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Monday, February 28, 2011

SWANS Interview

Thanks to Maria from Frontier Touring Co for hooking this SWANS interview up!  I compiled these questions and emailed them awhile ago and recently got them back. They are a tad brief, but that is explained in the following email from Michael Gira that came with the attached answers: "pls convey my thanks! sorry for brevity, but working extremely long hours and email interviews inevitably take me huge amount of time, which doesn't exist at the moment.....  "  
The band play Auckland this Sunday so expect a review of that show soon after it happens.   Now read...

Subcide: Describe creative process for the songs that made up ‘My father will guide me up a rope to the sky’? I understand that at an early point in that process they were solo acoustic demos. What was it about them that made them become Swans songs and not ‘Angel of the Light ‘or M.Gira solo songs? Please tell us about your decision to release the demos as the limited edition “I am not insane’ album. Did this model of raising funds to record the Album work? Is it something you would do again? ‘My father...’ is an amazing album but seems way to short. When can we expect more recorded Swans material to be released? What will it be? 

Michael Gira: To develop these songs from their original acoustic versions into what they eventually became, I had to fly people in from all over the world. They had heard the songs in demo form, on acoustic guitar, and then we had to get in the studio and expand the songs. There are ideas I had that were inside the songs that I wanted to then bring out with other people. I also am always anxious for my friends and collaborators to surprise me. Accidents are always welcome too. We recorded in this huge old factory building in Brooklyn which has a basement with 18-foot ceilings and maybe 2000 square feet of space, and we set up close to each other in a semi-circle – no separation, no sound booths, nothing – and we just played, one song per day for 12 hours, over and over, until it grew and grew and became something that was animated by who we are as people rather than just some songs with specific beginnings and ends. It was so loud in that room; it was almost like being in a cathedral, where you hear can voices building in a really elating way. So, once we'd reached that stage, we pressed record, and had the basic structure of the song down that way. Now, I think certain sections of the songs could have been much longer. in fact a few of the songs in their live versions now are over 20 minutes long…we're working on new songs now, as time permits, in between tours and during sound checks etc.. we'll have a new swans album finished in the near future I'm sure.
The "i am not insane" project was simply a way to raise money to record (explained at YGR website)...

Subcide: In a recent radio interview (95 BFM’s the Wire with Troy Ferguson. Follow this link to listen you responded to a question with something to the effect of “I don’t intellectualise my music, I’m American, I just make music and other people intellectualise it afterward”. Taking into account how the music of Beethoven, Mozart, the art of Da vinci and the writings of Shakespeare are viewed now, if in 500 years time music historians, anthropologists and other intellectuals were to unearth the music of the Swans, how would you hope it would be interpreted? How do you think it actually would be interpreted? 

M Gira: Thanks for putting me in the same company as da vinci, for god's sake - ha ha! ludicrous. anyway, really, i'm too busy working, making music, to think about things like this.

Subcide: In that same interview you answered a question about your reasons for deciding to reform the Swans as the result of a renewed need to make powerful/intense music again, or in your words “the desire to cut down a mountain with the side of my hand”. There was once a false belief that music of this nature was the sole domain of youth. What is it that drives you to create this type of music again as a more mature person? 

M Gira: I'm under the impression that if i stop moving I'll die. I live in a state of perpetual panic. Picture a pile of lard in a corner. Now picture that pile of lard vibrating.

Subcide: Early Swans material is some of the most harsh, dark and brutal music ever recorded. In 1982 when you first started creating it, almost a decade before anything else would even sound similar, it must have confused the hell out of people. While your musical influences of the time are one question? The real question is what other things were and had been going on in your life to inspire this music? Surely songs like ‘Raping a Slave’, ‘Mother my body disgusts me’ and lyrics like ‘You burn my skin like a cop in Jail’ weren’t the product of a person who grew up in a normal family, behind a picket fence, played in the highschool football team and dated cheer leaders? 

M Gira: Ha ha! really, it just seemed like the natural thing to do at the time. It felt right. It's hard to pinpoint musical influences - very disparate. here's some: mothers of invention, early pink floyd, brian eno, suicide, black flag, teenage jesus, glenn branca, throbbing gristle.

Note:  Although Michael skipped the question about non musical influences.  I've since discovered his entry on Wikipedia, which covers his early life before the band.  There were definitley some unique events that may have contributed toward the inspiration of early Swans music.  
You can read about them here:

Subcide: Swans has always changed and evolved musically throughout the course of the band. Are there any definable stylistic or thematic attributes that have stayed constant throughout? Why/why not? 

M Gira: It's a very intuitive process. i just discard what seems stale and move towards what seems vital.

Subcide: I also read recently that after writing your song ‘Eden Prison’, you discovered that there was a place called Mount Eden Prison in Auckland New Zealand. To add to this synchronicity, you will coincidentally be playing your 6 March 2011 Powerstation show only a short distance from there. Will you be paying a visit to the “walls of” Mount “Eden Prison” when you are in Auckland? Surely it will be to much of an opportunity to miss for a photo shoot? 

M Gira: That sounds a little corny. i think I'd rather use the time catching up on some sleep.

Subcide: As well as being the highlight of his experience, a friend of mine saw you perform at Supersonic 2010 in Birmingham, UK said that you were insanely loud. Can we expect the same when you play Auckland? What else should we expect of the live Swans experience? 

M Gira: I suppose it will be loud, but it's not a point of pride or anything. It just has to be that way in order for the sound the achieve the correct level of physicality.

Subcide: You run your own record label Young God Records (Michael explains YGR here:   
Why could you not get the rights to re-release the ‘Greed/Holy Money’ and ‘Cop/Young God’ albums? Are you still trying to get those rights? What new artists or non Swans releases do you have forthcoming on YGR? Why should we seek them out?

M Gira: I don't have the rights to cop/young god. Some bizarre records hasn't agreed to sell or license to YGR. I do buy copies from them and sell at ygr website.
Young God Records is on hold as a label, except for releasing swans music, and my own projects.

Subcide: Jarboe isn’t part of this incarnation of the Swans. My understanding is that is because it didn’t seem appropriate this time around? How has this been received in general? Is there any likely hood that we may see Jarboe involved in the Swans again in the future? 

M Gira: I don't really want to work with Jarboe again. She was a crucial part of my life at one point, and will always love and respect her, but it doesn't feel appropriate for her to be involved in this new incarnation of Swans.

Subcide: Going back to the album, your daughter Saoirse features as guest vocalist on 'You Fucking People Make Me Sick'. How did this come about? 

M Gira: It was random. she heard the song playing and asked if she could sing on it. This song was written for Devendra to sing, but it seemed to lift it to another level to include her voice as well.

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