Youth were already indie darlings before they signed to Geffen in
1989. And Goo, their major debut, was everything that corporate
rock didn't want to hear - a discordant, wayward noisefest.
For Dirty, the group's 1992 follow-up album, Sonic Youth upped their
melody content, riffed up their songs and returned with another
batch of detuned guitars. Now, Dirty has been reissued with a second
disc of bonus tracks. Drummer Steve Shelley explains what was behind
Dirty and how the extra songs came about. Questions by PHILIP CHEAH.
seems that since Sister, the rock critics have always wanted Sonic
Youth to be a regular rock band. Dirty seems to have fulfilled that
wish for them. Was Dirty purposefully titled as irony? And is Dirty
as sonically safe as some critics and fans seemed to have thought
hard for me to answer as far as what others' expectations of Sonic
Youth were then or now back in the day we were trying to
make the best record we could at that time (still what we try to
do today) Dirty came together after a heavy touring period
with heavy (ROCK!) sounding groups like Die Kreuzen, Laughing Hyenas,
Mudhoney, The Fluid and Nirvana. We spent months in a little rehearsal
space in Hoboken with our newly acquired eight-track recording set-up
and worked out the songs that wound up on Dirty (and the songs that
eventually wound up on Disc Two, of the the reissued album). We
were trying to record the band in a way that would capture some
of the power and energy that was expressed in some of our best live
performances (something that we still didn't feel like we had captured
up to that point).
Vig had just worked with Nirvana and everyone was excited to work
with him not only because he had recorded Nevermind (which was maybe
just released or finished as we started to work together) but because
he had also recorded bands we liked such as Tar Babies, Mecht Mensch,
Laughing Hyenas and Killdozer.
I remember correctly Dirty was titled after the Mike Kelley artwork
used in the package (the dirty stuffed animals) but it could have
been a play on words relating to the sort of sub-rock 'n' roll sounds
that were being played in the van or passed around at the time on
cassette (that is, not current Sub-Pop music of the time but early
'70's ROCK such as Grand Funk, Black Oak Arkansas, always The Stooges,
Alice Cooper all the way up to re-discovering Boston).
it sonically safe? Hard to answer it's one of my favorites
from that time. In a way it's a culmination of the way we worked
at that time (record LP tour write record LP
Dirty, to us, shows the paths that rock would take since 1991
grunge and the avant-garde. So Dirty shows us how influential the
avant garde is in rock music today. And Dirty allowed rock fans
to listen to experimental rock without being alienated. Are we overstating
don't know. We were inspired by so many varied things at the time
we were happy to be a rock band or an experimental band to
us it's just a part of being a band.
does Dirty have a full CD of unreleased bonus material?
much material was recorded as we wrote and learnt how to play Dirty
we recorded everything at the time. So when the time came
for the deluxe edition of the CD, Lee (Ranaldo) and I went through
everything we could find from that time we put everything
on CDRs and the band picked what should be on the disc... it was
a lot of fun some of the material we had totally forgotten
other material we had always hoped to release someday.
makes this the one album to have this stand-out treatment?
was the easiest one to attempt a double-disc edition because of
the miles and miles of music we had to go through... we're working
on Goo now. Daydream Nation is possible but not definite as most
of the material not on Daydream already is recorded on cassette.