Across The Margin : The Podcast — The Beggar with Michael Gira (Swans)

Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with musician and founder of the band Swans, Michael Gira…

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This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast features an interview with singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, author, and artist Michael Gira. Gira is the founder of the band Swans, in which he sings and plays guitar. He is also the founder of Young God Records and previously fronted Angels of Light. The focus of this episode is on Swans latest release, a terrific album entitled The Beggar.

Michael Gira founded the groundbreaking NYC band Swans in 1982. Initially notorious for their relentless, brutal, high-volume onslaughts of sound, the extreme, abject imagery of Gira’s lyrics, and his thundering vocals, Swans would undergo a series of startling transformation over the next 15 years. Following the punishing Filth and Cop albums, the ensemble would venture into harshly mechanical proto-industrial rock of their Greed period, then the haunted atmospheric and martial stomps of 1987’s landmark Children of God double album. They’d conjure gentler acoustic-based meditations on The Burning World in 1989, then after relocating to Atlanta came the grand, melody-dense sonic whirlwinds of White Light from the Mouth of Infinity (1991) and Love of Life (1993), before becoming more dissonant and sharp-edged with The Great Annihilator (1994). Finally, the ultimate statement of that period of Swans was Soundtracks For The Blind (1996), which incorporated all of these elements across well over two hours of music. At this point, Gira called it quits after 15 years of non-stop recording and touring, disbanding the group. For the next 13 years, he’d make a long series of acclaimed albums and perform live extensively with a revolving roster of musicians under the name Angels Of Light. Gira also discovered, produced, and released albums by other musicians through his label Young God Records. 

In 2010, Gira reactivated Swans, releasing the studio album My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky to ecstatic critical response and touring the world for the better part of a year. The Seer, a triple album studio set, came out in 2012 and was celebrated by another lengthy world tour eliciting more media praise and album sales that landed The Seer on Billboard’s Top 200. Swans’ next release, To Be Kind (another triple vinyl) debuted at #36 on Billboard’s Top 200 Sales Chart and #5 on their Independent Sales Chart. The group sold out 47 concert dates in their subsequent touring including selling out two-night stands in cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Paris, as well as single shows in London, Berlin and Rome. The album garnered enormous praise from the press, and the two-hour long album stream was premiered by NPR. The Glowing Man (2017) (also triple vinyl) was the last studio release by this incarnation of Swans. With 2019’s Leaving Meaning, the 15th studio album, Gira returned to working with a fluid supporting cast of musicians once again. And just recently, Swans have brought to life The Beggar, a sprawling, sonically dizzying, and thought-provoking work of art that showcases the extreme abilities of a legendary frontman and band that somehow still sounds at the height of their talents.

In this episode host Michael Shields and Michael Gira discuss the themes abounding in The Beggar and the influence Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges had on the album. They give a hat tip to the talented instrumentalists that were part of the project while exploring how birthing The Beggar during the pandemic affected the entirely captivating work of art. They dig into the ins-and-outs of the 44 minute track on the album entitled “The Beggar Lover” (Three)” where, in the episode, Michael reads a section of poetry found within the all-encompassing journey of a track. They also talk about what to expect from the upcoming tour, how Jim Morrison has inspired Michael throughout his life, and a whole lot more.

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