Podcast Interview

Michael Gira (Swans): The Void with Christina Podcast Ep #80

This week, The Void with Christina podcast features Michael Gira of Swans. Gira is a truly iconoclastic musician that creates music that hits the extremes of the spectrum – the darkest, the most abrasive and explosive sounds you can imagine, through to the most ethereal otherworldly songs that belong at the most heartfelt crescendo moment of a film. Swans reverbrates through all your blood and gristle to plunge into your heart and guts, and has consistently and fearlessly shifted in new directions.

Listen to the Michael Gira (Swans) podcast on
Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Stitcher or Soundcloud


Their new album Leaving Meaning leans to the light; a super cinematic piece that you can feel on a visceral level. The record is a shining example of why SWANS have remained a vital evolving animal for over thirty years (with a 13 year hiatus in the first decade of the 21st century).

In this week’s show we talk about how he creates, life’s big questions, Leaving Meaning’s incredible coven of musical collaborators and the alchemy they create together. Experience Leaving Meaning and support the artist in a real way here. Listen to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio and all podcast platforms. A few moments from the podcast are transcribed below, but listening to the podcast is highly recommended.

On making audio cinema:

Michael Gira: That’s something I’ve been interested in since the mid [to] late eighties. Making records that are like soundtracks, that are a total experience rather than a collection of songs.

On the new record, Leaving Meaning:

Michael Gira: A thread that might run through [Leaving Meaning] is the questioning of language and what it means and if it means anything at all. If you can imagine your mind as a screen, with words and images and memories floating across it. Then you question: Who is looking at those images? Where is that being or entity?

Christina: I feel like “Sunfucker” has this real “stand up and flex your crown of feathers” energy. There’s a significant shift at that moment [in the record]. Was that a conscious thing?

Michael Gira: Everything informs everything else, they all have to have a language that speaks to each other. The song “Sunfucker” (a lovely title) was inspired by a book I never finished. Perhaps I will, someday. It was a tome, a history of Aztec civilisation. There was this image of the high priest atop a pyramid, cutting out the heart of the sacrificial victim and holding it up to the sun. It just struck me as a very compelling and beautiful image. It also speaks to the power of belief systems. It seems to me we all want to subsume ourselves in a belief system. That can be a good thing. It can also be a terrifying thing. So it is a subject that’s not new to me, but in this case it has a more, perhaps, exotic colour to it.

On what he was raging against with Swans at its most explosive:

Christina: Shane from Napalm Death once said that Swans is how he defines extreme, heavy music. Obviously, you’ve evolved [over time]. Is the thing that speaks to you that says: “What is this?” Has that animal changed over the years? And when the music was more consistently angry, was that a reflection of you as a person?

Michael Gira: I would dispute the use of the word anger. I would suppose intensity would be a better term. Well, sometimes I was angry. Maybe in the early days I was obsessed with just explosive sound. And it seemed to correlate closely with my disgust [at] the consumer corporate society, driven by the media and its infiltration of our consciousness. I suppose that was one thing that I was raging against, while simultaneously ingesting it. But I don’t think that way anymore. As far as being heavy, I don’t know … it is kind of a cliched term. And these days, it’s really the antithesis of what I’m looking for in the new material.

On the real questions, the greasy vessel + the earth:

Michael Gira: There’s a Zen poem that asks you in concentrated meditation, to dig deeper, deeper, deeper, before words. And then ask yourself: What is this? What is this? What is this? And eventually, the question becomes the answer.

Christina: So you’ve got the answer? Or the answer is the question?

Michael Gira: Oh I don’t know a fucking thing [laughs].

Christina: [Laughs]. I don’t know how you feel but sometimes I feel like creativity is … we’re all like a greasy vessel. It is just living through us, we just happen to be receiving the signal.

Michael Gira: We’re just amoebas floating in a pool of water, for sure. With this internet thing, I’m beginning to look at it as the human mind … we’re subsuming ourselves in this human mind. And it’s this kind of swirling mass of information eating itself. This! No, this! This! This! Not this, that! That! The earth is deconstructing and decomposing in front of our eyes simultaneously. And it seems to me somehow all the history that led to this point is kind of revealing itself at this moment.

Listen to the Michael Gira (Swans) podcast on
Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeart Radio, Stitcher or Soundcloud


“The important thing to ask is: What am I doing here? Why am I here? Why am I thinking this? What does this thought mean? Maybe I’m just regressing. But that is what I’m preoccupied with.” – Michael Gira



You Might Also Like