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Watch Kim Gordon Talk Sonic Youth, Bass Influences With Carrie Brownstein

Alt-rock icon talks about her new memoir, recalls weed-stalled Cypress Hill collaboration in book tour interview

Earlier this month, as part of a unique tour promoting her new book, Girl In A Band: A Memoir, Kim Gordon took part in an hour-long conversation with Sleater-Kinney’s Carrie Brownstein at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. In the sprawling and hilarious interview, available above, the two alt-rock veterans battle awkward silences and giggles to discuss Gordon’s time in Sonic Youth, bass guitar inspiration and the weird idea of being labeled a “girl in a band.”

“It was pretty much when we started going to England and English journalists started asking,” Gordon says of the latter concept. “I guess I hadn’t really considered it. I guess I felt more tomboy-ish, so I didn’t think, ‘Girl in a Band’ or something. It made me feel kind of self-conscious, and then I wrote that song ‘Secret Girl,’ which is a little bit based on that experience.”

Gordon says the influences on her early bass playing were “pretty relational.” “There are certain bass sounds – early on, we were really into PiL, Jah Wobble, in the low bass sound,” she says. “And then Sid Vicious had some stuff going on that was interesting. Punk rock opened up this intervention in the culture, created this opening where there hadn’t really been one since the Sixties, I guess. So even though Sonic Youth started in the early Eighties, it was still this pervasive feeling of this energy and this idea about music that you didn’t have to be a musician to be in a band.”

Throughout the interview and fan Q&A session, Gordon touches on her “minimalist” approach in the memoir, the “enormous honor” of making a cameo on The Simpsons and the bizarre experience of recording the 1993 collaborative track “I Love You Mary Jane” with Cypress Hill. 

“It was a time when people thought it was good idea for rock musicians to do songs with hip-hop artists,” she says, moments before confusing Beastie Boys with Run-DMC. “It was a bad time, actually. I don’t know how we were paired up with Cypress Hill for this record. It was suggested there be a compilation, and we got to work with Cypress Hill, who we liked.

“But we didn’t want to make it a bad Cypress Hill song,” she continues, “so we wanted them to take the lead. But we also didn’t want to just put noise over their song – that would have kind of ruined it. We were in the studio with them, and there was a lot of pot smoking for hours and hours and hours. Like listening to the low-end, sub-woofers. And then we got an idea for a hook, so I laid that down.”

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