Swans glide into Detroit | Interview
the Daily | Ted Watts
Want a great marketing gimmick? Look no further than to long term ambient rockers the Swans.With the release of its newest album, "Soundtracks for the Blind," the band (meaning the two primaries, Michael Gira and the mono-sobriqueted Jarboe) announced that it wasn't going to record any more studio albums and that its next tour would be the last. It's the old carnival trick: "Last chance to see!" Like all the ads have said, tonight is the Swans' final area appearance - with a special live line-up, including ex-Cop Shoot Cop drummer Phil Puleo to boot.
Frontman Gira spoke about the winding down of his band in an interview with The Michigan Daily earlier this week.
"I wanted to do one last thing," Gira said. "I did this album. I decided it would be the last one, and I wanted to do a final tour to put a lid on it. It's 15 years of largely frustrating and pointless work so I decided to finish with a bang or a whimper, depending on how you look at it.
"I have a lot of ideas, music I want to do," Gira explained, "but I think the name Swans is more of a hindrance at this point than a help because it has so much history attached to it. It seems to set a series of preconceptions in people's minds before they listen to it, or before they decide not to listen to the music. So I've just decided that 15 years is enough self-torture for anyone to endure, and I want to go out and do other things."
"Soundtracks for the Blind" is, in some ways, an album that summarizes the band's history. "We had about seven songs or pieces," Gira said. "Some of them are just long instrumental pieces that we recorded with the band that we toured with last year.
"I knew I wanted to do a more soundscape kind of textural record than I had in the past," he continued. "So I had this large library of sounds I've compiled since 1981. Some of them were found sounds, or tape loops made on cassettes, different synthesizer sounds and little narrations and things I've collected. After having recorded those basic songs, I went to a little mastering studio in Atlanta that has a pretty sophisticated computer program called Sonic Solutions. I started dumping all that stuff into the computer, and I started collaging and turning things backwards and mutating and mutilating them."
The packaging for the record is also complex.
"It's a double digipak, and it opens up like a book," Gira said. "It looks really good, and it feels really good because it weighs a lot. It weighs like a book. I figure, it's my life's work, so far, anyway. I want it to be exactly how I want it for once. I want no loose ends. I want the presentation to match the music perfectly."
Still, Gira holds some negative emotions for his work. "I probably regret that I ever started (the band)," he said. "I would have been an artist or a writer probably. But my life was ruined by punk rock. That's what happened, that's the way fate is. I'm proud of the work we've done, I just think it's a hopeless ... I don't even want to dignify it with 'profession.' It's a hopeless line of work to get into as far as any kind of future or anything like that."
Now, you've been warned, and there's enough reasoning that it's probably not one of those Ramone deals. Never again will the Swans grace a Detroit stage. Last chance to see.
Jarboe and Michael Gira of Swans.