1991: The Year Punk Broke was pretty much my almost daily afternoon home video consumption in high school after cutting class and taking acid during the day.
I cannot understate how much the classic noise-rock and grunge-era tour documentary meant to me and opened my mind, heart and ears to a lifetime of appreciating bands with edge, passion and a feminist streak, not to mention the joy of seeing Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon clowning around with Kurt Cobain.
I never thought decades later I would get a chance to talk to Gordon myself. Her fabulous noise landscape painting band Body/Head (with fellow guitarist Bill Nace) has a sophomore record called The Switch out on indie giants Matador Records as of July 13. It is an unromanticized-yet-meditative collection of moody guitar swells and poetic fragments as well as an excellent boundary-pushing follow-up to their 2013 debut Coming Apart and 2016 live album No Waves.
It was a genuine pleasure for myself and my partner Elizabeth Gomez (a.k.a. psych folk singer Globelamp) to interview Kim and Bill before their upcoming BSP Kingston back room theater appearance on Friday, July 20.
Morgan Evans: BSP is a great, non-corporate venue that has grown out of community love and involvement. How did you end up stopping here?
Bill Nace: Someone offered for us to play there and it fit into our routing. I don’t know much about Kingston. I saw Television once. My friend Angel [Deradoorian] opened. There is a poet, Ben Estes, who actually used to live with Kim who I think lives up there now and runs a publishing imprint called The Song Cave. Is Grasshopper from Mercury Rev still there?
Morgan: Yeah, he’s my friend! I am hoping he will do a song with me on my next Walking Bombs album. Kim, I wanted to know if you saw The Center Will Not Hold documentary on Netflix about Joan Didion. I know you mentioned her in your memoir, Girl in a Band. Did you like it?
Kim Gordon: I did. I thought it was pretty fluffy, but I liked learning she would get up in the morning and wear her dark glasses to have a Pepsi for breakfast.
Morgan: I remember that part! It was amazing! Your music in Body/Head is so expansive. There is a lot of debate right now about visibility and why music called “experimental” is often given that category when it is made by white people and not by other races. Everyone can experience things in a unique way, even through a pop song. What was some formative music that made you start to dissect music in a different way and opened your mind? Your records are kind of an experience rather than someone performing a genre.
Bill Nace: That’s a big one. I think experimental is such a weird phrase. We are not experimenting. We know what we are doing. Experimental is like a word that is seen in contrast with pop music. I never feel like I am commenting on pop music or trying to deconstruct that. It is more our own thing. Everyone thinks of pop music as the norm but that doesn’t have to really be the case. There are unlimited access points into music.
Elizabeth Gomez: Kim, I’ve been in the music scene only a little bit and have encountered a lot of sexism. I can only imagine how much you have, being such a pillar in the scene for so long. As a rock icon, do you have any advice for women who want to keep focusing on their art and drown that stuff out?
Kim: I would just … play louder [laughing]. It’s no different than anywhere else, the culture. I guess I got used to working from a position as a bass player that was sort of a supportive role, initially. If you are not directly in the limelight you can be more observant about things and kind of … I don’t know. It’s so normal to be in a male dominated society that it’s kind of … I guess my bar of expectations is a little bit low. [Laughs.] Especially right now with a Supreme Court opening and everything. At the same time, you can’t really stop energy. The wrath of millions of women will be really hard to contain if Roe v. Wade gets really fucked with. It’s coming to a head, in a weird way. I hope it’s not coming to a head in like a “the end of the world” way [laughs].
Elizabeth: The bar is kind of low. I know what you mean. Our president is Trump.
Kim: I guess I am used to working with limitations, is what I am saying. I kind of like that, in a way. I make it work for me. By people not expecting certain things from you, you can kind of surprise them.
Morgan: So, the song itself and song title for your track “Change My Brain” jumped out to me. People cry about “fake news” and trolls try to muddy the waters online so people can’t determine facts anymore. It makes gaslighting easier. We all have some cultural biases, but you can just hear a song and it can make you relax or feel unity at times. That piece was strong and has a great crawling tension build. Music can reset our brains sometimes back to a better reality.
Bill: For us, we try to go in and focus and play. We play and then go back to what we have done and a world and thread happens without us trying to steer it. “Change My Brain,” I came up with that name on tour a few years ago as a possible 7-inch title. We had been on tour for awhile and I just felt insane. I think we like titles like that that are really open so the listener and audience are active participants, rather than putting a fine point on anything.