"Swans are majestic, beautiful looking creatures - with really ugly temperaments," Swans frontman Michael Gira once said explaining the group's name.
Swans were considered part of the No Wave movement which had its beginnings during the mid-'70s in New York City. No Wave music and art rejected the commercial elements of the then-popular New Wave. No Wave music had "abrasive atonal sounds, repetitive driving rhythms, and a tendency to emphasize musical texture over melody." That was Swans.
Gira formed Swans in '82. Though the group was based in NYC, Gira was an L.A. native, raised in a relatively affluent suburb. But as often happens, things took a wrong turn. Gira's parents divorced when he was a teen and he resided with his alcoholic mother for an extended period before being sent to live with his dad, first in Indiana, then Paris. After running away from home and hitchhiking across Europe, Gira was arrested for selling drugs in Israel and sentenced to prison - even though he was still a teen. It was only through his father's efforts that Gira was released and returned to L.A. There he started a band and enrolled in art school before deciding to go to New York, where he worked in construction to pay the bills.
Early Swans were essentially a revolving door. However, one member, guitarist Norman Westberg, played on the group's full-length debut, '83's "Filth" through '91s White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity." He also was there in '95 for "The Great Annihilator" and was part of the line-up when the group reformed in '10.
'86's "Greed," an album that one critic described as "aggressive beyond words," saw the addition of another long-term influential member, vocalist/keyboardist Jarboe (also known as Jane Jarboe). She stayed until the group's dissolution in '98. And though she was not part of the reformed group, she did contribute background vocals to the '12 album, "The Seer."
Focused on projects beyond Swans, Gira decided to end the group with one last album and a world tour. "Soundtracks For The Blind," a two-disc set that dropped in '96 was comprised of soundscapes, post-industrial epics and post-Rock suites. Two years later, "Swans Are Dead" contained live recordings from their '95 and '97 tours.
With Swans finished, Gira formed Angels Of Light. Over a decade later though, he re-established Swans who issued '10's "My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky" and '12's "The Seer," which coincided with the group's 30th anniversary.
Another live set, "Not Here/Not Now," dropped with proceeds helping fund Swans next studio effort "To Be Kind." The '14 effort was recorded with Grammy-nominated producer/engineer/mixer John Congleton.
1986 Holy Money
1987 Children Of God
1989 The Burning World
1991 White Light From The Mouth Of Infinity
1992 Love Of Life
1995 The Great Annihilator
1996 Soundtracks For The Blind
2010 My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky
2012 The Seer
2014 To Be Kind