Levitation Interviews

Lee Ranaldo

Sat., 6:15pm, Elevation Amphitheater


"These days, I suspend my guitar from a rope, so that it swings freely," says former Sonic Youth mainstay Lee Ranaldo. "That way, I can play it with a bow, or a drumstick."

2012 solo LP Between the Times and the Tides unwittingly readied the Manhattan-dweller for his current career path. The previous year, Sonic Youth bandleader Thurston Moore and bassist Kim Gordon announced their separation after 27 years of marriage. The art-rock act's dissolution swiftly trailed.

"The timing of my record was a saving grace," says Ranaldo, 60. "It was finished before I even knew the band was stopping. So, when it was revealed that Kim and Thurston were splitting, that transition – from being Sonic Youth's third singer to suddenly singing the whole set – was already underway."

Another solo disc due this fall, the singer/guitarist still employs the unique alternate tuning his former group favored. Unlike Lou Reed or the Stooges' James Williamson, Ranaldo says that No Wave six-stringers happened upon that unorthodox m.o. out of necessity.

"When we first started, in the early Eighties, we had some crappy guitars – Japanese knockoffs that wouldn't hold standard tuning. Later, we'd shove drumsticks or screwdrivers under strings to scheme new noises, sure," he laughs. "But initially, open tuning was a technique used to make our cheap guitars sound better. It wasn't academic or conceptual."

For Saturday's Levitation set, the avid cyclist recruited Royal Trux drummer Tim Barnes.

"My solo shows require a sit-down, indoor space," he explains. "So, we'll cater to the 'festival atmosphere' with an electric, exploratory, psych-like improv duo. Levitation likes noisy and weird, right?"

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