familiarity for me. I played one new guitar—a Jarrell JZH-1x, which is pretty cool.
I used that on the standard-tuning stuff. It
holds standard tuning really well and is a
very nice-playing guitar.
Effects-wise, the big change is that I’m
using so much less. I used an Ibanez AD- 80
delay and a few distortion pedals—a BJF
Electronics Honey Bee and a Voodoo Lab
Sparkle Drive—and that’s pretty much it. I’m
not even using a loop pedal, which is unusual
for me. Alan is doing much more of the
coloration in the live setting, so he has a lot
more pedals than me. My rig is really pretty
simplified, and that’s nice for a change.
You’ve cultivated a very distinct tone over
the last 10 years or so.
Thurston and I have really dialed in our
tones in recent years—though I think our
real accomplishment was that we got better
at mixing our guitars together. And we were
so good at it in a way that I really haven’t
thought about it in a long time—whose
tone was whose. I had just started to hear
things as this bigger whole.
You’ve mentioned in the past that you’ve
always liked Fender amps for the way
they project. Are you still working primarily with Fender amps?
I could never play through a Marshall, really, because I feel like it throws the sounds
away from you. They’re good onstage in
some instances, because they almost feel
like they throw the sound past you. Fenders
always seem to bloom right there in front
of you. They’re loud in a different way—a
more experiential way. In terms of coloration, I find they just sound better. They
have that nice, pleasing roundness to them.
Right now, though, I’ve been looking
to play through smaller amps. We’ve been
For a taste of Lee Ranaldo’s screaming sonic mayhem, check out the following clips on You Tube.
The first gig with Ranaldo’s new band in Brooklyn in
October 2011. Here the band takes on standout “Xtina As
I Knew Her”. Alan Licht and Ranaldo each take a lead.
You Tube Search Term: Lee Ranaldo “Xtina” live
Photo by Fray Ranaldo
“Mote” is one of the strongest Lee Ranaldo songs in the
Sonic Youth catalog. Here the band works out a pretty
screaming version complete with delay and feedback
breakdown at a European festival in the early 2000s.
You Tube Search Term: Sonic Youth Live Mote
“What We Know” was a highlight on the last Sonic Youth
LP, The Eternal—a perfect example of how Lee and
Sonic Youth could unite the tuneful and the howling.
You Tube Search Term: Sonic Youth - What We Know
There’s a lot of emotion in these songs—
and great imagery, too. Visual art—
especially photography and film—is such
a huge part of your life these days. Are
there similarities between that and music
that reinforce each other?
They must. Strangely, a lot of it is about
decision-making and process. They’re surprisingly similar in that way. I’m getting to
a place where I’m pretty comfortable with
the process of both, and that’s when unexpected, sometimes more natural things happen. It certainly did with this record.