“I am keeping a journal, similar to Taylor Swift”: Kim Gordon discusses TikTok, being a mother, and her candid new album.

Estimated read time 10 min read


The Daft Hunks, a pair of popular YouTube personalities in their twenties, don’t necessarily review music but instead provide their reactions to it (their most popular videos feature them listening to Olivia Rodrigo and Lana Del Rey in the moment). In their recent video, they watch and discuss the latest single from Kim Gordon. One of the Hunks remarks, “She’s 70 years old and still making music,” to which the other responds, “That’s unbelievable.”

Gordon’s latest song, Bye Bye, starts playing and its ominous hip-hop rhythms clash as Gordon recites a scrawled list of tasks. In a menacing tone, he raps about buying a suitcase, taking pants to the cleaners, and contacting the vet and groomer.

The group of men are visibly shaken. One of them lets out a loud cry, flailing his hands in the air as if he were in a music video. “It’s just like Playboi Carti!” he exclaims, pointing out the similarity to the popular trap rapper’s music.

Other prominent individuals have also shared their thoughts on Kim Gordon’s music. Anthony Fantano, a popular music critic on YouTube, expresses his opinion by stating, “Kim Gordon is creating trap anthems about packing for a trip that are more intense than you can imagine.” On the social media platform TikTok, teenagers are recording themselves as they pack their belongings according to Gordon’s lyrics, which include lines like “Sleeping pills, sneakers, boots” delivered in a melancholic tone. Despite being in the music industry for over four decades, Gordon has achieved a viral success.

She doesn’t seem to care about the dark direction of her trap music. This sound was first introduced in her 2019 solo debut album, No Home Record, and has now become a defining feature of her latest album, The Collective. The album is filled with soft spoken words and anguished post-industrial beats. When asked why her music with Sonic Youth was so intense and dissonant, she believes it reflects the realities of life. She doesn’t see her music as abrasive, but rather realistic.

Can I rewrite the lyrics, shortened and in the present tense, that are scattered throughout the album like a collage instead of telling a story? Were they taken from actual diaries? “I do journal, like Taylor Swift,” she jokes. “But I’m not writing about sad things. Well, maybe a little sad. There is something about that type of writing that is impactful. It’s something you can do in the moment.”

We have an unusual encounter at the Karma art bookstore in the East Village of Manhattan (there are no chairs, so we sit next to each other in the storefront). We chose this spot because Gordon will be releasing a book with them next month, which is a collection of her brother Keller’s notebooks. Gordon notes that her brother was also writing in a sense. After being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia upon leaving college, he spent most of his life under professional care and passed away last year.

According to Gordon, he was well-versed in Shakespeare and classics and had a talent for writing sonnets. He had a collection of notebooks filled with beautiful, yet difficult to read, poetry. Some words that can be deciphered include “Adonis,” “Venus,” and Greek references. Gordon sees this as a tribute to the individual’s unfulfilled potential, and wanted to honor him in some way.

Despite her brother’s celebration, Gordon is determined to shift the focus away from her private matters. This includes the sections in her autobiography, “Girl in a Band,” where she exposes the “repetitive dishonesty, ultimatums, and false assurances” that caused the end of her relationship with her fellow Sonic Youth member, Thurston Moore.

“I am feeling a bit annoyed by the recent article in the London Times about me, as the subtitle focused on my infidelity. It appeared that the writer was simply searching for scandalous information. Such matters are far beyond my current concerns.”

Due to her introverted nature, Gordon tends to be reserved when discussing herself. However, she becomes highly engaged when talking about her work. She also expresses concerns about Trump’s stance on climate change and the impact of the war in Gaza on the division within New York’s left. Additionally, she enjoys listening to Breaking Points, a podcast that features debates between individuals from both the left and right.

Gordon as part of Sonic Youth in 1993

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I inquired about her experience being in New York, a city that holds significant meaning for her. After finishing art school in Los Angeles, Gordon relocated to Manhattan in 1980. She initially created DIY art installations in her friends’ apartments before becoming captivated by the downtown No Wave music scene. Eventually, she met Moore and Lee Ranaldo and together they formed Sonic Youth. It was in New York where the band recorded their iconic punk rock album, Daydream Nation, which Pitchfork deemed the best of the 1980s for its unique blending of noise and songwriting. It was also in New York where Gordon received a letter and Hello Kitty hair slide from Courtney Love, desperately asking her to produce Hole’s debut album. Today, there are walking tours in New York dedicated to Sonic Youth, promising to show indie tourists the band’s former apartment, rehearsal spaces, and venues that have become synonymous with the city.

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“I have a deep fondness for this place. The same vibrant atmosphere still persists. It gives you a sense of productivity, even when you’re not actively doing anything,” she remarks. “However, there have been significant changes. When I first relocated here, it was just after the city declared bankruptcy and the situation was quite grim. Now, the downtown area resembles a large shopping center. It has become much more commercialized.”

Following her divorce, Gordon contemplated relocating from Massachusetts back to New York with her daughter and ex-husband, Moore. However, she ultimately decided against it due to the high cost of living and intense pace of life. Instead, she returned to her hometown of Los Angeles. This was not an easy choice for Gordon, as she expresses in her memoir, “California is a place that lures people in with its promise of death, as they are unknowingly afraid of what they truly desire.” This sentiment is explored further in The Collective, where there is a sense of being on the outskirts of a west coast apocalypse. In one song, “Psychedelic Orgasm,” Gordon describes an acid trip where she wanders the city and buys expensive potatoes for $20 each.

Gordon in her home in LA.

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According to her, in the past, individuals would relocate to the western part of the country as a means of escaping. However, even this form of escape has now become commercialized, with the rise of marijuana stores and people engaging in substance experimentation and psychedelics. She reflects on how California has been viewed as the ultimate destination for escaping, heading towards the sunset.

Did returning to her hometown in her 60s bring her a sense of relief? What is the experience like for a single person? She becomes tense. “It’s a strange feeling. I feel comfortable in my house, but I haven’t quite adjusted to the art scene there. It’s like everything is just a small part of a larger picture.” Has the move not affected her? “Well,” she sighs, “I don’t want to say I’m ‘grateful,’ but I do feel some sense of gratitude. But at the same time, I can’t help but feel down about the situation in Gaza. There are certain things I try not to dwell on, like how it will affect my daughter.”

In 1994, during the height of Sonic Youth’s fame, Gordon’s daughter Coco was born. At the same time, her fashion brand X-girl was gaining popularity as the epitome of “It Girl” style. At that time, there were very few women in bands, and even fewer who were publicly known to have children. Gordon struggled with this, feeling like she didn’t fit in with the cool and attractive image that was expected. She noticed that many people who became pregnant seemed to disappear from the public eye. Despite the challenges, Gordon continued to balance motherhood and her artistic career. She breastfed her daughter while on tour and even went to Japan for a fashion shoot for X-girl when Coco was just six months old. This was exhausting for her, but she felt like she couldn’t complain because there were also positive aspects to being a mother in the music industry. However, she found it difficult to fully explain just how challenging it was to juggle both roles.

I am curious about what it would be like to have Kim Gordon as a mother, being a part of this small group of undeniably cool women – Chloë Sevigny, Sofia Coppola, and Kim Deal, who are all longtime friends and collaborators of Gordon. Does she see herself as a “cool mom”? “Ha! I don’t think those two words really go together. But I do think being a mom is cool.” She shares that the only time she truly impressed her daughter while growing up was when she and her ex-husband, Thurston Moore, were invited to be on an episode of Gilmore Girls and they brought her along. “We used to watch that show together, and they would always mention us!”

Kim Gordon photographed at her home in LA

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Gordon feels a calm sense of happiness when discussing her daughter, who is featured in the Bye Bye music video. I inquire if the hard work of raising a child eventually leads to a strong relationship with them as adults. She responds, “I suppose it really started when she went to college. However, our relationship changed due to the breakup. We definitely grew closer. I still bother her occasionally, but she is truly my favorite person.”

She explains that the sense of being disconnected, which is evident in her album and something she struggles with in her current life in California, is most strongly felt in her separation from Coco. “I recall Yoko Ono telling me: ‘I never really got accustomed to the part where they leave. As a parent, you want your child to venture out into the world, but it’s still tough. I never got used to it.'” Gordon agrees, saying: “It’s difficult when you don’t have anyone to care for. It makes me feel like I have less of a place to call home.”

Gordon’s lunch date arrives at the bookshop and our time together is coming to an end. It seems like some artists could talk about themselves endlessly, but for Gordon, an hour is sufficient. I quickly inquire about the love she’s receiving from her online gen Z fans and the vloggers who are captivated by her trap music. Would she consider joining her friends, the Breeders, in supporting Olivia Rodrigo on her upcoming arena tour? And what if Taylor Swift personally offered her an opening slot?

“I am unsure because I do not believe her audience would appreciate it. It must align somewhat with their tastes. Even during Sonic Youth’s tour with Neil Young, it was difficult to see hippies in the audience giving us the middle finger. Additionally, I cannot describe what her music is like, but I recently flew with her fans on the way to Utah and they were all sporting merchandise. That aspect I do appreciate. I would simply opt for a sweatshirt.”

The release date for The Collective is March 8th.

Source: theguardian.com

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