One of punk rock’s original noise makers, Kim Gordon, has left Manhattan, the land of her sonic youth, to settle in fairer fields. Popi [Bowman] asks whether the grass is greener…
New York’s ’80s punk underground spawned an influential movement of artists, including the innovative “noise” band Sonic Youth. Almost 20 years later, the band’s grrrl-rock groundbreaker, Kim Gordon – lyricist/bassist and wife of her SY bandmate Thurston Moore – has moved to Massachusetts while expanding her career to also include gigs with a side project, Free Kitten; a modeling stint for Calvin Klein; and the coordination of an overseas art show. And let’s not forget her full-time role as mom to her five-year-old daughter, Coco.
We tracked down Gordon between studio sessions at her home in a town she equates to Thornton Wilder’s Our Town – “a small community on the edge of things instead of right in the middle.” It’s a far cry from her old New York neighbourhood, which she describes as “a shopping mall with supermodels.” Gordon enjoys getting away from it all, especially as a mother. “You get tired of hovering over your child; you can’t just walk down the street in New York.”
Family life has impacted her creative life as well. “It’s hard for me to be at the studio long hours when Coco’s with a sitter, and taking her on tour is exhausting – but I get ideas from her,” Gordon admits. “I like the joyousness of the moment when she’s singing. She’s on our next record doing a scream piece called ‘Voice for Soprano.’ The directions were, ‘Scream to the wall, scream to the sky,’ so she did it.”
In the tradition of political punkers, Gordon has directed plenty of lung power at society’s shortcomings, although she doesn’t view herself as an activist. “When I write about things that are political, it’s more about being a consumer and the plight of how to survive in a capitalist society,” she explains. “It’s more of a personal politic.”
Her identity as a woman and caretaker, not rabble rouser, surfaces most when she contemplates the world’s wounded: “Women’s rights is way up there; there are still cultures that kill women for not wearing the right thing,” Gordon says seriously, adding that “kids should be taught in school to deconstruct what they see – learn to question it.”
Now that she’s raising her own little woman, does Gordon have any misgivings about her child’s future?
“My worst nightmare is that she’ll still need me to help her get dressed when she’s a teenager!” Gordon laughs. “I’d be very happy if she was a nerd or a little scientist or an accountant.”
And what if Coco wanted to be in a band?
“I wouldn’t discourage her at all.”
Originally published in Nylon magazine