Thurston Moore really needs no introduction — if music in the last 30 years matters to you, you know who he is. What you may or may not know is that he’s kicking off a tour with his third solo album, Demolished Thoughts. And that he does narration for National Geographic. And has a teenage daughter. He also recently taught poetry a workshop at Buddhist-inspired Naropa University. His music follows the same discordant, searching speck of light that poetry, and his life, do — sense doesn’t seem to matter, especially if it stands in the way of authenticity and previously undiscovered meaning.
We’re thrilled to see more work pouring forth and we’ll be following his shows up and down the West Coast for the next couple of weeks. After shows this weekend inSeattle (Friday) and Portland (Saturday), Thurston will leave momentos at each respective Ace Hotel — signed vinyl, set lists and other ephemera. We’ll be picking a few people to come claim them. Post a story or picture about Thurston — past, present or future — here, and we’ll announce winners early next week.
We had a chance to talk to Thurston about his album, solo work, side hustles and what he’d rather be doing.
You’re touring with a new solo album — it looks like your first one was in 1995 and then it was, I think, over a decade until the next solo and then that was only four years ago.
Yeah, I was a little busy. Sonic Youth tends to be kind a juggernaut. Once it gets going…
How you find time for solo work, and when you put solo albums out, is it just about having enough songs or about you telling a kind of story?
Yeah, each of those records was sort of about wanting to document a more personal period of time and I wanted to do it as less of a democratic band thing. I wanted it to be something that I completely oversaw; it didn’t really have to be a collaboration so much. Even though I ultimately do collaborate with the other musicians on the solo record and whoever else works on it, but it’s all my call as far as what’s being produced. I don’t know, it’s just a matter of time. I don’t really think about it in any kind of careerist kind of way like I have a solo career that sort of exists. It has more to do with documenting personal ideas and that’s about it. At first, the record in 1995, it was so long ago, and it just was sort of an exercise. I wanted to do a record that was really stripped down and minimal than a lot of song concepts that exist before I introduce them to Sonic Youth when they become more worked on and people come up with their own parts. And I sort of liked the idea of having a record with that title. It sort of started with the title, that I wanted to do a record called Psychic Hearts and it sort of took off from there. There were some lyrics I was working on, and some writing.
The second album was 2007 and again that record was basically about wanting to do a record that was called Trees Outside the Academy. Again I came up with all this writing I was doing and wanting to build some sort of personal solo record. I mean this new record is probably the most intense record to this degree.
What do you mean by that?
Well, just the fact that I really wanted it to be this record that was focused on this one period of time for me and it was kind of dealing with sort of personal issues and stuff like that. It had a more removed feeling — I kind of hide things with more abstraction in the words, I guess. I don’t know. That was the feeling I was getting, I felt a little exposed in a way on this record. And it was also, just I didn’t really know what I was doing. I mean I basically sort of write all these songs and I’m not quite sure what I want to do. I was just going to do it myself in my living room. It was really gratuitous last summer running into Beck and talking to him about it and having him offer his services. It became what was…meant to be. I was really happy with what happened. It became less of a neurotic experience and more of a…I don’t know, he certainly gave it some kind of brightness.
We were incredibly honored to host the first openly gay royal in the world, Prince Manvendra Singh Gohil of India. As an activist, organic farmer, public health educator and humanitarian, Prince Manvendra has gained legalization for homosexuality in India, founded multiple organizations to support the gay and lesbian community of India and educate about HIV prevention, and travelled far and wide with a message of self-empowerment, mutual aid, and political and social enlightenment.
During his stay at Ace Hotel New York, he found a moment to tell us more about his experiences, his activism and his take on the gay and lesbian culture in the US.
How are you finding your stay in New York?
Oh, wonderful. The Ace Hotel is really looking after me very well, it’s rather pampering me, I would say. And my stay has been really wonderful until now, very enjoyable and meeting up with a lot of people. And I must say, New York is very warm and friendly.
Oh, good, I’m so glad to hear it.
Even though the weather is not warm, the people are warm. So I’m having a very comfortable time here.
I’m curious if you feel that being part of the royal family has made it easier or more difficult for you to come out as gay and do the work that you do?
Initially it was very difficult because I happened to be the only openly gay royal in the whole world and the first person to come out and talk. And I think I still enjoy the monopoly, nobody has yet come out and talked that openly. And it was very challenging for me because I was disowned by my family, publicly disowned and publicly disinherited, my effigies were burned in the fire and people kind of protested against my coming out and there was a lot of outcry. And then gradually it faded down because I told the media that I don’t blame the society, I blame their ignorance.
And it is bound to happen that whenever something new happens, or this kind of thing happens, in society people are bound to react. And it is my duty to make them aware of what is the facts of life and I always say if one has to solve a problem, one has to go to the root of that problem. And in order to do that, one has to realize or one has to accept the facts of life or one has to accept the reality, come to terms to the reality. Then you can solve that problem. So now I started doing that, media has helped me a lot. Indian media really has brought out very positive stories on homosexuality, which they were not doing in the past. And I’ve managed to sensitize the media, the print media as well as the television media and especially the vernacular media and through their help I managed to sensitize a lot of people, made them aware of what is the truth. A lot of misconceptions about homosexuality we managed to kind of remove from their minds and that’s how the process began. And now it’s fine, people have started accepting gradually. And more than that, I think my attachment to a call or a larger call helped me a lot for the people to accept me. And the fact that I’ve been doing a lot of social work, not just for the gay community but for others as well in the fields of employment, education, agriculture, health.
So that branding of mine, I would call it, helped me to gain… regain the respect from the people, from my town, from my family. And again, Oprah’s interview made a difference because when people realized that I was the third Indian to be invited by her and the only one to be invited twice, they realized that if Oprah is calling me all the way to Chicago and I mean there are a lot of Oprah fans in India and all of them know that Oprah is not gay. So if there’s a person who’s not in the community and yet she is so openly supporting this whole entire call, I mean there is something, there’s some substance to my fight. So that’s how people… I could change people’s attitudes and mindsets and it’s gradually happening. I mean I am kind of realizing that very soon we will be kind of, you know, achieving our freedom very soon.
We’re excited to announce the kick-off of AfterFest at Ace Palm Springs — we’re hosting DJs, late night screenings and really, really late night dining at King’s Highway all throughout the Palm Springs International ShortFest. We’ll also feature interviews with some of the festival’s directors over the next week or so. First up: Melissa Osborne, director of the short film Change, which screens Friday, June 24 at 5:30pm.
Change is a about a gay Black teenager on the eve of Obama’s election and the success of Prop 8, wherein California voters banned state-sanctioned gay marriage. Can you talk about the film’s inception and how much the final cut reflects your intentions?
The film came about because I wanted to make a short film that I hoped would do more than entertain -– that would get people thinking. I was astounded by the irony on November 4th when Obama was elected and Prop 8 passed and I knew I wanted to tell that story. So I started imagining what that day might have been like for a black, gay teen. What did we — older and “wiser” adults — teach teenagers on that day? I was also aware of my blind faith that Prop 8 wouldn’t pass. I naively assumed that because we lived in California — a “liberal” state -– there was no way the voting residents would let the prop pass. I was wrong. So, those points became the starting blocks for the script CHANGE.