Tag Archive: The New York Times


February 23, 2015

Reposted from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/19/books/kim-gordon-of-sonic-youth-writes-about-her-band-and-breakups.html

Kim Gordon, pictured in Los Angeles, said her new memoir is the most conventional thing I’ve done. Credit Sam Comen for The New York Times

Kim Gordon, pictured in Los Angeles, said her new memoir is "the most conventional thing I’ve done." Credit Sam Comen for The New York Times


by Joe Coscarelli

Kim Gordon knows her reputation well. “Detached, impassive or remote,” she ticks off in her new memoir, “opaque or mysterious or enigmatic or even cold.”

But rather than dispel the persona she built up over 30 years as the antifrontwoman for Sonic Youth, Ms. Gordon hoped to make it three-dimensional in her book, “Girl in a Band,” to be published on Tuesday by the HarperCollins imprint Dey Street Books.

“People just project stuff onto you, mostly — they don’t really know me,” she said recently at breakfast in Brooklyn. “I just felt like I was saving it. I was being very withholding for the right time.”

Not that the book is a typical tell-all. “I thought of putting a disclaimer in the beginning: No sex, drugs or rock ’n’ roll,” she continued, her sentences trailing off or becoming barely audible, even when her ideas were confidently held and complete. “I’m a read-between-the-lines kind of person.”

“Girl in a Band” does begin and end with a breakup, two, actually: the simultaneous 2011 demise of Sonic Youth and her 27-year marriage to Thurston Moore, who founded the band with her in 1981. But that may be the extent of the fresh dirt. The rest of the memoir, in line with Ms. Gordon’s indecipherable feline stare and flat affect, can be minimal and bare, even stilted, revealing in its brief moments of reverie but careful to stop short of saying too much. It is never embarrassing.

Once the epitome of ’90s cool, Ms. Gordon could be accused of name-dropping in her writing if the connections cited weren’t so natural: Danny Elfman, the composer, was a high school boyfriend; Kurt Cobain was a fan and close friend; and she describes plainly the time her daughter met William S. Burroughs while on tour as a baby with Sonic Youth.

Ms. Gordon’s relationships have also transcended music: After Sonic Youth signed with a major label — joined soon after by Nirvana — she helped start the careers of Chloë Sevigny, who made her debut in the music video for “Sugar Kane” (along with Marc Jacobs’s infamous “grunge” collection) and Sofia Coppola, who staged a show for Ms. Gordon’s fashion line, X-Girl. Just last year, Ms. Gordon played a rehab patient on HBO’s “Girls.”

The decision to write it all down, however, was more practical than artistic. Single at 61, with a daughter in college and a generation of fans presumably ready to follow her into the next phase of life, Ms. Gordon said the book was a way “to open up other opportunities for finding ways to support myself, to be quite honest.” After decades of exploring discordant indie-rock and experimental visual art, she added, “Girl in a Band” is “the most conventional thing I’ve done.”

It was also an attempt at defining her legacy outside of Sonic Youth. Dave Kendall, the former host of MTV’s “120 Minutes,” which championed the band, said Ms. Gordon “didn’t need to project any strong persona or marketing message” and “could just be herself.” As a rock star with acceptance in the art world, she showed women that “there’s no need to sell yourself as a sex object,” he said, or “to hide in the background.”

But with Ms. Gordon’s defining work linked so closely with Mr. Moore, Carrie Thornton, the executive editor at Dey Street Books, said she pitched her on the project this way: “Better to tell the story yourself than to let someone else tell it for you and tell it poorly.”

One possible model was “Just Kids” by Patti Smith, which became a best seller and won a National Book Award for nonfiction. Rock memoirs by women, Ms. Thornton said, “tend to be more relational — certainly in the case of Kim and Patti, there’s a sense of relationship to place and time.”

But for Ms. Gordon, “Just Kids” — a love letter to boho New York and the artist Robert Mapplethorpe — was a much different story from her own. In any case, she said, “I didn’t read it.” And of her own memoir, she said, “I didn’t want it to be romantic.”

That applied to both place and person. “Writing about New York is hard,” begins the chapter in which she meets Mr. Moore. “It is because knowing what I know now, it’s hard to write about a love story with a broken heart.”

Yet the book would not exist without Ms. Gordon’s divorce, which she said was caused by Mr. Moore’s affair with a younger woman, a story both sides have aired out in the news media. “When something like that happens, you start going back and examining your whole life,” she said. “How did I get here?”

The answer starts in Los Angeles, where Ms. Gordon was raised and wrote much of the book. She lovingly describes her beatnik-adjacent parents and childhood, but her relationship with her brother, Keller, who has schizophrenia, is the specter that looms over the memoir.

Her shyness, for instance, “comes from years of being teased” by Keller “ for every feeling I ever expressed,” Ms. Gordon writes. The broken brother-sister relationship caused her to seek out “big personalities” in male mentors, she said, and eventually in Mr. Moore.

Neither of the most imposing men in her life has read the book. “For obvious reasons, I didn’t share it with Thurston,” Ms. Gordon said. “I’m now officially divorced — only recently. So it doesn’t matter.”

She added: “Maybe he’ll write his own book. I’m not really interested.” (Through his representatives, Mr. Moore declined to comment for this article.)

And Keller, who is in an assisted-living home for the mentally ill, is more concerned with “conventional” things, Ms. Gordon said. “I think he likes my teeth,” she said through tears. “He told me I have a great smile.”

In the memoir, Sonic Youth seems almost like an afterthought. An essential band for a generation in which the avant-garde rubbed sometimes uncomfortably with the mainstream, the group “did inform my life and who I am, so it was silly not to write about it,” Ms. Gordon said.

But the book’s middle section, in which she decodes her lyrics and life as a touring musician, feels almost perfunctory. “I could have done more of that, but I kind of got bored,” she said. “I didn’t want it to become a Sonic Youth book.”

Now, in addition to writing and playing with a new band, the guttural Body/Head, Ms. Gordon has renewed focus on her visual art: A forthcoming show at 303 Gallery in Manhattan will explore the way New York has, she said, “become so beautified for foreign investors to buy condominiums.”

Beyond work, there is personal rebuilding. Ms. Gordon can be fanatical about television — she watches “The Good Wife,” “Scandal” and “The Affair,” although she said that all the cheating was a coincidence — and she is dating again. “I think it’s easier to meet single guys in L.A.,” she said.

She also plans to sell the home in Northampton, Mass., where she, Mr. Moore and their daughter, Coco, lived starting in 1999. She may split her time between the West Coast and New York — possibly in a Brooklyn studio apartment with her two dogs.

“For a while, I was concerned about being alone,” Ms. Gordon said. “Now I’m really enjoying my freedom.”

A version of this article appears in print on February 19, 2015, on page C1 of the New York edition with the headline: Making Another Kind of Noise.


What’s The Buzz ?


By Charles Curkindec December 26, 2014

Reposted from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/28/nyregion/iggy-lou-joey-and-danny.html

This month, a private screening was held for a rough cut of “Danny Says,” a documentary about the New York rock music legend Danny Fields. The theater was full of old friends of Danny’s and potential investors, but Mr. Fields was not in attendance.

Afterward, the director, Brendan Toller, who hopes to debut the film in March at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Tex., answered questions from the audience. The actor John Cameron Mitchell, who in the film refers to Mr. Fields as a “handmaiden to the gods,” asked if Mr. Fields would ever see it.

Mr. Toller, he later confessed, had been dreading that question. He hesitated. “Well —— ” he said.

“I’m never seeing it,” Mr. Fields, 75, wryly declared a few days later, sipping some microwaved sake in the living room of his West Village apartment. The man who introduced Jim Morrison to Nico, Iggy Pop to the world, and cocaine to Iggy Pop, simply doesn’t want to. “That’s Brendan’s thing,” he said.

Danny’s thing — and he is known to people in the business as “Danny” — was music. For roughly two decades, Mr. Fields found himself at the center of a revolution. He broke into the industry working for Elektra Records, first doing publicity for the Doors, then signing both Iggy Pop’s band the Stooges and the MC5 (on the same day), which would ultimately lead to his managing the Ramones. You could make a convincing case that without Danny Fields, punk rock wouldn’t have happened.

“Danny Says,” which took Mr. Toller five years to make — and takes its name from a Ramones song about Mr. Fields — is dominated by Mr. Fields’s tremulous monotone voice-over. But though he may claim that “Danny Says” holds little interest for him, the source material of the movie, his obsessively cataloged archives, certainly does.

Mr. Fields inhabits a cramped apartment filled with more priceless art and artifacts than its few walls can accommodate. As a proudly gay and puckish music industry executive, photographer, D.J. and journalist, Mr. Fields has lived a life most textured, and he has been re-examining it as Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, which recently acquired a portion of his archives, comes to collect it one box at a time.

Timothy Young, curator of modern books and manuscripts at the Beinecke, is very excited about the acquisition. “My colleagues looked at me in silence after I pitched them Danny’s archive,” Mr. Young said, affirming Mr. Fields’s renown even in academic circles. “It’s such important material of such an important person.

He also noted that the circumstances for the acquisition were strange. “It’s a new experience for me to work with someone who’s alive.”

Andy Warhol’s manager, the filmmaker Paul Morrissey, knew Mr. Fields well but lost track of him over the years. “Is he still alive?” Mr. Morrissey asked, over the phone. Mr. Morrissey, who was interviewed for “Danny Says,” recalled the many times Mr. Fields would stop by his office — what is referred to in popular culture as the Factory — with some friends in tow. “He was a really fun and intelligent guy,” Mr. Morrissey recalled. “I liked him a lot, but I never really knew what he did.”

Though it has been some time since Mr. Fields was influencing the culture, he is very much alive.

Today, Mr. Fields jokes that he doesn’t even like music, but then he’ll insist that it is the greatest of all the things that matter to him. He also considers himself an equally ardent cinephile — he speaks passionately of classics like “The Thief of Bagdad,” a Technicolor adventure from 1940 that still brings him to tears upon repeat viewings; its score, he says, is the first music he ever loved.

Mr. Fields likes to speak, and does it naturally, openly, and with great brio; it’s his talent. For stories, he’s an endless fount, with enough material to fill a few tomes. Those bites of oral tradition are his legacy. The people he knew, the things he saw, the places he has been: That is the gestalt of Danny Fields. They’re alive in his reminiscences, and in the surfeit of audio recordings, photographs, paintings, books and magazines he lives among.

Danny Fields took the photo for the Ramones 1977 album, Rocket to Russia. Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Danny Fields took the photo for the Ramones 1977 album, Rocket to Russia. Credit Joshua Bright for The New York Times

Born Daniel Feinberg in Queens in 1939, Mr. Fields was raised Jewish and is the older of two children. He was a bright kid, graduating from high school at 15, then the University of Pennsylvania at 19, and then dropping out of Harvard Law at 20. “I didn’t want to be a lawyer,” he said. “I thought Harvard was where all the beautiful boys went.”

After Harvard, he moved back to New York and became a regular at the San Remo Cafe in Greenwich Village, where he befriended fellow patrons like Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg and Edward Albee.

Though he found himself surrounded by artists, his own talent was publicizing them. He became an editor at the teen magazine Datebook, where during a fabulously short tenure he managed to ignite controversy by publishing a quote from a 1966 interview by Maureen Cleave with John Lennon who had humbly declared that his band at the time, the Beatles, was more popular than Jesus Christ. (In “Danny Says,” it is asserted that Mr. Fields’s decision led to the band’s eventual dissolution.) He certainly had a yen for stirring the pot. When speaking about his mission statement at Datebook, he said: “I wanted to introduce the Velvet Underground to girls aged 11 to 14.”

From Datebook, he was hired by Elektra Records, which marked a turning point in his career — the observer became a participant.

Mr. Fields surrounds himself with mementos from his life. Some he is parting with now, and the rest he is keeping until he shuffles off: art by the notorious cartoonist Mike Diana, who was convicted of obscenity; hundreds of black-and-white photographs — shots by him and of him and his old coterie including Warhol, John Waters’s drag collaborator Divine, David Bowie and Paul McCartney.

Danny Fields with Nico, photographed by Linda McCartney. Credit Courtesy of the Danny Fields Archives

Danny Fields with Nico, photographed by Linda McCartney. Credit Courtesy of the Danny Fields Archives

“I’m so happy my things are getting a better place to live,” Mr. Fields said.

In January, his first shipment went out to the Beinecke. It was made up of materials largely relating to the Ramones. The second installment, which was collected in July, was mostly audio recordings newly digitized from cassettes, a task that Mr. Fields personally oversaw and underwrote.

The recordings are of his conversations with people he knew or encountered, like Leonard Cohen, whom Mr. Fields took to the Chelsea Hotel to meet some of its tenants, including Edie Sedgwick. “He called me his Virgil,” recalled Mr. Fields, referring to his role as a guide through hell in Dante’s “Inferno.”

The big names he recorded have salience for a lot of music fanatics, but for Mr. Fields, it’s his conversations with the theater critic Donald Lyons (whose estate was also acquired by the Beinecke) and Steve Paul, who owned the Scene (the nightclub where Jimi Hendrix played his first New York show), that he considers highlights of his collection. “Everyone’s heard Lou Reed,” Mr. Fields said, “but no one has tape of Donald screaming, and Steve just being cosmically wonderful.”

Also part of his archives, which he hopes Mr. Young of the Beinecke will acquire, is his pornography: Polaroids of hustlers and videocassettes of blue movies he directed. “I have drawers full of mini-videocassettes of homemade porn,” Mr. Fields said. He described them as fabulous. So far, Yale has not disclosed exactly how much of the pornography it will be taking.

It has been a somber year for Mr. Fields, with the deaths of the punk photographer Leee Black Childers; Arturo Vega, designer of the Ramones’ logo; the poet Rene Ricard; and Tommy Ramone, the original Ramones drummer.

Mr. Fields wistfully acknowledged, “I got more than I deserved,” referring to a career as an important operator in the history of rock ’n’ roll. “I never put my stamp on anything,” he said. “I’ve tried, but never succeeded. I was just a witness.” One could get the impression that Mr. Fields’s self-deprecation belies how he truly feels about himself.

As he takes stock of a storied, tumultuous past, he makes his expectations for the future perfectly clear: He wants more great bands and people in his life to fall in love with. “That’s ‘The Thief of Bagdad,’ ” Mr. Fields said. “To be in love with the princess. Or the prince.”

A version of this article appears in print on December 28, 2014, on page MB1 of the New York edition with the headline: Iggy, Lou, Joey — and Danny.

HorizonVU Music is proud to have donated to the “Danny Says” project.


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