Personalities | Thurston Moore | Sonic Youth’s Groundbreaker | Guitar Heroes

Alternative experimental guitarist Thurston Moore (b. 1958) was born in Coral Gables, Florida. Inspired by New York’s punk and new-wave scene, Moore moved to the city in 1977.

While playing in a band called The Coachmen, he met Lee Ranaldo, an art student and member of Glenn Branca’s avant-garde guitar orchestra. Moore assembled a band with bassist and future wife Kim Gordon, and along with Ranaldo, they played on Branca’s Symphony No. 3 (1983).

The trio formed the core of Sonic Youth, which became part of New York’s No Wave experimental scene. The band’s early work was released on a variety of independent labels. Bad Moon Rising (1985) was their first album to be distributed widely in America, where it was largely ignored, and in the UK, where it received critical acclaim and encouraging sales. Switching to the influential independent label STT, Sonic Youth produced what is arguably their masterpiece, Daydream Nation (1988), before moving to Geffen.

Sonic Youth are one of the most original guitar bands of all time due to the twin guitars of Moore and Ranaldo, which characterized their sound. In addition to Glenn Branca, they were influenced by Can, The Velvet Underground, The Patti Smith Group and The Stooges, as well as the speed and intensity of early 1980s hardcore punk bands Bad Brains, Minor Threat and Black Flag.

Moore relies on alternative tunings as part of his quest for new sounds. He and Ranaldo also make extensive use of prepared guitar – one that has had its timbre altered by placing objects, such as a drumstick, under the strings. In this way, cheap instruments like the Japanese Stratocasters, can produce amazing sounds. This experimentation resulted in their taking numerous instruments on tour, some of which have been specially prepared. Moore has used numerous guitars, favouring Fender, but also playing Gibson and Ibanez models.

Sonic Youth were hailed as the godfathers of the American alternative scene, which went mainstream in the early 1990s, and were a major influence on Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. In 2007, Moore joined Original Silence for live-recorded The First Original Silence, followed by The Second Original Silence (2008). In 2012, along with Samara Lubelski, John Moloney and Keith Wood, Moore formed Chelsea Light Moving; their eponymous debut album was released the following year.

Essential Recordings

Sonic Youth: Bad Moon Rising

Sonic Youth: Daydream Nation

Original Silence: The First Original Silence

Chelsea Light Moving: Chelsea Light Moving

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