The Angels of Light's Michael Gira
As the Angels of Light, former Swans leader Michael Gira further weaves the sublime and the blunt, the dark and the beautiful, into a tight sonic fabric. His new disc, the densely acoustic How I Loved You, is the latest release on the former Atlanta resident's New York-based Young God Records. We checked in with Gira via e-mail.
Creative Loafing: With a number of artists on the roster and an extensive website (www.younggodrecords.com), Young God Records has grown bigger than ever. What about running the label have you found the most rewarding and the most taxing?
Michael Gira: Obviously the most rewarding aspect would be the music itself, and having the chance to be involved in some way (in the case of other artists we release), as well as the satisfaction of providing an opportunity for it to be heard. As far as YGR being "bigger than ever" — ha, ha, ha, ha! We are TINY! Imagine your bathroom, then imagine a cabinet in your bathroom, then imagine a package of dental floss in that cabinet, then imagine the little spindle inside the dental floss case, then imagine the hole in that spindle — that is how big we are! Anyway, it is good simply to be able to make and release music these days, without any considerations as to commercial appeal, etc. So it's a privilege in that respect. The finances of it and the attendant minutiae make my brain seize up, so I'm glad I've finally got someone working on that aspect. It's not easy in the long run, though, and I would definitely counsel against it. My advice to "young people" setting about a career in music is always: DON'T DO IT!
One should be so inspired they don't care if they can make a career of it?
Well, no. Just DON'T DO IT! Or make sure you have a decent day job that's somewhat gratifying and not humiliating and pays decently. Then, still DON'T DO IT! There's already enough music in the world.
What inspired you to put portraits of your parents on the cover of your new disc? If they are still alive, what do they think of your work?
Both of my parents have now died. Though, of course, the music sounded to them like a roiling sea of indistinguishable sounds, they were quite proud of me for my hard work and what I've managed to achieve. They're on the cover because they were damn fine looking. Also because they inevitably shaped my conception of love, or were at least partially responsible for the blueprint for my insanity in that regard (from my own caustic point of view, that is). So since most of the songs on How I Loved You are love songs in one form or another, it seemed appropriate.
Do you find comfort in songs like "Suicide"? I find such expressions somehow life affirming. Do you?
Well, shit yeah. That's why I write 'em and sing 'em. This song basically wrote itself. I'd been listening to a lot of Hank Williams in the van, driving around the country, and his voice was in my brain, so it came out that way. Lyrically, it veers toward melodrama I suppose, but I think that the music deflects that.
How have the events of 9-11 affected you and your circle of associates?
We're all broke as hell and waiting for the next shoe to drop. I am pissed off. Politically, I guess I lean toward libertarian/anarchist, with a dose of social Darwinism thrown in, tempered by an ameliorative balm of socialism. But in this instance, I feel like George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove.
For anyone who hasn't seen the film, can you expound on this a bit?
Well, they should see the film. It's one of the best ever made. He's a warmonger, but cute.
Is there anything you don't get out of the Angels of Light that you got out of Swans or World of Skin? Is there ever a chance of a reunion of either?
There is absolutely no chance of a "reunion"! Swans was never "united," so it's an oxymoron to use that term. I just changed the name is all, and pursued the direction in music I would have pursued anyway.
What is the lineup like for the tour?
Larry Mullins will be playing Farfiza organ, drums and electronic vibes, and singing. Dana Schechter will be playing bass, piano, organ and singing. Thor Harris will be playing acoustic vibes, hammer dulcimer, autoharp, piano/organ and percussion, and singing. I will be bleating like an unpleasantly surprised goat, and crooning like Bing Crosby, as usual, while trying to figure out how to play my ridiculous guitar.
The Angels of Light play Tues., Nov. 27, at the Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Ave. Doors open at 9 p.m. $15. Virgil Shaw and Myssouri open. 404-681-3600. www.echostatic.com.??