Swans | Michael Gira | InterviewMichael Gira has never been the interview subject of Mistress Hazel before. But there is a first time for everything, slime. No pain, no gain. Time to beg your pitiful excuses, Mike. We'd come to expect the angry young-man trip from someone who went to art school, hung out at CBGB's hardcore matinees, and played with Glenn Branca--in that order. You and the other Swans aren't your usual lumbering, grating selves on these two new albums, Greed and Holy Money. You're finally learning to sing. Was it too much Ecstasy! Is this your avant-Muzak phase! Explain yourself, sniveling wimp.
"The new songs are more resolved because we've learned to make much more of our potential.
You can only go on sounding like an empty thumping monolith for so long."
You've been at it for almost four years now, annoying us with your insufferable dirges. I'd say your potential is nil. Why else would audiences walk out on your gigs deaf from your unlistenable noise, disoriented, and thoroughly revolted at the stench of your pus-laden sweat!
"Actually they don't anymore. Now that we've gotten more attention, people come wanting to see that. We've gotten better, a lot more refined. More dynamics give space for the listener to enter, which is why sometimes live we can fall totally flat. It can just sound like a bland rendition, instead of having a dynamic build, which takes a lot of control."
I'd say you need discipline.
"We've been having a hell of a time in recent rehearsals, just to get the right inflection, the right feel, especially when we're playing playing slow, which we do a lot. It's just very difficult to get the right precision. None of it is improvisation. When you repeat a rhythm over and over, slight inflections and differences take place."
You arrogant, pretentious imbecile. At it again. I can't bear to watch you stroke yourself, wasting our time, boring us with your banal, self-indulgent experiments.
"Maybe we naively assume that people will become a little more adventurous, that through persistence more people will have the inclination to hear something that deals with the things our music deals with."
And what is "Self Interest (A Hanging)" about!
"It's presenting obscurely the frame of mind of someone hanging themselves to get sexual gratification. I just thought it was a pretty interesting state of mind--the length that someone would go to achieve pleasure, the point of death and ejaculation being so close together.
"I used to write a lot about direct physical violence from one person to another--one person absolutely taking over the identity and ego of another through physical brutality. Cop wasn't a denunciation of police per se, I was just interested in the dynamics of power."
You're obviously a menace to society. Your desires are perverted and debased. I'm certain in your deluded megalomaniacal fantasies you'd like nothing better than to have thousands of adoring young nymphets as your slaves. But your false modesty would never allow the Swans to be a mere pop band.
"I would love to be on the radio. I have nothing against success whatsoever. The only problem, of course, is whether you do it on your own terms or make huge concessions. If we wanted to become a completely commercial band we could, but it would have nothing to do with Swans."
You spineless, blubbering liar! I should lock you in the closet in Madonna's bra and panties until you've learned a lesson. You're obviously headed for the gutter--complete, degrading obscurity. Are you making a living!
"That doesn't matter."
Are the Swans supporting you!
"It is and it will. We are making some concessions with dance music, the 'Time Is Money' 12 inch, but I find that interesting--dealing with that rhythmic structure, seeing how far we can break it down."
Your pseudointellectual drivel makes me gag. How can you presume your tiring funeral marches will strip rock to its primal impulse, arouse listeners from their lull of passive semiconsciousness, renew the promise of Pete Townshend's power chords!
"I'm not saying our music's totally un-thought-out and spontaneous, that we just sit down, come up with riffs, and decide to jam out. It is calculated. The thing I concentrate on the most is the direct transmission of feeling. Maybe the means we use are calculated; maybe that's why it comes off that way. The attitude behind the music is sex and beat, which is what I like about rock.
"I think you could say that our music is rock in the real sense of the word. It's more rock than Twisted Sister, which is just a cartoon. But real rock, like the Stooges, for instance; I'd see a similarity with. Not necessarily in sound, but in the grunt."
I'll teach you to grunt! You and your lackeys in the press's underbelly have whined about this "brave new sound" for years now. Well, are they playing it at skating rinks! Is radio playing it for album-side music-marathon weekends! How can you change the world, dog, if nobody wants to know!
"I guess I just don't want to hear the same things I've always heard. I'm curious. I want to make something that sounds different, that opens up a different level. I guess in that sense it's a little more intellectual. A traditional blues singer or even a lot of rock bands, some of whom are good, are satisfied with doing the same chords with a different singer or something. I just don't want to do that. It's not any big deal.
"My songs don't really set out to describe something or tell a story. I sit down and write words that hover around an ambivalent feeling, usually a series of things that negate themselves, an ambivalent sort of negation."
That's much better.
"For instance, 'Time is Money' is basically about raping a boss. The idea was to invent it so that the power was reversed."
Silence, heel-sucker. You bore me. I'm the boss, I'm in charge. Tell me your excuse for a joke. Amuse me.
"Well, 'A Screw' has an image of stuffing money in someone's mouth. The words in juxtaposition to the beat are interesting, cynically funny."
Out with it.
"Keep your head on the ground
Stick your ass up
Open your mouth
Here's your money
That reminds me. Your time is up. That will be $120 for one hour. Fetch!