logistics and execution of publishing books. It’s where publishers launch their major titles and so forth – so it was very pleasing, and deeply humbling, to arrive and see so many people at the publisher had worked hard and taken the time to put Thurston at the centre of it all. Nice to meet other authors, a lot of the team from Omnibus, to chat generally about mutual musical experiences – to snag a copy of other books I’ve been intrigued to read myself.

The book is out now in the U.K., curious to see how it does.