“I wanna know the exact dimensions of hell”, Kim Gordon sang on Sonic Youth’s 1988 album Daydream Nation. Visual artist, musician, fashion icon and inspiration for generations of teenage girls, there’s plenty to say about the no wave queen, so I scoured YouTube to find out the exact dimensions of the trace she’s been leaving on the internet during her 33 year-long career, both with Sonic Youth and as a solo act.
NYC rooftop interview – 1988
Hunting for interviews of Kim Gordon alone from the era of Sonic Youth’s heyday proved a challenging task. Most of her interviews at the time were as a member of the band, where her husband and co-frontman Thurston Moore did all the talking, with Gordon quietly sitting by his side, sunglasses on and an enigmatic stare into space. Luckily enough, there is this interview filmed one September night on a roof in New York. With the impressive skyline in the background, the fairer part of Sonic Youth’s vocal duo talks about herself and her career, about being a girl in an all-boys band, and the universal truth that sex and rock go together like butter and jam.
With Courtney Love on MTV’s 120 Minutes – 1992
We meet two of the most influential girls in the ’90s alternative rock scene, Kim Gordon having just produced Hole’s debut album Pretty on the Inside. Courtney Love starts describing her experience as an extra in the Sid and Nancy movie, when Gordon cuts in and shows who’s in charge, declaring that as Love’s producer she is not settling for mere “extra-shmextra” roles for her client. Later on, they discuss Madonna when Love throws the idea for a Sonic Youth – Madonna collaboration to an unenthusiastic Gordon, and then they both talk about their respective bands’ upcoming projects.
Made up in Rotterdam, Netherlands – 1991
In 1991, Sonic Youth brought fellow US bands Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr., Babes in Toyland, Gumball and the Ramones for an all-star Euro tour, and quite naturally they filmed highlights of this gem, releasing them in 1993 as a ‘rockumentary’ titled The Year Punk Broke. In this short snippet of behind-the-stage folly, quite possibly after a drink or two, Kim Gordon applies her makeup skills on Dave Grohl and Kurt Cobain, the latter giving the brilliant idea of turning their coats into miniskirts. Now whether this actually happened or not is sadly not documented.
Performing ‘Don’t’ with Dinosaur Jr. – 2012
Perhaps as a tribute to the glory days of their joint tour, Dinosaur Jr. invited Kim Gordon among many others onstage, for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of their second album. In a passionate rendition of the song, Gordon erupts into deep visceral growls that closely match the original album version, sung or rather screamed by J Mascis himself. It may be worth noting that the lyrics are about heartbreak and Gordon had just walked out of a long-standing marriage with Thurston Moore which surely added to Gordon’s fiery performance.
‘Aneurysm’ with Nirvana at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction – 2014
In another reunion of sorts, Kim Gordon joins Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic onstage for the ceremony of Nirvana’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She takes Cobain’s part for a screaming and thrashy rendition of their B-side ‘Aneurysm’, and boy does the song sound transformed, as she manages to really make it hers. That night, Nirvana’s living members were also supported by Joan Jett, Lorde and Annie Clark (St. Vincent); but given the close friendship between Cobain and Gordon, the participation of the latter on this occasion seems particularly right.
Sonic Youth cover ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’ – 1989
Back to 1989, where Sonic Youth trash the stage with one of these songs that everyone covers for fun every now and then, The Stooges’ ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’. The band turn to full speed, while Kim Gordon, hair all over her face, goes into guttural screaming. Some may argue that vocal-wise it is not a particularly well-tuned performance and it would not be completely unjustified; but the uncompromising performance of Gordon and co leaves no room for reflection, as it simply exudes coolness.
Guesting on Gilmore Girls – 2006
Thurston Moore, Kim Gordon and their daughter Coco in the role of a troubadour band perform a street gig and get told off for jumping in the town square. A sight to be beheld, even if it is not a real life scene. Also a pretty badass example of parenting.
‘Kool Thing’ live in Sweden – 2002
Many years after the original release of ‘Kool Thing’, Kim Gordon continued to take over the stage for each performance, with just as much energy as she did back in the nineties. During this particular one, she gets on her knees for the spoken part of the song, then declares they have gathered to discuss the decriminalisation of the female, after which she goes into onstage acrobatics. Nothing’s left for the audience but to give their silent consent, as when Gordon’s in charge, no one can argue.
Tribute to Kathleen Hanna – 2010
Kathleen Hanna started the riot grrrl movement back in the ’90s, and immediately became disliked for it. She was a champion for women’s rights in a punk rock environment dominated by dudes who loudly disagreed with any women’s presence in it, which surely led to a lot of humiliation. Kim Gordon, on the other hand, has always managed to surround herself with men who respect her, and still shout out loud her protests against the male corporate oppression. An impressive feat to say the least, which, in Kathleen Hanna’s own words, inspired herself to keep on going. It is obvious that there can’t be a more suitable woman to read the movement’s manifesto.
We need a Pussy Riot – 2012
In another riot grrrl moment, Kim Gordon talks about her perspective on then-recently convicted Russian punk band Pussy Riot. Far from making statements about the quality of their music, she talks about their role in society and about gender inequalities. “Why are men so afraid of women?”, this and other reasonable questions asks Gordon, which she then tries to find the answers to.
Q&A at Larm Festival – 2013
Standing proud on her own after the Sonic Youth break up, the now permanent solo act Kim Gordon reminiscences about her beginnings as an artist and as a musician, and talks about her inspirations on a background of old footage from art projects and concerts. She also gives away some old Courtney Love gossip, and reveals that her main reason for going into rock music was to explore the male sexuality, a reason as good as any I suppose.