Friday, 26 October 2007

I kinda love Michael Gira

What happened to Michael Gira? When did he go from being the deadpan sociopath with songs about torturing an ex-lover to the cuddly drifter who would help fix your car when it broke down on a lonesome dark highway and never even once think about braining you and stealing your identity? As you may or may not know, once my favorite abrasive anti-consumerism NY outfit Swans dissolved in 1997, M.Gira got busy releasing albums from superhippie Devendra Banhart and the impressively-bearded Akron Family (amongst others) on his Young God Records label. He also released several haunting Americana-y albums as a solo artist and with the excellently-named Angels of Light collective.

Sure, artists change direction all the time. Nick Cave went from leaping around a fire with a severed pig head in the Birthday Party's "Nick the Stripper" video to writing the introduction to the Gospel of Mark. In 1986, Siouxsie Sioux released a song about sewing someone up in the carcass of a dead horse (the song is "An Execution" and it's the only Banshees track I refuse to listen to ever again--ICK). In 2003, she added guest vocals on a cynical but still TOTALLY BANGIN'!!! dance track by the Basement Jaxx. Peter Murphy went from making stage entrances in coffins with Bauhaus to playing an acoustic guitar in front of a background of passing clouds in the video for "Cuts You Up". Yet, these artists--despite all the changes and sometimes surprising career moves--have somehow managed to retain their formidable and vaguely menacing images, (OK, Peter Murphy is debatable. I say the Coachella hangin'-upside-down-like-a-bat performance rectifies any regrettable early '90s video choices), whereas Michael Gira now comes off like the dusty eccentric who befriends one of author Carson McCuller's adolescent protagonists before drifting off into the backroads of rural 1950s America.

Not that this is bad. In fact, it kinda makes me love him MORE. Just look at the picture above! He's a troubadour who has seen it all, a man who's been everywhere but is at home nowhere, the gravel-voiced jack-of-all-trades sitting next to you at Mickey's Diner with a cup of black coffee and a slice of cold apple pie. Here's an excerpt from his MySpace page that tells you where M. Gira's head's at right now:

I now live in the Catskill Mountains, and I also run the record label Young God Records. It generally consumes most of my time, but I accept that. It's my "day job" but quite a decent one, though tedious at times. But I've had the great pleasure of being able to produce or co-produce many of the acts on the label, have always learned something new from working with the musicians involved, and am delighted to be able to bring their music out into the world. Some of the music YGR has released (aside from my own work): Devendra Banhart, Akron/Family, Lisa Germano, Mi and L'au and a great deal more. If you're interested, go to ...that's all I have to say about myself, in fact I've said too much!

Ahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!! I want to give him a hug and listen to his stories of life on the road (or in New England). I bet he makes the best apple cider and maple syrup on the farm I imagine he has. (Apple cider, maple syrup=so New England.) Like David Lynch, Michael Gira was also kind enough to release a new album, We Are Him the day after my birthday in September. You can hear a few excerpts on Gira's not-at-all-creepy myspace page or check him out one at one of these excellent venues:

10.26.07 - London, UK - Shoreditch Town Hall (as part of {The Wire} magazine’s 25th anniversary festival)*
10.27.07 – London, UK – Monto Water Rats
11.10.07 – Chicago, IL – Lakeshore Theatre

*with the Boredoms

1 comment:

Jared M. Thiele said...

He's pretty great. Although I don't know much about him, or his past, I like the new Angels of Light album, and wish he could find it in his heart to return an email to me.