Thurston Moore Says Yes
Sonic Youth were one of the most influential bands of the latter part of the twentieth century, and their frontman Thurston Moore is one of the most influential guitarists ever. During the course of a recent interview, Moore made some off the cuff remarks about Scottish independence, which might not seem to be of much consequence at first glance, but which, on the other hand, might repay some analysis.
Now London-based, Moore has been an Anglophile since his youth, when he would steal copies of the NME from newsstands and fantasise about such exotic musical blooms as The Pop Group or Scritti Politti. The man, and Sonic Youth themselves, may seem synonymous with New York, no one other than Michael Gira (with whom Moore would collaborate in Glenn Branca’s guitar orchestras) having done more to extend the city’s vivid musical heritage of No Wave into the present
The band would make an indelible impression and become underground heroes with their albums Bad Moon Rising, Evol and Sister, before finding more mainstream success with Daydream Nation and Goo. Throughout his musical career, Moore has retained a long-standing interest in avant-garde music, having collaborated with musicians from Lydia Lunch to John Zorn, and artists from Christian Marclay to Yoko Ono.
While Sonic Youth were rarely a band for outright polemic, they were never afraid to take a political stand when necessary, whether against fascism, or in Kim Gordon, by her very example, becoming a feminist icon and inspiration for women in rock music.
In his more recent solo work, he has used samples from Bernie Sanders and released a single about Chelsea Manning, Chelsea’s Kiss.
Up until now, however, his support for Scottish nationalism has been unknown, although he does have a longstanding love for and interest in Scottish music, reciprocated by Scotland’s fascination for his band.
In the interview, Moore states: “I still think Scotland should secede from the UK.
“I’m all for Scottish independence – I was really upset it didn’t happen, but I think with Brexit, it should now happen more than ever. Though I think maybe the next wave of Scottish bands should be pro-independence. So it can physically lever itself away from the rest of the island.”
I think Moore’s points here are of interest, for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, while many British conservative commentators seem genuinely perplexed that Scottish people would like to have a say in the process of Brexit, or desire another independence referendum, ‘foreigners’, as the former group would refer to them, can often see issues and events more clearly than the natives.
At the time of the last referendum, a former editor of mine was on holiday in India. On the morning of the result, an Indian man asked him in disbelief, ‘why didn’t you vote for independence?”
My Scottish friend couldn’t give him an answer; I think the whole world, which had been eagerly watching Scotland, was bemused by the anticlimactic result.
The second point is on the influence of the arts on politics. While I don’t like agit prop, as a rule, and think that good art and good activism often inhabit very different spheres, I was disappointed by the lack of major music, art or literature inspired by the referendum last time around.
While I’m not expecting cultural production on the level of the art of the Russian revolution, something better than a folk song or another blog on independence would be welcome.
Perhaps Stuart Braithwaite could be inspired to make the Mogwai album to end all Mogwai albums? Or even better, some young musician could seize the initiative?
Could Scottish indie become the voice of Scottish Indy? Let’s see.
By Brian Beadie and Erik Sandberg