Preview: Swans at the Lemon Tree

Swans frontman Michael Gira believes continuing as a band would have brought complete collapse.

At the peak of their creativity Gira, 63, has decided to dissolve the current incarnation of Swans.

This tour, which hits the Lemon Tree tonight, is the last opportunity to catch one of the greatest live bands not just now, but of their generation.

In 1998, the original band released a live album Swans Are Dead before splitting.

This time it is not death, but a rebirth that Gira insists is rich with limitless possibilities.

He said: “When we have finished touring, this version of the band will come to a close and I will start working with a revolving cast of people.

“Some of them will of course be these guys from Swans.

“Once I have had time to write enough material for a record I will choose people who I feel are appropriate for each song.

“That will in itself determine the sound. I don’t know what will happen but I just knew that if we were to continue in this current way, we’d all collapse.

“It could become habit, and habit kills possibility. It is important to shake things up.”

Gira resurrected Swans in 2010 with My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky.

An ambitious triptych of double albums followed – To Be Kind, The Seer and the recent The Glowing Man.

“The last three records were a product of six people,” he said.

“That’s reached its apex with the record The Glowing Man.

“And anything that has reached its apex is then going to go into decline – so it had to end.”

When Gira returned to Swans in 2010 it was no hollow comeback revelling in past glories, it was all or nothing as the past of the band was obliterated.

Everything had to be new.

Speaking to the Evening Express from the States, Gira said: “I can’t just live with myself as the singer representing the thing by just going through old material.

“It just seems wrong.”

One of the most confrontational bands to emerge from the No Wave New York scene, the Swans have mutated from the brutality of debut Filth (1983) into an uplifting, spiritual experience.

Think Alice Coltrane and Albert Ayler playing amid a Wagnerian post-rock guitar maelstrom.

“I am exhausted now and have been exhausted for the seven years since I started Swans again,” explained Gira.

“But that is a necessity to produce this music.

“The live performances are intense but I look at them as a very positive, spiritual experience. The audience gets that, as well. That is why the music has taken the trajectory it has and it is a wonderful thing.

“The way The Glowing Man occurred, a lot of the material was developed live on tour.”

Swans are one of the loudest live bands around, with the sonic assault of My Bloody Valentine and Lighting Bolt, but there are subtle nuances and chiaroscuro to their shows.

There is calm in the storm – with Gira orchestrating in the eye.

He said: “When we play live It’s completely elevating.

“We set up the stage so it’s a half circle and I’m in the middle of it. “So I’m receiving the full force of the tsunami.

“It must unleash endorphins, because being inside the sound is to me the ultimate. When it’s working and we’re all psychically connected and the music’s taking us over, I can’t imagine anything more exquisite.”

The Aberdeen show also marks the reissue of Swans’ ninth studio album, The Great Annihilator.

The album was entirely remastered after Bill Rieflin recently tracked down DATs and cassettes containing unmastered mixes from the sessions.

“While recording The Great Annihilator I lived in a tent in a mosquito-infested studio right next to Cabrini Green in Chicago for three months, rarely leaving.

“Band members and Jarboe and Bill Rieflin came and went, and somehow we crafted this thing into what it became.”

Gira will play the Lemon Tree for the third time in the last decade. He was support to Japanese noise legends Boredoms in October 2007 and headlined with Swans three years ago.

Such is the force of Swans live, it has been described as spiritual, almost religious.

He said: “I certainly didn’t expect that to occur when I re-started the band seven years ago.

“We definitely aspire to something bigger than ourselves – I’ll leave that up to other people to decide what that is.”

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