Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore K'EYs Into Musical Treasures

Guitarist and his partner start label designed specifically to share undiscovered sounds.

Of all the peculiar traits of the obsessive record collector, the tendency to quietly hoard music is, by most accounts, among the more undesirable.

Just ask Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore or his record-collecting friend Byron Coley, who recently started a small

record label to guard against such selfish musical practices while spreading the gospel of lost avant-garde work.

The most offending aficionados take an interest in some delicious obscurity only to try to desperately keep it under wraps,

lest it become, God forbid, popular. Fortunately for fans of music on the fringe, Moore and Coley exhibit all the tenacity of

fanatic record hounds, but none of the inclination to keep their finds to themselves. And it is their hopes that their new record

label, K'EY will soon bring their treasured discoveries to the masses.

"Thurston and I have both been collecting weird records for years," Coley

said. "There's so much of it that's both great and unobtainable that it seemed like a fairly natural idea. The basic idea for the

label was to reissue lost or unknown classics of fringe music, be it free jazz, avant-garde classical, acid-mumbler folk or

whatnot."

Although Moore's is the marquee name at K'EY Records, Coley is well-known

to underground music connoisseurs as the founder of the influential 'zine Forced Exposure, and during the late 1980s

he also proselytized about unknown wonders through his "Underground" column in Spin magazine.

In October, partners Coley and Moore, 39, celebrated the one-year anniversary of their Ecstatic Yod rare records shop in

Montague, Mass. Ecstatic Yod happens also to be the name of the pair's joint record label, which itself was combined from

the titles of Moore's and Coley's existing imprints, Ecstatic Peace and Father Yod, respectively. Coley said that an expected distribution

deal with Sire Records should ensure that K'EY's releases reach a broader audience

than either of the other labels.

"We met with Sire people the other day at their new office and it seems

like everything's going ahead," Coley said. "But nothing has been signed

yet. The idea for K'EY was to be able to utilize some existing label's

manufacturing, distribution and marketing structure to present underground

sounds to an audience of slightly different composition than that which

buys Ecstatic Peace or Ecstatic Yod stuff already. It's an attempt to

preach to the non-converted as well as those already in the know."

The record maven explained that the heading for the new label stemmed from

acronyms he and Moore brainstormed revolving around Ecstatic Yod. "It's

spelled K'EY so that the K is set apart from EY graphically. Which sort of

makes it the King Ecstatic Yod label, since it will presumably have some

actual distribution."

Because the label is in its infancy, Coley said that he and Moore

still have several details to iron out, from the look of the K'EY logo to

which artist will be on their first release. He added that he hopes the

label will be able to issue not only archival recordings, but also the

occasional current artist who sits outside the mainstream of modern music.

"There are a couple of contemporary things we're hoping to push through,"

Coley said. "One is a trio session with Greg Goodman, Henry Kaiser and Lukas

Ligeti; the other is the new album by Les Batteries, who are a duo with

Rick Brown -- of Run On, Blinding Headache and V-Effect -- and

Gigou Chevenier of Etron Fou. But even those aren't exactly carved in stone."

As if he didn't have enough work to do, Coley said his primary mission for

K'EY is to seamlessly weave its influence into popular culture. "What's

really required now is to start working the word into regular conversation.

As in, 'Hey man, that's really key.' Y'know?" [Thurs., Nov. 20, 1997, 9 a.m. PDT]