Sonic Youth will record its next studio album without the aid of multi-instrumentalist Jim O’Rourke, who has been part of the band on stage and in the studio since 2002’s “Murray Street.” Guitarist Lee Ranaldo tells Billboard.com O’Rourke is planning to devote his full energies to his own recording projects as well as forays into film.
“Jim is going through a lot of different stuff personally and about where he sees his future,” Ranaldo says. “He’s really interested in pursuing stuff outside the musical arena, particularly film work. Not necessarily soundtrack work, but making films and getting involved in that community.”
“There was never any kind of binding agreement with us,” he continues. “We want what is best for him. That’s not to say either individually some of us won’t continue to work with him, or that in a group setting he won’t ever be involved again. But for the next phase though, we’re developing all this new material without him. He won’t be involved in the production.”
Ranaldo says Sonic Youth has about nine songs in the hopper for a new album, which will likely be recorded early next year. Asked to describe the material, he offers, “It’s always hard to say at this point. It hasn’t taken on its own life yet. Some of it seems to be an extension of the last couple of records, but some hearkens forward into territory and also back to earlier, more dissonant and atonal stuff we’ve done. There’s definitely some rocking songs and also some sound piece-y kind of things that are pretty interesting as well.”
The group has a handful of international shows on tap this fall and has also begun assembling a retrospective that will be launched next year in Vienna to celebrate its 25th anniversary. “It will be centered around us and the visual artists we’ve worked with,” Ranaldo says. “After Vienna, it will tour the world in four or six venues for the next two years. It will be an extensive show, probably with a performance series.”
Sonic Youth oversaw the recent release of an expanded edition of its 1990 major-label debut, “Goo,” which Ranaldo describes as “a return to more under control song forms, after the sprawl of [its 1988 predecessor] ‘Daydream Nation.’ It was a record of songs again. That pendulum has swung back and forth throughout our whole career. Some people took it as our bid to become more commercial, and ‘Kool Thing’ was indeed on the radio. But it was really just the natural course of events for us.”
The hope is to next offer an expanded edition of “Daydream Nation,” but Ranaldo is unsure “whether we have enough extra material of the right fidelity to make it work. I hope it will fly, because that would be a great one.”
Meanwhile, Sonic Youth recently recovered two of the guitars that were famously stolen from the band along with a trailer full of gear in July 1999 in Orange County, Calif. The hand-off was facilitated by two young men Ranaldo says weren’t parties to the crime but are “connected to one of the people involved in the heist,” possibly by family relation.
“They look like they’ve been through World War III,” Ranaldo says of the guitars. “They’ve been repainted several times and the pickups were practically hanging by the wires. They were in really messed up shape, but we’re happy to have them back, and they’ll come back to life in the care of our crew guys.”