I personally created this excerpt for Revolver Magazine as the first brief public snippet from the book. I used the relevant section of the book, combined with other materials including a few elements there weren’t room for in the book itself to try and make something that really got inside what its been like on stage for Swans during the 2010-2017 run.
Why this piece? Frankly there was something horribly exciting in the way so many of the band and the people associated with it recall that night in New York City. This is a band that has played 600+ shows inside seven years and they still remember this night. There’s no exaggeration involved: everyone I asked recalled feeling like they would die – but this is NYC, this is their home town, they couldn’t help but give everything to the moment.
It captures something for me about the nature of Swans: this is the most HUMAN of music. What do I mean by that? I mean the music of Swans changes fundamentally based on who is playing it, the conditions on that night, the demands of the moment. While most bands hack through a known song in a known way, Swans twist and warp night-to-night, wanting the same thing in the same way, but better, higher, more intense. Everything is pushed to an extreme because the band know, for a fact, that playing music on stage isn’t just a reproduction of recorded sound, it’s a communication of energy between performers, space and audience. Live performance, at its finest, is a psychic moment never to be reproduced in which those watching can feel the drama, the tension, the euphoria and the pain being lived on stage. It ceases to be two domains – audience and stage – and becomes one space where everyone is a part of a feeling.
It always made me smile too that this was the night Michael met his future wife Jennifer. Beauty in defiance of death and pain? Is there anything more Swans-ian than that? It’s a very brief excerpt but there’s a momentum and a power to the shared memory that I felt was right to be the first piece given to the world.