up with Sonic Youth
things remain uniquely and distinctly Japanese... thats
one of the things we love about coming over. Guitarist
Lee Ranaldo (second from left)
Its been a typically busy six months for Sonic Youth
since Metropolis talked with the quintessential downtown Manhattan
indie-rock band. The last time we caught up with them was
in a conversation with founding member, guitarist Lee Ranaldo,
prior to last summers Fuji Rock Festival, where the
band played two sets on two different days.
At the time, Sonic Youth had just released Murray Street,
the second installment in their New York album trilogy. In
the ensuing months, the recording was named top album of 2002
by The Wire and CMJ, among the many other accolades it received.
The band has been busy touring the album, in addition to writing
material for the independent French film, Demonlover, and
working on their diverse solo projects.
One of Ranaldos side endeavors in November brought him
together for the first time for a gig with a musician he has
long admired, experimental Japanese guitarist Keiko Haino.
Weve been heavily involved with the Japanese noise
music scene for quite some time, Ranaldo noted in a
recent email exchange. We even wrote a song, Tokyo
Eye, about our affection for this music, and for the
connection we feel between Tokyo/Osaka and NYC in musical
termslarge cities spawning somehow similar extreme musical
With fellow Sonic Youth members, guitarist Thurston Moore
and singer/bassist Kim Gordon, also involved in their own
side projects with Japan connections, one might imagine that
they might try and do something beyond the scheduled gigs.
But unfortunately, it seems that the time constraints of the
tour wont allow for it.
Its going to be a pretty tightly scheduled timethere
was one offer to do something, in Osaka I think, Ranaldo
said. But Im not sure its going to happen.
We so value our free time in Japanits hard to
have long enough over thereso when we do have free time
its hard to think of playing other gigs, although of
course that would be great if the right opportunity presented
Given the special connection between Sonic Youth and Japan,
the question arises: Do they approach their gigs here any
differently? We dont really change set lists by
country, Ranaldo responds. Were playing
all of Murray Street and an assortment of older songsplus
maybe one or two new ones... We always look especially forward
to playing in Japan!
Sonic Youth made their first visit to Japan in 1989, and have
since been regular visitors. In that time, what changes have
they seen? Well, the economy goes up and (more recently)
downlike everywhere else, says Ranaldo. Audiences
have loosened up since our first gigs over therea bit
more rockist crowd now, rather than so very polite
as it was at first. Some trends blur and blend across the
globe, and this is in evidence in Japan, but some things remain
uniquely and distinctly Japanese and untranslatableI
think thats one of the things we love about coming over.
Sonic Youth play Akasaka Blitz on
February 17-18. See listings for details.