I FIGURED I’D DO SOME SONIC YOUTH SONGS,
BUT THEN THIS SONG POPPED UP OUT OF
WORKING ON THOSE, AND THEN A FEW MORE
CAME OUT OF THAT, AND I STARTED THINKING
MAYBE I’D DO A SOLO ACOUSTIC RECORD.
Ranaldo with one of his many “Jazzblasters.” Photo by Kirstie Shanley
simultaneously very open and very
sturdy in the guitar parts.
So much of that is the tunings—and there
are a lot of them on this record. And it
definitely came from listening to Crosby
and Joni. I mean, there are parts of this
record that I actually referred to as “the
Joni part” when we were running through
them. I played almost entirely in alternate
tunings, and Alan is exclusively in stan-
dard, but they fit together very well. Nels
played some drop tunings for lap steel,
but otherwise he was in standard, too.
Did you use any new tunings that you
hadn’t tinkered with elsewhere?
Almost every one is new to this record.
It’s actually the big problem, because I’ll
have to take more guitars on the road
than I wanted to. There are six or seven
tunings for 10 songs. There’s only one
Sonic Youth tuning that goes back several years. Hopefully, I won’t have to bring
more than four guitars, or so. I actually
did a song in standard, which is maybe
the only song I’ve done in standard
since the very first Sonic Youth record. I
played in D–D–A–E–A–D [string gauges
.013, .017, .028, .032, .044, .054] on
“Angles,” Shouts,” and “Stranded.” On
“Xtina” and “Off the Wall,” I played in
D–A#–D–F–C–A# [.017, .020, .026,
.032, .047, .054]. And on “Hammer
Blows,” I used C–G–C–C–C–G [.018,
.014, .028, .035, .045, .056].
Do you still work with a lot of unisons?
I do, but I was discovering most of these
tunings as I wrote. I wasn’t looking for
anything in particular. The song would
often steer things in a certain direction.
You’ve always seemed to have a feel for
spare, impressionistic pieces, like