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Lee Ranaldo on the Future of Sonic Youth

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Do you think you'll be playing any of your Sonic Youth songs when you tour for this album?
I think so. I think we're gonna try and work up eventually some of the lesser-known ones, or older ones, not like the "Hey Joni"'s or "Eric Trip"'s, but some of the ones that really didn't get played that much. We're talking about a couple things right now.

What in pop culture have you been into over the past year?
There's been definitely a few major revelations this year, this Paul Thek show at the Guggenheim Museum. He was sort of a hippy artist from the Sixties who was just doing this incredible work, with ideas of community and participation. It's actually something that I've been doing in a lot of in my other musical activities. I do a collaborative piece with my wife Leah Singer that's film and music based, and we've been using a lot of local musicians and volunteers for the pieces. 

I really liked the Jean-Luc Godard movie, Film Socialisme. That's sort of a weird, left field one, but I really liked that. I just saw that movie Drive, and I liked that. I liked some aspects of it, I should say. It still felt a little Hollywood-y, and I still almost didn't believe Ryan Gosling in that role totally. He kinda grew into it,  but there was a little bit of him still being this pretty boy Hollywood actor. I felt like I wanted an even more anonymous person in the role. But I thought it was a pretty classy movie. I liked that Godard movie because I love his work and it was cool to see him return to form like that, see him make a movie that threw everything, including Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye, into the scenario. That's pretty cool.

You used the phrase "return to form," and that's a phrase that comes up quite a lot in reviews of older artists. As a person who has been making records for 30 years, how do you respond when you see people say, "Oh, it was a return to form for Sonic Youth"?
It was one of those terms that just slipped out of my mouth right now without being very accurate. "Return to form" kind of implies someone that has gone off-form and then comes back. And that's often the case. But there's certain artists, like, I don't know if Neil Young's record came out this past year or not, but I really liked that last record because I really like what he does. He's someone who continues to amaze me. His solo acoustic show at Avery Fisher Hall or wherever it was was just a mind-blowing experience, to see this guy who's 40-plus years deep into a career and still be able to come out with brand new songs and some classic old nuggets, and play the most mind-blowing show where it doesn't matter that he's Neil Young. Anybody who came out and played that show would've been absolutely impressive. It's just mind-blowing that somebody like that could still be teaching me about what performance can be.

Everybody has their off-periods and some people may drift in and out of Sonic Youth's music the way that others would drift in and out of Godard or Neil Young, but the artists I hold near and dear are the artists that I love to look at the entire arc of their career, that I'm interested in following down whatever highway they go, even if they're not successful. At this point, I guess Sonic Youth is in that position, at least longevity wise. We had a career of 30 years and there's always people who come up to you and say, "Oh, I was really into you guys during the time of Sister or Goo, or Washing Machine or whatever." Then there's other people who follow the entire career, who aren't super interested in every record, as I may not be super interested in every Neil record or Godard film. We had this song a couple records ago called "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style." It was really about this notion that it's not only youth that needs to be inspiring, but you take great inspiration from your artists who have a long career, who continue to put out in amazing ways. That's super exciting, as far as I'm concerned.

Related
Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore Announce Split
The Rolling Stone Interview: Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore
Sonic Youth's Kim Gordon Brings Experimental Thrills to Tribeca
100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

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