That’s in keeping with what Dave Markey, the director of the documentary “1991: The Year Punk Broke,” said was Moore’s driving force: “It seemed like Thurston had a mission, and the mission was pushing music forward, whether it was his own or other people’s.” The film captures Sonic Youth’s European tour with handpicked openers Nirvana, just before the release of the grunge band’s era-defining blockbuster “Nevermind.” “His intuitive sense of what was happening really came to a head with Nirvana,” Markey added.
Azerrad also hailed Moore’s prescience and taste-making ability. “He and the band championed Beck, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr. and Nirvana” early on, he said. “That’s a pretty good batting average.” Beck recalled meeting Moore in 1993, when the Sonic Youth guitarist showed up at a backyard acoustic performance in Los Angeles. “I don’t know how he tracked me down at some barbecue, but he did,” said Beck, whose song “Loser” had yet to catapult him to worldwide fame. “He’s always seemed to know what was happening, even the earliest version of whatever scene or artist.”
Lydia Lunch, the former singer and guitarist for Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, became a friend and occasional collaborator of Moore’s in their younger days. (She memorably howls her way through “Death Valley ’69,” Sonic Youth’s combustive first single, from 1984.) “He may appear very cool, calm and collected,” Lunch said. “But there’s something deep, dark, mysterious and intense brewing under those blond bangs. If you’re going to do that kind of music, there’s some part of you that has to be extremely bold.”
But whatever is going on under that hair, Moore mostly keeps to himself in “Sonic Life” — by design. He described the process of writing his memoir as one driven by the desire to share historical “data.” (A lot of data: He estimated that the submitted manuscript came in about three times as long as the nearly 500-page finished product.) “I certainly didn’t want this book to be some kind of personal expose,” he said.
In October 2011, Sonic Youth’s label made the surprise announcement that Moore and Gordon had separated after 27 years of marriage. The band played its last-ever shows, in South America, shortly thereafter, and effectively broke up. In the book, Moore shares a bare-bones version of what transpired — he had fallen in love with Eva Prinz, a book editor. It’s a stark contrast to Gordon’s detailed recounting of the events surrounding the affair in her own memoir, “Girl in a Band” from 2015.
“I didn’t take any umbrage with it,” Moore said of Gordon’s revelatory best seller, which he read years ago. “But it’s something I didn’t want this book to have at all. If I got too much into that, that would be a critical focus, as it is with any memoir. I purposely decided I have no real reason to share those feelings.”