Michael Gira (pronounced jeer-AH) (born 1954) is an American musician, author, and artist. He is the main force behind the New York City musical group Swans, active from 1982 to 1997, reformed in 2010. He also fronts The Angels of Light and is founder of Young God Records (YGR website). Gira lived with his parents in a relatively affluent suburb of Los Angeles, California, though they divorced when he was a young teenager.
Gira lived with his parents in a relatively affluent suburb of Los Angeles, California, though they divorced when he was a young teenager. After staying with his alcoholic mother for much of his youth, he was sent to live with his father in Indiana and then Paris. He ran away from home and hitch-hiked across Europe, and was finally arrested for selling drugs in Israel. Although he was only a teenager at the time, he was placed in an adult prison. His father found Gira with the aid of Interpol and sent him back to the United States. Back in Los Angeles, he played in a band called Little Cripples and enrolled in art school and imagined that he would someday be a visual artist (Gira sketched obsessively); however, he soon became disillusioned with the elitism and academia surrounding the art world and dropped out. However, Gira's interest in art is known to have affected his music; Inner Female is a study of Francis Bacon. It could also be said that Gira's visceral, surreal writing style is comparative to Bacon's paintings.
In 1979 Gira moved to New York City in order to start a band; he was influenced by no wave and noise artists like Suicide and Glenn Branca. He played with the band Circus Mort before forming Swans. Before achieving success with his music, Gira was forced to work many tedious, backbreaking jobs in construction and demolition. He also began a short-lived art magazine, No.
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. The band's lineup and sound evolved over time, most markedly with the inclusion of Gira's eventual girlfriend, 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 they recorded for grew over time.
After dissolving Swans in 1997 Gira released a solo album under his own name and began a new musical direction with The Angels of Light, which are a quieter, more acoustic-based group than Swans. Nonetheless, The Angels of Light retain much of the intensity of Gira's former project. While The Angels of Light are a rather traditional "song-based" group, Gira also spent time experimenting with soundscapes, found sound, and loops with the 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 the 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'.