Michael Gira

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Michael Gira
MichaelGira PortlandOR 2009-03-03 HowardForbes.jpg
Michael Gira performing at The Doug Fir Lounge in Portland, Oregon on March 3, 2009
Background information
Birth name Michael Rolfe Gira[1]
Born (1954-02-19) February 19, 1954 (age 61)
Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Experimental rock, post-punk, avant-garde, no wave, post-rock, folk rock, industrial
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter, musician, producer, author
Instruments Vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
Years active 1979–present
Labels Young God, Uni/MCA, Caroline, Atavistic
Associated acts Swans, Angels of Light, Devendra Banhart, Little Cripples, Circus Mort, The Body Lovers, Skin, World of Skin
Website younggodrecords.com

Michael Rolfe Gira (/ˈmkəl ʒɪˈrɑː/;[2] born February 19, 1954)[1] is an American singer-songwriter, musician, author, and artist. He is the main force behind the New York City musical group Swans and fronts Angels of Light. He is also the founder of Young God Records.


Early life[edit]

Gira was born in Los Angeles. His mother, Alice Shulte, is from Iowa. Gira relocated to Europe with his father, Robert Pierre Gira, after a short stay in South Bend, Indiana.[3] He hitchhiked across Europe, lived in Israel for a year and spent four and a half months in an adult jail in Jerusalem for selling drugs.[4] He turned 16 when in jail.[5]

He then came back to California, worked at a bakery on Redondo Beach Pier, took a GED, went to community college, and then went to Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. He moved to New York in 1979, where he played in a band called Circus Mort, before forming another band, Swans.[6][7]


Main article: Swans (band)

Initially, Swans' focus was raw rhythm and abrasive textures, usually eschewing melody for visceral power. They became known for their abrasive experimental and post-industrial sound. Their commercial success was limited, but Swans earned much critical notice and had a devoted following.

The band's lineup and sound evolved over time, and their music became somewhat more conventional. A marked shift in Swans' music came with inclusion of Gira's partner, Jarboe, who added her ethereal voice and synthesizers to the group in 1985. Gira and Swans spent the next twelve years releasing studio, live, and side-project albums. Gira's frustration with the various record labels grew over time, and he disbanded Swans in 1997. However, in 2010, Gira decided to revive the band, with members new and old. They released a new album titled My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky. A second post-revival album, The Seer, was released in 2012. A third, To Be Kind, was released in 2014. All three were met with critical acclaim.

Solo career and Angels of Light[edit]

After dissolving Swans in 1997 Gira released a solo album under his own name and began a new musical direction with Angels of Light, which are a quieter, more acoustic-based group than Swans.

Gira also spent time experimenting with soundscapes, found sound, and loops with The Body Lovers project. He has also released several albums under his own name including Drainland (1995), The Somniloquist (2000, a spoken word album), and What We Did (2001), a collaboration with Windsor for the Derby's frontman Dan Matz.

Gira founded his own record label, Young God Records, which has released albums from such artists as Devendra Banhart, Mi and L'au, and Akron/Family as well as Swans, The Angels of Light and The Body Lovers' back catalogues.

Akron/Family served as Gira's backing band during the recording of and touring for The Angels of Light's 2005 album, The Angels of Light Sing 'Other People'.

Gira has spoken of his decision to shift his focus from The Angels of Light to Swans as a move based on impassivity. He has stated, "I had been doing this band Angels of Light for thirteen years, and had reached a kind of impassivity with that, sorta like I had reached an impassivity with Swans when I initially stopped it."[8]


Gira's short story collection The Consumer (ISBN 1-880985-26-8) was published in 1995 by Henry Rollins's 2.13.61 publications. It is divided into two parts, the first being "The Consumer", a series of short stories from the early 1990s, the second, "Various Traps, Some Weaknesses", made up mostly of prose-poems and vignettes, all dating from 1983–1986. (Many of these earlier stories had previously been published by SST Records as Selfishness, with illustrations by Raymond Pettibon.) The stories contain many disturbing images and scenes including incest, identity loss, murder, self-hatred, rape, and both mental and physical decay.


Michael Gira is known for using a Guild antique burst electro acoustic guitar, and a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus Guitar Amplifier during his solo concerts. In recent Swans performances, he has been using a modified Gibson Lucille through Orange amplifiers and Mesa Boogie cabinets.

Solo discography[edit]

Year Title Label
1985 A Diamond Hidden in the Mouth of a Corpse (compilation) Giorno Poetry Systems
1988 Shame, Humility, Revenge Product Inc.
1995 Drainland Sub Rosa
1999 Jarboe Emergency Medical Fund (live)
2000 Somniloquist Young God Records
2001 What We Did (With Dan Matz) Young God Records
2001 Solo Recording at Home Young God Records
2002 Living '02 Young God Records
2004 I Am Singing To You From My Room Young God Records
2006 Songs for a Dog Lumberton Trading Co.
2010 I Am Not Insane Young God Records


  1. ^ a b "California Births, 1905 – 1995". FamilyTreeLegends.com. Retrieved 2009-12-12. 
  2. ^ "Spinning on Air: The Angels of Light". WNYC. New York Public Radio. October 23, 2005. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  3. ^ Gladstone, Neil (April 23, 2001). "Angels of Light | Press Clippings | Series 1". CMJ New Music Report. Young God Records. Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  4. ^ Pattison, Louis (October 19, 2010). "Waxing lyrical: Swans' Michael Gira on his love of words". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved 2011-04-21. 
  5. ^ Clark, Jeff. "Swans – Interview/Stomp and Stammer". swans.pair.com. Retrieved 2013-08-01. 
  6. ^ Ratliff, Ben (September 3, 2010). "Michael Gira and Swans Re-Form for Tour". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 2010-07-07. 
  7. ^ "Circus Mort". TrouserPress.com. Retrieved 2011-03-13. 
  8. ^ "Michael Gira". CrasierFrane.com. October 20, 2010. Retrieved 2010-10-21. 

External links[edit]