11+3 is designed to give you an insight into the motivations and aspirations of the best creative minds in the world.
This time with Michael Gira. Each artist is asked 11 set questions and to contribute 3 “facts” which can be any statement from them on absolutely anything: their own views on politics, religion, the environment, sport…or just something they read in the paper or saw on TV.
1. Kristof Hahn is a superman
2. Berlin is too big now
3. god is breathing our thoughts
1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?
To hear something I haven’t heard before.
2. How and when did you get into making music?
In LA in 1977/8 during the punk days.
3. What are your 5 favourite albums of all time?
Freak Out by Mothers of Invention
Strange Days by The Doors
Ummagumma by Pink Floyd
Henryk Górecki: Symphony No. 2 Copernican; Beatus Vir
Five Leaves Left by Nick Drake
4. What do you associate with Berlin?
Days of total excess in 1985 when Swans ran amok there.
5. What’s your favourite place in your town?
6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?
I would rejoice!
7. What was the last record you bought?
Howlin Wolf box set.
8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?
I’m not fond of collaborating, but if forced, Werner Herzog.
9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?
Earl Scruggs at grey fox bluegrass festival 2003 approximately.
10. How important is technology to your creative process?
It is an aid and an impediment.
11. Do you have siblings and are they proud or jealous of you?
I have 14 siblings, so there are too many to ask.
Best known for his role as founder and co-leader of avant-garde rock band Swans, Michael Gira has made a point not to work very much under his own name (at least musically — he has published and regularly done spoken word shows), preferring instead to create and lead various projects as well as produce other musicians.
Michael Gira | Blind
Even after Swans came to an end, his various musical efforts were group affairs like the Body Lovers and the Angels of Light, which he led but harnessed a wide variety of performers. That said, Gira has had a few releases billed as solo efforts. Unsurprisingly, such releases demonstrate, as much as his more well-known band efforts, Gira’s skill and power at creating emotionally intense music and lyrics.
Issued in 1995, Drainland was his official solo debut, though even it was described as “Swans Related Product,” and was consciously put out as a complement to his longtime collaborator and partner Jarboe’s own solo album, Sacrificial Cake. Billed as “Michael Gira with Guests,” a limited-edition live recording from early 1999 was done specifically as a benefit to assist Jarboe with her medical bills from a disease picked up on a trip to Israel the previous year.
Michael Gira | You’re Not Real, Girl
Also in 1999, Gira released his first Angels of Light project, New Mother. Near the end of the 20th century, Gira also took complete control of his musical destiny by founding his Young God Records label. He featured not only his own material, but other acts he was personally interested in, including Devendra Banhart, Windsor for the Derby, Akron/Family, Lisa Germano, Flux Information Sciences, Ulan Bator, Mi & l’Au, James Blackshaw, Charlemagne Palestine, Larkin Grimm, and Wooden Wand.
The new century saw Gira issue the spoken word offering Somniloquist. In 2001 Gira and Windsor for the Derby frontman Dan Matz released the collaborative full-length What We Did. This was followed by a solo recording entitled merely Solo Recordings from Home. Living ’02 and the (mostly) live-to-DAT recording I Am Singing to You from My Room were both issued in 2002. Gira concentrated on his Angels of Light project in subsequent years, which produced Everything Is Good Here/Please Come Home in 2003.
Michael Gira | (Behind) Closed Doors
The album The Angels of Light Sing Other People arrived in 2005, and We Are Him followed in August 2007. He also released Songs for a Dog, a 2,000 copy limited-edition LP — via the Lumberton Recording Company — a one-release offshoot of Young God. The album contained solo demos, CD-R-only recordings, and Angels of Light outtakes from earlier sessions as well as two new tracks. Gira’s website claimed it would not be made available in any other format.
For Gira, 2009 was a pivotal year: he issued a solo/demo recording entitled I Am Not Insane for starters — these recordings were prophetic, it seems. Later that year, he put Angels of Light on hiatus, feeling he had grown impassive in working with that project in the same way he had when he dissolved Swans in the 1990s. That said, in January of 2010, the words “Swans Are Not Dead” appeared on the band’s MySpace page. Gira had indeed resurrected the group, whose new incarnation included former members (sans Jarboe) as well as new ones.
Michael Gira | The Rose Of Los Angeles
The newly revived Swans released My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, some of whose songs’ origins can be found in rawer form on I Am Not Insane — the demo acoustic solo offering had been sold to finance the recordings of the Swans album. In 2011, and in perhaps similar fashion, Gira decided to release Songs for a Dog in a different format after all, making it available as a CD and digital download. This was perhaps to finance the Swans’ 2012 release, The Seer.