Since reestablishing Swans in 2010 with the release of My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky, Michael Gira has been exploring a stylistic middle ground between the sonic abrasiveness of early Swans recordings and his acoustic-based, crypto-folk collective, Angels of Light. There is a tendency to focus on the older work of prolific artists who've been active for decades, but Gira is an exceptional case in that his newest output has a staggering impact independent of his prior career. With a recently released collection of home recordings entitled The Milk of M. Gira, the indelible “cinematic auteur” endeavor of My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky still lodged in our psyches, and the next Swans album, The Seer, slated for release this summer, we engaged Gira in a discussion of his most recent activity. Michael Gira performs this Thursday, March 15, at Great American Music Hall, with Sir Richard Bishop as support.
I definitely want to talk about the digital album of home recordings, The Milk of M. Gira, which you've released. The home recordings seem like a surprising step, because production seems to be nearly as important to you as songwriting. Do the raw recordings make you feel uncomfortable or exposed?
Not really, because I don't look at anything as ever being finished. It surprises people that most Swans songs since the mid-'80s have had their genesis on acoustic guitar. They of course get stretched out and changed, maybe sometimes completely, by the band that I'm working with, but that's just one version of the song, it's one way the song exists. It also exists in the studio and a different way live. I like having things stripped down completely and unadorned.