Kim Gordon: The Queen of Noise

portrait by Eric McNatt


It's impossible to talk about downtown culture without referencing Kim Gordon, whether it's her three-decade stint in Sonic Youth, her alterna-teen streetwear line X-Girl or her boundary-pushing visual art (like her recent paintings of Lena Dunham's tweets). Agelessly sexy, with a take-no-shit voice and a pioneering lo-fi aesthetic, Gordon is the proto-riot grrrl who's led the way for generations of creative misfits.

Personal OGs:  Joan Didion, Kathryn Bigelow, Chloë Sevigny, Kelly Reichardt, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, Kathleen Hanna, Lena Dunham, Mary Gaitskill, Claire Denis, Catherine Breillat, Nina Simone, Isa Genzken, Lucio Fontana and Sigmar Polke.

Inspirations: Tony Oursler, John Knight, Jutta Koether and John Kelsey.

What were you like as a teenager?
I was very shy and quiet. I felt pressured to be happy and free even though I was too young to be a hippie.

Have you ever felt truly hurt or shaken by a criticism of your work?
When we first started playing in England, the critics were harsh and mean as "guitar music" was considered old fashion.



Do you ever trust other people to help you? Do you like to collaborate?
Yes I learn things from collaborating and do things that I wouldn't ordinarily do. It depends on the person, though.

Do you consider yourself to be a control freak?

I think all artists are control oriented, but I think "control freak" is a term that works best on reality TV shows. 

As a creative person, how do you deal with the business side of your career? Do you care about that part of things? 
Sonic Youth were always very hands-on with our management. But I like dealing with it as much as I like going through junk mail.

How do you define success? What do you consider to be the biggest success of your career thus far?
Success is having opportunities to show and do work and I'm happy that those keep unfolding for me. And, of course, that means having some kind of audience. I remember always being amazed at seeing young teenagers at our shows and thinking, "How does that happen?"


Photo assistant: Paul Teeling.
Hair and makeup by Liz Washer at Ennis Inc. for Face Atelier.


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