Mike Gira:
An interview with Mike Gira
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
An Introduction to Mike Gira - Scheda
Mike Gira was for many years the genius behind Swans, perfectly complemented by singer and keyboardist Jarboe. Today, Gira is a multi-faceted talent that, while continuing his personal odyssey through avant-rock music, is beginning to extend his reach beyond the Swans project, both with solo albums and with spoken word performances.
Can you give us an update of your numerous activities?

So much has happened since my last posting here, it's hard to know where to begin. I guess I'll go back in some sort of sequence, then. I finished the Angels of Light album in June/July, having commenced recording in December/January of last year. All of the songs were written on acoustic guitar. I played and sang them pretty much solo in the studio (there were exceptions to this though of course ), then built them up with various orchestrations. These orchestrations included strings, organs, piano,vibraphone, Irish harp, flute, hammer dulcimer, analog synthesizer, bells, background vocs, timpani etc etc . All the songs were played minus a click track or sequencers etc - everything was organic, no samples ( oh, I looped my acoustic guitar on one song, then played over that ). In my obviously non-objective opinion, these are some of the best songs I've written, lyrically and musically - I'll leave that up for you to decide. The title of the album is NEW MOTHER. In a way, the production style of the album is "filmic" , though not in the same way as, say, The Body Lovers or Soundtracks for the Blind. Atmosphere is here achieved more through the orchestrations that color the song, rather than through texture or sonic juxtaposition. Some of the great musicians that contributed to this recording ( all of whom generously worked for a pay scale well beneath their true worth ) : Christoph Hahn (Christoph played in White Light era of Swans ) played lap steel guitar, classical guitar, and quiet electric guitar, melodica, and also did background vocs ; Bill Rieflin ( Bill played drums on Grt Annltr era Swans ) played Piano, Hammond B3 organ, A vintage 1970 analog Synth, various hand percussion, Farfisa organ, Bass guitar, 12 string guitar, and background vocs ; Phil Puleo (Phil played drums on last Swans tour) played percussion, drums, hammer dulcimer , mouthharp, and melodica ; Thor Harris ( Thor's last "name" gig was with Lisa Germano - I met him in Austin a few tours ago and he's proved to be a great musician and a great guy, too ) played drums, percussion, xylophone (sp?), water bowls, bells, and an amazing set of self hand-made drums - very musical and gentle-sounding, and background vocs ; Thomas Dodd played Irish Harp - he's the guy that played it on the Body lovers too; Larry Mullins (Larry's played with us for a while now off and on ) played snazzy drums and vibraphones and timpani on a few songsand percussion and tablas and backing vocs - along with his lovely wife Cathy - and contributed fine moral support, and encouragement to seek excellence, as usual ; Bill Bronson (of last Swans tour and now of his band Gunga Din ) played bass guitar ; Birgit Staudt (who played on B'Lovers too) played accordion on several songs, adding alot of great ideas and textures ; Strings were provided by Hahn Rowe (of Mimi Goese and others) and Julia Kent (of Rasputina ) ; Female Background vocs were provided deliriously by Michelle Amar (of Sulphur) and Tanya Sanuye ( I met tanya through thor - she's from Texas, too, and she's classically trained but this was her first "professional" gig ) ; Joe McGinty played piano on a few songs, to excellent effect, really added alot of tension and mood to the two songs he played on. Joe is a really pro session musician, much in demand, but aslo seemingly devoid of the cynicism that infects that profession - a really nice guy. He also is musical director of the "Loser's Lounge " - an occasional event at Fez here in NYC in which the songs of various musical icons are reinterpreted by local musical figures.....I'm sure I'm forgetting someone here....Crucial to the achievment of this album were the contributions from the engineers Mike Moore in Atlanta, and Hillary Johnson (of Spa Recording in NYC ) and Martin Bisi (at BC Studios Brooklyn ) These people worked tirelessly and often contributed a great deal to the music as well Thank You!!!!! It was incredibly difficult bringing this album to fruition. I ran out of money several times along the way, and if it weren't for the generous contributions made from Investors contacted through this site, I couldn't have finished it. Thank You Investors ! As I said, I'm quite proud of the album, so naturally I thought that some Major Label with insight would recognize the potential in the music and possibly buy the rights to release it, affording it the wider audience it deserves... WRONG!! I don't know how I could have been so naive after all these years in the music business, but I wasted three months of my time when I should have just gone ahead and released it through Young God Records as I'm doing now . Anyway, due to assorted logistical considerations, the album will now be out in March of '99. This is to make way for the re-release/compilation of Swans Various Failures in January, along with the (limited edition ) release of Body Haters... Other News - Fringecore Inc (a sort of modern cultural locus organization) will be handing YGRecs in Europe. www.fringecore.com . Somewhere in the midst of recording New Mother I moved back up to NYC area. I now live in Brooklyn, but best way to contact me personally is through my manager Kevin Wortis at kevin@raveman.com . All usual website contacts and merchandise and history and info etc etc will still be handled through Jarboe at this site. Any regular mail can be addressed to me c/o RAVE P.O.Box 410209, San Francisco, Ca. 94141

What about your touring?
I just returned from a three week stint in Europe. I read a long prose poem (in German ) by the Austrian poet Georg Trakl over the music of Etant Donnes in Berlin. The poem "Offenbarung und Untergang " is a magical incantation of incest, hallucination, and sensuous fertility/death imagery. The music, generated by Eric and Marc Hurtado (fine fellows with big appetites for all things !) with the assistance of Marc Cunningham on trumpet (Marc has played in Mars and Don King), was both ominous and seductive, which I think suited the content of the poem .... Thanks to the fans, some of whom traveled great distances, for coming to the show in Berlin !.....Also while in Berlin I rehearsed with Christoph Hahn, the main guitarist for Angels (that's where he lives) a little, working up preliminary arrangements for the live incarnation of Angels of Light..Then I went to Antwerp, Belgium, where I worked out details of starting up Young God Records in Europe properly with Derek and Jeannine of Fringecore. Fringecore started out as a magazine about 18 months ago, dealing mainly with literature and film, but has since branched out into music and other matters, until now its a general cultural magazine. Fringecore, the organization, is transmuting into book publishing, tour arrangements (only for esoteric/interesting events ) and now running my record company too. They are good people - honest, well mannered, intelligent, sophisticated, hard working - what's wrong with them ?! Anyway, I'm happy to be associated with them and look forward to our mutual adventure. Then I went to Amsterdam, where I stayed on a houseboat with my good friends Wim and Marion. Wim is the photographer who did the photos for the first World of Skin effort, for my solo album Drainland, and assorted other amazing contributions. We went over some photos he had and chose some beautiful images for Angels of Light, and he also did a portrait, in which I think I look like a cancer patient. Well perhaps I will be. Anyway, it's a good portrait because it pretty much reveals who I am right now. I guess this is appropriate for the music of Angels, though I try not to be too autobiographical. In any event I had the best time I can remember in years hanging out with Wim and Marion and my new good friend Karin Spaink , as well as Berry Kamer III and Oscar Smit and Corne Evers, none of whom seem to think I'm as despicable as I know I really am.... That's friendship! Having met people like this, and having maintained friendships with them over the years, is the single most rewarding apect in the ongoing struggle of my so-called " career " in music. Then I went to Stockholm, where I read some of my stories at a "spoken word " festival. ( I read "My Birth" and " New Mother" and a newer story called " Weeping Women/Drunken Fool", all of which appear elsewhere on this site ). Despite my initial misgivings, I had a great time. The reading went well I think. The rather large audience - maybe 500 people?- were totally silent and attentive and they applauded at the end, so I presume it was well received. I try when I read to be as clear and dispassionate as possible, but also attempt to convey, through inflections in my voice, pauses, and emphasis, that "I", the narrator, have a secret stake in the flow of the narrative, as if maybe the scenes depicted serve as an erotic/onanist charge - which of course they don't, hah! But anyway, I avoid the hyped-up emotionalism usually associated with the genre, because I think that approach draws too much on the showbiz personality of the reader , and generally masks some fairly puerile text... Greatest honor of the event was meeting Genesis P-Orridge for the first time. I have admired him/his work since the days of Coum Transmissions and have followed it off and on all these years. I think he's a tremendously courageous individual who has deep insight and posesses the wisdom and intelligence to relentlessly persue his intuition and imagination. He performed with his new group Thee Majesty , which was comprised of two of the Master Musicians of Jujuka as well as members of Splinter Test/Psychik TV. I also enjoyed meeting his lovely and daunting wife Miss Jackie. I also saw my old NY Scumland friend Lydia Lunch do a reading from her book, and it was good to talk to her a little too. It was also good to see Carl Abrahamsson and his powerfully fecund Viking wife as well as Mykel, as well as CM von Hausswolf, master of the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland. I also met the erudite and sagacious Baba Raul Canizares, founding Oba of the Orisha Consciousness Movement, P.H.D. and Santeria priest, a man of true knowledge who was both generous and unassuming in his conversation. I came home slightly drunk with enthusiasm for living, a natural consequence of being around a group of such high spirits - strange for me, as I'm inherantly sort of sullen. I'm trying, back here in NYC now, to not revert too deeply into my usual , private black hole ! It's a great relief to see alot of the last year's work finally coming out now. As I say, in January Swans Various Failures (1988-92) will be out. This Dbl CD includes all the material I feel is worth keeping in print from that period. Since I can't afford to keep each individual album in print, I decided to choose the songs and versions that I instinctively feel are the best work and put them in this compilation. As it stands now, I think it's a very strong representation, and I hope that, if you aquire it, you find it enjoyable in some way. Much of the material is alternate (in retrospect better, I think) versions of songs and other songs that were previously obscure Bsides etc ( I mentioned this a year ago in my last site letter - jesus - sorry for the delay, but $ intervenes ).... As for Body Haters, its sort of the evil sister of Body Lovers, more crude and montonal - one long (33: 14 ) piece that I created in Sonic Solutions using cassetes, found sounds, internal digital feedback ... These releases are now definite, by the way ! As is the March release of Angels of Light ....Tried a few months ago to put together a live performance tour for Body Lovers but it just proved to be too expensive. The concept was to have two percussionists playing two sets of timpani and vibraphones and pipes and cymbals, and also one of them would have gradually through the piece released a series of drones on automobile car horns. Other players were to include an analog synthesizer and digital loops, an accordion player (electrified ), a bassplayer/guitarist, as well as myself playing guitar. I was going to base this one long piece on integrated elements from the Body Lovers CD - have it build over the course of an hour into a terrible physical onslaught. I was severely disappointed by the need to cancel the tour (because I really wanted to hear the music), but now have realized that it's not possible to stage such a thing in normal commercial music venues, so I'm now trying to connect with someone who has knowledge of writing art grants etc so that I can get some outside funding to stage it sometime next year. Does anyone have any suggestions ? If so, please contact kevin@raveman.com . .... Now I'm actively seeking to put together the live performing band for Angels of Light. As I mentioned, I'll be working with Christoph as guitarist and Lap steel player, but I'm still looking for someone to play organ and piano on stage. They need to be pretty skilled , have a real natural feel as well as good taste and also should own a good electronic piano and organ suitable for touring. They should also live in greater NY area. Any suggestions ? Again contact kevin@raveman.com .... I'm also going to have someone playing light percussion and vibraphones onstage, and also someone playing accordion, but I think I have those positions covered...

Comments on the music scene?
The most astonishing music I have heard in some years is the new Box Set of Igor Wakhevitch - 6 CDs, from 1970 -79. Amazing approach to sound, from classical to experimental, psychedelia to film music. Ominous and beautiful, then clamorous and Wagnerian. At some points it sounds like contemporary electronic music, then shifts seemlessly into a full classical orchestra. You must buy this. Fractal Records, from France. Best live performance I've seen in years: U.S. Maple. Looks like I'll be producing their next album too, for Drag City, if things work out. Best way I can describe it is as a weird hybrid grown from early Pere Ubu , DNA, and Kabuki or Butoh - very spare and fractured, but elegantly violent.... Also putting out Windsor For The Derby's new album, finally , early in the new year. Very excited about it. Heard preliminary tapes that were very promising.... Somniloquist will be out probably in March along with Angels, but limited edition.

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