Rock

How The Stooges, Hip-Hop & Airbnb Inspired Kim Gordon's First Solo Album

Kim Gordon
David Black

Kim Gordon

The last few years in the creative life of Kim Gordon have been spent balancing the art world (her incredible Lo-Fi Glamour exhibit was on display at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh), her post-Sonic Youth outfit Body/Head with guitarist Bill Nace and cameos in such acclaimed TV shows as Animals, Portlandia, Girls and the oddly slept-on 2018 Gus Van Sant film Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot. So for many reasons, the idea of a proper solo LP from the one of the true influencers of American cool hasn't been on the top of her mind.

"My more recent goals beyond Body/Head was to focus on my visual art," Gordon tells Billboard. "I felt like the visual art practice was my solo thing, so I didn't really think much of doing a proper Kim Gordon album until recently."

After a career in music that spans nearly 40 years, we finally have a proper Kim Gordon solo album in No Home Record. Her work outside of Sonic Youth has always been worth checking out, from Harry Crews to Free Kitten to Glitterbust. Yet an actual record under her name is something fans have been anticipating for a long time, and she does not disappoint. Produced by Justin Raisen, known for his work with such modern pop faves as Charli XCX and Sky Ferreira, these nine songs rank amongst the most rhythmically driven material Gordon has ever been involved with, adorned by beats that form a natural bridge between Teenage Jesus and Travis Scott -- especially "Paprika Pony," which sounds unlike anything else Gordon has ever recorded.

"I named that song 'Paprika Pony' because it's the name of the beat we used for it," Gordon tells Billboard. "Justin's brother Jeremiah, who is a DJ and producer and makes beats, came by during the sessions and we asked him if he had anything interesting. So he played that and I really liked it and could see doing a vocal to it. His name is DJ Pony and he names all of his beats after food, so that one was named after paprika."

The rest of the album might not be as close to "Bodak Yellow" as "Pony" gets (though Gordon does love the minimalism of Cardi B), but little else in the Kim Gordon canon pays such homage to her longstanding appreciation for rap music, something that dates back to her power summit with Chuck D on Sonic Youth's 1990 breakthrough single "Kool Thing" -- a song about a 1989 interview Gordon did with LL Cool J for Spin magazine.

"There are a lot of chances being taken in both underground and commercial hip-hop these days," she opines. "I like the idea of appropriation in the music and that sense which rap always had of you don't have to be a musician and know how to play an instrument to make good music and great things come out of limitations."

Elsewhere on No Home Record, Gordon tips her hat to the no wave scene she immersed herself in upon arriving in New York City in 1980.

"I would play Justin these songs that resembled the certain rhythm I had in mind," she explains. "Actually, that song 'Hungry Baby' is a real homage to The Stooges, which is kinda obvious (laughs). 'Air BnB' is like this no wave DNA-style song and the guitars emulate Arto Lindsay, who was a big influence on me when I first moved to New York. That music still sounds so modern to me."

In Raisen, she found a creative confidant that could help her navigate the waters of pop music from a distinctly skewed perspective.

"I wasn't really familiar with his work other than that Sky record which had some good things about it," Gordon admits. "But after we did 'Murdered Out' I could see that he got my sensibility or that he could elevate anything I did in a more commercial or conventional way but still have the same original integrity."

With this solo outing, she's also reigniting her appreciation for the music video format, collaborating with renowned German visual artist Loretta Fahrenholz, who directed the beautifully stylized video for "Sketch Artist," which depicts Gordon as a stoic rideshare cabbie that sends people she passes by into haunted seizures.

"I had the idea to be an Uber driver and Loretta came up with the possession idea, that I was a demon," Gordon tells Billboard. "I don't know, you know L.A. is so movie-oriented so it seemed fun to do. We always wanted to collaborate on something and it seemed like a way to make the whole 'putting out a record' process fun. And because she is from the same art world community, it felt like a way to integrate a bit of that into this more commercial world of the music industry and promotion machinery."

Even cooler, the "Sketch Artist" video features Abbi Jacobson of Broad City fame as one of the passengers the "Demon Kim" is driving around town.

"Abbi was great. So easy and really so nice of her to do it," she explains. "I got to know her a little bit. I met her through a mutual friend and she wanted to know more about art things going on in the city. I think she recently moved here. She's pretty cool."

"Air BnB," the one track on No Home Record that most resembles her work in Sonic Youth, touches on the concept of convenience dependency in modern society that seems to be referenced throughout much of the album.

"It comes out of looking up these Airbnbs online and being fascinated by how they are these contemporary landscapes in a way, interior landscapes, in as far as how it's reflective as a culture and just how designed they are," she tells Billboard. "Lately I've been interested in how the culture has become so about convenience. And it seems like everything is curated for you, which is sort of the opposite of what home once was. Home was a place you curated yourself, but this seems like maybe a get out of jail free card in that maybe it's a clean slate. It's weird, because a lot of these places use slogans on artwork or craftwork which are completely like that ambient hold music that one hears all over but nobody is actually listening to (laughs)."

One wonders if all this visual minimalism alludes to a transition into her own space following her divorce from Thurston Moore, a man who -- given his legendary love for vinyl, books and guitars – presumably had a of stuff in their old house in Northampton, Mass. In other words, was the song ultimately about Gordon Marie Kondo-ing her own life?

"It's not so much to do with me personally," she replies. "Thurston was a huge collector, I was not so much. I like to collect art books and I certainly have way too many clothes. But I've never really had a lot of stuff around of my own, and if I do it's because I'm not as organized as I'd like to be (laughs)."

One thing's for sure: based on her Instagram page, she's still a contender for 'world's coolest mom' when it comes to her daughter Coco Gordon Moore, who turned 25 this past July.

"I can't believe it," she responds to a comment regarding the speed of time when it comes to children growing up. "It's fun to see what she does in the world. She and her friends seem pretty political and they are all interesting people. Then again, they live in Western Mass., which is kind of this liberal bubble."