SF Examiner Interview

Michael Gira takes current Swans on road one last time
By Tom Lanham

Michael Gira has some good news and some bad news for fans of his dark art-rock outfit Swans. The band has a moody new album, “The Glowing Man,” with thoughtful processionals like the 12-minute “Cloud of Forgetting,” a 25-minute companion piece “Cloud of Unknowing” and “When Will I Return?,” a grim real-life survival tale sung by his wife, Jennifer Gira, who experienced said incident (“She doesn’t like me even discussing it,” he says). Yet the longtime lineup that played on the record will be disbanding after its current tour. “But Swans will continue,” he promises. “With a revolving group of musicians that will probably include some of these players — just not all at once.”

You can’t talk about “Return.” But who — or what — is the 20-minute track “Frankie M” about?

That’s another person I know. He’s an incredibly intelligent and gifted person who is also a victim of his own weaknesses. So I wrote that song as a little prayer for him.

You seem to reference internet culture. Time magazine just ran a cover story on its duality — how it can provide helpful facts when you need them, but push you toward suicide if you show signs of depression.

I don’t think it is actually helpful. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s entirely pernicious, and I look at it as detrimental. I mean, I have to use it — I’m on my cellphone right now, so I’m definitely part of that stream. But it’s an extension of something that I used to think about a lot in the early days of Swans – how modern media advertising colonizes our mind, forges our identities, desires, and needs until it’s hard to distinguish what’s real. But of course, when I started Swans, the internet didn’t exist.

But the internet is also the Wild West. Someone recently made a scandalous online allegation against you – without filing charges – and you’ve had to defend yourself.

You put it in the proper perspective. It was the worst, most poisonous moment in my life. Absolutely awful. And of course, as you imply — with some measure of thinking about it — it’s utterly untrue. And there’s nothing I can do about it, which is so awful. How can you prove a negative? So I’m just practicing what the Buddhists call acceptance. I’m just trying to move on with what is. It’s like lying on a beautiful down pillow, and you wake up and there’s this huge s— by your head. The only way out is to just try to live positively.

And Swans can go in any direction now.

Yeah. And that’s been incredibly helpful to me, psychologically — just pouring myself into the work. Because in the end, that’s what’s left.

Where: Regency Ballroom, 1290 Sutter St., S.F.
When: 9 p.m. Sept. 3
Tickets: $30 to $34
Contact: (415) 673-5716,