Side Streets

Don't like where Sonic Youth is going? Wait. They'll be back.

DO: Has he changed the dynamic between the four of you guys?

KG: Well, everyone likes Jim, and he's funny. It's like having the new adopted kid in the family. Or the pet, as he likes to say. Like Lassie. But Lassie's probably before your time.


A new member wasn't the only force acting on the band. Right in the middle of recording Murray Street, terrorists descended on a portion of New York City a couple of blocks from Echo Canyon, SY's lower Manhattan recording studio. This changed things, a sentiment magnified by a project the band was supposedly in the middle of on September 11.

DO: Tell me about this trilogy thing. Murray Street's supposed to be the second part of a cultural history of lower Manhattan?

KG: OK, well, that's just a made-up thing. Byron Coley, this friend of ours who wrote the record-label bio, just made up all that stuff.

DO: Well done. Have you seen the reviews? You guys have gotten a lot of mileage out of that joke. If that's not for real, what about September 11 in general? Did it affect the making of the record?

KG: Not a lot. I mean, you know, most of the material was pretty much written, the basic songs, and maybe half of the songs had been recorded, so it really just interfered with the recording process and made us appreciate what we had. And it was definitely strange working down there, but it's really hard to say how that sort of thing affects lyrics or...It's just kind of hard to say. It's certainly not anything we want to exploit. Calling the record Murray Street, it's more like, nobody in New York really knows where Murray Street is; it's this innocuous little street that happens to be a couple blocks away from where the World Trade Center was, and they run all the electricity for lower Manhattan under there, as we found out, because it was dug up and quickly became a huge corridor with chain-link fence on either side. It was kind of like that for months.


They've been dabbling in a little self-invented cultural history, as well: This fall, as part of an ongoing series of deluxe reissues, Universal is scheduled to release a double-disc version of Dirty that will include the remastered album along with a spate of extras. "Somebody from there got on it and suggested we do it and proposed it," Gordon explains. "So we've been working on putting stuff together for that--demos and stuff that was on obscure B-sides and stuff like that."

DO: So you've been going back and sifting through some of the older stuff.

KG: Yeah. I'm actually not so into that process; I'm not really into archiving and going back. It is kind of interesting to hear it. Like, when we were getting ready to go out on tour, we were going back and relearning old songs; that's kind of interesting, listening to the records and seeing what they sounded like.

DO: The new one's been getting compared to the late-'80s, early-'90s stuff. Has hearing that stuff brought out any similarities to your ears?

KG: Well, it definitely has absolutely no similarity in how it sounds. I mean, I really think this record sounds better than anything we've ever recorded, in terms of it being a naturalistic recording. And it kind of has a modesty to it.

DO: How do you mean?

KG: It doesn't have a big rock sound to it, you know? Like Dirty was a big-budget thing with [producer] Butch [Vig], and we always wanted to have Andy Wallace, the guy who did the Slayer records, mix our record, just to see what it would sound like. We were really into this hard rock mode. I mean, since we started, people were always like, 'Are you an art band? What are you?' We'd go to England and we'd say, 'Oh, we're into rock,' and they'd think that was just the worst thing you could possibly say about your music, because they just think that rock is so stupid. And people who really are into it, that's just stupid Americanism. So we would always kind of say that to belie people's expectations and kind of fool around with that notion and contrast it with more avant-garde ideas. So Dirty and Goo were kind of the height of that, but this one--and Washing Machine, I like the production on that, too--it just fits the nature of the song. The sound matches; it doesn't put anything on the music. And it doesn't have this sound, of course, that it's gonna get played on the radio, though.

DO: Was that a difficult sound to pull off?

KG: Well, I'm not an engineer. But it's kind of fun working with Jim because he's a musician as well as engineer, so he knows how to get things to sound the way they sound when it's standing next to your amp. As well as doing some trickery that doesn't sound like trickery.

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