Thurston Moore still has a noisy, abstract approach to punk rock, but in his solo career he’s picking up bits and pieces of other styles and influences via collaborating with other musicians. He’s been making music in London with guitarist James Sedwards, bassist Deb Googe from Dublin shoegaze legends My Bloody Valentine—and fellow Sonic Youth member Steve Shelley on drums since 2013. Moore’s sixth album, By The Fire, out September 25 via his label Daydream Library Series, has him continuing this musical cohesiveness while bringing new people into the fold. Some tracks are legit rippers while others enter progressive and avant-garde styles while maintaining a raw approach.
Rob Duguay (Rail): Going back to the making of By The Fire, did you literally go right to the last day before the COVID-19 shutdown happened in March, or did you have a little more time to work with?
Thurston Moore: I was considering putting this record out this year before we got into this COVID-19 situation. General wisdom is that when you put out an album you try to do it with some time before the holidays; it’s never a good idea to put something out during the holidays, unless you’re a billion-selling superstar or if you have a special 200 LP box set of your entire catalog as some kind of gift item.
I had the music ready to go back in March and I didn’t really have a concept for it, but as soon as we got into this surreal experience of isolating from each other and at the same time rampantly communicating with one another through technology, I started to become fascinated by it and I thought it was kind of cool. By The Fire was conceived conceptually through that, just thinking about the power of communication between individuals. Our eternal way of communicating was always around a campfire …
Rail: How did you go about getting Deb Googe and Steve Shelley and others involved in the making of the album?
Moore: I’ve been living in London for the last eight years. When I moved here, I slowly put together a group. The first person I started playing with was the guitarist James Sedwards, who is all over this record and the last two albums I did in London. He had the great idea to contact Deb, who I’ve known since the early ’80s but I hadn’t spoken to her in many, many years. She wasn’t doing too much musically outside of My Bloody Valentine, which as a group is fairly inactive, but we called her up and asked her if she wanted to join our gang.
That was a good seven years ago, so we started this group with me, James, and Deb. I wanted Steve to play drums, but with me living in London and him living in Hoboken, NJ made it a little difficult; but he flew over.
Since then, it’s been hard to have such a long-distance relationship, and I started utilizing a drummer in London named Jem Doulton who plays on most of the tracks on this record while Steve only played on one. By The Fire was recorded mostly through last year, except for the track with Steve which was done during the Rock n Roll Consciousness sessions.
I also brought in Jon Leidecker who records music under the name Wobbly, he’s part of the culture jamming group Negativland based in San Francisco. He’s done a bit of work on the record and he’s toured with us as well while playing electronics. That’s been wonderful, it’s like a whole new part of the rainbow for me with him involved.
Rail: From listening to it, I definitely got a multi-dimensional vibe with all of the various elements. Leidecker’s presence really pushes things forward.
Moore: Yeah, the idea is to be progressive but still honor the tradition you’re coming out of. That was also sort of the idea with Sonic Youth all through the years, and I continue to look at that as the vocabulary to work within. It’s about wanting to have this traditional structure of a band with guitar, bass, drums, and vocals while having it be a forum for completely liberated ideas and experimentation, without losing the genuine nature you got from rock and roll during your youth.
Rail: You’re going to be embarking on a European tour for masked and socially distanced audiences this month that’ll be rolling through France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. What are your thoughts going into this whole thing? It’s a pretty strange situation with live music these days.
Moore: It’s a bit of a gesture of wanting to investigate how we can continue to work as musicians where we give some kind of energy back to the venues that are empty right now. The idea is to appear at these venues with total responsibility as far as what’s necessitated, like wearing masks and being socially distanced. I’m going to be working with a couple cameras to create a live stream so people can watch it live, and the revenue will be shared with the venue so they have some kind of income. These venues have always been supportive of music so I feel that the music needs to sort of come back and support these venues because that’s such an important relationship. Without each other, we’re floundering.
Who knows what the future will be if we’re only entertaining each other in our living rooms through Zoom and Skype. At this point, I’m not really settled to have that be the case, so we’re going to see how this works.