SWANS leaving meaning is the band’s fifteenth studio album, the follow up to 2016’s The Glowing Man is out now. Written and produced by Michael Gira, the album features contributions from recent and former Swans, members of Angels of Light as well as Guest Artists Anna and Maria von Hausswolff, Ben Frost, The Necks, Baby Dee, and a Hawk and a Hacksaw. Michael Gira talks to Hi Fi Way about making the album.
Congratulations on the album, would this rate as one of the most satisfying album experiences of your career?
I don’t know, they’re all just extended sessions of torture actually. I suppose it came out well. I can’t hear it any more because I’m overly familiar with it. I think it turned out well.
Torture sessions? Does the process get any easier?
You use a word there that I gravitate towards which is process. I have realised over the years rather than a finished work the process is the important thing. So when something is finished to me it is just a marker a long the way and the next is to take the music and the song that are on the album and figure out a way to interpret them or use them as fodder. When things are finished to me I lose interest in them.
Do you have to get yourself excited to play those songs again once you have lost interest?
That’s what I mean, I have songs and I’m going to perform them with a group on our next tour most of which will be songs from this recent record and some new songs I’ll be writing as well. I’ll look at the songs as a pathway for these musicians I’m working with to follow.
Was it a tough decision to dissolve the band you have been working with for so long or do believe it needed a fresh dynamic to move in to this new album?
Well we all felt that we reached the neighbour of our potential so as a group you become very familiar with people and what they’re apt to do when you’re in the same space with them for hundreds of days per year either in a studio or live. It begins to become a situation where you rely easily available tropes and it is impossible to break through after a while. We just decided that was it and we reached a really good point, we left on a good note with The Glowing Man album and having decided that I made the decision to gather musicians that I had known through the years, peoples work I admire including the people who I just worked but not as a group to orchestrate the songs according to what the song needed. I have this band that I have to create music, it is more like I have this song how do I orchestrate it. That was the point of view.
Was it still harmonious having so many people involved? Were there any creative differences?
On this album? Absolutely no dissonance whatsoever with people. Everyone came in with enthusiasm and just wanted to make the music good. I served as the director but being totally open to people’s input of course. It was a great experience, the basic tracks were recorded with Larry Mullins, Kristof Hahn and Yoyo Rohm. Larry is someone who I worked with extensively on Swans and Angels Of Light. He is an orchestral percussionist as well as a rock drummer, he played drums for Iggy Pop for years and even played in the last iteration of The Stooges. I think he is the musician’s musician, he can play every instrument.
Kristof Hahn I worked with in Swans and Angels Of Light playing guitar and lap steel. Yoyo Rohm is a great bass player both acoustic bass and electric bass. He was in Berlin when we recorded and contributed a great deal of other instruments as well. We formed the basic structures of the songs and I brought in other people to help orchestrate them.
Do you start thinking about the people you want to work with on the next album?
I haven’t given any thought to that, the next challenge is performing live and I have gathered a group that will be performing next year. The live show will be unfolding clouds of sound.
Any plans to tour Australia?
I haven’t seen it on the itinerary but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen, I don’t know.
Interview By Rob Lyon
Have a listen to Leaving Meaning on Spotify, or order online…