Sonic Youth guitarist's solo work

Last updated 05:00 20/10/2012
Lee Ranaldo
STRUMMING ON: Sonic Youth's Lee Ranaldo.

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On a typically bright August day in New York, Lee Ranaldo sat in the shade of a tree, supremely relaxed, in a park across from his apartment in Lower Manhattan's Tribeca neighbourhood.

Around a nearby corner is the painted wall of a building site that also serves as the cover art for his solo record Between the Times and the Tides, an album he made during time away from his band Sonic Youth, which has since broken up after three decades together.

''Before the bomb of Sonic Youth stopping or [going on] hiatus or whatever dropped on me, we were in downtime and I don't think I could have made this record as easily if I knew my band was breaking up,'' he says.

One of the world's most influential bands called time late last year after Ranaldo's bandmates Kim Gordon and Thurston Moore split following 27 years of marriage.

''I was at a point where I was looking the other way [and] it was almost like for the first time I wasn't trying to make a record and it popped out ... that was cool it happened that way.''

Sonic Youth fans around the world will no doubt continue waiting for any word on a return to the stage for the band but in the meantime, Ranaldo, 56, is the personification of a man with his own race to run.

Ranaldo got together with Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and long-time collaborator and guitarist Alan Licht.

Other contributors to the album, which Ranaldo says fell out of him while revelling in the joy of playing acoustic guitars, were Wilco's Nels Cline, former Sonic Youth drummer Bob Bert, John Medeski, Jim O'Rourke and Irwin Menken.

As fellow New Yorkers stroll by, Ranaldo happily recounts how the song Lost was the first to ''pop out'' while strumming one of his many acoustic guitars in early 2010.

''I was asked to do an acoustic show in the south of France and I started my show over there with it a week later - a week ago the song didn't exist and then I'm playing it in front of all these people at a festival.

''Something happened, it opened a tap or something, and all summer all these songs kept coming out ... I was really grooving on sitting around strumming an acoustic guitar and being excited about the beautiful sounds and these songs were popping out.''

Soon after deciding to demo a collection of newly written songs, he contacted Shelley to put a beat behind a few of the tracks he originally considered as acoustic songs and things quickly grew from there.

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''Nels and John [Medeski] ... I really wanted those guys involved and really wanted a strong keyboard sound and loved what John has done before. Alan's somebody I'm really close to collaboratively these days and he came up with these parts that meshed so perfectly. He's a smoking guitar player.

''It was one of the most fun recording processes ... I've done a lot of producing work over the years, from You Am I to more recent days, and ... that really served me well making this record. It was what you want a record project to be.''

- Stuff

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