Last night at BAM, Kim Gordon didn’t go into Thurston Moore, Lana Del Rey, Sonic Youth’s breakup or any of the other lurid headlines that preceded today’s release of her memoir, Girl in a Band. Instead the antifrontwoman used her conversation with film producer Margaret Bodde to celebrate fellow luminaries like Iggy Pop, Joni Mitchell and Kathleen Hannah. Gordon played seven video clips spanning over 20 years of charged musical moments, from the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 to the scene in Gimme Shelter where Mick Jagger tries to control the crowd at Altamont as the Hells Angels stir things up.
“The reason why we chose these film clips,” she explained, “is because there are points in certain music situations where something isn’t working and there’s a breakdown and things fall apart, which is almost like an intervention in the performance. In all of these clips the audience is somehow coming into the performer’s space which is supposed to be, in the entertainment world, a sacred barrier.”
Here’s more of what she said.
On the relationship between the artist and the audience: “It’s more like your audience is the history of art.”
On Jeff Beck of The Yardbirds smashing his guitar during Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up: “It wasn’t this seamless idea of entertainment or romantic nostalgia about a time to a certain time of music. People wanted to be carried somewhere.”
On Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock”: “I’m not sure which garden she was talking about [when she sings “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden”]. But on different levels she is referring to what the initial appetence was for wanting to escape into some utopian world that was not what the establishment was.”
On dealing with tension as Sonic Youth grew: “Only when we signed to a major label, you know, because there was some backlash from people like Steve Albini.”
On punks: “Punk rock was a weird thing. It was something that happened that stirred people up and you were influenced by it. And if you jumped into it or joined a band it took you to a place you wouldn’t necessarily have gone. Sonic Youth was more of a post punk band but it was still the residue of that feeling.”
On hippies: “I learned not to look at the audience because I would often see a hippie giving me the finger. And that kind of really drove home the whole notion that Raymond Pettibon so brilliantly illustrates how hippies can be Nazis, or you know Fascists, or not everyone is open minded or was. Or you know then it’s like, one’s a killer like Charlie Manson. And you get these preconceived notions of what a hippie is.”
On touring with Neil Young in 1991: “On that tour we were made fully aware that, well, one, Neil’s audience pretty much hated us.”
On performing “I Wanna Be Yr Dog” with Iggy Pop: “It was hard to out-Iggy Iggy.” And more on Iggy: “I think the East Coasters also had this feeling of like, ‘We’re not buying the peace and love stuff.’ And in 1970 Iggy is screaming ‘I feel alright’ in the worst way. It really was like the beginning of punk rock. He was taking the Mick Jagger rooster dance and totally taking it to much more… using his body as an instrument, you know smearing peanut butter on himself.”
On Kathleen Hannah performing “Rebel Girl” with Bikini Kill: “You see her influence on people like Lena Duhnam. She brought the whole ‘body issue’ forward that was a big part of the riot grrrl platform.”