One of our favorite authors, stark scribe of the Sonoran Desert, Charles Bowden gets harsh and real on Democracy Now.

Bowden starts about 29 minutes in.

Anyone else find the Marvin Gaye needledrop totally inappropriate and borderline offensive?   Fuckin baby boomers, always good for a laugh and perspective.

New York artist to debut ‘drone-proof’ anti-surveillance clothing line


Some fashonistas strive for sexy when it comes to clothes, but one artist from New York is taking a rather utilitarian approach with outfits — he’s about to unveil a whole line of garments designed to make the wearer nearly invisible to drones.
Brooklyn-based artist Adam Harvey used to work primarily with photography, but he undertakes an entirely different medium with his newest project. He says that in the years since the United States post-9/11 PATRIOT Act has been in place, cameras have stopped becoming “art making tools” and have instead become “enablers of surveillance societies.”
That was Harvey’s explanation last year when he discussed his projects with the website Rhizome. At the time, Harvey was experimenting with how household make-up could render it harder for computers to use facial recognition programs to pluck people out of crowds. And while the practice of examining facial features using biometrics and sophisticated surveillance cameras has certainly intensified in the months since, Harvey has found another type of evasive practice that is a bit harder to avoid: the drone.
The United States currently has a modest arsenal of unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVS, or drones – that it uses in surveillance missions on its border with Mexico and in war zones overseas. By the year 2020, however, the Federal Aviation Administration expects the number of domestic drones in American airspace to be as large as 30,000.
At the moment, law enforcement agencies across the country are trying to get their hands on their own surveillance drones, some of which “can zoom in and read a milk carton from 60,000 feet,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. And while escaping a space-age robotic spy machine thousands of feet above the Earth might not be as easy as, say, putting on some blush or mascara to make it harder to be detected, Harvey has designed an entire clothing line that will help disguise people from the all-seeing eye of Big Brother.
On January 17, Harvey will unveil Stealth Wear at a studio in London. There he’ll debut his “new counter surveillance fashions” that he plans to also test before his private audience.
“Building off previous work with CV Dazzle, camouflage from face detection, Privacy Mode continues to explore the aesthetics of privacy and the potential for fashion to challenge authoritarian surveillance,” the press release reads.
In collaboration with NYC fashion designer Johanna Bloomfield, Harvey has tried to tackle “some of the most pressing and sophisticated forms of surveillance today.”
Ultimately, it’s a fashion statement that says an earful to those enabling a growing spy state.
“I think building privacy into modern garments can make them feel more comfortable and, like armor, more protected,” Harvey told Rhizome last year. “Data and privacy are increasingly valuable personal assets and it doesn’t make sense to not protect them. It’s also a great conversation starter.”
Harvey hopes to get those conversations starting next week in London, where he will unveil an anti-drone hoodie and matching scarf, a shirt that shields the wearer from X-rays and a pocket protector that he says blocks cell phones from sending and receiving signals.
For the hoodie and scarf set, Harvey and Bloomfield use materials designed to thwart thermal imaging, which the artist says most UAVs employ in order to zero-in on targets. The t-shirt allegedly protects a person’s internal organs from harmful X-rays and the “Off Pocket” pants accessory disconnects mobile devices from service providers with special materials.
“Smartphones infiltrate our senses. They cause anxiety, phantom vibrations, and keep us on alert,” he told Rhizome. “We expend energy maintaining an always-on connection. Smartphones should come with a switch to turn this off, but they don’t. Turning my iPhone off and back on takes 45 seconds. Using flight mode is also clumsy. I wanted a way to quickly and politely disconnect myself without relying on the phone’s software or hardware features. The Off Pocket circumvents this design flaw.”
“[W]hen I first modified my pants with signal attenuating fabric, it felt odd to be unplugged. It was as if I had blocked out part of the world, covered my ears, or closed my eyes. But then I adjusted and realized that I had just opened them again.”
The artist says accompanying each project will be either recorded and in-person demonstrations that reveal the process behind each specific technology and counter technology relevant to his work.
Speaking to the UK’s Register back in 2010, Harvey said even then that surveillance was becoming more prevalent.
“The number of sensors that are going into the public spaces has been increasing,” he said, adding that we very well might be “heading to the point where we as a society need to think about what we are comfortable with.”
“Maybe you could go to a privacy hair stylist in the future,” he quipped.



First ever OHIOAN full-band tour. 6-piece motherlovin loud group with two drummers, sax, lapsteel, noise, guitars.
Come and see it. We’ll have limited tour-only shirts and handmade pinon/creosote salve!


January 4 – La Cocina – Tucson, AZ
Jan 5 – SkyBar – Tucson, AZ
Jan 6 – Lost Leaf – Phoenix, AZ
Jan 7 – Aqua Farm – Prescott, AZ
Jan 8 – Houseshow – Flagstaff, AZ
Jan 9 – Royal House – Las Vegas, NV
Jan 10 – Bunkhouse – Las Vegas, NV
Jan 11 – Biko Garage – Isla Vista, CA
Jan 12 – Bows + Arrows – Sacramento, CA w/ DEAD WESTERN
Jan 13 – Fractal Mind Gaze Hut – Oakland, CA w/ LEMON BEAR
Jan 14 – Valentine’s – Portland, OR
Jan 15 – Little Axe Records – Portland, OR
Jan 16 – Comet Tavern – Seattle, WA w/ ANGELO SPENCER

Jan 18 – Shama Lama Ding Dong – Olympia, WA
Jan 19 – Kenton Club – Portland, OR (country set, performing as OTHER SON) w/ GHOST TO FALCO
Jan 20 – Stantonova – Portland, OR w/ SUN ANGLE / HOOKERS / HOT VICTORY / AAN
Jan 21 – Houseshow – Davis, CA
Jan 22 – Arlene Francis Center – Santa Rosa, CA w/ ODD BIRD
Jan 23 – Hemlock Tavern – San Francisco, CA w/ WHISKERMAN
Jan 24 – Houseshow – Oakland, CA w/ CASS MCCOMBS
Jan 25 – LA???????? (help needed)
Jan 26 – LA/San Diego?
Jan 27 – Club Congress – Tucson, AZ w/ GOLDEN BOOTS

Its After the End of the World (Dont You Know That Yet?)

We celebrate the end of 2012 and the dawn of a new era with a great Sun Ra “documentary”, which is really just him giving monologues at the Egyptian Museum in Philly and footage of his band playing (the scene at about 21 minutes is my favorite piece of Sun Ra music ever. EVER).

AAAAAAAAAAAND……. the full Space Is The Place film.


the Privileging of Individual Angst – An Interview with Godspeed You Black Emperor

 Reads just as good as any prose, quotable as hell.
In the dark … Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor …
Photograph: Eva Vermandel

To me, Godspeed is more than just a band, it’s an idea. Is that true for you? What if you don’t all agree with the idea? More metaphorically, who are Godspeed now: in what ways have the people in the band from the beginning changed in the time of hiatus?

We’re a band. We’re not “just a band”, we’re a band. Us against the world, yeah? Like so many other poor suckers before us. Bands get chewed up in the gears before the rest of the world does. And then bands sing pretty songs while they they get chewed up that way.

The dull fact is, we spend most of our time engaged with the task at hand – rehearsing, writing, booking tours. We do our best to get along, to stay engaged with each other and with the shared labour. We feel like most of the stuff we have to muddle through is the same sort of stuff that countless other bands have to muddle through. Nothing special, nothing interesting. It’s just that we make decisions based on a particular stubborn calculus. It’s just that there’s a certain sort of ringing that we chase when we rattle our bones in our tiny practice-room. It’s just that we like the sound of things a little out of tune. It’s just that we know that music is just a thing that people make in between bigger struggles. And all along we’ve been tilting at windmills, worried that we’re about to get bucked from the saddle.

We started making this noise together when we were young and broke – the only thing we knew for sure was that professional music-writers seemed hopelessly out of touch and nobody gave a shit about the shit we loved except for us. Talking about punk rock with freelancers, then as now, was like farting at a fundraiser, a thing that got you kicked out of the party.

We knew that there were other people out there who felt the same way, and we wanted to bypass what we saw as unnecessary hurdles, and find those people on our own. We were proud and shy motherfuckers, and we engaged with the world thusly. Means we decided no singer, no leader, no interviews, no press photos. We played sitting down and projected movies on top of us. No rock poses. We wrote songs as long or as short as we wanted. Basement feedback recordings with cigarette butts stuffed in our ears. Meanwhile our personal lives were a mess.

And so we hit the road as soon as we could, and got heartbroken out there, the way only true believers can. You string a kite too long upon its string, sooner or later it ends up stranded on the moon.

Whatever politics we had were born out of always being broke and living through a time when the dominant narrative was that everything was fine and always would be fine, for ever. Clearly this was a lie. But Clinton was president, the Berlin Wall was down, our economies were booming, and the internet was a shiny new thing that was going to liberate us all. The gatekeepers gazed upon their kingdom and declared that it was good. Meanwhile, so many of us were locked out, staring at all that gold from the outside in.

So when we started earning rent from this racket, we felt a lot of internal pressure to stay true to our adolescent dissatisfactions (not adolescent like immature or naive, adolescent like terminally disenfranchised and pure). And so we made decisions that irritated a lot of people. We were barely articulate. We didn’t deal with outsiders well. We were used to speaking with our own kind. We’d all of us spent our formative years outcast and a little lost. We had no religion to shout at the rafters but all of us, all together, all the time. And we shouted that religion at a time when that kind of earnest noise was tagged as earnest, naive and square. And we were earnest and naive and square. And still are.

A thing a lot of people got wrong about us – when we did it the first time, a whole lot of what we were about was joy. We tried to make heavy music, joyously. Times were heavy but the party line was everything was OK. There were a lot of bands that reacted to that by making moaning “heavy” music that rang false. We hated that music, we hated that privileging of individual angst, we wanted to make music like Ornette’s Friends and Neighbours, a joyous, difficult noise that acknowledged the current predicament but dismissed it at the same time. A music about all of us together or not at all. We hated that we got characterised as a bummer thing. But we knew that was other people’s baggage. For us every tune started with the blues but pointed to heaven near the end, because how could you find heaven without acknowledging the current blues, right?

But now we all live in harder times, now a whole lot of bands react to the current heaviness by privileging the party times, like some weird Scientology will-to-power bullshit, hit that hi-hat with a square’s fist until we all make it to heaven, until Sunday morning’s bringdown. Self-conscious good vibes like love-handles poking through some 22-year-old’s American Apparel T-shirt at some joint where you can only dance once you pay a $10 cover charge just to listen to some internet king’s iPod.

And so now we thrum our joyous tension in opposition to all of that. Things are not OK. Music should be about things are not OK, or else shouldn’t exist at all. The best songs ever are the songs that ride that line. We just try to get close to that perfection. We drive all night just to get closer to that perfect joyous noise, just to kiss the hem of that garment. We love music, we love people, we love the noise we make.

Who are Godspeed now? Who has stayed, who has left, who has joined, and why have they joined?

Godspeed’s been the same lineup since 1994. Small changes – Cello Norsola’s no longer playing with us. And drummer Bruce quit last year so’s he could spend more time with his kid. Timothy’s the new second drummer. We are stoked.

Does political music change anything? Do you want it to? And is that intention for change external, or internal: a changing of hearts, not of social structures? To what extent does Montreal and its politics make you the people you are and the band you are? Do you have narratives in your heads for your music? How problematic is it if people listening hear a different narrative?

What’s political music? All music is political, right? You either make music that pleases the king and his court, or you make music for the serfs outside the walls. It’s what music (and culture) is for, right? To distract or confront, or both at the same time? So many of us know already that shit is fucked.

In a lot of crucial ways, it’s easier to find common cause than it was 10 or 20 years ago. You talk to strangers in bars or on the street, and you realise that we’re all up to our eyeballs in it, right? So that right now, there’s more of us than ever. It’s a true fact. Every day it gets a little harder to pretend that everything’s OK. The rich keep getting more and we keep getting less. Post-9/11, post-7/7, there’s a police state that tightens more every day, and in our day-to-days, we’re all witnesses to the demeaning outcomes of debauched governance – random traffic stops, collapsing infrastructure, corrupt bureaucrats and milk-fed police with their petty intrusions. Our cities are broke, they lay patches on top of patches of concrete, our forests cut down and sold to make newspapers just to tell us about traffic that we get stuck in. You get a parking ticket and you waste a day in line. Cop shoots kid, kid shoots kid, homeless man dies waiting to see a doctor, old men lay in hospital beds while a broken bureaucracy steals away what’s left of their dignity. Folks flee to our shores, running from the messes we’ve made in their countries, and we treat them like thieves. Mostly it feels like whatever you love is just going to get torn away. Turn on the radio, and it’s a fucking horror show, the things our governments do in our name, just to fatten themselves on our steady decline. Meanwhile, most of us are hammering away at a terrible self-alienation, mistreated, lied to and blamed. Burning fields and a sky filled with drones. The fruit rots on the vine while millions starve.

So we’re at a particular junction in history now where it’s clear that something has to give – problem is that things could tip any which way. We’re excited and terrified, we sit down and try to make a joyous noise. But fuck us, we make instrumental music, means that we have to work hard at creating a context that fucks with the document and points in the general direction of resistance and freedom. Otherwise it’s just pretty noise saddled to whatever horse comes along. A lot of the time all’s we know is that we won’t play the stupid game. Someone tells us we’re special, we say: “Fuck no, we aren’t special.” Someone asks us what the thing we made means, we say figure it out for yourself, the clues are all there. We think that stubbornness is a virtue. We know that this can be frustrating. It’s fine. We don’t think in terms of narrative so much. We try to play arrangements that are little out of our reach. We try to make sure the songs ring true or not at all.

Montreal’s a place that’s always losing its charm. It’s a corrupt city in a corrupt province, where somehow the light rings loudly anyhow. So many crazy plans hatched in spite of, so many minor miracles. The dust of this place is caked into our scalps and beneath our nails – there would be no band if it weren’t for this lovely rotten town.

Meantime this town exploded recently, but there’s no victory yet. This province is still corrupt. This city is still corrupt, and our broken country earns its gold hauling dirty oil. The rich get richer from that, and the rest of us die slowly.

We’re all of us born beneath the weight of piss-poor governance. It’s a miracle that so many of us make it through our teens. Politics is for politicians and all our politicians have the whiff of death to them, it’s why they wear so much perfume and cologne, it’s why they wear brightly coloured scarves and ties, just to distract from the pallor of their skin. So many of us just want to live away from that stench – we stagger towards the light awkwardly, astonished that so many of us are staggering together thusly, amen.

How did this album come to be?

We got back together after 10 years apart, relearned the old songs, played a few joints. We weren’t going to stay stuck on that retro circuit like Sha Na Na at the Windsor auto show. So at some point we decided to record – it’s what bands do. Also, we felt like getting this shit down in case it disappeared again. We set up in Montreal, rolled tape and hoped for the best. Last time ’round that track, we argued like twin sisters, this time we just let it roll.

Was there a time when you stopped appreciating the opportunity to communicate with people through music? Earlier interviews suggest it’s something you’ve had misgivings around; is that a misreading, and if not, do you still feel that?

Hell no, we never got tired of playing for folks, we always felt lucky that we could. It’s just that the rock-biz, then as now, is a miserable pigpen. Pennies flushed, damaged ships a-sailing just to sink, while somewhere in the corner lazy demons chuckle and count their stacks. It’s like watching millionaires piss on cherubs. The money-makers hate the fucking kids and treat them like chattel, milk them like cows, and lead them from waypoint to waypoint like frantic shoppers on dollar days. For the most part, you deal with privileged fools who are entirely insecure. They hate their jobs, love the money and want more. Somehow a whole lot of starving heifers keep coming back to that trough for more. Somewhere inside they know that the milk is poison but they can’t stop drinking.

Beating against that wall tires you out – at a certain point you’ve got to stop, lest you break. Also, while that battle’s important (because all battles against this normalised decline are important), most of the world, justifiably, could give a fuck, there’s more important work being done out there, greater class injustices than music industry greed. And most of us in this broken world are barely getting by, so you dive into this horrid music business mess determined to do your part to make it change, but then nothing changes. You have victories that feel enormous, but mostly nobody notices but the kids in the front row. You worry over it, until after a while you start feeling like the annoying friend who can’t stop complaining about their ex. It gets so you don’t want to think about that Babylon system no more. So we stopped. And then we started again.

These days we’re lucky old-timers, we throw our amps on stage, put our heads down and play. After this many years of saying no, those carpetbaggers don’t bother with us much any more. We work with people we trust and hope that they trust us in return. We don’t fleece, we don’t slack, we don’t privilege our worries above the worries of the kids in the front row. We play to the kids in the front row because we used to be the kids in the front row. Everything else is just static, everything else is just dancing specks of white and black skating on dead TV screens.

As a member of a dance group – 10 women, democratically run – I know full well how hard it is to agree on anything. How does Godspeed operate as a community?

Your car breaks and you take it to the garage – dirty room, five mechanics maybe, car keys hung on nails next to the front counter. Two cars on lifts, one car in the corner, all the other cars parked in the back. Everything and everybody is covered in grease, everyone’s smoking like crazy. They have to fix 20 cars before 5pm, or else the backlog will fucking break everybody’s back until Christmas. The parts suppliers roll in every half-hour or so, mostly bringing new brake pads and flex-hoses, but bumpers sometimes, oil-pans, headlight assemblies or timing belts.

In a good garage, the whole mess of it almost collapses all day long. Dudes yell and argue, everything’s going wrong and why are we doing this anyways? The hose won’t fucking fit, or the screwdriver slips and you lose the hose-clamp somewhere beneath the undercarriage. The sun starts to set and the floor gets littered with burnt bulbs, spent gaskets, oil, and sweat, and brake fluid. Someone’s hungover, someone’s heartbroken, someone couldn’t sleep last night, someone feels unappreciated, but all that matters is making it through the pile, the labour is shared and there’s a perfect broken poetry to the hammering and yelling, the whine of the air compressor kicking to life every five minutes or so.

It all seems impossible. But somehow we make it through the pile. The cars run again. The cars drive away. Rough day but now it’s done, and everything’s fine; everything’s better than fine. Tomorrow we’ll do it all over again. You deal with the Volvo, I’ll deal with the Toyota. Heat and noise. All day, every day, until it’s quiet again. We fix cars until we die. We love fixing cars.

Do people like me just take you too seriously?


Statement From A Resister

“Today is October 10th, 2012 and I am ready to go to prison.”

by WILL POTTER on OCTOBER 10, 2012


Leah Plante resists grand jury targeting anarchistsToday Leah Plante will again appear before a federal grand jury in Seattle, Washington, for the third time, and refuse to testify about her political beliefs and political associations. It is likely that she will be imprisoned for her principled stance against what she calls a witch hunt against local anarchists.

The grand jury is investigating anarchists in the Northwest, following FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force raids in search of “anarchist literature.” Two other anarchists, Matthew Kyle Duran and Katherine Olejnik,have already been imprisoned for refusing to cooperate.

Plante wrote a powerful statement to her friends and supporters in preparation for today’s hearing. Here is an excerpt:

On the morning of July 25th, 2012, my life was turned upside down in a matter of hours. FBI agents from around Washington and Oregon and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents from Washington busted down the front door of my house with a battering ram, handcuffed my house mates and me at gunpoint, and held us hostage in our backyard while they read us a search warrant and ransacked our home. They said it was in connection to May Day vandalism that occurred in Seattle, Washington earlier this year.

“They want us to feel isolated, alone and scared.”

However, we suspected that this was not really about broken windows. As if they had taken pointers from Orwell’s 1984, they took books, artwork and other various literature as “evidence” as well as many other personal belongings even though they seemed to know that nobody there was even in Seattle on May Day. While we know that knowledge is powerful, we suspected that nobody used rolled up copies of the Stumptown Wobbly to commit property damage. We saw this for what it was. They are trying to investigate anarchists and persecute them for their beliefs. This is a fishing expedition. This is a witch hunt. Since then, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, we have learned that this Grand jury was convened on March 2nd, 2012, two months before the May Day vandalism even took place…

This is from a FBI training guide about anarchist “terrorists.” “Non-cooperative” is one of the only things they got right.

I do not look forward to what inevitably awaits me today, but I accept it. I ask that people continue to support us throughout this process by writing us letters, sending us books, donating and spreading awareness.I cannot express in words how grateful I am to all those who have shown us support and solidarity, especially our friends, partners and loved ones. We will all get through this together. I know I am a broken record with the following sentiment, but I feel like it’s worth repeating. They want us to feel isolated, alone and scared. I know that even though Kteeo has been held in what is essentially solitary confinement, she does not feel alone. I know that Matt does not feel alone. I know that I will not feel alone. When they try to mercilessly gut communities, we do not scatter, we grow stronger, we thrive. I view this State repression like this: The State thinks it is a black hole that can destroy whatever it wants. In reality, it is much more like a stellar nursery, wherein it unintentionally creates new, strong anarchist stars.

My convictions are unwavering and will not be shaken by their harassment. Today is October 10th, 2012 and I am ready to go to prison.

Stellar Interview with Michael Gira of SWANS

The new record is crushingly good.  It ruined my whole month.

Photos by Samantha Marble

Swans: “Mother of the World”

Thirty years after forming Swans as a confrontational, industrial-tinged noise-rock outfit in New York City, Michael Gira’s making some of the best music of his career. The Seer, Swans’ 12th album overall and second since since Gira reconstituted the dormant group in 2010, features nearly two hours of time-stretching, transcendent drone and noise steeped in soulfully ecstatic, unrelenting blues repetitions: one piece tops 20 minutes, another 30, and there’s never a dull spot. The record pushes everything Swans have done well in the past to a logical extreme, and though it’s not the sort of music you’d expect from a man in his 50s, only someone with as much experience as Gira could pull it off.

The Seer finds Gira surrounded by the band who backed him on the tour for 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky; it’s a group of accomplished players who feel like a gang, or a family. And many of these songs were developed in live settings, much like the work of experimental composer La Monte Young‘s Theatre of Eternal Music— they’re pushing less for “rock” and more for art. (Full disclosure: I put on a Swans show in Brooklyn with a friend a few years ago.) That core’s been fleshed out with guest spots from, among others, Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker of Low, members ofAkron/FamilyMercury Rev‘s Grasshopper, and– maybe most surprising to longtime fans– ex-Swan and Gira love interest/foil, Jarboe, who was absent from the last record. So: There’s a lot to unpack here.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove to Gira’s home– a red wooden house on a hill– near Woodstock, N.Y. There’s art on the walls from his previous records. A guitar leans against a mural his children sketched and scribbled. The bookshelves are packed. The driveway’s made of dirt. There are a lot of trees.

I first interviewed Gira almost a decade ago, and then, as now, he’s a generous, funny man, but one who clearly doesn’t suffer fools or foolishness. (And yes, he wore his cowboy hat.) We spent a couple of hours at the kitchen table talking about the past, present, and future. At one point, while we took a break to eat smoked meat and cheese, Gira mentioned his area was in the midst of a drought and pointed to a patch of burnt grass outside the window to prove his point. Not long after we shook hands goodbye, though, I got stuck in one of the biggest downpours I’ve experienced: As I headed back home to New York City, giant, blinding sheets of water slipped off the sides of the George Washington Bridge and onto my windshield. It felt like drowning.

Pitchfork: In a note you wrote about the new record, you call it a culmination of the past 30 years. What do you mean by that?

Michael Gira: I meant that a bit facetiously, but it really is, I suppose. In a way, it’s pretentious to say because really everything— even me breathing right now– is a culmination of 30 years… actually, 50-something years. [laughs] But the album uses all the tropes, tools, aesthetics, atmospheres, and methods I’ve gleaned as a producer and working with this band over the last 30 years. On this record in particular, I didn’t want to give up until we had reached the absolute limit of my capabilities– and we paid a heavy price. [laughs]

“The music takes you. It has to be alive.
It’s like you hammer something, and the way
it happens to bleed leads you into new directions.”

Pitchfork: There’s a 30-minute song on there, a couple 20-minute songs; it’s almost three times as long as your last album. It feels especially intense.

MG: With last album, all these people had not played together before– we kind of just threw the dice. Turns out we got along great. So, for this one, we had toured for a year, and much of the material– including the 30-minute song, “The Seer”– developed on the road. It started out with an idea I had– maybe on acoustic guitar, maybe just a rhythm idea– and it gradually metastasized into what it eventually became through playing live.

With the last record, I regretted not letting certain things develop. So I had this idea of no restrictions on this one because, really, who do I have to answer to? No one. I have my own record company. I have to answer to God, basically. I’m not young, so I want to make the best possible work I can before I exit. [laughs]

Pitchfork: There’s this improvisational feel with some of these songs– when you play “The Seer” live, is it going to be something that’s 30 minutes every time or could it expand to an hour? 

MG: It’s gonna expand– though I don’t think “improvisation” is even the correct term. It’s more like you just hammer something, and the way it happens to bleed leads you into new directions. The music takes you. It has to be alive. If we got up there and just tried to parrot the record, I’d be really disappointed in myself.

Pitchfork: There are parts of the new record that remind me of Glenn Branca: these repetitious, real-time loops and pulsations. Is that an influence here?

MG: Not specifically, though I love Glenn’s music and there is an aspiration toward this kind of peak experience that I really admire in him. I played one concert with him in the early 80s and I learned a lot by just watching him gather this disparate group of people together and, in a very short amount of time, becoming a complete dictator towards the laudable goal of trying to reach ecstasy. And he achieved it. It was really impressive and inspirational to me, more now than back then, even.

But I also see similarities between this music and Ummagumma-era Pink Floyd, too. But it’s different; it’s Swans. I don’t want to sound like everybody else. I like loud electric guitars because I like how you can just lose your entire being in the sound. But I can’t find myself in a situation where we’re doing typical chord progressions– it just seems cliché to me. Even changing chords sounds like a cliché sometimes, though it happens occasionally in our music. [laughs] But you find ways to push yourself into the sound through repetition. It doesn’t stay the same. It morphs constantly.

Swans: “The Apostate”

Pitchfork: People associate Swans with darkness, but The Seer ends with “The Apostate”: “We are blessed. We are blessed. Fuck bliss. Fuck bliss.” It feels like an ecstatic moment.

MG: From this last experience of touring so intensively, the shows became totally immersive. It’s this sound that takes your body, mind, and spirit. You’re not really playing it. I realized that was the core of what I wanted. It’s not such an unusual thing. I think the Stooges or Pink Floyd say that same thing. But yeah, it’s the ambition to rock… happily. [laughs]

Pitchfork: You’ve always had a wit and humor about you, how important is that to Swans?

MG: People always consider us to be very dour and depressing, but fuck that shit. The goal is ecstasy, but I don’t want to make some sort of saccharine pop music. I want to make something that’s completely uncompromising: the best possible music ever made. [laughs] I don’t take myself too seriously, hopefully.

Pitchfork: In early interviews, you talked about playing live as a physical experience. How much does that aspect of music still drive you?

MG: Very much so. But not just like a cheap Motel 6 fuck; I’ve used the analogy of tantric sex. It’s like being completely selfless while you find yourself simultaneously. Weirdly, I just readthis long piece in The New Yorker with Bruce Springsteen and he said the same thing.

Pitchfork: Have you seen the YouTube video of Springsteen running into the audience and guzzling a beer and then continuing to play? 

MG: I’m surprised he drinks. I don’t know how he does what he does physically. Jesus. He has a personal trainer, of course, like people of his zeal might. But it’s very physical and spiritual.

Pitchfork: As you get older, how does your on-stage physicality shift?

MG: I have a healthy fear of breaking my bones now. I used to not think about that– I would routinely break my ribs doing stupid things, just feeling the music so much that I would throw myself down on the monitors. It fucking hurts. [laughs] I used to have to wear these bandages around my belly and every time I shouted it was just immense pain. I broke my tooth on a microphone. Stupid things. I don’t throw my body down on the stage at all anymore because I’m sure I’d snap like a twig. But it is still a physical commitment. All we’re really doing is holding this piece of wood, but it’s the way you slam your body into it, the intensity. The heat on stage is a big factor, too. It’s very physically draining.

“I used to routinely break my ribs doing stupid things onstage,
but I have a healthy fear of breaking my bones now.”

Pitchfork: When you were doing your solo tours, you’d include the old Swans song “God Damn the Sun”, which has an end-of-innocence theme. And there’s the playful– but ultimately exploded– rabbit on the cover on White Light from the Mouth of Infinity. And the idea of childhood or innocence shows up again on this new record, too.

MG: If there’s any kind of lyrical thread in the record, it’s childhood. I don’t know if that’s because I’m nearing senility [laughs], or because I feel an affinity for an infant, or if it’s something I think about because I have young children. But that is there. At a certain age, children are total Id– they’re anything but beautiful little flowers. That always interests me. The place where the ego and the superego start, and where guilt and socialization and morality takes place, the true root of it.

Pitchfork: Is that something you were interested in even before you had kids?

MG: Well, I wrote a story 20 years ago, which I just re-read. It’s pretty disturbing; it’s called “The Coward”. It’s about a young man who’s asleep in his bed. His brother’s daughter is out in the other room. The man has to pee, so he has this piss erection. He hears the girl come in and she starts dancing on his bed and he has this erection, and it’s really uncomfortable. He sends her out, and he passes out. He’s drunk. Then he wakes up and hears this sound– someone has come in and is raping the girl, and he walks out to the corner and peaks around and sees it and doesn’t do anything because he’s too cowardly. He goes back to bed. That’s how it ends. Now, having a child, it really disturbs me. [laughs] It was just that question of where morality begins. The sexuality of children– there’s a lot friction there. That tension interests me a lot.

Pitchfork: When Swans started up again a few years ago, you were very specific about saying that it wasn’t a reunion– it was a “reconstitution.” At the time, I thought it was just a semantic thing, but between the last album and The Seer, it doesn’t feel like a reunion. It feels like a new direction.

MG: That was exactly why I reconstituted Swans: I wanted to challenge myself and move into something new. I felt that using the name Swans and the sonic attitude that that engenders was what I needed to move forward musically, and it’s led to lots of new things. In this month of rehearsals we just did, we came up with three new pieces that last 45 minutes or an hour in total. We’re heading more into this territory of the groove, but not some kind of white-boy funk. [laughs] They’re pretty strange, fractured grooves.

You’ll see when you see us live. The first song in the set is a new one called “To Be Kind”. It starts out very quiet and then it goes into these huge, rolling sonic waves, without drums– maybe it’s only like seven or eight minutes. The other couple songs are probably 15 minutes each. It’s just organically what needs to happen in the music.

“If they asked us to do a concert of old Swans songs, we would say yes and then play the entire Creedence Clearwater Revival box set.”

Pitchfork: I think I know the answer to this, but with all those Don’t Look Backshows where bands play their classic material, would you ever perform a set of old Swans songs?

MG: If they asked us to do that– and I’m sure they won’t– we would say yes and then play the entire Creedence Clearwater Revival box set. [laughs] Playing an old record doesn’t interest me at all. It’s exactly the opposite of what I want to do.

Pitchfork: As far as nostalgia goes, what do you think is poisonous, or not interesting, about it?

MG: It just puts you in this box and makes the current work you’re doing less– it limits you to one specific aspect of the work. I’m always trying to push myself into unfamiliar places with the music, sometimes without success, I have to admit. But I’d rather be there than relying on a style that people recognize and want to follow. It wouldn’t interest me to try to sound likeCop or something. It would be silly and soul-crushing.

Pitchfork: Are you going to play old Swans material on the upcoming tour?

MG: Just one song. Last time we did two or three, and I began to feel a little inauthentic about it halfway through the tour, so we started dropping them. Now we’re trying this song “Coward”, which Swans did in 1985– I’m attracted to its really weird groove. We’re taking it apart and trying to find something new in it.

Pitchfork: At this point, Swans is more popular than ever and you’re playing these bigger shows. Did you expect that? Was it a happy accident?

MG: Yeah, I had no idea what to expect. I did it because I needed, for my own personal selfishness, a way to keep working that was challenging and felt vital. I’m very fortunate that, through the auspices of the nefarious internet, the music has reached people that have an inclination towards this kind of thing much more so than it would have 20 years ago.

It’s good that people come to the shows because there’s nothing fashionable about us. Never has been, really. We’ve never been part of a scene. So the people that come are really there for the music. Fortunately, there’s a lot of young people and a burgeoning female contingent, which is good as well.

Pitchfork: What has it been like for you to play these bigger spaces with, it seems, more at stake? 

MG: As far as playing playing festivals and everything, I feel like that’s what I was born to do. I’m an entertainer, hopefully in the best sense. Nina Simone was an entertainer. Bob Dylan was an entertainer. Anyone that can occupy a piece of music and make the air catch on fire at that moment is a true entertainer. That’s how I view it. That’s what I was meant to do. I love doing it. That’s why I’m on earth.

Pitchfork: With all this new interest in the band, have you been offered any weird commercial opportunities?

MG: [laughs] I haven’t been allowed that possibility. I’m not sure what I would do. Obviously, I’m not rich. I could use some money. But it would be a moral decision: I have obligations to certain hopeless dependents, so I would have to weigh the two options. But I don’t think that’s going to happen, considering the music. I really wish some very successful filmmaker would approach me about doing a soundtrack, but it’s never happened. I don’t have agents working on that kind of shit.

“Anyone that can occupy a piece of music live and make
the air catch on fire at that moment is a true entertainer.
That’s what I was meant to do. I love doing it.”

Pitchfork: How did Karen O end up on The Seer?

MG: I used to see Karen at Flux Information Sciences shows– that’s the group I released 10 years ago. I was always impressed with her because she was like the lone punk chick thrashing about with no self consciousness about anyone else around her. She was just completely into the music, by herself. She reminded me of numerous punk chicks of the 70s. Seeing these really strong females responding to rock in that way is really great. I remembered her.

And it turns out that our bass player, Chris Pravdica, is friends with them. I had written this song, “Song for a Warrior”, and I was singing it, but I felt my voice was this horrible intrusion on what was a good song, because it’s anything but mellifluous. Since the song is like a country lullaby, I thought it would be appropriate for a female. Chris pointed me to a few of Karen’s solo works where she sings in this really gentle, compassionate, soulful way, and I asked her to do it. She agreed immediately. It turned out really well. I was happy to have her.

Pitchfork: A lot of the things that happened during the period when you moved to New York in 1979 come back every few years; there was a 2004 documentary that you were featured in called Kill Your Idols that compared the late-70s/early-80s art-punk scene with early 2000s bands like Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Black Dice. 

MG: Yeah, it was a strange premise. Those two things don’t have anything to do with each other, as far as I’m concerned. I guess it was to show the difference between New York then, which was a really hard-ass place, and now. You kids don’t know. [laughs] It was really hard to survive as an artist. I literally had holes in my shoes and went without eating often. But so be it. That’s how it was. It was cold. The people that survived and made something really had to be talented and megalomaniacal and devoted. Now– nothing against the current generation or anything– but [music] seems like more of a career option thing. [laughs]

Pitchfork: Early on, I imagine you were very influenced by your surroundings in New York. Does the idea of New York have any effect on Swans now?

MG: None whatsoever. And I would’ve vehemently opposed that depiction of us then, too. But now I’m humble enough to admit that the environment did have an effect. But it was just this need to roar that was inside me and my friends– but not in any kind of typical way. I really wanted to get to the animal core of rock music and eliminate anything that wasn’t necessary.

It was an important time in my life, and it was a great period musically. It’s probably my own mental malady, but when I walk around New York now, there are so many ghosts. I find it very uncomfortable. There were many hard years, and I never really achieved any kind of comfortable financial success, so I just associate it with struggle. When I had a chance to get out, I was elated.

“I really wanted to get to the animal core of rock music
and eliminate anything that wasn’t necessary.”

Pitchfork: Former Swan Jarboe was not on the last record, but she is on this one. I remember when the band was originally reconstituted, a lot of people were pretty vocal about her absence.

MG: Well, fuck that shit. I don’t really care about that. It’s just noise.

Pitchfork: How did she come back into the fold?

MG: We saw each other when we played Atlanta, and it was great to see her. I always love her and think she’s very talented, and I needed some female vocals doing these kind of drone chords. I thought of her because she has a really powerful voice and can still sound soulful at the same time. So I just asked her to do it, and she agreed. As far as her being in the band, that’s never going to happen. That would make it head into nostalgia land.

Pitchfork: Was there just not a place for her on the last album?

MG: Yeah, we wanted it to be a man record. [laughs]

Pitchfork: Speaking of, in the press materials for The Seer, you talk about “the men” in the band being “stellar men.” Then you released that press photo of you guys all sitting in the pool— it’s all very masculine.

MG: We’re all really good friends. This is, in terms of people getting along and committing to the goals of what we want the sound to be, the best group I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to say it’s the best music ever, although I like it the best. But just in terms of being a band and people really caring about what’s happening onstage, it’s definitely the best.

Pitchfork: How does The Seer‘s cover tie into the record?

MG: My dear best friend Simon Henwood, the artist, is a great resource. He had this little tempera painting of a wolf-like thing, and I asked him to develop it. He put my teeth in without telling me. Then I asked him: “Why don’t you put this sort of exploding… posterior.” [laughs] It just seemed to fit. I don’t know how it ties in content-wise. It can’t answer the questions; it shouldn’t answer the questions. It should create more questions. I think it does.

Pitchfork: You funded the record through the sales of a live CD, We Rose From Your Bed With the Sun in Our Head. Why did you decide to do that?

MG: Necessity. I’ve survived since I was 14 by working construction jobs, whatever it took, and I will continue to survive and have something of a productive life just figuring out how to fucking do it. I started making handmade CDs in the 90s to try to help fund records. It’s just one way of doing it. With the increase of internet piracy, it’s a growing necessity to do things like this. I’m not saying that I enjoy it, but I’m capable. I know how to work. Making those CDs, signing them, numbering them, packing them. It takes hundreds of hours, but it’s worth it because I’m able to do the thing I love.

Pitchfork: To raise money, you also recorded personalized songs for people who gave $500. What was it like making those songs for people? 

MG: They came easier than any song I can remember in 20 years. [laughs] But I guess it’s because I realized there would be no scrutiny. They were just gifts.

Pitchfork: Has anyone uploaded any of those to the internet?

MG: No. I’d be absolutely furious if someone did. It’s meant to be a very personal thank you. Those people contributed a lot of money, and I wanted to give them something that they could hold on to.

Pitchfork: With Swans being this full time thing now, are you still going to be able to put out other records on your label, Young God?

MG: No. That’s done. Maybe in the future I’ll put out someone’s one-off project, but generally I don’t have time. Also, unless you’re a pretty big indie, running a record label is fucking bleak. I started to really feel it as Akron/Family ascended– I saw the money still going down. I connected the dots and it was obvious that their audience was growing exponentially and their sales were low compared to the audience. It seems like it’s a fruitless task at this point.

“Unless you’re a pretty big indie,
running a record label is fucking bleak.”

Pitchfork: When you were putting out other people’s records, how much input did you have on how they came out?

MG: As much as I could force them into accepting. [laughs] I’m a producer in the old-school way– not just some slacker working on Pro Tools. I got involved, for the most part, in the actual song construction, lyrics even. I didn’t want to write the lyrics, but if there was a howler in there, I definitely pointed it out. Just trying to bring it up to a higher level. Of course, after a couple records, people get fed up with that. That’s fine.

Pitchfork: Watching Swans live, it often feels like you’re a conductor.

MG: Yeah, I mean, that’s my role. I’m the band leader. That’s not to say that the other people are my minions– they all put in a tremendous amount of personality, and push the music in ways I would never expect. Sometimes, I have to rein things in, turn things in a different direction, or, if I don’t like something, we have to argue about it. But that’s my job. Howlin’ Wolf was a bandleader. James Brown was a bandleader. I’m the band leader.

Pitchfork:  I’ve always wanted to ask what your tour with Sonic Youth in 1982 was like.

MG: We called it the Savage Blunder tour, which sorta describes it. It was completely inept; we booked ourselves. No one knew who the fuck either of us were. We went out and people were just appalled, particularly with Swans. Sonic Youth had a few more recognizable rock elements in their music. They were much more accessible. I admit that. Good for them. In fact, they never wanted to go on after us, because everybody would be gone already. [laughs]

Pitchfork: There are stories about people walking out of early shows; now you’re playing sold-out venues. Does it feel like a vindication?

MG: It feels great. I don’t know about a vindication because there is no such thing. It just is what is. You make your work and you can’t ask for approval when you’re doing it. Otherwise, it’s going to be untruthful in some way. When audiences come now, they seem to be getting as much from it as we are. That’s fulfilling. This next tour, we’re not going to be rehashing what we did the last tour. I’m pretty confident that people are going to come along for the ride. If they don’t, tough.

Slavoj Zizek on Pussy Riot


A statement from Marxist intellectual Slavoj Žižek on the Pussy Riot trial

The True Blasphemy

Pussy Riot members accused of blasphemy and hatred of religion? The answer is easy: the true blasphemy is the state accusation itself, formulating as a crime of religious hatred something which was clearly a political act of protest against the ruling clique. Recall Brecht’s old quip from his Beggars’ Opera: “What is the robbing of a bank compared to the founding of a new bank?” In 2008, Wall Street gave us the new version: what is the stealing of a couple of thousand of dollars, for which one goes to prison, compared to financial speculations that deprive tens of millions of their homes and savings, and are then rewarded by state help of sublime grandeur? Now, we got another version from Russia, from the power of the state: What is a modest Pussy Riot obscene provocation in a church compared to the accusation against Pussy Riot, this gigantic obscene provocation of the state apparatus which mocks any notion of decent law and order?

Was the act of Pussy Riot cynical? There are two kinds of cynicism: the bitter cynicism of the oppressed which unmasks the hypocrisy of those in power, and the cynicism of the oppressors themselves who openly violate their own proclaimed principles. The cynicism of Pussy Riot is of the first kind, while the cynicism of those in power — why not call their authoritarian brutality a Prick Riot — is of the much more ominous second kind.

Back in 1905, Leon Trotsky characterized tsarist Russia as “a vicious combination of the Asian knout and the European stock market.” Does this designation not hold more and more also for the Russia of today? Does it not announce the rise of the new phase of capitalism, capitalism with Asian values (which, of course, has nothing to do with Asia and everything to do with the anti-democratic tendencies in today’s global capitalism). If we understand cynicism as ruthless pragmatism of power which secretly laughs at its own principles, then Pussy Riot are anti-cynicism embodied. Their message is: IDEAS MATTER. They are conceptual artists in the noblest sense of the word: artists who embody an Idea. This is why they wear balaclavas: masks of de-individualization, of liberating anonymity. The message of their balaclavas is that it doesn’t matter which of them got arrested — they’re not individuals, they’re an Idea. And this is why they are such a threat: it is easy to imprison individuals, but try to imprison an Idea!

The panic of those in power — displayed by their ridiculously excessive brutal reaction — is thus fully justified. The more brutally they act, the more important symbol Pussy Riot will become. Already now the result of the oppressive measures is that Pussy Riot are a household name literally all around the world.

It is the sacred duty of all of us to prevent that the courageous individuals who compose Pussy Riot will not pay in their flesh the price for their becoming a global symbol.

—Slavoj Žižek