A major figure in both the alternative and underground/art-rock music scenes for over three decades, Thurston Moore was guitarist for and founding member of Sonic Youth, an adventurous New York quartet that embraced punk, avant-garde, neo-classical and other musical genres over the course of its highly influential career. With bassist and former spouse Kim Gordon, guitarist Lee Ranaldo and drummer Steve Shelley, Moore crafted a body of work that ranged from extreme dissonance to detached pop and sprawling psychedelia, anchored largely by his extraordinary guitar work. Moore's affinity for alternative tunings, distortion and high volume made him a hero to the New York underground scene in the early '80s, but unlike many of those players, his willingness to embrace other styles helped Sonic Youth to attain major label status and even hit records. He continued to explore new sounds with an array of side projects while guiding Sonic Youth into the new millennium before his split with Gordon brought an end to the band in 2011. In its wake, Moore continued to forge new musical paths as a solo artist and with other bands, which helped to preserve his status as one of independent music's most adventurous talents.
Born Thurston Joseph Moore in Coral Gables, Florida on July 25, 1958, he was raised in Bethel, Connecticut and briefly studied at Western Connecticut State University, where his father taught music and philosophy. But Moore soon left school for New York City, where the punk scene was in full bloom. Once there, he began playing guitar for a group called the Coachmen, which hewed after the more art-minded bands of the period like Television. Moore also struck up a friendship with Lee Ranaldo, an art student turned guitarist for Glenn Branca, an avant-garde composer and arranger whose electric guitar ensembles featured complex arrangements played at deafening sound levels. Branca's music had a profound influence on Moore, who had exited the Coachmen to play with CKM, a band fronted by underground musician Stanton Miranda and featuring a California ex-pat named Kim Gordon on drums. Moore and Gordon soon struck up an artistic relationship - the pair shared an interest in jazz and modern art - which blossomed into romance and eventual marriage in 1984.
Moore and Gordon soon joined forces in a band, initially called the Arcadians, which made its debut in 1981, after which they asked Ranaldo and musician/actor Richard Edson to fill out their number. A particularly ferocious rehearsal led to Moore renaming the quartet Sonic Youth, drawing from the MC5's fearsome guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith and their own propensity for music that pushed the boundaries of volume and structure in rock. Branca signed the group to his label, Neutral Records, and released their self-titled debut in 1981. Its aggressive, improvisational sound received favorable reviews, and led to a tour with fellow noise advocates the Swans. By this time, Sonic Youth had gone through several drummers - Edson was replaced by Bob Bert and then Jim Sclavunos, who played on their first full-length album, Confusion is Sex (1983). Though critics of the period often lumped Sonic Youth with anarchic, confrontational groups like Steve Albini's Big Black, the group actually hewed closer to avant-garde jazz in terms of unique tunings, unusual song structures and the use of drone and volume.
While most American listeners and critics dismissed Sonic Youth as noise purveyors, they had developed an ardent fan base in the United Kingdom, where their second album, Bad Moon Rising (1985), was met with enthusiasm. Awash in feedback and dire utterances about the Manson Family killings in the song "Death Valley '69," which Moore penned with Lydia Lunch, the record marked a turning point for the band. It was their first effort with drummer Steve Shelley, who was made a fulltime member, and the last to embrace pure dissonance and disarray; Sonic Youth would go on to explore more dramatic music soundscapes and even elements of melody and structure. Their next albums-1986's EVOL, the following year's Sister, and the 1988 double LP Daydream Nation-connected Sonic Youth with an American fan base.
Unfortunately, listeners found it difficult to find the albums, due in part to distribution problems with the band's small indie labels. Growing interest in alternative music among major labels led to Sonic Youth signing with Geffen, which released Goo (1990), which reached No. 96 on the Billboard 200 on the strength of its single "Kool Thing," a duet with Chuck D of Public Enemy. The following year, Sonic Youth toured Europe with Nirvana, the group responsible for opening the mainstream music floodgates for alternative acts. Sonic Youth navigated the period with considerable skill, moving smoothly between major label, chart-friendly efforts like Dirty (1992) and Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (1994) and a vast array of side projects. In this regard, Moore was perhaps the most prolific of the quartet; after releasing his solo debut, Psychic Hearts, in 1995, he collaborated on projects with punk legend Richard Hell in the band Dim Stars, as well as underground favorites DJ Spooky and Nels Cline and the "supergroup" Wylde Ratttz, which featured the Stooges' Ron Asheton and former Minutemen Mike Watt on a cover of the Stooges' "T.V. Eye" for the soundtrack to the 1998 feature "Velvet Goldmine." Moore also penned scholarly music reviews for the underground magazine Arthur and curated the indie label Ecstatic Peace, which he launched in 1981.
Moore and Sonic Youth continued to work both sides of the musical fence into the early years of the new millennium: they scored their highest charting album with 2009's The Eternal, which debuted at No. 19 on the Billboard 200 while also nurturing their artistic side through a string of experimental efforts with multi-instrumentalist Jim O'Rourke for their own SYR label. In the midst of this boom period, Moore and Gordon stunned fans by announcing their separation in 2011, which effectively brought an end to Sonic Youth. The couple completed what would be their last collaborative effort, a project with Ono titled Yokokimthurston (2012), before striking out on their own solo efforts. Moore released an acoustic album produced by Beck called Demolished Thoughts (2011), then formed a new band, Chelsea Light Moving, which released a self-titled debut album that same year, while also teaming with free jazz musician composer John Zorn for the improvisational LP @. In 2014, the newly formed Thurston Moore Band (including Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley) released their debut album The Best Day.
Cast (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Widespread acclaim for double LP <i>Daydream Nation</i>.
Major label debut with <i>Goo</i>.
Sonic Youth disbands after Moore and Gordon split.