Lee M. Ranaldo (born February 3, 1956) is an American singer, guitarist, writer, record producer, and visual artist, best known as a co-founder of the rock band Sonic Youth. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Ranaldo and Thurston Moore, of Sonic Youth, the 33rd and 34th Greatest Guitarists of All Time, respectively.
Ranaldo was born in Glen Cove, Long Island, New York, and graduated from Binghamton University. He has three sons, Cody Ranaldo, Sage Ranaldo and Frey Ranaldo and is married to the experimental artist Leah Singer.
Ranaldo started his career in New York in several bands and joining the electric guitar orchestra of Glenn Branca. Among Ranaldo's solo records are Dirty Windows, a collection of spoken texts with music, Amarillo Ramp (For Robert Smithson), pieces for the guitar, and Scriptures of the Golden Eternity. His books include several with art or photography by Leah Singer, including Drift, Bookstore, Road Movies, and Moroccan Journal: Jajouka excerpt (from a full-length book of writings on Moroccan travels and music). Ranaldo has also published Jrnls80s (published by Soft Skull Press), as well as a book of poems, Lengths & Breaths, with photography by Cynthia Connolly. His most recent book of poetry, Against Refusing, was published by Water Row Press in April 2010 with cover artwork by Leah Singer. His visual+sound works have been shown at galleries and museums in Paris, Toronto, New York, London, Sydney, Los Angeles, Vienna, and elsewhere.
Ranaldo has produced albums for artists including Babes in Toyland, You Am I, Magik Markers, Deity Guns, and Dutch art rock-ensemble Kleg. He has edited a volume of tour journals from the 1995 Lollapalooza Tour written by himself, Thurston Moore, Beck, Stephen Malkmus, Courtney Love, and others.
Ranaldo has also worked with jazz drummer William Hooker on improvised music, and reading and improvising poetry.
His main side projects are Drift and Text of Light.
Drift is a duo with his wife Leah Singer, with whom he has performed many live installation pieces with improvised music. This collaboration, utilizing live manipulated 16mm film projections, electric guitar and recited texts, occupied the duo from the early 90s until late 2005, when they re-created the performance as an art installation at Gigantic Art Space, a gallery in New York City. Since then the pair have been performing a new piece entitled "iloveyouihateyou", a combination installation and performance work that has been presented in the US and Europe.
Text of Light was founded in 2001 by Lee Ranaldo, Alan Licht, Ulrich Krieger, Christian Marclay and William Hooker. The core group is Ranaldo, Licht and Krieger with changing DJs (Marclay, DJ Olive, Marina Rosenfeld) and drummers (Hooker, Tim Barnes, Steve Shelley). The music is free improvised and mostly played along with, but not really referencing, films by Stan Brakhage. The name for the band comes from Brakhage's film The Text of Light.
In 2007 Ranaldo collaborated with British rock band The Cribs on their third album Men's Needs, Women's Needs, Whatever. The track "Be Safe" is a Ranaldo spoken word piece performed by the artist, and backed with the Cribs music.
Ranaldo made an appearance in the 2008 feature documentary by Nik Sheehan about Brion Gysin and the Dreamachine entitled FLicKeR.
Ranaldo usually uses Fender Jazzmaster, Telecaster Deluxe electric guitars and sometimes Gibson Les Pauls, with radically alternative tunings, and modifications. One of his Jazzmasters has a single coil pickup installed between the bridge and the tailpiece to exploit the resonating chiming sounds on that area of string at these so called tailed bridge guitars.
In 2007 Yuri Landman built for Ranaldo the Moonlander, a biheaded electric guitar with 18 strings: 6 normal strings and 12 sympathetic strings.
Since Ranaldo and Moore, together with Elvis Costello and J. Mascis, are known for being key figures in the popularisation and resurrection of the Fender Jazzmaster, Fender introduced in 2009 a special Lee Ranaldo signature edition of a transparent blue version, together with a transparent green one for Thurston.
Bookstore and Others (Paperback) - Lee Ranaldo, Leah Singer, Hozomeen Press (April 1995), ISBN 978-1885175069
Drift (box set with DVD) - Lee Ranaldo, Leah Singer, Gigantic ArtSpace (2005), ISBN 978-1933045344
Ground Zero: New Yorkers Respond (Paperback) - Lee Ranaldo, David Amram, Frank Messina, Wasteland Press (August 15, 2002), ISBN 978-0971581173
Hello from the American Desert (Paperback) - Lee Ranaldo, Curt Kirkwood, Silver Wonder Press (November 2007)
JRNLS80s (Paperback) - Lee Ranaldo, Soft Skull Press (1998), ISBN 978-1887128315
Lengths & Breaths (Paperback) - Lee Ranaldo, Cynthia Connolly, Water Row Press (August 2004), ISBN 978-0934953795
Moroccan Journal (Hardcover) - Lee Ranaldo, Fringecore (1999), ISBN 978-9076207520
Moroccan Journal: Jajouka excerpt (Unknown Binding) - Lee Ranaldo, Leah Singer, Ring Tarigh for the Literary Renaissance (1997), ASIN: B0006RJF80
Online Diaries : the Lollapalooza '95 tour journals (Paperback) - Beck, Courtney Love, Stephen Malkmus, Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Mike Watt, David Yow, Soft Skull Press (1996), ISBN 978-1887128209
Road Movies (Paperback) - Lee Ranaldo, Leah Singer, Soft Skull Press (Nov 30, 2004), ISBN 978-1932360738
Against Refusing (Hardcover) - Lee Ranaldo, Water Row Press (April 2010), ISBN 978-0-934953-84-9
Discography - solo recordingsEdit
From Here to Infinity (1987)
A Perfect Day EP (1992)
Scriptures of the Golden Eternity (1993)
Broken Circle / Spiral Hill EP (1994)
East Jesus (1995)
Dirty Windows (1999)
Amarillo Ramp (For Robert Smithson) (2000)
Outside My Window The City Is Never Silent - A Bestiary (2002)
Text Of Light (2004)
Maelstrom From Drift (2008)
Countless Centuries Fled Into The Distance Like So Many Storms EP (2008)