Sonic Boom: Thurston Moore's 'By The Fire' Is Perfect For These Times

Sep 24, 2020

Thurston Moore, co-founder of Sonic Youth, an avant-garde band whose "artful noise" influenced an entire generation of alternative and indie rockers, will release his seventh solo album, By the Fire, Friday, September 25.

He joined Melissa Ross on Thursday's First Coast Connect to discuss the album, which she described as a "perfect album for these times."

When she asked him how 2020 helped shape the album, Moore explained, "I wanted definitely to have this record come out this year, especially when this year started unfolding the way it did. I felt stronger and more focused on how I wanted to sequence the record and how I wanted to present it emotionally.”

He explained how it influenced the album’s sound and structure: "I wanted the record to sort of have a definitely more positive kind of perspective. I always think this is politics and joy — that kind of overrides as an activist measured against oppression and anger. And I believe in that, and so I kind of want the record [to] sort of start out with kind of more joyful Sonic rock tunes, and it gets a little more introverted and possibly darker as it moves into the center of the album. And then as far as this deliverance, at least I think of it as a deliverance, at the end with a song instrumental called Venus that kind of moves out into this kind of purely musical and hopeful space. So I was thinking about that kind of sequence during these months and wanting to make sure this record came out sooner than later.”

One of the album’s first singles, Siren, exemplifies this perfectly.

By the Fire features an array of guest musicians, including Deb Googe (My Bloody Valentine), Jon Leidecker, aka 'Wobbly' (Negativland), James Sedwards on guitar, and Sonic Youth's Steve Shelley, as well as Jem Doulton, alternating on drums. The group recorded in North London until the third week of March 2020, determined to release the album as soon as possible.

Moore said he realized that this album's journey would be a different one during the post-production  process.

"Putting the record together and sort of dealing with the other logistics of it, getting things mastered, talking to the manufacturer, dealing with the distribution of everybody was sort of at odds with a very questionable future."

The pandemic has been particularly rough on music venues, especially small independent ones, the majority of which are still closed.

"There's a lot of passionate personal support for each other,” Moore said, “but there's a lot of questions about, like how venues can continue to remain and have some kind of structure where they can stay viably open with nobody in them, hoping for a future."

Because of the pandemic, Moore is unable to tour the way he normally would to promote By The Fire. "I mean, I always tour,” he noted. “Touring is my work. And so I had a lot of touring on my schedule these past few months that was all put aside."

In the meantime, he will perform some streamed shows from various venues around Europe.

"They're going to have the band play inside the venues where they stream to subscribers,” he explained. “It's not as happening as a community of people in a room, but it's kind of interesting."

Moore added that he realizes the importance of adjusting to the realities of a global pandemic and work accordingly to adjust to them.

 

"[I am] just trying to sort of stay on the upside of things as much as possible," More said.

To hear the entire interview with Moore, listen to Thursday’s First Coast Connect with Melissa Ross. The show also encores at 8 p.m. on WJCT News 89.9.

Heather Schatz can be reached at hschatz@wjct.org or on Twitter at @heatherschatz.