Our world has recently entered the era of meta-modernism. Do you have a feeling that the art world tends to get filled with more sense?
I don't know. I mean, you know, art has always been about evoking your own senses and emotions and I don't think that changes as much as methods of how we do it. I mean, all this digital culture that didn't exist before and it's kind of shifted how people interact with world. And it maybe made world a lot smaller in a way: people all over the globe can see the same image on the same day and things like that. So it changed certain things about access and availability but I don't think that basic ways in which humans react to art or music have changed that much really. But what about being more romantic kind of way? Like postmodern was more about seriousness and now it's more about being positive.
I guess so. I mean it's hard. You know, it's interesting you say that with all the fucked up stuff that's going on in the world. I mean, there are some aspects of positivity but there's also a lot of aspects of messed-up stuff going on. So you know, art and music and culture in general is the reflection of that, so it's kind of like a rollercoaster – there are points when things seem very positive and then there are points when they seem very negative. It kind of goes back and forth, through history really. I don't know if we are in a fully positive state right now or not. I mean, there's definitely the potential for a lot of things to move towards the good with the way the world is right now but, you know, then there's people with guns doing crazy things, and it's really hard to say. Of course, some people are more in privilege than the others and there's a lot of people who don't have a positive perspective on life. So it's all about balance in a way. There's lots of things out of balance in a world these days and it's hard to know if the humanity can put this stuff in balance or this state of things out a balance is the way it's always going to be and the way it's always been in a way. On one hand we have a huge interest for the nature of metaphysics as in art sphere and in music sphere separately. On the other hand we're struggling a crisis of fresh ideas and experiments. It seems that such great musicians such as La Monte Young and Steve Reich are only left on records.
I don't think that's true at all. No, they are unique individuals, but there are always unique individuals coming along doing interesting things, and yes, those youmentioned have done really interesting things, but, you know, they've entered the history of their field – the history of music and history of art and culture – but still there're always new young people coming along that have the potential to have just as magnificent career as they have had. So I think it's just a part of progression of the humanity that doesn't happen all the time – you don't get Bob Dylan every year, but every hundred years you get someone of that stature in a different field. So sometimes you're lucky enough to have several people like at the same time – John Lennon and Paul McCartney at the same time or whatever it is – Picasso and Matisse at the same time – so that's just the part of the human progression. I don't see that something is ending because great artists like those two you mentioned are coming to the end of their lives or careers – they're part of the continuum that moves humanity slowly forward. Starting from the Beatles (whom you just mentioned), rock music and then all popular music developed a tendency towards having Eastern elements: like unfinished Indian raga or John Cage replacing form with structure. How do you feel about musical structure of your work?
Well, to me it's a very important part of what I do and what I've always done, sort of, with Sonic Youth. I mean, we were always involved in how to arrange structures and how to make structures that weren't so typical or so standard or cliché and to try and figure out different ways of doing songs: twenty minute instrumental with a little vocal in the end or, you know, just all different kinds of structural things. For us structure was always a big part of music. Music itself is structured time in a way, structured sound of a time, and so in the same way that we use different guitar tunings that take us out of the standard way of working, we tried to do the same with our structure. Especially if you're a rock band there're certain basic structures, you know: verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus, and we tried to be more inventive and playful with those ideas of structure in music. Again, sure we got lots of inspiration from people like Cage, Stockauzen and all different kinds of people that were taking inspiration from musics from around the world – Indian ragga or drumming from South America or Africa. We live in a time when it's easy to have lots of influences – culture is all there to be accessed, so you can be very familiar with drumming from Africa in a way somebody couldn't be a hundred years ago: unless they went there, they didn't hear it. So it's a time when people are synthesizing things from all over the world. So you're kind of exploring?
Oh yeah, I guess so. What direction, you think, will art and music develop in the nearest future? Speaking of both: concepts and techniques.
Well, I don't know. Obviously, digital techniques are a big part of art these days. They're coming out stronger and stronger, and yet at the same time people are still very moved by very simple tactile things: by objects, by physical objects that you can see in a space or a museum, for example. I don't know what future of the culture is going to be. In a way our lives have become more stored in a digital world: like every photo you take exists on a hard drive, but it doesn't exist as a stack of pictures the way it used to. So what direction culture goes in a future, I mean, will it continue to be? I mean, there are more and more artists making more and more art and will there be bigger and bigger museums to hold it all or will something different happen? You know, as long as people are making objects,other people will want to preserve them for future generations to see. I think it's going to be interesting as far as how culture is going to be maintained and stored for the future.Artists continue to see the world and try to interpretive it in different ways, and sometimes that involves very high-tech conceptual way methods and sometimes it's taking a pencil and drawing on a piece of paper in a way that people have done for a thousands of years. That's true, but what about music, though? Do you think music will exist only on the Internet?
I think the same thing with music. People will play primitive instruments – drums and strings stretched across a box – and there will be people making crazy music in computers that have nothing to do with a real instrument or inventing sounds that you never heard before. So it's going to go in all directions at once. I don't think it's going to leave anything behind forever. I think there will be new things added, but there will always be somebody plucking an acoustic guitar or banging a drum, because it's very visceral and primitive and it's integral to where humans came from somehow and how they react to things. Right, just like some people still take pictures with Polaroid cameras, for example. How important, you think, it is for a musician to be a translator of their own views on life, maybe even philosophy?
Well, I think the artists we admire most are ones who can transfer their own situations and make it universal in a certain way, make it apply to other people like you were saying about the story I was telling – like "Yeah, I've been there". That's the way the artist connects with an audience and so the best artists are the ones who can create that connection that people can feel. The way you look at the painting or the way you watch something in the cinema or the way you read a book or you hear a concert – you connect with it in a certain way. And that's what an artist tries to do, I think, is to be a mirror of what they see themselves. OK, now this question is huge. Concepts of many great and talented musicians are going really well with mainstream: as Cage and techno or even your own solo projects and the world one-man band fashion. Sometimes it's hard to notice the difference between the music with actual meaning and "empty" popular music. Do you have an advice for a common listener what to do in this situation?
It's such a complicated question. I'm not even sure I understand what you're asking. There has always been one-man band kind of thing. Everything can be as simple as strumming a guitar or as complex as all stuff one person can do with a computer, you know. I think it comes down to a connection that's made between the audience and the artist or the art. Art can strive to be as simple as possible, you know, like some of those Matisse paintings in the Hermitage we were talking about before or it can be super complex; and neither one is better. It's all the matter of what connects with someone. So you can find somebody making some really
interesting complex stuff but nobody connects to it. And you can find someone doing the simplest thing, you know, humming a tune or playing a simple old-fashioned instrument and it can be very moving. So it's not about technique and it's not about materials or what you use whether you're using high-tech or low-tech, old-fashioned instruments or modern electronic instruments. It's about what you do with it. So it's really about what comes out of you as a person rather than the materials or the tools that you use. So what you mean maybe is if you feel something from no matter what kind of music that means the music is good?
Yeah, I guess so. I mean, the same way as you can't choose who you fall in love with, you can't choose to find a certain art fantastic or terrible. It hits you in a certain way. Some things just move you to the point where you can't stand it or you become very emotional or very moved by it, and other things don't and there's no prediction. That's the exciting part – there's no prediction. You meet somebody, you fall in love with them – you don't predict that it's going to happen. It just happens all of a sudden. That's the magic of the humanity in a way, I guess.