Gira interview via email October 28, 2003
I think everyone that knows me knows the name Michael Gira. I think a lot of my admiration for him is really caused by stumbling across his music at the right moment in my life. He gives me a lot of hope because though his early music deals with physical violence & self-hatred, he’s changed over the years & helped to guide me into a more realistic & hopeful view of the world. The last time I saw him perform I had a fever & hadn’t slept in two days & confessed to him that I loved him like a father & was proud of him & his new record The Angels of Light’s Everything is Good Here/Please Come Home. The Angels, for those of you who haven’t paid attention, are a beautiful band. They’re kind of a proto-punk-americana band. They’re beautiful like a caged panther instead of like the sunrise. Which is the kind of beauty Gira has always had, untamed.
QRD – Why did you have such an extreme instrumental line up change for the Angels of Light live & how do you think it positively & negatively affected the music?
Michael – I was bored with the way things were sounding. Seems like we'd slipped into a routine, so I wanted to move on...
QRD – What's the biggest benefit & deficit to doing your solo performances as opposed to with a backing band?
Michael – The biggest benefit is that I don't have to worry about anybody else's musical parts, or their personalities. the downside is that it's only me, and it stands on how well I perform and sing. I think the latter is a place I’d rather be though...
QRD – I know you normally use alternate tunings, do the other guitarists in your bands use the same tunings as well or just find things to match what you¹re doing in their own tuning?
Michael – Actually, these days, as far as I go into that terrain, is a simple dropped d tuning. it's too much of a pain in the ass to switch guitars every other song according to tunings, so I don't go there any more. People adjust fine in standard tuning...
QRD – You’re known for usually touring almost exclusively with material yet to be released, but on this last tour you seemed to have more songs off the recordings, is their any particular reason why?
Michael – I think I’m less prolific than I once was, so have less to choose from. Also, the songs I’ve already written are good, so why not perform/re-arrange them in a live context...
QRD – You seem to have a gained a recent appreciation for your Burning World era of songs, which you have previously seemed a little jaded about. What¹s brought about this change of heart?
Michael – There's definitely some good songs on that record. It's just that the record itself sounds like shit.
QRD – Over your years in Swans you did quite a number of covers, will Angels of Light ever do covers other than songs from your previous projects?
Michael – I’m thinking of doing a sort of bluegrass-y version of throbbing gristle's "convincing people" for the next record...
QRD – Do you currently play or own any electric guitars?
Michael – I never play the electric guitar any more. The guitar Devendra Banhart played in the last Angels’ tour is mine, a Gibson "BB King" model. I forget the number/type. I’ll probably play some feeble electric guitar on the next record...
QRD – Is "Angels of Light" a reference to 2 Corinthians 11:14 “And no wonder, for even Satan masquerades as an angel of light?"
Michael – Absolutely not!
QRD – Do you think you should have started Young God as its own legitimate label earlier & if so at what time?
Michael – No, I think it took me a long time to be able to deal with the total responsibility of running a label, and if I’d have done so earlier it would have been disastrous...
QRD – In a recent interview you said you were hoping to write longer & more narrative songs, is this still the case & what artists do you look at as successful in this format?
Michael – I’m always striving for that, with mixed success. Of course my hero in that regard is Bob Dylan, though I have desire to sound like him or use a style he might have used...
QRD – In what ways has your musical career improved you &/or been detrimental to you as a person?
Michael – I suppose it's made me ruthless in some ways. I don't know if that's good or bad.
QRD – You’ve been very busy with the label over the past few years, do you think it will ever make you so busy that you cannot properly work on your own material?
Michael – It's a juggling act, and always has been. The only other choice is to get some sort of day job, something I’m utterly incapable of living with.
QRD – If money & scheduling & sound requirements were not issues, how many people would you want to have in the Angels of Light live line up?
Michael – Probably 10 or 12, something like that. Still, I prefer performing solo lately...
QRD – If Michael Gira of Angels of Light & Michael Gira of Circus Morte were to meet, what advice/insults do you think would be exchanged?
Michael – No comment
QRD – What technique have you developed to be able to go in & out of the barking vocal style you sometimes use without destroying your voice for the rest of the show?
Michael – I gargle with warm salt water before each show, eat scores of fisherman's friend throat lozenges, drink tea with tablespoons of honey, and drink whiskey. I also rehearse for weeks, hours and hours a day before each show or tour...
QRD – Do you think it's important to present a visual aesthetic in your live show?
Michael – No. I hate that. I want the emotion of the performance itself to be enough.
QRD – How is your stage persona most similar & most different from the “at home” Michael Gira?
Michael – I don't think there's much difference
QRD – As you’re getting older, is touring getting more difficult or easier to deal with?
Michael – More difficult. Everything except being on stage, playing the songs, is intolerably boring.
QRD – What’s the difference for you between the current Michael Gira solo material & Angels of Light, how do you know where a piece belongs?
Michael – No difference...
QRD – What’s your favorite television station?
Michael – I hate television.
QRD – Anything else?
Michael – No.