INTERVIEW : THURSTON MOORE

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 in Seattle (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.

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Ace Hotel Seattle at the tender age of 27, known to its friends as the New Latona Hotel. Thanks to the Puget Sound Regional Archives.

Ace Hotel Seattle at the tender age of 27, known to its friends as the New Latona Hotel. Thanks to the Puget Sound Regional Archives.


We really admire the folks over at Modern Dog and are excited to help Designspeaks host them Wednesday night for their first lecture in more than three years, at the Gibson Show Room just around the corner from Ace Hotel Seattle. Co-founder Robynne Raye spoke with us about her work (see above), her love of cake and her unapologetic plagiarism of her studio mates’ ideas. Come by and get a glimpse into their mystical land of fun, and enjoy complimentary small batch Pacific Northwestern wine and beer, hors d’oevres and treats from Portland’s Alma Chocolate.
So, Modern Dog has done work for some major companies like Coca-Cola, Target and Disney. Do you ever do tiny projects for free, like birthday cards for friends and signs about which sponge to use in the kitchen?
Yes, for some reason other designers keep asking us to do their wedding invites, so enough already. And if you’ve ever designed a wedding invite you know what I am talking about.
Visual art as a means to communicate information is a pretty powerful marketing tool with a complicated lineage in political propaganda ranging from the revolutionary to the downright evil. What drew you to this kind of work, and how does it feel to create images seen by so many?
I’m probably just a typical liberal Seattlite who happens to have access to paper and ink. So it’s kind of easy to mouth off about stuff I don’t like, although I am already dreading the next election as I anticipate lots of mudslinging on both sides. In the past, I’ve created political messages that benefit a cause I believe in, so that part always feels good.
Where do you gather inspiration for your work, and how do you keep all your ideas organized?
I look at my studio mates’ sketchbooks when they are not looking and steal their ideas (wink wink).
Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. We are likely to bounce ideas off each other so I could never imagine working by myself. And you would never ask if I was organized if you saw the Modern Dog studio (but strangely my home is very clean and organized, I’m just like this at work).
There’s a rumor going around that you are into gardens and cakes — in fact, you have been dubbed the “Cake Queen.” Tell me more.
Even when cake is bad it’s still pretty good. I have 26 Japanese maples in my garden. I love peonies. Enough said.

We really admire the folks over at Modern Dog and are excited to help Designspeaks host them Wednesday night for their first lecture in more than three years, at the Gibson Show Room just around the corner from Ace Hotel Seattle. Co-founder Robynne Raye spoke with us about her work (see above), her love of cake and her unapologetic plagiarism of her studio mates’ ideas. Come by and get a glimpse into their mystical land of fun, and enjoy complimentary small batch Pacific Northwestern wine and beer, hors d’oevres and treats from Portland’s Alma Chocolate.

So, Modern Dog has done work for some major companies like Coca-Cola, Target and Disney. Do you ever do tiny projects for free, like birthday cards for friends and signs about which sponge to use in the kitchen?

Yes, for some reason other designers keep asking us to do their wedding invites, so enough already. And if you’ve ever designed a wedding invite you know what I am talking about.

Visual art as a means to communicate information is a pretty powerful marketing tool with a complicated lineage in political propaganda ranging from the revolutionary to the downright evil. What drew you to this kind of work, and how does it feel to create images seen by so many?

I’m probably just a typical liberal Seattlite who happens to have access to paper and ink. So it’s kind of easy to mouth off about stuff I don’t like, although I am already dreading the next election as I anticipate lots of mudslinging on both sides. In the past, I’ve created political messages that benefit a cause I believe in, so that part always feels good.

Where do you gather inspiration for your work, and how do you keep all your ideas organized?

I look at my studio mates’ sketchbooks when they are not looking and steal their ideas (wink wink).

Inspiration comes from the most unlikely places. We are likely to bounce ideas off each other so I could never imagine working by myself. And you would never ask if I was organized if you saw the Modern Dog studio (but strangely my home is very clean and organized, I’m just like this at work).

There’s a rumor going around that you are into gardens and cakes — in fact, you have been dubbed the “Cake Queen.” Tell me more.

Even when cake is bad it’s still pretty good. I have 26 Japanese maples in my garden. I love peonies. Enough said.


Our friend and legendary artist KAWS chats with film and creative director Matt Black about his work. KAWS created 15 paintings for Ace Hotel Seattle, the original Ace, when we opened in 1999, and his travelling piece Companion (Passing Through) is on view in the plaza in front of The Standard New York through October of this year.


Naturalist minimalism at Ace Hotel Seattle.

Posted to Twitter by Duane King

Naturalist minimalism at Ace Hotel Seattle.



Posted to Twitter by Duane King


Spiritual emblems at Ace Hotel Seattle.

Photo by Jennifer Young at I Art U

Spiritual emblems at Ace Hotel Seattle.



Photo by Jennifer Young at I Art U


This is a wall at Ace Hotel Seattle. We like the simple things in life.

Posted to Twitter by Mike Carroll

This is a wall at Ace Hotel Seattle. We like the simple things in life.



Posted to Twitter by Mike Carroll


We’ve collaborated with Converse on a new colorway for our custom Ace Chuck Taylor All Star Bosey kicks, now in a rich black waxed canvas upper with navy outsoles. These are on the handsome and agile feet of our staff in NYC, Portland and Seattle — once you’ve got your own pair, you can give a knowing wink and a nod to the Ace team whenever you visit us. A limited edition run of 300 is now up on our online shop.

We’ve collaborated with Converse on a new colorway for our custom Ace Chuck Taylor All Star Bosey kicks, now in a rich black waxed canvas upper with navy outsoles. These are on the handsome and agile feet of our staff in NYC, Portland and Seattle — once you’ve got your own pair, you can give a knowing wink and a nod to the Ace team whenever you visit us. A limited edition run of 300 is now up on our online shop.


Our longtime friend, Shepard Fairey, wheatpasting in very hot weather at Ace Hotel Seattle before it opened in 1999.

Our longtime friend, Shepard Fairey, wheatpasting in very hot weather at Ace Hotel Seattle before it opened in 1999.


A love story at Ace Hotel Seattle.








Photos by Andria Lindquist

A love story at Ace Hotel Seattle.

Photos by Andria Lindquist


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