Kim Gordon Reigns Supreme

Kim Gordon Reigns Supreme

The grunge goddess on segueing from Sonic Youth to Body/Head.

The grunge goddess on segueing from Sonic Youth to Body/Head.

Text: Alexandra Ilyashov

This interview appears in the pages of V114 on newsstands now! Order your copy at shop.vmagazine.com.

In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Sonic Youth reigned supreme as a seminal alternative rock act—and has remained one of the most influential bands of the past few decades. Kim Gordon, one of its three founding members, endured as the face of the band for its 30-year run—from 1981 to 2011. These days, she’s not terribly sentimental, though. “We were together a long time, and I feel like we kind of took it as far as we could,” Gordon says. “We had a lot of good times, but I don’t really feel nostalgic for it.” She moved on rapidly, starting Body/Head with musician Bill Nace in 2012, just a year after Sonic Youth disbanded (the same year Gordon split from then-husband and the band’s guitarist, Thurston Moore). “When we started out, “noise” was considered a derogatory term, and we were unconventional in music,” Gordon says of Sonic Youth’s success. “It’s weird that we got as big as we did, being pretty unconventional.”

Gordon asked Nace to collaborate on a cover of ‘50s song “Fever,” and then, Body/Head, their new act—with its cinema-inspired moniker—emerged organically. “We just would hang out, watch movies, and talk about how we both really liked French filmmaker Catherine Breillat,” Gordon says. “I had a book of hers that analyzed all of her films in terms of sexuality, and the name Body/Head was in it. It was such a good name, we basically said, ‘We should just start a band.’ I had a big basement; we went down there, and started playing.” Between Body/Head’s first and second albums, Gordon released her melancholy, snarling first solo track, “Murdered Out.” She’s working on more solo music which will likely be released sometime in 2019.

Body/Head’s new album, which came out July 13, was recorded in 2017 in Western Massachusetts, where Gordon once lived. “We’re improv-based; we go in the studio, play it back for a couple days, then take time, step back, kind of sift through and see what seems interesting,” Gordon says of her process with Nace.

The otherworldly music is experimental, noisy, and demands to be mulled over. Rather than pleasantly ambient, it is filled with sometimes erratic sonic surprises. “I think we’ve gotten better at starting with a couple ideas and really letting them evolve slowly,” Nace says. “The connective tissue has gotten way stronger.” There’s more ease and spontaneity to Gordon and Nace’s music rapport. “When we do a show, we just get right down to it. In the beginning, we were still exploring each other’s sounds, and I think we’re more deeply connected now.”

KIM GORDON PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID BLACK, COURTESY OF MATADOR RECORDS, ILLUSTRATIONS BY APIRAT INFAHSAENG

Credits: KIM GORDON PHOTOGRAPHED BY DAVID BLACK, COURTESY OF MATADOR RECORDS, ILLUSTRATIONS BY APIRAT INFAHSAENG

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