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Swans

Swans



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Hometown: Brooklyn, NY (USA)

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In the life cycle of rock music, most bands suffer endings poorly. Either they disappear suddenly under the force of a lost record deal or bleed out their musical force slowly in the public eye through endless reunion concerts and rehashed compilations.

Michael Gira will have none of that. At the beginning of the final tour of his band Swans, Gira took the time to discuss the end of a 15 year odyssey as one of contemporary music's most highly regarded and overlooked bands. "I just want to have it discreet, finished and over, and I can move on. I have other ideas I want to do. I think it's necessary," he said by phone from Florida.

Bursting from the NY scene in the early 80's, the Swans' sound was so heavy, so threatening that listeners either fled in fear or joined the throng. There was never a middle ground. And there still isn't.

Over time, Gira's sense of darkness deepened and in the process the songs turned into something delicate and beautiful while remaining frightening. Like a slow–motion plane disaster, a lyricism emerged from the chaos.

New listeners and old discovered a rock band with as much richness and subtlety as a classical symphony orchestra.

Still, even with 15 years, 15 albums and mountains of gushing praise from fans and critics alike, Gira saw that it was time to write the final coda for his band.

"After 15 years of this grueling struggle with really no reward to show for it, the intelligent thing to do would be to move on," he said.

Artistic triumph and personal despair mark the Swans. Claiming he would do and has done just about anything to record his creative vision, Gira found an enemy where you might expect an ally – the music industry.

"I loathe it entirely. We found our own little niche now, with our own business and good distribution system, so we're able to survive on our own, I just can't deal with it. I don't go out to clubs. I don't talk to A&R people; I don't schmooze; I don't do anything to try to advance myself in that way. I just can't stand it anymore. I tried in the early days. Of course I was always pounding away. But there's only so much you can take."

Closing out the Swans' catalog is "Soundtracks For The Blind." If Gira has been seeking a high point on which to end the Swans, then this is it. Two CDs, packed with nearly 2 1/2 hours of music, the album is a scorching journey through passion and pain. The discs combine music with sounds and sonic interludes into something that strikes you as an actual sound track for an unmade movie. Highly experimental without ever becoming cerebral, "Soundtracks" works from the ambiguous emotional source where fear and excitement, love and lust, tears of happiness, and tears of sorrow mingle.

"I had recorded these songs from the last group from last year's tour. And I had a lot of backlog of sound–track–like things, as well as boxes full of sounds, cassette loops and vocal loops from Jarboe, and all these narrative things that we have from very personal sources. And I decided that I wanted to pursue a direction that has sort of intrigued me after the last couple of albums. I made the whole album into a segue feeling, where everything bleeds from one unrelated sound to another," he explained.

"The thing that interested me most about this album – not that I'm not interested in songs – but it's more interesting to me to look at the way one thing works against something else than how they do individually. So it's a process of listening to how it feels, what the experience is like going from something that is incredibly intense to something very gentle. Those juxtapositions interest me more than the things themselves."

Once the tour is completed, Gira intends to release a summary set of Swans music in Double–CD sets, putting only the best of the band's work into an accessible package for present and future fans. In addition, his label will issue experimental soundscapes by Gira under the name Body Lovers and another project of what Gira calls "long narrative songs" as the Angels of Light.

The re–issues and the new projects will continue to sustain both Gira's voracious artistic appetite as well as reward those lucky enough to seek out his work or lucky enough to stumble upon it.

And as the Swans legacy fades into history, Gira can look back and see he did what he set out to do.

"I never had an aim except to make music, not to convince people of anything. I just had certain sounds I wanted to hear. I made them. Certain sounds, certain ways of performing them that would cause a certain experience to occur, in myself and/or the listener. And I made those things happen."


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