Four Ways Swans' Michael Gira Became Himself

Michael Gira said he had no musical skills when he started Swans in 1982. The frontman -- who yearns to "annihilate" through piercing sound -- has definitely acquired some since then.

Swans know how to put on a wedding for the dead, which should be quite exciting when they roll into West Palm Beach's Respectable Street on September 14. 

Here are a few of Gira's self-selected characteristics, which most likely helped contribute to the iconic

Swans' sound, the toxic martini filled to the rim with abrasive sounds,

bone-crushing textures, and traumatizing lyrics. Enjoy, or is that beside the point?

Job experience:
How could such a noise enthusiast not take inspiration from his many jobs in construction and demolition? See, the music is construction music done very beautifully. Swans take the relentless repetitiveness of a jackhammer but make it not headache-inducing. That's art. This music wears on you. (Sure, there's melody at times, but this isn't dance music.)

Self-taught tricks:
Whereas an opera singer is trained to sing from his or her diaphragm,

Gira sings from his lower spine. Bent over, jerking from side to side,

Gira uses his voice as a vehicle. It also creates an eerie, mesmerizing stage presence. Is he exorcising demons out of his own body?!

He might be. Here,

he starts repeatedly screaming "Jesus," which is not part of the lyrics

of "A Screw Holy Money," when it appears the demon is gone. A bonus? Gira's shirtless. (Opera singers tend

not to be.)

Comfort with being naked:
You got to respect any male artist who doesn't mind showing his package on stage. Yes, take a bow, Gira. (Black-and-white photos really do make everything look timeless.)

Faith in oneself:
Apparently, Gira has enjoyed on numerous

occasions to turn off the air conditioning before the show. That's faith

if we ever saw it.
Swans with Sir Richard Bishop play Wednesday, September 14, at Respectable Street (518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach.) Tickets cost $18.50 in advance, $22.50 at the door. Call 561-832-9999, or visit

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Mickie Centrone