Two punk icons, one Neil Young...

Now based in London, Thurston Moore is a long-standing underground musician whose new solo record on Matador, ‘The Best Day’ (review), delivered on its promise to kick out the jams.

A founding member of The SlitsViv Albertine recently released her memoirs to outstanding acclaim. Her debut solo album, ‘The Vermilion Border’, came out in 2012.

Hailing from two different generations, initially based either side of the Atlantic, Moore and Albertine would outwardly seem to have lived different lives. Yet within moments of being introduced, the two swap stories about touring, fashion week, London culture and the value of the physical product.

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Thurston Moore, ‘Speak To The Wild’, from ‘The Best Day’

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Viv Albertine, ‘Confessions of a MILF’, from ‘The Vermilion Border’

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V: So my question, Thurston, is: what are you wearing?

T: I’m wearing this new top that my girlfriend bought me. I did a little tour with my new band and we were in this tour bus and my English musicians brought pyjamas with them, and I was just like: that’s such a proper way of touring. (Laughs)

V: So civilised!

T: So, my girlfriend bought me this pyjama top and bottoms and they’re sort of unmatched but they kinda work. I’ve kept the top on and I’ve put on some reasonable trousers for the day.

V: So, really, you’re still in your pyjamas, actually?

T: I’m sort of half-awake, half-asleep. I’m not trying to fool anybody that I’m a…

V: …A style icon or anything?

T: An English style icon or something. Would you ever do any modelling like you did when you were younger?

V: I love fashion, foolishly, and I think it’s great if I get asked and sometimes I do occasionally get asked to do something. Because I’m in my 50s I think that’s brilliant; I think it’s brilliant to see faces of women that are older, and the more you see them in magazines or online, the more your eye adjusts and can see their beauty. I just think we’re trained to find certain traits and faces beautiful. I’m half-French and even in France women of all ages are considered beautiful.

T: That’s my only issue with fashion week, being New York, Paris or London, is that it focuses on the value of youth that overrides the value of any other age.

V: Exactly.

T: So, do you have any new songs?

V: Oh my God. I haven’t written a song for six months, at least, which is quite weird for me. I’ve usually always got one on the go, at least. But I’ve been so utterly focused on the book, and I thought I’d give this year to the book.

T: Well, books are like albums. For me to think about writing a book, especially a book that is a memoir like yours, it’s a complete and utter challenge; it’s not something you just do overnight obviously.

V: No, no. Three years it took to do it. But I did think of the chapters as tracks. Some of the tracks are really short like a Neil Young track and this is the long track like Pink Floyd or whatever.

T: Are you a Neil Young fan?

V: Yes I am. But I actually came quite late to Neil Young, strangely. I loved him when I was younger and then when punk kicked in I rather blindly chucked out all those albums because they were American, more than anything. I suddenly thought no one in England is appreciating their Englishness or Britishness. Anything American more or less got chucked out, unless it was pop or a bit garagey. Then I went back to it again.

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Viv Albertine (photo: Chris Power)

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T: He plays long wanky guitar solos. I don’t know if ‘wanky’ is the right word (laughs), but he plays long guitar solos.

V: He does play long guitar solos, but he absolutely loses himself and they can go from quite melodic into absolute noise. He’s not just going up and down to show how fast his fingers can go; you can feel his emotions coming out and sometimes it’s really iconoclastic almost. He just goes against everything.

T: I guess that’s it. I always wonder about Neil Young sometimes because there’s so much adoration for him around me all the time. I know Neil a little bit from touring with him, and he’s problematic in his personality with other people; but beyond that I just don’t really have much judgment about him. He always drops great things every once in a while.

V: I think he risks making a fool of himself and I think every artist who is any good, even Patti Smith or whoever, they do verge on making a fool of themselves a lot of the time, because they let go so much. If you do that, you are gonna make mistakes in your body of work over the years; you are gonna drop albums, records or books or whatever that just don’t do it right because you’ve fallen into the wrong hole.

T: When I was at your flat the last time – well, the only time – I noticed one record that you were playing and it was Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’, I think. I thought that was really sweet. I didn’t say anything at the time but it was only one record that you had!

V: The funny thing is it’s actually my daughter’s record. She completely fell in love with music when I gave her a turntable. As soon as she put the records on, instead of listening to them on the iPad, she fell in love with music the way I fell in love with music.

T: I think the brain appreciates analogue music more than digital.

V: Really? You think that’s what it is?

T: Well, digital music is numerical and your brain hears it and processes it immediately. It’s very cold; it’s a very cold calculation. Whereas when you listen to a record there’s all this mystery and when you listen to it again you hear something.

V: Really? So you think it’s in the listening process?

T: It’s a theory I got from Neil Young a long time ago. He talked about playing records as a young person and they were very comforting and he kept putting them on, the same one over and over again and it would always sound slightly different because it was being worn and the information was always raw and new. Whereas when you play any digital music, you’ll hear it exactly the same every time.

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As overheard by Robin Murray

More Personality Clash features

Online: Thurston Moore / Viv Albertine

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