‘You can’t give monetary value to art and music’: Thurston Moore on his favourite London music venue

Thurston Moore’s early music may seem synonymous with 1980s New York punk rock, but he’s been a Londoner for well over a decade. Having previously lived in Stoke Newington, the 65-year-old has moved south of the city (the exact location he keeps vague), where between making solo albums and running his record label, Ecstatic Peace, he’s embraced London’s improvised live music scene. Fitting perhaps, given the DIY nature of his work as Sonic Youth’s frontman. The band’s abrasive, free-natured sound often paired rapid guitar riffs with droning basslines and slowly clattering drums that always felt very in the moment.

His new book ‘Sonic Life’ is, as he says, ‘All the musical inspirations I have from all the different ephemera, books and recordings that defined my growing years. ‘Then the advent of Sonic Youth and how we moved through the course of the 80s and 90s.’ To tie in with the launch of his new book, the musician spoke to us about his favourite London music venue, IKLECTIK, an independent space that champions new, free-form music. With the threats of closure ahead of planned redevelopment, Moore is keen to highlight the importance of this personal sacred space. 

‘IKLECTIK is found underneath the Waterloo Bridge in Old Paradise Yard. It’s been there only nine years, so right after I relocated here. I was living in Stoke Newington at the time, very close to Cafe OTO, which is sort of the critical listening room for experimental music. But I started hearing about this new place called IKLECTIK and I saw their programming was similar to OTO’s, but it had its own identity as well.

IKLECTIK music venue in Waterloo
Photograph: Courtesy of IKLECTIK

‘The owner Eduard told me that it used to be a Buddhist Dharma centre, so it has this kind of otherworldly vibe. This also came from the owners who are booking music that is coming from the margins, which was truly experimental and challenging. And so for me, it’s the perfect joint to hang out in. It’s a square space with a sound system that’s set up to make a really great sounding room, especially for free improvised music, which I was mostly interested in hearing and playing.’

The atmosphere was exactly what I thrive on, it gave me so much impetus to run home and create

‘I remember being asked to play in a quartet with Steve Beresford, who plays everything. He’s a multi-instrumentalist, primarily a pianist of the free improvisation scene in London since the early 70s. The saxophonist John Butcher, who is, you know, one of the most highly regarded on the scene here, a classic Wire cover boy. And the percussionist Terry Day, who’s had an interesting career in both experimental and pop music. The atmosphere was exactly what I thrive on, it gave me so much impetus to run home and create. Playing free, improvised music in situations like that with such people who are such serious devotees allows me inspiration to perform in composition.

‘My theory is that there’s all this kind of Buddhist dharmic energy in that room, and so it keeps it alive in a lot of people’s minds. It’s a real drag that it might go away. But there have been a lot of people coming together and protesting the takeover. They have until December, and I’m on board to help them. You know, you can’t give monetary value to art and music, it’s sentient and it’s really important, especially for young people coming up and are interested in more than what they hear on commercial radio.’

‘Sonic Life’ by Thurston Moore is published by Faber (£20).

IKLECTIK is at Old Paradise Yard, 20 Carlisle Ln, SE1 7LG

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