Steve Shelley

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Steve Shelley
Shelley with Sonic Youth in 2010
Shelley with Sonic Youth in 2010
Background information
Birth nameSteven Jay Shelley
Born (1962-06-23) June 23, 1962 (age 60)
Midland, Michigan
Occupation(s)Musician, producer
Years active1983−present
LabelsAlternative Tentacles, Geffen, Smells Like, SST, Matador

Steven Jay Shelley (born June 23, 1962) is an American drummer. He is best known as the longtime drummer of the alternative rock band Sonic Youth, for whom he played from 1985 until their 2011 disbandment.


Shelley was born in Midland, Michigan and played in several mid-Michigan bands, including Faith and Morals and Strange Fruit, and was among the original lineup of the punk band The Crucifucks. Since 1985, he has performed with the noise rock band Sonic Youth, when he replaced Bob Bert.

After leaving the Crucifucks, he moved to Manhattan with a friend, living in the apartment of Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon for dog sitting purposes while the band was in Europe. When the band returned, former drummer Bob Bert had left the band, and they hired Shelley as their drummer without an audition.[1]

In 1992 he founded the independent record label Smells Like Records, based in Hoboken, New Jersey.

Along with friend and Two Dollar Guitar musician Tim Foljahn, he helped advance Cat Power's musical career, serving as drummer on her first three albums. He also produced Blonde Redhead's debut self-titled album in 1995 and Cat Power's What Would the Community Think? in 1996. Steve was able to track down Lee Hazlewood in 1997 and secure permission to reissue five of the finest titles of the Hazlewood back catalog. Smells Like Records also released a collection of standards recorded in 1997, which was the first new recording from Hazlewood released domestically in nearly two decades. In 1998 Shelley played on the soundtrack of the film Velvet Goldmine as a member of Wylde Ratttz, along with The Stooges' Ron Asheton, Thurston Moore, Mike Watt, Don Fleming, Mark Arm of Mudhoney and Jim Dunbar.

Other significant work away from Sonic Youth includes recording and performing with an array of artists such as Christina Rosenvinge, Chris Lee, John Wolfington, Michael Powers, Michael Rother, Howe Gelb, and Enrique Morente. In 2007, Shelley recorded a number of tracks for the I'm Not There soundtrack with a supergroup called The Million Dollar Bashers, featuring Lee Ranaldo, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Television guitarist Tom Verlaine, Dylan bassist Tony Garnier, guitarist Smokey Hormel and keyboardist John Medeski.[2]

In February 2009, Shelley spent a weekend in Chicago recording with Chris Connelly, Sanford Parker, and Jeremy Lemos.[3] The results of this collaboration were released under the moniker The High Confessions by Relapse Records on July 20, 2010.[4]

In 2010, Michael Rother played shows in Europe with Shelley and Tall Firs guitarist Aaron Mullan as Halogallo 2010.[5] This group performs music "in the spirit of" NEU! including some tracks by Harmonia and from Michael Rother's solo albums. Other 2010 concert dates included the ATP New York 2010 music festival in Monticello, New York and Incubate 2010 in Tilburg, Netherlands.[6]

His enthusiasm for the music of Daniel Johnston and Townes Van Zandt led to his appearances in the documentaries The Devil and Daniel Johnston and Be Here to Love Me.

Shelley is also in charge of operating Sonic Youth's own record labels, SYR and Goofin'. In 2010, he started a new label called Vampire Blues whose inaugural release was a 7" by Hallogallo 2010.

In 2011 he joined Disappears. In 2012, he left the band due to scheduling conflicts.

From 2014 to 2017, Shelley played the drums for Sun Kil Moon on the albums Benji, Universal Themes and Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood. He also toured with Sun Kil Moon on select 2015 dates.[7]

Non-Sonic Youth discography[edit]

Date Artist Release Comments
1983 Strange Fruit On Top of the Hill 7" Babel 01
1984 Strange Fruit Strange Fruit/Abiku split 12" Babel 02
1985 Crucifucks The Crucifucks Alternative Tentacles 38
1989 Maureen Tucker Life in Exile After Abdication 50 Skidillion Watts 007
1990 Daniel Johnston 1990 Shimmy Disc 028 (w/ Lee Ranaldo on "Spirit World Rising")
1991 Lucky Sperms Lucky Sperms 7" Ecstatic Peace! 15 (recorded in 1987)
1991 Dim Stars Dim Stars 3x7" Ecstatic Peace! 11
1991 Nikki Sudden Whiskey Priest 7" Singles Only Label 228
1992 Jad Fair I Like It When You Smile Paperhouse 009
1992 Richard Hell 3 New Songs 7" Overground 24
1992 Mosquito Down 7" ERL 9
1992 Makigami Koichi Koroshi No Blues Toshiba EMI 6496
1992 Dim Stars Dim Stars Caroline 1724
1992 Free Kitten/Mosquito Split 7" Time Bomb 09
1992 Mosquito U.F.O. Catcher Time Bomb 13
1993 Mosquito Oh No... Psychoacoustic 6
1993 Mosquito Time Was SLR 05
1993 Two Dollar Guitar Lost Bird 7" SLR 06
1994 The Raincoats Extended Play SLR 012
1995 Male Slut Male Slut 7" Stomach Ache 57
1995 Cat Power Dear Sir Runt 6
1995 Thurston Moore Psychic Hearts DGC 24810
1995 Mike Watt "Tuff Gnarl" Ball-Hog or Tugboat? Columbia Records C2-66464
1996 Cat Power Myra Lee SLR 019
1996 Cat Power What Would the Community Think Matador OLE-202
1998 Mark Eitzel Caught in a Trap... Matador OLE-179
2000 Hungry Ghosts Alone, Alone SLR 039
2001 Christina Rosenvinge Frozen Pool SLR 042
2001 John Wolfington John Wolfington SLR 043
2001 Chris Lee Plays & Sings Torch'd Songs... SLR 045
2004 Christina Rosenvinge Foreign Land SLR 050
2006 Michael Powers Prodigal Son Baryon 006
2006 Christina Rosenvinge Continental 62 SLR 053
2007 The Million Dollar Bashers I'm Not There Columbia COLB 12038
2007 John Wolfington American Dreamsicle SLR 054
2007 Thurston Moore Trees Outside the Academy Ecstatic Peace! E#91C
2008 Matt Madly Checkered P.O.S. 062808
2008 Christina Rosenvinge Tu labio superior Warner Spain 25646 93707
2009 Anna Ternheim Leaving on a Mayday Emarcy 06025178719-15
2009 Samara Lubelski Future Slip Ecstatic Peace! E#110
2010 D-W/L-SS D-W/L-SS / JBe 7" Sixgunlover SGL018
2010 The High Confessions Turning Lead into Gold With the High Confessions Relapse 7084
2010 Hallogallo 2010 Blinkgurtel / Drone Schlager 7" Vampire Blues VB 01
2010 Circle of Animals Destroy the Light Relapse 7104
2011 Israel Nash Gripka Barn Doors and Concrete Floors CRS CSCCD1073
2011 Disappears Live at Echo Canyon Plus Tapes
2011 Spectre Folk The Blackest Medicine, Vol. II Woodsist
2012 Disappears Pre Language Kranky
2012 Lee Ranaldo Between the Times and the Tides Matador OLE-980
2012 M. Ward A Wasteland Companion Merge
2012 Spectre Folk Ancient Storm Vampire Blues VB 02
2012 Chris Lee Bury the Kings Vampire Blues VB 03
2012 Lee Ranaldo Between the Times and the Tides: Demos Lazy8 01
2012 Lee Ranaldo Between the Times and the Tides: Alternate Mixes 7" Lazy8 02
2012 Lee Ranaldo/J Mascis "Albatross" Just Tell Me That You Want Me – Tribute To Fleetwood Mac Hear Music HRM-33327
2012 Carice van Houten See You on the Ice EMI 9782242
2012 Samara Lubelski Wavelength De Stijl IND115
2013 Dyveke Kuloy Gabriel 7"
2013 Howe Gelb The Coincidentalist New West Records
2013 Lee Ranaldo and The Dust Last Night on Earth Matador OLE-1041
2013 Lee Ranaldo and The Dust The Rising Tide Lazy8 03
2013 Lee Ranaldo and The Dust El Blues De La Revolución 7" El Segell Del Primavera PS006
2014 Sun Kil Moon Benji Caldo Verde
2014 Admiral Freebee The Great Scam Sony Music 0888430378728
2014 Thurston Moore The Best Day Matador OLE-1062
2015 Sun Kil Moon Universal Themes Caldo Verde
2016 Kino Kimino "Bait Is For Sissies" Ghost Ramp
2017 Sun Kil Moon Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood Caldo Verde
2017 Cinnamon Tapes Nabia Balaclava Records
2017 Thurston Moore Rock n Roll Consciousness Caroline
2017 Jessica Lea Mayfield Sorry is Gone ATO Records
2018 Riviera Gaz Connection Hearts Bleed Blue
2019 Sick Gazelle Odum War Crimes Records
2020 Thurston Moore By the Fire Daydream Library


  1. ^ Azerrad, Michael. (2001) Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981–1991. Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-78753-1.
  3. ^ "Converse with Chris: Topic: – NEW PROJECT". Chris Connelly. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-26.
  4. ^ US. "The High Confessions | Gratis muziek, tourneedata, foto's, video's". Retrieved October 26, 2011.
  5. ^ "Michael Rother's official site, news: "Michael Rother/Steve Shelley/Aaron Mullan trio debut in Europe"". Archived from the original on April 2, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2010.
  6. ^ "Protected Blog › Log in". Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved January 28, 2021.
  7. ^ Berman, Stuart (March 15, 2022). "Sonic Youth and the Business of Keeping a Dead Band Alive". Pitchfork. Retrieved November 8, 2022.

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