16 Revelatory Kim Gordon Quotes From Her New Book

by Dina Gachman

She’s an enigmatic rock star, fashion icon, and visual artist — but what do we really know about Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon? Finally, she gives us a little peek behind the curtain with her memoir, Girl in a Band (Dey Street Books), due out February 24. If you’ve ever wondered what Gordon thinks about music, motherhood, the end of her marriage to Thurston Moore, art, family, Kurt and Courtney, or New York versus L.A., you need to read this book. If you just feel like getting inspired by some prose written by a kickass, feminist rock star, Gordon's book delivers.

Girl in a Band has been compared to Patti Smith’s Just Kids , and for good reason. Both books are written by women who made art on their terms, and who became cultural revolutionaries by being their own authentic selves and breaking through the B.S. of the rock 'n’ roll boys’ club by commanding the stage, gazing back, and killing it. Like Just Kids, Girl in a Band is often poetic, lyrical, and intimate. It’s also, at times, pretty funny. Gordon’s style is confessional, no-nonsense, and IDGAF. It’s refreshing. She’s not begging us to love her — she’s just telling her story.

The cover image sums up Gordon's book perfectly: Her chin juts out, defiant, and one eye looks right at us, while the other is covered up, mysterious. She’s too cool to tell us everything, but here are 16 Kim Gordon Quotes from the book that provide us with some revelations:

On Her Book Title

“When Sonic Youth toured England, journalists took to asking me a single question over and over: What’s it like to be a girl in a band?”

Gordon delves into this topic throughout the book, and by her account being the girl in the band wasn’t always awesome. She’s not whining, she’s just relaying her experience — and probably the experience of a lot of other female musicians throughout the ages.

On Thurston Moore

“He was an adolescent lost in fantasy again, and the rock star showboating he was doing onstage got under my skin.”

When news broke that Gordon and her husband/bandmate Thurston Moore were splitting up, the Internet went into mourning. How could one of the coolest rock star couples in history get divorced? What did it say about our society, the universe, and life as we know it? Gordon doesn’t sugarcoat what happened, or how she feels about it. She talks about the cliché of the “other woman,” and about how that other woman was “a current that dragged you underwater and you were miles from home before you even realize it.” That’s one (poetic) way of putting things.

On Being a Rock Star

“Marriage is a long conversation, someone once said, and maybe so is a rock band’s life.”

On other words, it’s complicated. Gordon also says, “I sometimes think of myself as a lower-case rock star,” but I think she’s being modest.

On Gutsiness

“Overcome by my own hypersensitivity, I had no choice but to turn fearless.”

Yes, Kim Gordon is extremely sensitive. She’s human. She has baggage and emotions and fears. Deal with it.


On Creativity

“Art, and the practice of making art, was the only space that was mine alone, where I could be anyone and do anything, where just by using my head and my hands I could cry, or laugh, or get pissed off.”

Gordon writes about her older brother Keller’s mental illness and its impact on her life, which couldn’t have been easy to share. She channeled her feelings about her brother — and about anything she was going through — into art. And that’s where she found a voice. “Self-consciousness was the beginning of creative death to me,” she writes.

On those Awkward High School Years

“Why is Who am I? considered a crisis?”

This is one of my favorite lines from Gordon’s book. Why is it considered a crisis? Why do we waste so much time during the teen years freaking out because we don’t know exactly who we are? I don’t have the answer, and neither does she, and that's OK.

On the Economy

“If memory serves, tuition at Santa Monica College was $30 a semester.” Then, when she moved to Manhattan, “rent was cheap, too, $150 a month.”

WTF? I’m not sure if Kim Gordon was intentionally making a profound statement about our current economy and the student debt crisis and the ballooning cost of tuition and rent, but it definitely resonates.

On Backup Plans

“It never occurred to me I would fail.”

Gordon was a “terrible receptionist,” she was in a (failed) girl band called Introjection, and she made a silent surrealist film about Patty Hearst before she became a rock star. She didn’t stop just because Introjection didn’t become an MTV favorite. She believed she would succeed, and she did.

On Los Angeles

“No matter where I go in my life, visually L.A. will always be my favorite place on earth.”

Take that, L.A.-haters.

On Women Kicking Ass

“In general … women aren’t allowed to be kick-ass … At the end of the day, women are expected to hold up the world, not annihilate it.”

This should be emblazoned on the entrance of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum. It should be recited for years to come, to motivate any little girl who is told she can’t be a rock star.

Ben Gabbe/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

On Being a Fashion Icon

“It’s ridiculous that anyone saw me as a fashion icon, since all I was trying to do was to dumb down my middle-class look by messing with my hair.”

No matter what she says, Gordon is a fashion icon. She created the X-Girl line in the '90s, she’s collaborated with Urban Outfitters, and she designed a capsule collection with the French brand Surface to Air. Plus, she’s one of the best dressed bassists out there.

On Lana Del Rey

“Today we have someone like Lana Del Rey, who doesn’t even know what feminism is, who believes it means women can do whatever they want, which, in her world, tilts toward self-destruction.”

Bow down, Lana.

On Kurt Cobain

“One element of his self-destructiveness was choosing Courtney in order to alienate himself from everyone around him, at the same time fame was alienating him from whatever community he had.”

Gordon was close with Cobain, and she sheds some light on why she thinks he went down the path that he did. She’s also not too warm and fuzzy about Courtney Love, in case you can’t tell.

On Billy Corgan …

“…whom nobody liked because he was such a crybaby, and Smashing Pumpkins took themselves way too seriously and were in no way punk rock.”

Even if you love The Smashing Pumpkins, that’s pretty funny.

On Motherhood

“Yes, [Coco] changed our lives, and no one is more important to me, but the band played on.”

When Gordon had her daughter Coco, she kept right on touring and playing and making music. “I never wanted to be a housewife,” she writes. “I never wanted to be anything other than who I was.”

On Compassion

“I did feel some compassion for Thurston, and I still do… But that is a lot different from forgiveness.”

Amen to that.

Rachel Murray/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Images: HarperCollins