Archive for the ‘In Utero 1992-1993’ Category

Norman Westberg (Swans guitar god referring to ’85-’87 era): “playing Swans music made me feel ‘I can’t wear a shirt to this, you have to be close to naked, you have to be hard.'”

Nick Soulsby (2018): “Reading about Swans made me feel ‘I can’t wear a shirt for this, you have to be close to naked, you have to be…Errr…”

Inappropriate

This is my fifth book and it’s been really intriguing to me to discover what a difference format makes. Reading it on a screen, in Word, on A4 print-outs, as part of the editorial review process – it’s not like ‘real reading’. It’s a colder process where you’re looking to trim weakness and slice out anything that clunks or doesn’t fit. Reading it in book form, it flows differently – maybe because there’s no longer a pressure to fix it, maybe because it’s no longer work. The clarity of the text when printed in normal book-sized pages also makes it feel less weighty, easier somehow. Add on that there’s normally an eight to ten month gap between handing in a manuscript and seeing the final book. That means it’s like a stranger’s words when I finally get hold of it.

I’m usually hypercritical of my own writing: I had to re-read the introduction twice this week to realise I quite liked it and that I stood by the words. I still spotted things about Swans I would have liked to have said more about – but I remember wanting to keep the introduction down to the bone. What I really wanted to avoid was some horrible gushing PR-puff-piece. I hate books TELLING me that a band is or was important or that a band’s music is oh so good: the reader can decide themselves by listening to the band’s music – it’s up to them. Similarly, I think importance is overrated. I wanted to say why Swans was unique: why it could only arise with these people, in a particular place and circumstance, why it’s a unique phenomenon in so many ways and what makes it so.

I also wanted to avoid writing an ‘English Literature A Level’ analysis of the lyrics: yes, the lyrics are fascinating, but I was really worried about creating some grim analysis of imagery and blah blah blah. So I avoided that too! I kept the introduction down to: Gira, the People in the band, NYC late seventies-early eighties, the business behind the band. It felt like those were the factors governing how Swans existed and functioned – a fair context for reading people’s stories of their life and times in the outfit.

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I’m always awed by Adam Casto’s ability to gather together collaborators of deep pedigree from the alternative rock seen and merge their efforts into a seamless whole. The ever amusing, sometimes comedic, sometimes serious, always rocking Nerd Table project is an absorbing combination of underground party, guest curation and decent punk song-smithing.

This time around, the guest list includes Kurt Danielson (Tad), Dave Abbruzzese (Pearl Jam), Elmo Kirkwood, Dale Crover and Buzz Osborne (Melvins), Kevin Rutmanis (Melvins/Cows), Billy Anderson, Geoff Robinson (Blood Circus), Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers)…Sheesh. It’s quite the crew!

SW

https://play.soundsgood.co/playlist/swans-sacrifice-and-transcendence?utm_source=url&utm_medium=sharemodal&utm_campaign=shareplaylist&utm_content=playlist_5b3251a17951947320ffb9d3

Having spent the past year-and-a-half immersed in the music and stories of SWANS, it was an honour to be invited to put together a playlist focused on the band. What I did, in each case, was tried to identify a quote from a member of SWANS that spoke about the context or content or performance or meaning of a song – then try to say, in my own infinitely fallible words, what the song means to me or why it stands out in my mind.

What I love is that there’s no way to speak of a single ‘SWANS sound’: this is a band that has evolved significantly album-to-album, grown exponentially year-by-year, in which the first EP sounds nothing little like the first album, where 1988’s Children Of God is a vast distance from Greed or Holy Money, where White Light From The Mouth of Infinity and Love Of Life are very different beats to 1984’s Cop or 1994’s The Great Annihilator. I was delighted to learn the other month that the Soundtracks For The Blind album is being re-released: I think it’s one of my favourite three albums of all time – a truly singular object and, until Swans return and the awesome 2012-2014 run of The Seer-To Be Kind-The Glowing Man, the only album I’d heard that I felt needed and deserved to be over two hours long. It still stands as one of the only album-length works in the pop-rock-metal-whatever domain to sustain a journey across that full span of playing time.

Wednesday night in London I’m at Moth Club where we’re showing a number of in-progress clips from Marco Porsia’s upcoming epic film on SWANS. There’s a DJ set from the Blackest Ever Black label opening the night then the film clips will be interspersed with my conversation with the host for the night, Q&A about (and readings from) SWANS: Sacrifice And Transcendence – The Oral History, as well as audience discussion. I’m intrigued to hear what people in the room think.

Moth Club_July 4

BUY: https://itunes.apple.com/…/al…/superficial-single/1391889748
https://tanyahazell.bandcamp.com/edit_track?id=2050538906
LISTEN: https://open.spotify.com/track/6chfNl7pzl0y8EizzQHMmd

 

 

Moth Club_July 4

The perfect U.S. Independence Day celebration – heading up Hackney way to absorb some dark ambient glories courtesy of Low Company (https://www.lowcompany.co.uk/pages/about-location) and Kenny White – a good mix here:

Then, courtesy of film-maker Marco Porsia, we’ve secured an exclusive preview of a section of his upcoming film about Swans due for release later this year. I’ve been keeping avidly tuned into Marco’s work this past year – saw an intriguing early edition of the film but very aware that he’s pouring energy into honing the final work this summer. If you didn’t catch the short work he released last year for Swans’ final shows in NYC check it out:

We’ll then move into a reading from SWANS: Sacrifice And Transcendence – The Oral History and a Q&A including some of the materials that I wound up not using in the final book.

Basically, did you have other plans for a Wednesday in early July? Is there a better way to celebrate Independence Day than communing with one of the most awesome musical entities to ever emerge from the U.S.? That fiver you were going to spend on coffee today, tuck it in your pocket and keep it – music, a film, a book, live experience all for a fiver.

I had such good intentions to write up my Kurt Cobain/Michael Gira comparison (bear with me on this) but totally didn’t make it…

…So what am I doing that might amuse you? Well, I spent some time absorbing some intriguing work on YouTube: always kinda awesome what people get up to!

What I like about these is the construction of a fictional scenario to explain the context surrounding the making of each record in an imaginary world where Cobain lived. Then there’s the music: full band mockups built on top of shreds never taken to conclusion, revised mixes of work that it always would have been nice to hear without demo hiss, songs placed next to each other creating intriguing resonances and comparisons…The sheer workload that must have gone in impresses me – and what the hey, it makes for a good accompaniment to work on a Friday.

Covers of Nirvana have always left me a bit cold but the cheapness of modern technology has opened up this new avenue of exploration – hearing original Nirvana works tweaked and altered in different ways is intriguing. It’s also valid: Cobain’s death in ’94 leaves an utter void in terms of understanding any musical intentions. There’s simply such limited data that one guess is as good as another – it’s not something worth getting uptight about. Seeing the above in that context I just think, “why not?” and dig through the results to find moments I enjoy.

Also listening to Jpegmafia. The Sonologyst record that just came out on Cold Spring (I’m ALWAYS finding something of interest on Cold Spring: the Bleiburg 2 disc record was five quid well spent) http://coldspring.co.uk/2018/03/sonologyst-silencers-cd/#.Wxp4q4pKhPY

Best gig of the past month was catching Aidan Moffat (Arab Strap) and RM Hubbert at Rough Trade Bristol (really neat performance space they have – even if no one can open the bloody door to get in n’ out!) They were promoting their new record Here Lies The Body which sounds like prime-era Arab Strap (that’s a compliment) with renewed warmth and gentility. http://www.hereliesthebody.com/

Currently putting together a playlist related to the SWANS: Sacrifice And Transcendence. Music books always deserve a soundtrack!

 

 

SWANS cover only

2017 was a full year here in Bristol. Around work and living, I conducted 140 interviews, with 125 individuals to create what I hope is a fitting testimony to one of the three bands I consider the ur-text and Holy Trinity at the root of my current tastes and musical interests: SWANS.

http://smarturl.it/swansbook

The book comes out on Jawbone Press on June 26 in U.S./U.K. (though, of course, can be ordered internationally from any decent bookseller.)

I think it often looks like an odd hobby to possess. One way to describe it is that I find it genuinely enthralling hearing other people’s stories and I enjoy conversation – so spending my nights/weekends listening…It’s fun! The challenge comes more from transcription: one hour interview equals two hours transcription, two hours interview equals four hours transcription – at one point Jarboe joined me on the phone for a gloriously enjoyable five hours, awesome (ordinarily I would rein things in at two hours out of simple courtesy: a desire not to treat people like fruit in a vice.) The usual desk-bound challenges arise: persistent back issues (six months of visiting an osteopath in amidst it all), repetitive strains in wrists and hands from typing, sore eyes from staring into laptops until well into the night, sore head and dietary over-consumption from simple tiredness…What makes up for it is the human communication of energy: there’s something transferred – excitement, enthusiasm, enlightenment – when an individual grants you an insight into their world and times. I would come off the phone line buzzed. I’m hoping that enthusiasm comes through in the final work and words.