Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX COHEN, host:

Back now with Day to Day.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: New York band Sonic Youth has made it big by mastering the art of noise.

(Soundbite of song "Mote")

SONIC YOUTH: (Singing) When you feel the spiral turning through alone. And you feel so heavy you just can't stop it...

COHEN: That wall of guitar sound - out of tune, maybe, and less feedback, Sonic Youth has been turning dissonance into music for nearly three decades. Their albums have led countless other bands to try experimental rock. Sonic Youth sound has also inspired a group of writers to turn the band's noise punk into literature.

The new book "Noise" features short stories based on the songs and the song titles of Sonic Youth, and Peter Wild is the editor of "Noise." He's here now. Welcome to the program.

Mr. PETER WILD (Editor, "Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth"): Hello, there. Thanks for having me on.

COHEN: Well, thanks for being here. My first question is Sonic Youth's super noisy dissonant, distorted, you might say aimless at times, but stories have to have a beginning, middle and end, right? A story arc?

Mr. WILD: Yeah, no. That's absolutely true.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: So how do you mix the two together?

Mr. WILD: Well, I think what happens is, from the people who are in this book, at any rate, is that they each of them latch on to a particular song, and there's something about that particular song, and it won't be the same thing for all of them. So, some people will latch on to a lyric, and some people will snatch on to a squall of noise, and something that kind of spins off in their head. And some people - strangely for me, really, latch on to the idea of Sonic Youth, and try and write a story that they feel is Sonic Youthy.

(Soundbite of song "Wish Fulfillment")

SONIC YOUTH: (Singing) Shake it, baby! Come on, scream! Just see your face in a magazine...

Mr. WILD: There's a story in the book by Katherine Fleming, who's an English writer, and she wrote a story in which a girl is trapped in the back of her teacher's car. It turns out that the girl's engineered this plot because she doesn't like the teacher and wants to create a whole lot of trouble for him. And the story, she felt, was Sonic Youthy because she tried to explore what she felt was dark and fevered, that she saw in Sonic Youth's music.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Now, tell me about the story that you wrote in here. It's a pretty short one. It's named after the Sonic Youth song "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style."

(Soundbite of song "Radical Adults Lick Godhead Style")

SONIC YOUTH: (Singing) Radical adults lick godhead style...

COHEN: But before you get to the story itself, what does that mean to you, that title?

Mr. WILD: That's a great question.

COHEN: What does it mean, period, I guess?

Mr. WILD: Do you know, I picked that title, right - in the first instance, I picked that title because it seemed like such a great title. And so, I had that in my head, and I wrote it on a piece of paper, and I listened to the song nonstop for about four weeks. I didn't listen to anything else. I just kept playing it over and over again. And I was thinking about Sonic Youth, and I was thinking about how there's this great lineage from bands like MC5 in the '60s through to Sonic Youth now, these bands that push at the envelope.

And so, I tried to fashion something which was like a cross between James Ellroy and Philip K. Dick because I know both of those writers are an influence on Sonic Youth themselves. They read those writers and then fashion music from those books, and all of that seemed interesting to me. So I tried to write something which was vaguely crime-related and vaguely historic and vaguely sci-fi because I know that's what they dig.

COHEN: I'm wondering, has the band read any of these stories? Has the band read your story?

Mr. WILD: Yeah.

COHEN: What did they think?

Mr. WILD: They've been really great, actually. Lee Ranaldo and Kim Gordon and Steve Shelley, all of them were kind of in touch with me throughout the book. And so, I have their kind of full support, which is really nice because it means that in situations like this, I don't come across like some terrible fraud who is just trying to steal some shine off the band.

(Soundbite of song "Swimsuit Issue")

SONIC YOUTH: (Singing) Don't touch my breast. I'm just working at my desk. Don't put me to the test. I'm just doing my best...

COHEN: Why are you doing this? I know you are a big music fan, it sounds like. But why do this? Why combine the two, writing and music? And are you trying to inspire people to take another listen to the music or what?

Mr. WILD: If a Sonic Youth fan who didn't read books, or didn't read short stories, picked up this book and read a story by, say, Mary Gaitskill and loved it, and then wanted to go and check out all Mary Gaitskill's books, that would absolutely make my year, just as if a Mary Gaitskill fan picked other books, because there's a story by her in here, who didn't know Sonic Youth, and thought, hey, you know, I'm going to go and get that star book compilation that came out, then that would be lovely.

I'd love to create that kind of traffic of people going from short stories to music and music to short stories. That would be lovely.

COHEN: Peter Wild edited the new book "Noise: Fiction Inspired by Sonic Youth." And it's been a pleasure. Thank you.

Mr. WILD: Thanks very much.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: