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A Fireside Chat with Thurston Moore

By Published: November 29, 2003

TM: Yeah, yeah, I have a quartet with Wally. To me, Wally Shoup was somebody, who to me was as fascinating as they got because he was this saxophone improviser who had like a few cassettes out. He came out of Alabama and he was residing in Seattle and he had a few cassettes on this little label. He did this one hand painted album, the cover was hand painted and he did like a hundred of it. I would see his name. I found one of his cassettes in a record store in Seattle and it was improvised saxophone playing and it was quite good. To me, somebody like that on the fringe of the musical community is much more fascinating and curious to me in a way. They are playing such radical kind of music. It is great being in a band like Sonic Youth, where we can go to Seattle and play in front of a couple thousand people and all these agents are saying, "Can our band open up for you?" and everybody is vying to get on the bill and we're saying, "There's this guy, Wally Shoup, who lives in Seattle and we would like him to play." (Laughing) The promoters like, "Who?" We get a hold of Wally Shoup and he puts together a trio and he plays. The audience, who are basically a bunch of kids waiting to see something else, sees this guy come out with a saxophone and just play free improvised music with a percussionist and a bassist and it is forward, propulsive playing. It is energy music. It is something that they are not hearing or seeing at the clubs that they are going to and it is good. There is a quality to it that is obviously recognizable and generally, when this happens, almost always, because we do this a lot, the audience response is, "cool." They respond to it and give a big welcome to it. The only place it doesn't happen successfully is London. I don't know why. People who come to see a band like us in London, do not want to see improvised jazz music. They throw things at it or they boo it off stage. Only in London, they are not into mixing it up there at all.

FJ: Favorite records?

TM: Wow, I guess it would have to be Derek Bailey, there is a Derek Bailey record, I hate to say this, I don't even have it. It is his first record, but I have a CD-R of it. I had somebody burn me a copy of it. I only know one person who has this record. It is the first Derek Bailey record and it is on a little label out of England called Nondo. It was sold only by mail order in England in the Sixties. It was recorded on a cassette player somewhere in the back of a pub (laughing) while Derek was playing. I always heard that this was Derek Bailey's first record and I had never heard it until recently. It is great. It is just great. It is just sparkling improvised guitar music, harmonics and note play, and these cluster chords that he does and the way he moves forward with his playing, it is just fantastic. I had always heard this record was cassette recording kind of quality, but musically, it is all there. It is unfortunate that nobody can hear this record. It's his first record and it is so cool. That is one of my favorites and that is one of my biggest want items, to get an actual copy of that record. What else? Arthur Doyle's first record called Alabama Feeling, which he put out on his own label in the early Seventies. He was a compatriot of Milford's. That record is fantastic. Certainly, the Patty Waters record where she does a full side version of "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair," which is on ESP. She is playing at the Vision Festival this year and I can't believe I am not going to be around for the Vision Festival in New York. The last record she did was standards and it wasn't that interesting to me. I don't know where she is at. Where she was at then was very interesting. I would be curious as to see what she is going to do. That Alan Silva orchestral record on BYG called Seasons, the three-LP set. There is Machine Gun. That's totally great. There is actually an amazing 10-inch that Mats Gustafsson released on his own little label in Sweden. It is this little label he runs with this museum in Sweden and he put out a 10-inch of the Peter Brötzmann Trio, which was from 1967. It was Brötzmann, Peter Kowald on bass, and Sven-Åke Johansson on drums (Usable past). It's real early for those guys. It's like '67 as a trio and it is amazing. It is on this label called Ofof Bright. It is the first thing they did and the picture on the cover are these guys and they are like twenty years old, young German cats and they look completely amazing. The record is great. It is as good as it gets as far as the real meat and potatoes, Central European, savage playing. It is a great trio record.

FJ: When will Sonic Youth return to the studio to cut another album?

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